Sunday, 12 May 2013

DANCING LIKE JANE AUSTEN - GUEST POST BY LOUISE SMITH OF RHD


Louise Smith is my guest today to present her group performing dances from different historical periods, Renaissance Historical Dance and to tell us about her incredibly rewarding and entertaining activity.
Renaissance Historical Dance Society (RHD)  is based in Plymouth, Devon, and its members learn and perform dances from four historical periods - Medieval, Elizabethan, Stuart and Regency. Louise is here to tell us about their Regency performances.

As a historical dance group, we cover four separate periods of history, but some of our favourite dances are those from the Regency period.
Interestingly, lots of the dances classed as Regency and the ones you see in the films were actually danced before the Regency period. Minuets and waltzes started to come into favour during the true Regency, when Prince George was declared Prince Regent.
One of our favourite dances shows the transition particularly well – The Duke of Kent’s Waltz is danced as a long-way set, with men and women facing each other. However, there’s the opportunity for men and women to get rather close to each other, more so than in slightly earlier dances. Twice in each verse, men and women step in towards each other with their hands together, before the woman turns under the man’s arm to end up in the other line. You can imagine this truly being a lovers’ dance, with the chance to gaze into your partner’s eyes and get physically closer than would have been allowed in any other polite circumstance. One lady in our group says the bit she enjoys the most about this dance is ‘flirting with her eyes’!
The Duke of Kent’s Waltz is a favourite for another reason too – it’s the only Regency dance we can think of where each pair gets to lead up the centre of the dance, making it really distinctive and good fun too!


 Another favourite is Mr Beveridge’s Maggot – after seeing it in the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, I think every member of the group imagines they’re Elizabeth Bennett or Mr Darcy when we’re doing this. The lines of four stepping forward and back make it really recognisable as ‘the one from the telly’ for anyone watching and it’s also really lovely to dance.


The ladies in the group enjoy dancing Miss Poultney’s Fancy – as an all-girl dance, when we perform it, we say it’s an opportunity for the ladies to try and catch the eye of an eligible bachelor. This means there’s often lots of cooing, flouncing and generally improper behaviour from at least a couple of the women, while the men do their best to ignore it… (I can’t find a clip of this though - we’ll have to film one ourselves I think, cooing, flouncing and all!)

Dances that get everyone on their feet are Portsmouth , with its nautical music (we use a skipping step which gives it even more of a nautical feel) and Hole in the Wall , which is much more graceful and flowing.
I asked the group to narrow it down to their one, favourite Regency dance, but it proved to be impossible. We enjoy the Regency dances as whole because they were a chance for people to touch and converse in a way they couldn’t normally. The fun for us is replicating the liveliness, elegance and social interaction that must have happened at Regency dances across the country, whatever the dances were.


Louise Smith

(Pictures by Zak Davies)

7 comments:

Tony said...

Dit zijn prachtige dansen. Ik ben gek op jouw blog. Groeten Tony

Maria Grazia said...

Dank je wel, Tony! Je bent welkom op dit blog, wanneer je maar wilt. :-)

Laurel Ann (Austenprose) said...

I have only country danced once, and it was great fun. It really gets your heart pounding. Thank for sharing this great article Maria.

Maria Grazia said...

Thanks to you for visiting and leaving your comment, Laurel Ann! I'm sure you had great fun country dancing! But Regency dances have such a special charm :-) We'll get our chance, sooner or later!

junewilliams7 said...

I'd never before heard of the Duke of Kent’s Waltz - it's very nice, so thank you for telling us about it!

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Hil said...

I went to a country dance one it was great fun. Don't know if they played Duke of Kent’s Waltz though