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December 17, 2015

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This is fascinating. I take her to mean, without saying, that they danced together because they were better dancers than the (theoretically) available men; it seems the most natural interpretation, although perhaps only because it's a familiar situation in my own social dance.

I am curious to know to what extent the roles really differed in the dances in question. Was there any aspect of lead-and-follow or was it simply a matter of knowing steps? How much difference was there in the two sets of steps - could two men dance together simply by using what they knew, or did they have to learn the woman's steps seperately? And how did the process of learning work - would a person taught by a single tutor, and practicing at home, naturally learn both roles?

In general, in a country dance of this era, there is no difference between the figures or steps required of the ladies and the gentlemen. There are occasional exceptions, such as the "triumph" figure. But mostly they dance the same figures and steps, just in mirror image or different order. So it would just be a matter of remembering that the person dancing the lady's role initiates most moves (a change from 18th-century practice) and has the right of way. In practice, the only problems I've seen are memory issues, people forgetting which role they are dancing at the moment.

While there are certain ways a gentleman can tweak his movements a bit to be courteous to a lady, there aren't really lead/follow elements within couples, especially since in this era in England the lady generally initiates figures. But there's an overall visual lead/follow dynamic in the entire set following the model presented by the first couple.

Some dance classes were single-sex (sometimes with a female teacher for the young ladies), so I would expect that to mean people were probably accustomed to practicing with members of the same sex in both roles, or at least not too startled by the idea.

Thank you! In that case it seems very natural that people in trusted company would just get on with it, rather than sit down.

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