Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about some of the tidbits of evidence of ladies or gentlemen dancing in same-gender couples in Regency-era ballrooms. I'm returning to the topic of same-gender dancing with an interesting article I discovered in an issue of a late-nineteenth-century American dance magazine, The Two Step, published at the time by dancing master and author H. N. Grant, out of Buffalo, New York.
The June, 1898, issue (Vol. 5, No. 47) includes a short essay on an important topic: "May a Lady Dance Backward." It opens with a strong statement in favor:
Should a lady be taught to use the backward step in the waltz?
Yes we say, most emphatically yes.
That opens up all sorts of interesting questions, doesn't it? Were ladies not generally even taught to waltz backward? Was that actually controversial?
Apparently, it was not a problem in the anonymous author's school:
We have taught the ladies to retreat with the waltz step ad lib., for ten years or more, yet its excessive use is seldom ever seen in our establishment. In all our experience, we have yet to find a lady who objects to dancing backward or a change. They even ask for the practice.
I've certainly seen it considered impolite for a gentleman to force a lady to go backward for any length of time, and the article does support that etiquette tip:
We are not advocating the fad of rushing the lady half way, or completely across, or around the hall in a backward position. We know that this is done in some places and is entirely wrong. All things become wrong when carried to excess.
But done in moderation, it should be quite acceptable:
Would it be an unpardonable breach of etiquette for the gentleman to occasionally allow his partner to make two or three retreating movements? We hardly think so.
A fuss over ladies dancing backward would be generally amusing as a nineteenth-century tempest in a teapot, but it's the author's other argument for ladies learning to dance backward that really makes this essay noteworthy: