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January 08, 2008


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I am not a dancer, but I find this a very interesting description of the development and evolution of the dance.

As a bookbinder, I see much the same thing in binding. I've created structures, taking known styles and adapting them to the present need. And I've watched the evolution of styles over time, as compromises and elisions become the new standards.

Fascinating to see it in another field.

(In other words, good post!)

Boy, that's a lot of hopping and springing! I always thought of the waltz as the standard move around on the ground.

There were many waltzes in the 19th century; the ones we have today are gliding versions of a waltz which originally had a lot more leaping (two out of three beats in every measure). There were some gliding ones as well which one can still see the remnants of in folk waltzes in various communities. There is no single dance that is "the" waltz, historically speaking; the diversity of 19thc waltzes could be a whole series of posts here at some point.

In any case, the Cellarius is adapted from a dance (the mazurka) to which the hopping and springing are integral. No conclusions about waltzing in general should be drawn from this particular dance.

Knowing as I do the ballet version...wow, the ballroom version is really very different!

(and the last step should be spelled "boiteux," BTW--"limping.")

Ooh, caught me in a spelling error! By the magic of blog ownership, I've gone back and fixed boiteux. It is indeed translated as the "limping step" or "hobble step", except that no one ever translated the names because it was fashionable to use French for dance terms. But dancing masters do discuss the the "limping" aspect - because the pas boiteux does not change feet, doing several in succession looks (sort of) like someone limping along.

Keep in mind that this is a dance derived from the mazurka and not the mazurka itself. Having watched the video you pointed me at, the ballroom and ballet versions or the mazurka actually have very noticeable connections - I could identify ballroom steps in the ballet performance.

Re: the bounciness of nineteenth-century waltz.

A problem for the teacher or performer of historical dance is the very athletic nature of many of the dances popular in the period. Their athletic nature makes sense, in the context of the time, of course: these were the popular dances of the day, and therefore a feature of youth culture, much as, later, the charleston or (later still) the Lindy hop would be features of youth culture. Young people (young as in sixteen, not as in twenty-five, even) danced the waltz, the mazurka, the redowa, and the polka. Let us not even mention the galop.

Mrs. Henderson alludes to the appeal of fast, lively dances in the section Susan quoted:

...the quick dances being so much in vogue, and the Cellarius being a slow and graceful dance, it has not been able to keep its ground with the Polka, Schottisch, and Deux Temps…

Frequently the people who ask me to teach them these dances are, of a certain age, and experience some of the physical limitations that can become more unmanageable with age. They're less able to execute the steps or to perform them for any length of time, and it can be frustrating, negotiating the desire to learn the dances as performed and the physical limitations of the dancers—they got into this thinking that period dance, being old, would be sedate and stately, like the dances they remember their grandparents doing. What they don't realise, until they encounter the dances, is that their grandparents were young, once, and probably cut more capers when they were in their teens.

I often get people who want me to teach historical dance as they wish it had been, rather than as it appears to have been done.

they got into this thinking that period dance, being old, would be sedate and stately, like the dances they remember their grandparents doing

Rather like the people who think that Victorian underwear was yellowish-beige instead of white because they see the results of age and discoloration on antique garments!

I often get people who want me to teach historical dance as they wish it had been, rather than as it appears to have been done.

A constant, constant frustration, yes.

Fist many thanks for your very usefull website !
About the Cellarius Valse I found this printed version (score and steps)


Regards from France,


Belated thanks, Samuel!

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