It's always helpful to put one's problems in perspective. It's downright amusing to watch a writer of 1806 put the minor woes of people of early-nineteenth-century England in perspective.
James Bereford devotes an entire book to this theme in The Miseries of Human Life, a satirical work that still holds up rather well today.
To quote the review which appeared in the Supplement to La Belle Assemblée, or, Bell's Court and Fashionable Magazine, for the Year 1806:
It is a raillery of those minor miseries, those petty disappointments, those minute obstructions of comfort which constitute the character of life, and occasion many to imagine themselves as superlatively miserable as those who are suffering under objects of more dignity and magnitude.
The book is constructed as a series of dialogues, primarily between the characters Timothy Testy and Samuel Sensitive, with occasional interjections from Mrs. Testy and Testy, Junior. Some of its "sighs" and "groans" are now outdated (at least in London):
As you are hastening down the Strand, on a matter of life and death, encountering, at an arch way, the head of the first of twelve or fourteen horses, who, you know, must successively strain up with an over-loaded coal-waggon, before you can hope to stir an inch father — unless you prefer bedeviling your white stockings, and clean shoes, by scampering and crawling, among, and under, coaches, scavenger’s carts, &c. &c. in the middle of the street.
But others are eternal:
In eating — finding an human hair in your mouth, which, as you slowly draw it forth, seems to lengthen ad infinitum.
Buried in the dialogues are a few references to dance that are useful as examples of how things can go wrong in the ballroom.
Samuel Sensitive talks of embarrassing himself before a lady with his errors:
Blundering in the figure all the way down a country-dance, with a charming partner, to whom you are a perfect stranger; and who, consequently, knows nothing of you but your awkwardness.
Timothy Testy makes light of this and ups the ante to stepping on a lady's gown:
Tes. That offence may be forgiven, however; — not so the following:
Entering into the figure of a country dance with so much spirit as to force your leg and foot through the muslin drapery of your fair partner.
Sen. Oh! there I feel for you indeed! —
Mrs. Testy points out that the men are being rather self-centered in wallowing in their own embarrassment when it is the lady whose clothing has been torn:
“Your Feelings,” Mr. Sensitive! — Deuce take it! — “my feelings,” if you please; — you seem to leave the poor lady, and her ruined petticoat, quite out of the account!
Her husband is not impressed; petticoats are repairable but a lady's anger is eternal:
Tes. Pho, pho! Mrs. T. — the petticoat may be mended again, and there would be an end of that; — but nothing short of amputation would satiate the Lady’s vengeance against the leg. —
He offers up common ground in the form of two timeless issues, the difficulty of a common figure and the problems of unskilled (or drunk, or sleepy) musicians:
However, Madam, I have another dancing distress, in which, I am certain, you will join, in your heart, whether you will confess it or no: —
The difficulty of executing that complicated evolution called “right hand and left,” from the awkwardness of some, and the inattention of others;
Being compelled to shift your steps, at every instant, from jig to minuet, and from minuet to jig-time, by the sleepy, ignorant, or drunken blunders of your musicians.
Sensitive tops them both with the magnificent tale of misery which first drew me to this book:
When you have imprudently cooled yourself with a glass of ice, after dancing very violently, being immediately told by a medical friend, that you have no chance for your life but by continuing the exercise with all your might; — then, the state of horror in which you suddenly cry out for “Go to the Devil and shake yourself,” or any other such frolicksome tune, and the heart-sinking apprehensions under which you instantly tear down the dance, and keep rousing all the rest of the couples, (who having taken no ice, can afford to move with less spirit) — incessantly vociferating, as you ramp and gallop along, “Hands across, Sir, for Heaven’s sake!” — “Set corners, ladies, if you have any bowels!” — “Right and left, — or I’m a dead man!” — &c. &c.
I'm not sure whether this should be counted as evidence for the dancers verbally calling figures or whether that was reserved for moments of panic. But apparently I should be more careful about serving ice (sherbet) at balls lest someone should expire before getting back on the dance floor.
Dance also turns up figuratively (sorry!) in Miseries:
As you are quietly walking along in the vicinity of Smithfield, on market-day, finding yourself suddenly obliged, though your dancing-days have long been over, to lead outsides, cross over, foot it, and a variety of other steps and figures — with mad bulls for your partners.
Sen. Yes; or —
Being called upon, in like manner, to cut capers at a moment’s warning, by a headlong butcher’s boy, who beats time for you by stamping close at your side on the slabby pavement, with his shrill catcal for your music.
The Smithfield reference is to the days when herds of sheep and cattle would be driven there to be sold for slaughter (some background here). The dance figures referenced will be familiar to anyone who has looked at country dance books of the eighteenth or early nineteenth century.
Noisy hotel rooms and rowdy guests haven't changed at all, though at least nowadays doors have deadbolts:
Sleeping — or rather trying in vain to sleep — at an inn, on the assembly night; your chamber being immediately contiguous to the ball room, and your ears assailed, till the time of rising, by the constant din of feet and fiddles — not to mention perpetual irruptions of whole herds of bucks, blundering into your room, full of jest, and roaring for refreshments, & c. — no lock nor bolt to the door.
Nor have school recitals:
Accompanying a fond father in his attendance at his daughter’s “dancing-day,” at a small boarding-school.
Finally, there are some female-specific complaints from Mrs. Testy. A bad hair day:
Being disappointed by a hair-dresser on a ball-night, when you have left your hair totally uncurled, in full dependence upon him: in this emergency, being obliged to accept the offered services of a kind female friend, who makes you an absolute fright; but she being much older than yourself, and of acknowledged judgment, you dare not pull it all to pieces, and if you should, you have neither time nor skill to put it to rights again.
Unhelpful gentlemen and insensitive friends:
At a ball — being asked by two or three puppies “why you don’t dance?” — and asked no more questions, by these, or any other gentlemen, on the subject: on your return home, being pestered with examinations and cross examinations, whether you danced — with whom you danced — why you did not dance — &c. &c. ; the friend with whom you went complaining, all the time, of being worried to death with solicitations to dance, the whole evening.
And, finally, the problem of being unable to ditch an annoying guy:
At a ball — when you have set your heart on dancing with a particular favourite, — at the moment when you delightedly see him advancing towards you, being briskly accosted by a conceited simpleton at your elbow, whom you cannot endure, but who obtains, (because you know not in what manner to refuse,) the honour of your hand for the evening.
The last two quotes seem contradictory; is the problem that a variety of gentlemen did not ask the lady to dance or that once one gentleman has asked she is stuck with him all night? Evidence from the era on this topic is contradictory. I suspect the difference is private balls vs. public assemblies but have not yet pulled together all my references on this topic to see if that holds true.
The first edition of The Miseries of Human Life is available online. I highly recommend reading the whole thing, not only for the humor but for the myriad little details of life which are revealed by the complaints and to get a feel for the language of the era. The review in La Belle Assemblée is also worth reading for a period perspective on the work.