10 things you should do when you attend a Commonwealth Vintage Dancers event
10. Do wear shoes you can dance in.
Don’t wear sneakers or any other shoes with high traction soles. Trying to dance in them will stress your joints and make you sore. Don’t wear stillettos. They’re not comfy for a wedding reception and they won’t be comfy for an evening of historical dance. Do wear comfortable shoes with low or no heels, that have smooth leather-like soles.
9. Do wear a historical costume or wear modern elegant evening wear.
If you have access to a historical outfit that fits the time period of the event, you should definitely wear it. If you don’t, you should wear something elegant that doesn’t call attention. A dark suit for a gentleman or a long evening dress for a lady would be perfect. Don’t dress outside the theme, for example coming as Queen Elizabeth I or Jack Sparrow.
(*We have one event, the Returning Heroes Ball, that requires historical dress. If you don’t own the right outfit for that ball, you might want to reach out to reenactors to see what they recommend.)
8. Do pin your hair up.
Ladies in the Nineteenth Century wore their hair pinned up, with flowers, feathers, sparkly ornaments or pearls to make it look special. In some periods, they wore elegant turbans. In historical ballrooms, loose flowing hair was not a go-to style for formal dances. If you are a gentleman whose hair reaches your shoulders, tie it back. You can use a black silk ribbon to add elegance. Don’t feel that you need to make huge changes to your hair, but if there are simple measures you can take to make it look more formal, go for it.
7. Do ask a stranger to dance.
Yes, you can really do this. Most of our balls have a combination of couple dances (waltzes and polkas) and set dances (contradances and quadrilles). The set dances are taught during the ball, and are a great way to dance with new people with no pressure. After all, if everyone else is learning which way to turn, no one will notice if you are not an immediate expert. If you want, you can save the couple dances for friends until you feel comfortable dancing them with a variety of people.
6. Do use old fashioned politeness and modern day sensibities.
It is fun to bow and curtsey during the evening, and it is nice to be treated with a certain degree of elegance and formality. But at the same time, it is important to not assume that people want to be forced into outdated roles based on gender or appearance.
5. Do pick the dance role that you want.
We use the terms lady and gentleman for the dance roles because those were the terms that were used in Nineteenth Century dance manuals. This doesn’t mean that you have to be a cis-man to dance the gentleman’s role or a cis-woman to dance the lady’s role.
A person in the lady’s role begins on the right side of a couple and generally steps off with the right foot. A person dancing the gentleman’s role begins on the left side of the couple and generally steps off with the left. You should pick a role and stick with it for the length of a dance. You can dance the same or a different role for other dances in the evening. You can wear clothing of whatever gender makes you feel comfortable and confident, but this doesn’t force you into one dance role or the other.
4. Do wear white gloves, or don’t.
All the etiquette books of the Nineteenth Century say you should wear white gloves in the ballroom. Wrist length white gloves are best for gentlemen, and ladies’ gloves vary with the decade; over the elbow for Regency, wrist length for 1860s, and so on. If you have white gloves, wear them for dancing and take them off when you are having refreshments. If you don’t have gloves or forgot yours at home, don’t worry about it.
3. Do look at pictures on Google images or Pinterest to see what you might expect.
You don’t have to be a historical expert, but a little exploring ahead of the event will educate your eye. That way, if you see a well turned out gentleman, or a ballgown based on a fashion plate, you can be impressed.
2. Don’t over prepare.
We’ve met people who took modern foxtrot or tango lessons to get ready for a ball, but then discovered that we do a different style of foxtrot or tango. Just show up with an open mind and see how we do things. We hope you’ll find that historical dance is fun and relatable. If you truly fall in love with it, we can recommend ways to get more advanced training in the technical dances.
1. Do have fun.
Join us in a unique combination of historical beauty and modern friendliness. We can’t wait to see you in the ballroom!