Since you all seemed to enjoy hearing about what I was planning on wearing for the Yuletide Ball that our Church is hosting, and a few of you had some questions about it, I decided that this week I’ll tell you all a little bit more of the details of the ball. One interesting detail that I thought I would share with you all today is the Dance Card.
In days gone by, women would carry one of these cards at a dance – whether it was a friday night dance put on by the college fraternity, or a grand inaugural ball – to pencil in her partners’ names that she danced with during the course of the evening. Starting in the 18th century, the tradition carried on into the 1920’s, and sometimes, in certain circles, into the 1930’s. After that, it seems that the tradition died away, only being revived occasionally by certain groups for reenactments, Church dances (such as ours), and other occasions.
“But what does a dance card look like?” you ask. Well, typically the inside is formatted in such a way that it has either a number, or the name of a dance next to or below a blank space in which to write your partners’ names. Or, in the case of some fraternity dances, the names of the fraternity members were placed below the blank space in which one printed the name of the dance (you can view an example of one of these cards below). The outside can be very simple with the name of the organization and/or occasion printed upon it, and provided by the hosts, or it can be a lady’s personal jewelry piece with a very ornate front and back and blank cards inside. You can see the inside of a few dance cards below:
The dance cards for our dance are going to work a little differently. Since we have an, *ahem*, shortage of young men at our Church, we are not going to have the young ladies carrying around the cards and filling in their partners, as the young men ask them, throughout the evening. Rather, we are going to have the ladies cards placed on a table where the young men may come and sign in their name on each card for a different dance, as well as record on their own card the same information as to who they will dance with. When all the young men have filled their own cards to their satisfaction, the ladies’ cards will be handed out to them after which they can review who they will be dancing with (by themselves or with their parents). Of course a girl can refuse when a young man comes up to claim his dance! She is in no way obligated to dance with the young man who penciled in his name for that dance. But that just means that she can’t stand up with anyone else for that dance. Sounds a little bit harsh, but that’s how dance etiquette goes. Here’s a picture of our ball’s dance cards, which Charlotte designed:
Now that you all, hopefully, understand what a dance card is, I want to share some of my favorites that I have found online.
One of my very favorite dance cards that I have ever seen is the fan that is at the head of this post. The young lady who owned the fan wrote in the names of her partners, as well as the dances she performed with them. The idea of a fan just seems so quaint and romantic! Another unusual card that I have seen, which really isn’t a card at all, is an ivory slab which was contained in a very ornate case with a type of pen included (the one on the lower right hand side). The slab of ivory, when pulled out, could be written upon with the pen. I guess it was a sort of old fashioned dry erase board!
I hope you all enjoyed learning a bit more about dance cards! Now I have some questions for all of you!