5 Things We Might Not Experience in the 21st Century

Every ball in the 19th century started at night about 8:00 with as many as 200 to 500 guests. It always included a sit down meal (a supper) at some point in the evening and may last until 3:00 in the morning. Here are a few things that we don’t experience in the 21st century.

1. Lighting:

If you lived during in early 19th century, you would have danced at a ball by candlelight. Electricity was not yet invented. Gas lighting was invented before electricity, but it was not a safe way to light your home or business. Plus, it could be smelly. Everyone in the 21st century who has been without electricity from time to time. We sometimes pull out candles, usually more than one, if we don’t choose to use a flashlight. Can you imagine always having to read a book by candle light?

2. Chandeliers:

Of course, dancing by candlelight could be very romantic, but was it back then? To light up a room you could always count on the chandelier hanging from the ceiling. The problem was the hundreds of candles that were burning, melting, dripping . . . I think you get the picture. Not so fun to have hot wax falling on your head. I can’t even imagine what it was like for the servants to scrape all that wax off the floor the next day.

3. Ball Gowns:

A lady (young and old) wore a white ball gown. Actually, it was more of a bluish white. You can imagine, after your experience with reading by candlelight, that a gown would look yellowish in the candlelight, hence the bluish white material of the gown. In the movie, “Pride and Prejudice” (2005)with Keira Knightley you can see a good example of the white dresses ladies wore at Mr. Bingley’s ball minus the bluish tinge.

4. Crowded Room:

In the ballroom there was an area where couples danced. While couples danced, other guests stood around the edges and watched the couples. Don’t think they just stood there doing nothing, they talked or gossiped, but it was usually standing room only. Remember, there was anywhere from 200 to 500 guests. Think about what it would take to walk to the refreshments table or how long it would take. Again, in “Pride and Prejudice” (I love that movie) you can see this at the public dance. Not to be confused with a private ball, the public dance anyone could go to and ladies didn’t have to wear white.

5. Roaming:

Guest at a ball could roam from room to room looking for other activities. The doors to the library, the drawing-room and other rooms might have been open for guest. Your would have found a game of whist, which was a card game that was very popular or refreshments in any of these rooms. In the following short video clip you will see Elizabeth Bennet looking for Mr. Wickham. See if you also notice lighting, gown color, and if it’s crowded.

It doesn’t take a genus to figure out that a private ball was a very large party. To think it was all done in hopes of marrying off your daughter.

What do you think is the most romantic part of a 19th century ball? Or you can tell me what you think is romantic about the 19th century.

May I have this dance?

You’ve heard of the waltz. When a couple dances the waltz the gentleman and lady grasp each other’s hands, while the gentleman places his other hand on the lady’s waist and she places her other hand on his shoulder. From this possition they twirl around in a circle and progress around the room. But, in the Regency period it was considered inappropriate. Instead, the kind of dance you might find at a ball was more like a square dance. Couples lined up, men on one side and women on the other, then waited for their turn to dance a figure (a sequence of movements).

In the following video we can get a glimps of what it must have been like. It is a short clip of one of my all time favorite movies, “Pride & Prejudice” with Keira Knightley. It shows Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett as they dance. Unfortunately, it doesn’t start at the beginning of the dance where you see them lined up, but you will see it at the end of the dance. Please ignore the last 30 seconds, as this video comes from YouTube and it would take a lot of work to get the end taken off.

Did you notice how easy it was for them to carry on a conversation? Certainly, the dance is romantic enough, but not conducive for talking.

There are several things you do not do while dancing. Because everyone in the room is eather dancing or watching the dance, you do what it takes to follow the rules. Here are some examples:

  • When dancing, eather you and/or you partner must be wearing gloves.
  • Don’t dance more than two or three dances with the same person.
  • Don’t stop dancing in the middle of a figure.
  • Never leave your dance partner in the middle of the dance.

Dancing has changed a lot since the early 19th century. Yet, there is a lot that’s the same. Which would you reather dance? A waltz or slow dance? Which one do you think is more romantic?