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[Detail] Cover of "How to Dance," 1878

Historical Research Capabilities

Many of the guides in this collection provide an opportunity to investigate the proper techniques and manners of the people who engaged in social dances. A detailed examination of proper etiquette is available in pieces such as "The Dancer's Guide and Ball-Room Companion," which explains that proper etiquette in such situations "embraces everything relating to giving, attending, and returning balls," (page 3). This includes selecting the appropriate wardrobe:

Young unmarried ladies should wear dresses of light materials . . . There is no restriction as to colors, except that they should be chosen with reference to the wearer . . . Flowers are the proper ornaments for the head and dress . . . Jewelry should be very sparingly used; a single bracelet is quite sufficient for those who dance.

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"The Gentleman and Lady's Companion," on the other hand, features a section dedicated to listing the "ill manners" that should be avoided by both men and women, including:

Omitting to pay proper respect to company, on entering or leaving a room; or paying it only to one person, when more are present. Entering a room with the hat on, and leaving it in the fame manner. Setting still on the entrance of your instructor, strangers or parents. Omitting the proper attention, when waited on by superiors.

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The materials in this collection also provide an opportunity to learn about a number of specific dances. For example, a search on country dancing results in manuals such as "The Complete System of Country Dancing" and "An Analysis of Country Dancing." These instructions can be complemented with video clips of how the dance is performed by browsing the collection’s Video Directory.