Readings for Rural Life

From Moore’s Rural New-Yorker in Rochester, NY

July 23rd, 1864

Sensible Talk About Waltzing

Waltzing is a profane and vicious dance always. When it is prosecuted in the center of a great crowd, in a dusty hall, on a warm and summer day, it is also a disgusting dance. Night is its only appropriate time. The blinding, dazzling gas light throws a grateful glare over the salient points of its indecency, and blends the whole into a wild whirl that dizzies and doses one; but the uncompromising afternoon, pouring in through the manifold windows, tears away every illusion, and reveals the whole coarseness and commonness and all the repulsive details of this most alien and unmaidenly revel. The very pose of this dance is profanity.

Attitudes which are the instinctive expression of intimate emotions, glowing rosy red in the auroral time of tenderness and unabashed freedom only by a long and faithful habitude of unselfish devotion, are here openly, deliberately and carelessly assumed by the people who have but a casual and partial society acquaintance. This I reckon profanity. This is levity the most culpable. This is a guilty and wanton waste of delicacy. That it is practiced by good girls and tolerated by good mothers, does not prove that it is good. Custom blunts the edge of many perceptions. A good thing soiled may be redeemed by good people; but waltz as much as you may, spotless maidens, you will only smut yourselves, and not cleanse the waltz. It is itself unclean.

There is another thing which girls and their mothers do not seem to consider. The present mode of dress renders waltzing almost as objectionable in a large room as the boldest feats of a French ballet-dancer. Not to put too fine a point on it, I mean that these girls’ gyrations, in the center of their gyrating and centrifugal hoops, makes a most operatic drapery display. I saw scores and scores of public waltzing girls last summer, and among them I saw but one who understood the art, or, at any time, who practiced the art of avoiding an indecent exposure. In the glare and glamour of gas-light it is only flash and clouds and indistinctness. In the broad and honest daylight it is not. Do I shock ears polite? I trust so. If the saying of shocking things might prevent the doing of shocking things I should be well content. And is it an unpardonable thing for me to sit alone in my own room and write about what you go into a great hall, before hundreds of strange men and women, and to?

I do not speak thus about waltzing because I like to say it; but ye have compelled me. If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it. I respect and revere woman, and I can not see her destroying or debasing the impalpable fragrance and delicacy of her nature and without feeling the shame and shudder in my own heart. Great is my boldness of speech toward you, because great is my glory of you. My opinions may be rustic – they are at least honest; and may it not be that the first impressions of any unprejudiced observer are as likely to be natural or correct views as these which are the result of many after-thoughts, long use, and an experience of multifold fascinations, combined with the original producing cause? My opinions may be wrong, but they can do no harm; they penalty will rest alone on me; while if they are right they may serve as a nail or two, to be fastened by the masters of assemblies. At. Monthly.

 

Published in: on July 23, 2014 at 6:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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