And I’d Do It Again

By John Hertz:  – is the title of a 1936 memoir by Aimée Crocker (1864-1941), among much else eventually Princess Galitzine (sometimes spelled “Golitsyn”; geležìs is “glove” in Old Lithuanian, a prince wore an iron glove at the 1514 Battle of Orsha; “The prince [Mstislav Galitzine, 1899-1966] is my twelfth husband if I include in my matrimonial list seven Oriental husbands, not registered under the laws of the Occident”).  There’s a 2017 reprint.

Speaking of which, a friend found on the Internet this 2013 note of the 56th World Science Fiction Convention (Bucconeer, 1998).  You might like it.  I omit the author’s name, but if she sees this she can of course claim it.

FRIDAY: woke 10 a.m.

2:00 – The Regency Dance at the Hilton Ballroom.  Master of Ceremonies was John F. Hertz, who has researched and re-created various dances from the Regency period (early-mid 19th century? After Waterloo, anyway, I think, and definitely before Victoria) in England.  Program notes specifically mention Georgette Heyer novels for charm and accuracy to period.  The dance is a Worldcon tradition, though I don’t know how it got started [see “The English Regency and Me”, Mimosa 29; but I’ll say no more – JH].  About 150 people came.  Some were in street dress, some (mostly women) were in Regency dress or varying imitations thereof (some half-hearted, some quite beautiful), some women wore party dresses or ball gowns.  One guy came dressed as a Minuteman, and 2 men were in kilts.  Besides that, there were the convention costumes – a lot of SCA / Renaissance Fair costumes, numerous pirates, and a few aliens: a Klingon, a Minbari (Babylon 5), and some guy wearing devil horns.  I realized that I had forgotten to take my camera to the con – arrgh!

John Hertz wore silvery pants-to-the-knee and hose, a white shirt, silver-on-silver patterned vest and blue coattails.

John Hertz said that wearing a period costume helps you understand what people of that era lived through, especially women’s corsets.  But he also talked about the general move toward comfort in that era – from hoop skirts to Empire waists, for example.  He said that the style of the time was elegant but comfortable, straight but not stiff.

Hertz had numerous other opening remarks, trying to get us in the spirit, and also sprinkled comments throughout the afternoon.  For instance, if anything ever goes wrong in a dance, it’s always, by definition, the gentleman’s fault – if nothing else, he must not have been leading his lady correctly.  “I’ve done everything I can to wash the skill from these dances,” he said, about simplifications to be able to teach dances in an afternoon rather than weeks with a dancing-master.

“Take small steps.  Don’t try to get anywhere.  Remember, these dances are pastimes,” he said.  Compared Regency “leisure class” to 20th-century mode of always being in a rush to get somewhere, do something.  Also said that with smaller steps, mistakes don’t matter as much – you won’t bump into the person next to you in a line dance if you’re both stepping small.  While stepping, “don’t lurch, and don’t clutch.”

Another point Hertz made is that with these dances, footwork is far less important than the shape that the dancers are making together – a circle, two circles inside each other, a square or rectangle, two parallel lines, two parallel lines at the perpendicular to the previous lines, etc.  He seems to have been right; after he said that, I had a much easier time keeping my place in the dances.

Dances: We started with a quadrille called “Hole in the Wall.”  The quadrille is a set dance, which means it’s composed of sets of couples.  In this case, everyone line up in two long parallel lines, men on one side, women on the other (actually, there were enough people in the ballroom that we had 3 double-parallel-line groupings).  Each line was divided into sets of four people (quadrille – get it?).  Each set had an “A” couple and a “B” couple.  Each couple performed various maneuvers with each other and with the other couple in the set, and after the maneuvers were done, the A couple moved up the line, and each couple got a new A or B couple to dance with.  After reaching the head of the line, each A couple became a B couple and started moving down the line again.  My partner tended to forget what he was doing, so I quickly learned to give him cues as we went along.

Next was a group of waltzes.  I didn’t get a partner for this, so I sat on the sideline and watched the pageantry.  But I already know how to waltz, so it was OK.  During the waltzes, they did promenades, open and closed waltzing, and waltzing with a smaller circle of dancers inside a large circle of waltzers.

Next, we did a set dance called “Bath Carnival”.  My partner this time was a woman, also named [omitted]. This set dance is in long parallel lines, like “Hole in the Wall”, but this time there are 3 couples in each set, “A”, “B”, and “C.”  Here the B couple becomes a C, and the C couple becomes a B, after each set-repetition of maneuvers is over; however, the A couple, after each repetition of maneuvers, moves down the line toward the foot or end of the line, staying an A each time.  There was great confusion and repetition of instructions.  After John Hertz was done giving instructions, and before the music started, I sang, “When you’re an ‘A,’ you’re an ‘A’ all the way….” and a guy a couple of places down the set obligingly finished, “from your head to your toes, to your last dying day!”  That got a really good laugh from those who heard and understood my reference (a takeoff on “When you’re a Jet” from West Side Story) – about 10 people laughed, I’d say – so I was in a triumphant glow all through that dance.

There was one more dance starting after that, but it was 4:40 so I had to leave to make a phone call, sadly.

Wishing you the same.

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