‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Dancing at the Netherfield Ball in Pride and Prejudice

Gentle Readers: in celebration of the ‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’ event over the next month, I have asked several of my fellow Jane Austen bloggers to share their knowledge and interest in Austen’s most popular novel. Today, please welcome guest blogger Vic from Jane Austen’s World who shares with us her extensive knowledge of Regency culture and history in four posts during the event. Her second contribution is on dancing at the Netherfield Ball covering the etiquette and the popular dances of the day. Enjoy!

“So, he enquired who she was, and got introduced, and asked her for the two next. Then, the two third he danced with Miss King, and the two fourth with Maria Lucas, and the two fifth with Jane again, and the two sixth with Lizzy, and the Boulanger …” Mrs. Bennet about Mr. Bingley at The Netherfield Ball.

The English ballroom and assembly room was the courting field upon which gentlemen and ladies on the marriage mart could finally touch one another and spend some time conversing during their long sets or ogle each other without seeming to be too forward or brash. Dancing was such an important social event during the Georgian and Regency eras that girls and boys practiced complicated dance steps with dancing masters and memorized the rules of ballroom etiquette.

Balls were regarded as social experiences, and gentlemen were tasked to dance with as many ladies as they could. This is one reason why Mr. Darcy’s behavior was considered rude at the Meryton Ball- there were several ladies, as Elizabeth pointed out to him and Colonel Fitzwilliam at Rosings, who had to sit out the dance.

“He danced only four dances, though gentlemen were scarce; and, to my certain knowledge, more than one young lady was sitting down in want of a partner.”

Mr. Bingley, on the other hand, danced every dance and thus behaved as a gentleman should.

Ladies had to wait passively for a partner to approach them and when they were, they were then obliged to accept the invitation. One reason why Elizabeth was so vexed when Mr. Collins, who had solicited her for the first two dances at the Netherfield Ball, was that she’d intended to reserve them for Mr. Wickham. Had she refused Mr. Collins, she would have been considered not only rude, but she would have forced to sit out the dances for the rest of the evening.

Continue reading at Jane Austen’s World

Further reading

    Upcoming event posts

    Day 10  June 30     Group Read: Chapters 29 – 35
    Day 11  July 02     Carriages in Pride and Prejudice
    Day 12  July 03     Group Read: Chapters 36 – 42

    6 thoughts on “‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Dancing at the Netherfield Ball in Pride and Prejudice

    1. While I agree that it was the gentleman thing to do to dance as many dances as possible, I also wonder what ramifications it would have had on a gentleman’s reputation if he accepted to dance with a woman who was not as sociably accepted as others. I can see, unfortunately, that if a gentleman accepted to dance with such a woman than the woman (and her family) might gain hope in a future alliance between the two families – if this is not felt by the gentleman and his family I can only see it ending badly. Just a thought….

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    3. All this brings back memories of my early teen years during the mid 1950’s. At membership dances for children of naval officers, girls often outnumbered the boys, (or at least those who wanted to dance). I recall one evening when, dressed in my new “formal,” i sat out a number of these dances. i refused, to join in the “bunny-hop” that allowed everyone to get up and jump around in a long line. Then one of the older male chaperons took pity on me and asked me to dance. I knew it was his job to make sure each girl got at least one dance. I’m afraid I wasn’t very gracious, since I let him know that I knew I was an object of his concern. I felt humiliated, not grateful to be seen dancing with an aged man of at least 40!! I would imagine that young ladies of the Regency period may have had similar sentiments in similar situations.

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    4. Thank you Vic for the lovely post on dancing. I am happy to see that it has garnered so much attention on your own blog. Truly worth of accommodation.

      Cheers, LA

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