When all the ladies are provided for at the table then the gentlemen may think of their own supper.
Ladies will consult their own pleasure about recognizing a ball-room acquaintance at a future meeting.
Gently glide in the dance, wearing a pleasant expression. "Bow the head slightly as you touch hands lightly."
Should you make a mistake in taking a position, apologize to the party incommoded,
   and take another place in the set.
R S. V. P. - From the French, "Repondez s'il vous plait." Answer if you please.
R. S. V. P. may be considered unnecessary, as a reply should always be made.

What To Observe And What To Avoid At The Ball

Any difficulty or misunderstanding at a public ball should be referred to the master of ceremonies,
  whose decision should be deemed final.

In tendering an invitation to the lady to dance, allow her to designate what set it shall be,
  and you are expected to strictly fulfill the engagement.

A gentleman who goes to a ball should dance frequently; if he does not,
  he will not receive many invitations afterward;
  he is not invited to ornament the wall and "wait for supper."

After dancing, a gentleman should conduct the lady to a seat, unless she otherwise desires;
  he should thank her for the pleasure she has conferred, but he should not
  tarry too long in intimate conversation with her.

A gentleman having taken a lady's seat during a dance must rise as soon as it is over,
  and invite her to come and take it again. It is not necessary to bow more than once,
  though you frequently meet acquaintances upon the promenade; to bow every time would be tiresome.

What Conduct To Avoid At The Ball

A ball-room engagement should not be broken.
A lady should not enter or cross the hall unattended.
No gentleman should enter the ladies' dressing-room at a ball.
No evidence of ill-nature should ever show itself at the ball.
Never lead a lady in the hall by the hand; always offer the arm.
Guests should remain at the supper-table no longer than is necessary.
A couple should not engage in a long, private, confidential talk in a ball-room.
While one dance is in progress it is not in good taste to be arranging for another.
Do not engage yourself for the last two or three dances; it may keep you too late.
Neither married nor unmarried ladies should leave a ball-room assemblage unattended.
A gentleman should not wait until the music has commenced before selecting his partner.
Do not aim to put in all the steps in the quadrille. The figures are now executed in a graceful walk.
A gentleman should not insist upon a lady continuing to dance when she has expressed a desire to sit down.
Excepting the first set, it is not etiquette for married people to dance together at either a public or private ball.
Do not contend a position in the quadrille at either head or sides; it indicates frivolity and should be above it.
A gentleman should not take a vacant seat beside a lady without asking permission, whether acquainted or not.
The lady should never accept an invitation to dance with one gentleman immediately after refusing another.
No lady at a ball should be without an escort at supper. The hostess should see she is provided with one.
A gentleman should never presume upon the acquaintance of a lady after a ball;
  ball-room introductions close with the dancing.
Ladies should not boast to others, of the great number of dances for which they are engaged in advance.
No gentleman should use his bare hand to press the waist of a lady in the waltz.
  If without gloves, carry a handkerchief in the hand.
A lady should not select a gentleman to hold her bouquet, fan and gloves during the dance, unless he be her
  husband, escort or a relative. Gentlemen should never forget that ladies are first to be cared for, to
  have the best seats, and to always receive the most courteous attention.
A gentleman in waltzing should not encircle the waist of a lady until the dancing commences,
  and he should drop his arm when the music ceases.
No gentleman whose clothing or breath is tainted with the fumes of strong drink or tobacco
  should ever enter the presence of ladies in the dancing-room.
When the company has been divided into two different sets you should not attempt to change
  from one to the other, except by permission of the master of ceremonies.
A lady should not refuse to be introduced to a gentleman at a private ball.
  At a public ball she will use her discretion, and she can with propriety refuse any introduction.
Never eat your supper in gloves. White kids should be worn at other times throughout the dancing.
  It is well to have two pairs, one before supper, and one afterward.
Ladies should not be allowed to sit the evening through without the privilege of dancing.
  Gentlemen should be sufficiently watchful to see that all ladies present are provided with partners.
Do not, unless for very urgent reasons, withdraw from a quadrille or a set where your assistance is required.
  Even then you should inform the master of ceremonies, that he may find a substitute.
A gentleman should not invite a lady to be his partner in a dance with which he is not perfectly familiar.
  It is tiresome and embarrassing to a lady to have a partner who appears awkward.
No gentleman should play the clown in the ball-room. Dancing a break-down, making unusual noise, dressing
  in a peculiar style, swaggering, swinging the arms about, etc., are simply the characteristics of the buffoon.
The lady is not obliged to invite her escort to enter the house when he accompanies her home,
  and if invited he should decline the invitation.
  But he should request permission to call the next day or evening, which will be true politeness.
No display should be made when leaving the ball. Go quietly. It is not necessary to bid the host and hostess
  good-by. To do so may cause others to think it later than it is, and thus the ball may be broken up sooner
  than the hostess might desire.
A lady may not engage herself to two gentlemen for the same dance, excepting the waltz, the first of which may
  be danced with one and the last with another, she explaining the matter to her first partner,
  so that he may not be offended when she leaves him for the other.
The members of the family where the ball is given should not dance too frequently. It is possible that others
  may desire to fill their places, and they should have the opportunity.
  It is the duty of the family to entertain the guests and not usurp their opportunities.
The carrying on of a secret and confidential talk in a ball-room is to be avoided, as is also boisterous and
  loud conversation. The old adage of doing in Rome as the Romans do is particularly applicable to those who
  attend the ball, conduct, dress and general deportment being such as not to attract especial attention.
A gentleman should not be offended if a lady that has declined an invitation from him is seen dancing with
  another. Possibly she did not despise the one, but she preferred the other, or she may have simply
  redeemed a forgotten promise. Special evidences of partiality should, however, as much as possible
  be avoided at places where all should be courteous to each other.

Forms Of Invitations - Individual Conduct - Invitations To All The Family

In sending invitations to a family where there are parents, sons and daughters, all of whom you desire to invite, inclose an invitation full and complete to the heads of the family, one to the daughters, and one to the sons. Should there be a visitor staying with the family a distinct card must be sent, but all can be inclosed in one envelope, and addressed to the lady of the house. The invitation to each may read as follows:
(To the Parents.) Mrs. Hobart's compliments to Mr. and Mrs. Hanson, requesting the pleasure of their company at a ball on the evening of Sept. 8th, at 8 o'clock.
R. S. V. P.
(To the Daughters.)
Mrs. Hobart's compliments to Misses Ruth and Mary Hanson, requesting the pleasure of their attendance at a ball, Sept. 8th, at 8 o'clock.
R. S. V. P.
(To the Sons.)
Mrs. Hobart's regards to Messrs. Robert D., Henry H. and Chas. G. Hanson, soliciting their company at a ball on the evening of Sept. 8th, at 8 o'clock. R. S. V. P.
(To the Visitor.)
Mrs. Hobart's respects to Miss Williamson, desiring the pleasure of her company at a ball on the evening of Sept. 8th, at 8 o'clock. R. S. V. P.
The acceptance or regrets from each party invited should be inclosed in one envelope, and directed to the hostess, being sent by a messenger within from one to three days after the time the invitations are received.
The hostess having considered how many sets may be accommodated in the dancing-room, it may be well to invite twice that number to the entertainment, thus allowing for those who will decline and for those who will desire to rest while the others are engaged in the dance.
The requisites of a room suitable for dancing purposes are a smooth floor and good ventilation; added to these, an elaborate trimming of the room with various decorations will be appropriate. Floral embellishment gives much attraction, and if an abundance of flowers, shrubbery and evergreens are about the music-stand, concealing the musicians from view, the effect will be all the more charming.
The dressing-room should be provided with servants to receive the wraps, to each of which a card should be attached bearing the name of the owner, or checks may be provided and the same system pursued as is ordinarily observed in checking baggage.
A dressing-table in the ladies' room should be supplied with soap, water, towels, brushes, combs, pomade, face-powder, cologne, needles, thread, pins, etc.; while water, soap, towels, brush-broom, comb, hair-brush, bootjack, and blacking-brush, with a box of blacking, should be in the gentlemen's dressing apartment.
Unlike the dinner-party, it is not absolutely necessary that each guest come promptly at a certain time; still, for the sake of regularity of sleep, it is well for each to go early and to retire early, though it will be allowable to go somewhat later than the hour appointed.
The host and hostess should be near the door to welcome arrivals, occupying any unused time in making the guests acquainted with each other by introductions. Other members of the family will also intermingle with the company, giving introductions and seeing that all are provided with partners for dancing.
It is expected that those who accept an invitation to a ball are able to dance; otherwise it is better to decline, as the wall-flower serves but to embarrass the hostess and other members of the company.
A gentleman, having arranged to accompany a lady to a ball, may very appropriately send her a bouquet of flowers in the afternoon, and in the evening he should call promptly with his carriage at the appointed hour. Upon reaching the house where the entertainment is given, he will conduct the lady immediately to the ladies' dressing-room; when, retiring to the gentlemen's apartment and putting his own toilet in order, he will return to the door of the ladies' room, meet his charge, and conduct her to the ball-room and the hostess.
Etiquette requires that the lady dance first with her escort, and afterward he should see that she is provided with partners, and that she enjoys herself, though she may dance with whom she pleases. He should conduct her to supper, and will hold himself in readiness to escort her home whenever she desires to go.
In inviting a lady to dance, various forms of invitation may be used to avoid repetition, as, "Will you honor me with your hand for the quadrille?" "May I have the honor of dancing this set with you?" "May I have the pleasure? " " Will you give me the pleasure?" etc.
A gentleman who may be at the party unattended will invite one of the ladies of the house for the first dance, but she, possibly being otherwise occupied or engaged, will quite likely introduce him to another lady, whom he must accept.
The music will first play a march, then a quadrille, a waltz, a polka, a galop, etc., interspersed with several round dances to each quadrille, usually ending with a march prior to supper, when the gentleman, presenting his arm to the lady he is dancing with at the time, unless she has come with another gentleman, will proceed to the table, where possibly a little more freedom will prevail than at the dinner-party, though essentially the same etiquette will govern it.
If any lady is without an attendant, it should be the duty of the lady of the house to see that she is provided with an escort. After supper several dances will follow, the company dispersing, let us hope, at an early, temperate hour.


Each dancer should be provided with a ball-card bearing a printed programme of the dances, having a space for making engagements upon the same, with a small pencil attached. Much care should be taken to keep each engagement. It is a great breach of etiquette to invite a lady to dance and then fail to remind her of her promise when the time comes for its fulfillment.

It is customary for the lady and gentleman who accompany each other to the ball to dance together once or twice only; to dance as partners oftener is likely to excite remark, though, if the parties be indifferent to comment, no harm will be done. To dance together continually is impolite, and will deservedly provoke severe criticism.

Forms Of Invitations - Individual Conduct. Invitations To All The Family.

While upon the floor, awaiting the music, a lady and gentleman should avoid long conversations, as they are likely to interfere with the dance: but a pleasant word or two in light conversation will be appropriate if the parties are acquainted; if not, they may quietly wait. The bow should be given at the commencement and close of each dance.
As was the case with every other form of social engagement of the Victorian period, formal balls had strict codes of behavior.
A standard for these dances was the use of a dance card. Prior to the beginning of the music, gentlemen would have requested a dance from a number of ladies in attendance. A gentleman would never have danced only with his spouse or other companion for the evening; rather, he would have exhibited politeness by offering his company to different ladies for each dance, other than the Grand March and Last Waltz, which would be appropriately kept for one’s companion. Ladies would NEVER have asked gentlemen for a dance! However, if our gentlemen are shy, feel free to encourage them, but please share with unaccompanied ladies.

In addition to the rules of behavior related to the dance card, these additional standards of behavior were expected to be followed:

1. A lady should not refuse an invitation of a gentleman to dance, unless she has already accepted that of
2. A gentleman should ask a lady to dance by saying, “Will you honor me with your hand for a waltz?” or
  “Shall I have the pleasure of dancing this set with you?”
3. Neither a married nor a single young lady should leave the ballroom unaccompanied; the former should be
  accompanied by one or two other married ladies and the latter by her mother or someone to represent her.
4. While dancing, ladies should wear a smile and exhibit a slight inclination of the head.
5. A gentleman should always return the lady to her place and each may bow slightly in acknowledgement.
6. A lady should not cross the ballroom unaccompanied. A married lady should be accompanied by a lady friend
  or relative; however, an unmarried lady should always need to have her mother accompany her.
7. Gentlemen should always wear white gloves and ladies white or colored gloves that coordinate with her gown.
  They are removed only at suppertime.
8. A mere dance with a lady does not give the gent a claim to her thereafter for any additional dances.
9. Ladies should avoid too much chatter or whispering.

References: ETIQUETTE

Attending Balls Politeness Parties In General
The Visiting Guest   Calling Etiquette
Conversation Etiquette   Public Amusement Places
Dinner Party Conduct Etiquette Formal Dinners

Dance Influence of Dance Guests
Music French Terms Order of Dances
Programme      Deportment
Ladies Toilette Gentlemen Guide Refreshments
La Tempete Polka Quadrille
Round Dances Spanish Dance Square Dances
Virginia Reel Waltz Sociables