Square Dances

The quadrille, though generally considered the slowest of dances, is, perhaps, about the pleasantest and most sociable ever contrived: and despite the contempt with which many violent advocates of the deux-temps and galop are inclined to regard it, we still continue to look upon the plain quadrille as the great institution of the ball-room. It is pleasant in many ways, for it allows scope for those whose dancing capabilities are not of the highest, and affords a grateful rest for those who have just heated themselves with the rapid whirl of a round dance.

It has also the advantage of being suitable for even the oldest and most demure visitor in the room, as well as the youngest and most lively, and from the intervals occurring during the figure, opportunity is given for agreeable conversation with your partner.

Three sets of quadrilles hold possession of the ball-room. These are known as the Plain Quadrille, the Lancers, and the Caledonians. They vary considerably, but the term quadrille is applicable to each. Before describing the figures of these dances, there are one or two rules which we should wish to mention their observance tending greatly toward the proper achievement of the quadrille.

A general misunderstanding seems to exist as to the position of the first or principal couple in the quadrille, to which we have already referred. The best rule to observe is this: taking a room lengthwise, the first couple should always have the fire-place on their right, and the third couple are those on the right of the first couple of the set.

If this simple rule be rigidly adhered to, much confusion may be avoided.

The quadrilles of the present day are so simple, and have really so little absolute dancing in them, that no gentleman should think of asking a lady to dance them with him unless he is perfectly conversant with the figure, as if he is ignorant on this point he not only spoils the pleasure of his partner, but frequently that of his vis-a-vis. If he has any misgivings as to his proficiency, it would be better for him to take his position at the sides, so as to have the advantage of seeing the figure performed first by the head couples.

As the quadrille is now generally "walked" through in a manner almost verging on listlessness, and any attempt at "doing your steps" rigidly tabooed, it is of the utmost importance that a perfect knowledge of the figure should be acquired, and this, with a correct car for time and tune, will enable anybody to dance the quadrille with satisfaction.

When the gentleman has engaged his partner, he should at once try to secure a vis-a-vis . This should be done promptly, as the "sets" are frequently so soon made up that he may find himself standing in an incomplete set, and have the mortification of having to lead his partner back to her seat again. A gentleman can not be too careful on this point, since once having engaged a lady for a particular dance he is bound in all honor and politeness to dance it with her.

Having secured his position in the set, he should at once lead the lady thither, placing her always on his right hand. Should the lady have her cloak, he should offer to assist her to remove it, and at once place it somewhere near at hand, in order that it may be recovered at the conclusion of the dance.

It would be well to remember that the music for the quadrille is divided into eight bars for each section of the figure-thus, two steps should be taken to each bar, and every movement consists of eight or of four steps.

With these few preliminary observations, we will commence our description of the figures of the most frequently-danced quadrilles.


Plain Quadrilles

FIRST FIGURE- The top and bottom couples cross to each other's places in eight steps (four bars), passing between each other, the gents upon the outside. After passing give left hand to partner, and step to left of her on opposite side, returning immediately to places, in same manner, completing the movement of eight bars. This is called the Chaine Anglaise ( i. e ., right and left), and in performing it, the gentleman should bear in mind always to keep to the right of his lady in crossing.

Here follows "ladies' chain" (eight bars). Each gentleman takes his partner by the hand and crosses to opposite couple's place (four bars): this is called, in ball-room parlance, "half promenade". Couples then recross right and left to their places without giving hands (another four bars), which completes the figure. The latter eight bars of this figure are frequently now danced with the galop step. Side couples repeat as above.

When there are more than two couples, either at the head or side, it is customary-observing our rule with regard to "head couple" to alternate the arrangement in order to give variety to the dance. Thus the lady who is at the head of the quadrille in her own set finds her vis-a-vis in the side set occupying that position.

SECOND FIGURE- L'ETE; This figure is generally danced now in the manner known as Double L'Ete. First and second couples advance and retire (four bars), then changing places with their vis-a-vis (making eight bars); but omitting to cross over as in the Chaine Anglaise . Again advance and retire (four bars), back to places, balance to partners, and turn, completing the figure. Side couples repeat.

THIRD FIGURE- LA POULE; Head couples hands across, giving right hands in passing. Recrossing, giving left hands, and right hands to partners, forming a circle in center. Balance, head couples changing places. Two ladies then forward and back, followed by two gentlemen, ditto. Couples then forward and back, crossing over to original places right and left. Side couples repeat.

FOURTH FIGURE- LA PASTORALE; Head couples advance and retire; advance again, first gentleman leaving the lady with vis-a-vis gentleman and retiring to his own place. Vis-a-vis gentleman now advances four steps and retreats the same, holding each lady by the hand: again advancing, he leaves the two ladies with the first gentleman, who once more advances. They then all join hands in a circle, go half round, half promenade to opposite places, returning right and left to their own. Second couple and sides repeat.

FIFTH FIGURE- LA FINALE; This figure is usually commenced with the chaine la grand. Head couples forward and back. Chassez across and return to places. Side couples repeat.

To give variety to the programme du bal , and affording also much amusement, the following figures are frequently substituted for the fifth in the plain quadrille. No "Order of Dancing" is now considered complete without them.


"Jig" Figure

Opens with hands all round. Each lady then balances to, and turns, each successive gentleman on her right. Upon reaching her partner, all balance to partners and turn. Hands all round again, gentlemen to the right, same as above.


"Cheat" Figure

Commences with first couple balancing to the right, turning opposite persons with both hands. Balance to next couple, then to fourth, and then balance and turn partners. Third, second, and fourth couples follow in order as above. While balancing, and just before turning opposite person, any other one has the privilege of stepping in between, thus cheating you in turning. Or you may make a feint to turn one person, and suddenly turn some other.


"Basket" Figure

Head couples forward and balance. Ladies join hands in center, gentlemen forming in circle outside. Stopping on left-hand side of partners, gentlemen then pass their hands over heads of ladies, ladies stooping, thus forming a basket. Balance and turn partners. Sides repeat.


The "Star" Figure

Is produced by ladies crossing right hands in center, giving left hand to partner, facing in opposite direction. Balance, and turn partners. Gentlemen then cross right hands, ladies facing on the end of the line. This is a beautiful figure, and the effect most striking.


Double Quadrille

This is a variation of the plain set, known as Coulon's Double Quadrille, which is sometimes danced to secure an agreeable variety during a ball. It requires the ordinary quadrille music, but only half that usually played to each.

1. Le Pantalon. The peculiarity is, that all the couples, sides as well as top and bottom, start at once. Double chaine Anglaise: sides outside first and second couples. All couples balance and turn. Ladies hands across, first right hand and then left, and back to places. Half promenade. First and second chaine Anglaise; third and fourth, grande chaine round them to places.

2. L'Ete. Common single L'Ete , with this difference, that first lady and first side lady commence at the same time to perform the figure with their gentlemen vis-a-vis . Lady of second couple and second side repeat with gentlemen opposite.

3. La Poule. Similar arrangement to that in last figure; the two couples setting in cross lines.

4. La Pastorale. The top couple dance with the right side couple; the bottom with the left. The sides repeat, with top and bottom couples in like manner.

5. Finale. Galopade round, top and bottom couple continuing it to center of figure and back, then sides advance to center and back, and, as they retreat, top and bottom couples galopade into each other's places. Side couples do the same. Then repeat figure until all have regained their own places. Double chaine des dames , and galopade round. Figure repeated, sides commencing; the galop concluding.


The "Nine Pin"

Has become quite fashionable of late, affording more amusement probably than any of the other dances. An extra gentleman takes a position inside of the circle and is known as the "Nine Pin". Opens with hands all round; Nine Pin then turns each lady in succession; ladies and gentlemen circle alternately round Nine Pin; back to places, and grand chain, Nine Pin joining in. At the sound of the cornet, or stoppage of music, whoever is unfortunate enough to be without a partner, right hand to ladies in every instance,) is considered Nine Pin, and must take his position inside of the circle.


The Lancers

Is undoubtedly one of the most popular and fashionable of the quadrilles.

It is more intricate and complicated than the plain quadrille, hence it is essential that those who essay to perform it be especially careful to be quite perfect in the figure-bearing in mind that a single mistake will frequently spoil the entire quadrille. But once having thoroughly mastered the figure, the dancer will never forget it, for we know of no tunes which so completely suggest the figure as the old-fashioned music of the Lancers.

FIRST FIGURE; Head couples advance and retire; advance again, gentlemen turn opposite ladies and retires to places (first eight bars). Cross over, first couple passing between second (four bars). Return to places, second couple passing between first (four bars). All balance to corners, each gentleman turning his neighbor's partner on his left (eight bars). Second couple repeat the above, followed by the sides.

SECOND FIGURE; Opposite couples take partners by left bands; advance and retire; advance again, leaving her in the center of the quadrille, and retire to his place (first eight bars). Chassez croisez , and turn to places (second eight bars). Side couples join, top and bottom couples making a line of four on each side; advance and retire four steps, each gentleman turning partner to place. Sides repeat.

THIRD FIGURE; Couples forward and back (four bars); forward a second time and salute, and return to places (four bars). Opposite couples right, and left. Sides repeat.

FOURTH FIGURE; Head couples visit couples on their right, to whom they bow, crossing over immediately to the left couple and do the same, returning to places. First and second couples then right and left; turn partners to places (second eight bars). Sides repeat.

FIFTH FIGURE; This figure commences with the music, only one preparatory chord being sounded, so each gentleman should stand with his right hand in that of his partner, ready to start. It begins with the grande chaine that is, each gentleman gives his right hand to his partner, presenting his left to the next lady, and so on alternately right round till all have once more reached their places, saluting his partner each time they meet (sixteen bars). First couple form as if for a galop, taking one turn round, returning to their places with their backs to their vis-a-vis.

Third, fourth and second couples step in behind them in the order indicated (third eight bars). All chassez croisez , gentlemen passing behind ladies. First lady leading off to the right and gentleman to the left-each respectively followed by all the couples-till they reach the bottom of the quadrille, where they join hands and promenade back to places. They then fall back into a line on each side, four gentlemen and four ladies facing one another (fourth eight bars). Each line then advances and retreats at the same time. Turn partners to places (fifth eight bars). Second couples and sides repeat.


The Caledonians

This quadrille, though not popular with the lovers of Terpsichore in general, is growing into favor, and becoming quite fashionable. No "Order of Dancing" is considered complete without it, and we append a description of the rather intricate figures.

FIRST FIGURE; First couples and their vis-a-vis cross hands half round with left hands back again. Balance to partners and turn. Ladies chain. All balance to corners, each gentleman turning his neighbor's partner on his left (eight bars). Side couples repeat.

SECOND FIGURE; First gentleman advances and retires twice, second time bowing to opposite lady. Balanceto corners and turn. Each lady then passes to her neighbor's place. All then promenade round with new partners. Repeat as above till each lady is brought back to her original partner, in her own place.

THIRD FIGURE; This figure, with the exception of the latter part, corresponds with first figure of Lanciers. Head couple advance and retire; advance again; gentlemen turn opposite ladies, and retire to places. Cross over, first couple passing between second; return, second couple between first. Balance to corners and turn. All join hands, advance and retire twice; turn partners to places. Sides repeat.

FOURTH FIGURE; First lady and vis-a-vis gentleman advance four steps and stop; second lady and first gentleman do the same. Each gentleman turns partner to place. All the ladies then move to the right and the gentlemen to the left, to their neighbor's places-four steps. Another four steps and they meet their original partners. Promenade to places. Sides repeat.

FIFTH FIGURE; First couple promenade round on inside. Four ladies advance to center, courtesy and retire. Gentlemen advance and retire in a similar manner.

Balance and turn partners. Grand chain half round, promenade to places and turn partners. All chassez. Second couple and sides repeat.


The Prince Imperial

This is a new form of quadrille, of Parisian origin. It is affected at dancing academies, but has failed to secure popular favor in the ball-room. The figures are complicated, but not inelegant. As the dance is so rarely given, it would be superfluous to describe it.


Beadle's dime ball-room companion and guide to dancing, 1868
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