From the Artificial to the Natural Body: Social Dancing in Britain, 1900–1914

  • Theresa Jill Buckland


In the years adjacent to the outbreak of the First World War, social dancers and their critics in Britain testified to a shift in corporeal norms in the fashionable ballroom. No longer determined by strict Victorian conventions and gendered moral codes governing social relations, the ballroom of the upper and middle classes increasingly became a space for young men and women to express themselves more freely in movement. Ragtime, a rhythmically exciting choreomusical repertoire sourced from the United States, threatened to oust the melodic decorum of the European Waltz and Quadrille. Whereas sublimation of the self and bodily restraint had characterized dancing of the ideal Victorian ballroom, new dances such as the Boston (performed to waltz music), the Turkey Trot (a ragtime dance) and, later, the Argentine Tango (typically danced to a habanera rhythm) tendered opportunities for personal emotion and physical display. Rejecting the dancing of their parents and earlier generations as old-fashioned and artificial, many young Britons embraced these new public ways of moving together, approving them as more modern and natural.1


Natural Body Social Distinction Dance Floor Dancing Teacher Unbiased Observer 
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© Theresa Jill Buckland 2011

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  • Theresa Jill Buckland

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