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Hints on Behaviour at Local Dances

The following advice gained from Pearson’s Magazine was published in the Moorabbin News on November 2, 1912 and repeated on April 12, 1913 suggesting perhaps the need to fill a space rather than the need to provide advice to the young men of the district.

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Queen of the Ball, St Matthew’s Tennis Club, at the Mechanics Hall, Cheltenham, c1950. Courtesy Moorabbin Historical Society.

At public balls, and occasionally at dances given in private houses in the country, the guests are supplied with programmes, to each of which is attached a small pencil with no lead in it. Armed with one of these, you make your way across the room to the spot where the lady of your choice is standing (trying to look at though she were unconscious of the fact of your entrance), and implore her to allow you the privilege of booking her name for several dances.

If she be in a gracious mood, she will coyly yield her programme into your hands, then you can at once insert your name in every available blank space, and thus insure for your self (and possibly for her as well) a happy and successful evening.

If, however the lady prove unkind (as too often happens in this very unsatisfactory world of ours), and will only consent to give you number seventeen (The Merry Peasants’ Parade” – Barn Dance), you must try and fill the blanks occasioned by her coldness with the names of the less-beloved, but no less worthy, maidens of your acquaintance.

It is both foolish and wrong to stand sullenly in the doorway throughout an entire evening, wearing a glum expression of countenance and following with jealous eyes the figure of the one girl with whom you happen for the moment to be in love, while she whirls by in the arms of some more favoured suitor.

Your duty towards your hostess renders it imperative that you should take an active part in the proceedings, stifle the nature pangs of amorous jealousy that surge to the surface of your bosom, and invite a number of girls in whom you take no interest whatever to tread the measures of the two-step in your company.

If you are young and comparatively unknown, your hostess will probably introduce you to those of her female guests who appear to be suffering in a marked manner from masculine neglect, and you will thus have an opportunity of bringing sunshine into the lives of many wall-flowers. In such an event, of course, you will not be able to catch the names of the “debutantes,” but a little practice should enable you to make descriptive notes upon your programme, by the help of which you may subsequently recognise the ladies again when the time comes for their respective dances.

Care should be taken that your descriptions are clear without being offensive, as it may cause unpleasantness , when you are arguing with a girl as to the exact number of the danced she promised to give you, if you attempt to prove your point by showing her a programme on which you have written, apposite the dance in question, “the stout flapper with the knock knees,” “clamfaced Clara,” or some other form of “memoria technical” calculated to cause pain to her sensitive nature.

The programme system has many disadvantages, particularly for the softer sex, who cannot conscientiously pretend that their cards are full at the commencement of the evening and thus become the hapless prey of bores and bad dances, whom they can only elude by the dishonourable method of repudiating their engagements at the last moment.

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The McKinnon Youth Club Dance, 1966. Leader Collection.


  1. First printed in Pearon’s Magazine and Reprinted in Moorabbin News, November 2, 1912.

Article Cat. Did You Know?
Article Ref. 183

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