FEZZIWIG'S WAREHOUSE DANCE PARTY

AT THE DICKENS CHRISTMAS FAIR

    

 

 Most of our etiquette rules are common sense and common courtesy. For convenience and clarity, we will also use the term "customer" here. At Fezziwig's, however, there are no "customers" (except for those who buy Fezziwig's Finest tea) – only "patrons" or "guests." 

Please note - the word "please" is a polite imperative. 

 1  Please be silent during announcements and during dance instruction. The acoustics in the warehouse are dreadful. Please do give the announcers or dance callers all of your attention. Do not stand directly in front of those announcing dances.

2. If you are ntroduced to someone at Fezziwig’s, especially a customer, that is a polite way of saying, “Ask this lady or gentleman to dance (immediately!).”

3. If you absolutely CANNOT dance the dance because of an injury or because you have a show or gig to rush off to, please do one or both of the following: (a) Ask the customer for a future dance and be scrupulous about keeping your engagement. (b) Try to provide the customer with another partner.

4. All dances at the Fezziwig’s party are BOTH ladies’ and gentlemen’s choice. If a customer asks you to dance, accept graciously. If you cannot dance the dance, either because of an injury or because of a previous engagement, show, or gig, please refer to Rule #3.

5. If you collide with another couple on the dance floor or if they collide with you, PLEASE apologize at once – even if it was the other leader’s fault and not yours. (But keep moving. Coming to a complete stand-still on the dance floor is dangerous!)  

6. Please note: In case of a collision, when responding to an apology, don’t say “It’s all right” and certainly don’t say “It’s OK.” Simply apologize in return – in period Victorian English:

“I beg your pardon, sir.”

“No, indeed, I beg YOUR pardon, sir. It was my fault entirely.”

7. Ladies, it is perfectly appropriate to ask another lady to dance. Indeed, given the extreme shortage of men at Fezziwig’s, it is almost imperative that you devote some time to dancing with the lady customers. Same-sex dancing, especially in country dances or set dances, was acceptable in the ballrooms of Jane Austen’s time, in Queen Victoria’s dashing Scottish regiments, and even among the miners during the California Gold Rush; however, if you dance with a lady, please make sure you introduce her to a gentleman for the next dance. We want our customers to feel as if they’re at a magical dance at the happiest Christmas party in Victorian London – and NOT as if they’re back in high school.

8. Ladies: Do not ask a gentleman to dance unless you provide a partner for the lady he is escorting.

9. Wherever possible, gentlemen, please take a lady partner with you to ask a customer couple to dance. True, most of our male customers would rather suffer slow torture or hold their wife’s purse than get out on the dance floor, but it’s a nice gesture.  

10. Gentlemen: It’s certainly acceptable to ask a married lady to dance (her husband will probably thank you for rescuing him), but please ask the husband or escort’s permission to address the lady first (It’s very Victorian), then ask the lady to dance.

11. The Fezziwig’s party is a private party and not a public assembly, so, technically, introductions are not necessary in order to ask a lady to dance. It is assumed that all of Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig’s guests are respectable (yes, even Bill Sykes if he behaves himself). But do introduce yourself as you dance so that you can present your partner to your Fezziwig colleagues. If the lady or gentleman is shy about giving his or her name, you can always ask, “And how shall I address you, Miss (or Madam)?” or remark “I know we’ve met, sir, but I regret that I cannot remember your name.”

12. Gentlemen: If you suddenly discover that you’ve inadvertently “asked” two ladies to dance, don’t wander off with the prettier of the two and a lame apology to the slighted lady. (Unfortunately, a true story!) Very bad ton!The slighted lady is going to feel like an idiot, so please do all you can to repair the slight. Ask her for the next dance and, if possible, try to provide her with another partner for this dance. And, of course, if one of the two ladies involved is a Fezziwigger or another Dickens actress, she should gracefully offer to sit out the dance (“I’m a little tired, Mr. Smith, so I’d prefer to sit this polka out. I’d be happy to dance with you later when I’ve had a chance to recover.”).

13. If you decline a dance, you DO need to give a polite reason (and “No thank you,” “I really hate the Congress of Vienna” or “Sorry. I’m not dancing” are NOT polite reasons) but try to keep your story straight. If you decline a polka on the ground that you’re recovering from a sprained ankle and then are seen dancing a sprightly polka later in the set, your credibility is lost.

14. Forms of address: “Sir” and “Madam” will get you far. “Miss” is appropriate for young girls and young ladies whose marital status you aren’t certain of. Please remember not to use the 1970’s feminist title “Ms.” It’s a glaring anachronism.

Having said that, we do not wish you to use this as an excuse for not learning your fellow Dickens actors’ character names.

15. Remember to join country dances at the bottom of the set – not at the top – unless, of course, one of the directors or shift leads specifically asks you to come to the top and lead a set. Then please do accept the post with alacrity. Arguments on the dance floor are such bad ton – unless, of course, they’re part of a theatrical gig you’ve prearranged!

16. Unless you are a strong, experienced English, Irish, or Scottish country dancer capable of calling a country dance or quadrille, please do not rush to the top of the set. The First Couple in either a country dance or a quadrille must be able to call the dance and set an example for the rest of the set.

17. Yes, the purpose of any country dance is flirtation with your neighbors, corners, and partner but please do not be so preoccupied with flirting with your neighbors and corners that you neglect your partner. Your partner should always be your central focus. It is understandable that a married or engaged couple or sweethearts who suddenly find themselves corners or neighbors will dance the figures with a special tenderness. But going out of your way to chase someone else’s partner is very bad form and callously insensitive as well.

18. Please do not correct your partner’s form unless he or she is causing you physical pain or unless he is leading you into danger. It is acceptable to correct someone in a quadrille or country dance set if he is moving incorrectly, but not with the air of giving him a dance lesson. Please avoid pedantry. Finally, unless your partner asks for feedback, do not offer style points.

Fancy footwork is fine in the Lancers Quadrille, Strip the Willow, Soldier’s Joy, Sir Roger and any reel or jig-time country dance – as long as your solo dancing does not mystify your partner (The same rule applies to hand-clapping games during Sir Roger or Strip the Willow). Remember that your two main duties in a country dance or set dance are (1) to support and guide your partner and (2) to support and help guide the set.

19. You’ll have some opportunity to dance with your friends (in fact, when the dance floor is empty, as it occasionally is in the early morning set, this is a good idea!), but, of course, the customers’ needs come first. For this reason, it’s not a good idea to book dances in advance. If you DO reserve a dance with a customer, don’t forget to keep your engagement and don’t keep your partner waiting. Remember, also, that the Congress of Vienna is a customer dance at Fezziwig’s. Please don’t book a Congress with your Significant Other at Fezziwig’s. There are plenty of other balls where Congress is danced!

20. Please remember the End of Dance drill: At the end of a dance, bow or curtsy to your partner and thank them for the dance, THEN applaud the band. Then escort your partner back to their place. Then bow or curtsy again and thank them, ideally with a nice compliment.

21. You’ll notice that for better customer service we actually have to break some of the traditional Victorian ballroom etiquette rules. We permit ladies to ask gentlemen to dance (otherwise, most of our customer gentlemen would never have the courage to get out on the dance floor!); we permit you to dance more than twice or thrice with the same partner; and we certainly DO introduce skilled dancers to unskilled dancers (which some Victorian dance etiquette books strongly discourage). We also applaud the band, which Victorian dance manuals generally frown on. Our excuse is that the musicians of Bangers & Mash are our friends and neighbors!

The Fezziwig’s dance party does capture the cheerful, hospitable spirit of Victorian ballroom etiquette by our attention to the needs of the other guests (especially our “paying guests”) and by ensuring that they have partners whenever possible.

 



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