What is a cockchafer and its relationship to a bodkin? According to Wikepedia a cockchafer is a European beetle and it’s also called a May bug, Mitchamador, Billy Witch or Spang Beetle. A bodkin has been described as a dagger, stiletto, ornamental hairpin shaped like a stiletto or a sharp slender instrument for making holes in cloth.
What does this have to do with dancing? The answer lies in a furious letter from Lord Byron (1788 – 1824) prior to his poem The Waltz, in which he declares essentially the anti-social nature of the Viennese Waltz as the couple dancing appear “like two cockchafers spitted on the same bodkin.”
So to understand Lord Byron’s comments we need to go back in time to know the nature of what was acceptable dancing and dance positions for that period. Nearly all European social dances before the waltz were communal sequence dances. Communal, because all the dancers on the floor took part in a pre-set pattern (often chosen by a Master of Ceremony). Dancers separately, and as couples, faced outwards to the spectators as much as they faced inwards. So everyone at the dance took part as dancers or as onlookers. Coincidently, this was the way with the country dance and all previous popular dances. With the waltz couples were independent of each other and were turned towards each other (though not in close contact).
The Viennese Waltz is one of the most beautiful and graceful of the ballroom dances and is the oldest of the current ballroom dances. Its roots go back to the second half of the 18th century from the German dance and the Ländler in Austria and was both popular and subject to criticism.
We will continue with Part 2 of the Viennese Waltz in next month’s column!
Our next first Thursday of the month dinner/dance evening will take place on May 21 at SaddleBrooke One in the Vistas Dining Room with the adjacent Vermilion Room dance floor beginning at 5:30 p.m. Our first Thursday event in June will be on June 11 but will return to the normal first Thursday on July 2. Please come join us then as well as the weekly open dances/practices on Sunday afternoons (4:00 to 5:30 p.m. at MountainView Ballroom) and Wednesday afternoons (4:00 to 5:30 p.m. at the Vermilion Room). It’s a time for listening and dancing to great ballroom music and sharing in the love of dancing as well as enjoying the camaraderie and fellowship of friendly dancers.
If you didn’t make any of our five dinner/dances this last dance season then plan to come out when we start up the new dance season with our first party on November 14, 2015.
You are invited to visit our Facebook page that we share with Let’s Dance (just type Let’s Dance in the search box on Facebook). Please feel free to share your own favorite dance story or ballroom tune; you can write me at [email protected]