Victorian Christmas Dances of Dickens Fezziwig’s Ball

Nothing spreads Christmas cheer like dancing. Even scrooge cracked a smile as Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig flew across the dance floor for their Christmas ball. That made me wonder what the Christmas dances of Dickens Fezziwig’s ball are.

Dances of a Victorian Ball

A Christmas carol by Charles Dickens was set sometime between 1820-1840 in Victorian England. Balls were the popular form of entertainment, especially for holidays like Christmas. The ball would be a combination of group dances and couples round dances.

Victorian Group Dances

Victorian group dances were an excellent opportunity to mix and mingle with other guests. Group dances included the Polonaise or Grand March, Sottish dances, Quadrilles, and German dance games. These were all inclusive dances that encouraged all the guests to dance. In a Christmas Carol, Dickens mentions an English country dance. “The fiddler struck up ‘Sir Roger de Coverley.’ Then old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs. Fezziwig.”

Victorian Round Ballroom Dances

Round dances were the dirty dancing of the day. These were dances in which a gentleman clasped a lady by the waist and spun around the room. They were originally scandalous because a gentleman could get close enough to a lady to have a conversation without her chaperone hearing. They would also spin wildly around the room causing the partners to become lightheaded. These dances included the Polka, Gallop, and queen Victoria’s favorite, the Waltz.

Early Victorian Ball

Victorians loved to dance, as reflected by Mr. Fezziwig. Charles Dickens wrote, “Hilli-ho!” cried old Fezziwig, skipping down from the high desk with wonderful agility. “Clear away, my lads, and let’s have lots of room here!… the lamps were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire; and the warehouse was as snug, and warm, and dry, and bright a ballroom as you would desire to see on a winter’s night… As to her, (Mrs. Fezziwig) she was worthy to be his partner in every sense of the term. If that’s not high praise, tell me higher and I’ll use it.”

Fezziwig ball dance order

The Fezziwig’s ball would have begun with a Polonaise, followed by a first Waltz. Then they would have alternated group dances with round dances. The finishing dance or the Sir Roger de Coverley would have been saved for last so the evening would end on a happy note. The mixing of group and round dances creates a delightful dynamic for a lovely Christmas ball.

Holly Tomazin
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References

https://victorianweb.org/victorian//////////////////////mt//dance1.html

https://www.bfv.com/cwb/

https://www.loc.gov/collections/dance-instruction-manuals-from-1490-to-1920/articles-and-essays/western-social-dance-an-overview-of-the-collection/nineteenth-century-social-dance/

https://socialdance.stanford.edu/Syllabi/19th_century.htm

https://www.libraryofdance.org/dances/sir-roger/

http://dominiondance.com/dance-terms-and-tips/

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