The Regency Wardrobe collection - research - seeking a dancer
One of the first things I remember The Regency Town House curator Nick Tyson telling me when we met up at the beginning of planning my residency at the house, concerned the Regency practise of chalking the floor of ballrooms before a dance.
In order to stop dancers slipping in the type of flat shoes that were fashionable at that time (which we would now call ballet pump style shoes) simple lines and patterns, as a minimum, would be drawn in chalk on the floor. However, larger venues, expecting grander guests (for example when the Prince Regenct was visiting) would hire an artist to design a unique illustration for that event. The carpeting would be rolled up, the artist produce their deisgn in chalk on the floor, guests would be wowed as they arrived, the design would be danced over all evening and it's remains would be swept up in the morning.
It's hard to find much information about and impossible to find images of this practise, ephemeral as the resulting art was, but these three sites mention the tradition:
From the early days of planning this project therefore I've been imagining commissioning a scenic artist to chalk an image on the floor of the front drawing room, the grandest room in The Regency Town House. An image, that is, that I would design, one that would last the length of the exhibition, blend seamlessly into the skirt of a paper ballgown, standing at it's centre, and be danced on on the last day of the exhibition, thereby being destroyed.
This link takes you to images and a plan of the front and back drawing rooms:
The vigorousness of any dancing that happens in the front drawing room must take into account the fact that not all areas of all the ceilings of this 200 year old house have been sufficiently strengthened for vigorous impact (we don't want the ceiling rose at the centre of the ceiling of the dining room below to suffer cracks). Therefore I've included an area of the back drawing room floor in my thinking and design process. Here two uniformed male mannequins will be standing, on a chalked floor area.
For most of the exhibition (across the 8 days of the four weekends in May '20) there will be a ribboned cordon placed around the edge of both of these chalked areas with a walkway around each for visitors to view the garments and the floor design from all sides.
The design of the ballgown involves the themes of to war and homelessness - inspired by my discovery that the 1824 vagrancy act is still policed today; it was introduced because (in Brighton especially) of a public outcry regarding the problem of those soldiers returned from the Napoleonic wars who found themselves homelessness and were considered too visible on the streets. Linked imagery will flow across the dress, it's train and the floor.
Though i am still open and excited by possibilities regarding the style of dance happens and the music used I have found a waltz from the time that may be applicable. Called Bird Waltz it's title fits nicely with a bird theme I'm applying to shoes I'm making as part of The Regency Wardrobe Collection, including a ballet pump style dancing shoe. It could be adapted. For the score please see:
Here is a You Tube performace of it: Bird Waltz
These links concern Regency balls and traditional dancing styles which may or may not be of interest to consider, choreograph, adapt etc: