Dance Card History

Australian Dance History

Times gone by – when a lady was booked for dance and a gentleman was penciled in.
Terms we still use today, although the actual dance booking practise is no longer widely in use.
Historically significant, the dance card originated in the eighteenth century.
The physical item was initially in booklet form and depending on significance of the event, had elaborative or highly decorated cover. The purpose was to list dance titles, music or composer, and the person the lady had “penciled in” to dance.

Versions changed over time, traditionally they would have a marketing aspect, with the cover promoting the event, sponsor, organisation information. The decorative card would be attached to the lady’s wrist or ball gown.
In the 19th century until World War I, dance cards were often very elaborate, some incorporated precious metals, jewels, embroidery, and all manner of fine hand works. Other versions included fans with dances and dancers printed on each panel.
In Australia, the dance card was a common item for Balls dating back to the 1800s
Do you have any copies of some from your family archives?

Terms still used today
Pencil me in – means to advise you have time to spend with the noted person
My dance card is full – means you do not.

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