18th century grand marches

Rosemary Coupe

Message 21915 · 13 Jul 2000 02:09:31 · Fixed-width font · Whole thread

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If you've had an answer to your question, Kent, just ignore this reply.
(Because of server problems, I've missed about a week of messages.)

You're probably right to associate the Grand March with the Victorian era.
To add my own surmise, its origin may lie in the big Highland Balls of the
late 19th century.

The only pre-1900 reference I know is in David Anderson's Ballroom Guide,
six editions of which appeared between 1886 and 1902. Anderson prefaces his
description of the Grand March with this comment: "Before the
assembly-night all ladies and gentlemen should have their gloves tried on so
that there be no delay caused by their splitting--being too small, etc." He
then describes a march similar in its pattern to those we do now. At the
end of the march, sets are formed for the Scotch Reel (the Foursome, that
is). These are the last sentences of Anderson's instructions for the Grand

"When the march is executed in two circles, march round in fours and lead up
in eights, opening up for two reels abreast. When the Scotch Reel is
finished all the gentlemen present their right arm to their partners and
march round the hall behind the leading couple. Gentlemen take their
partners to their seats, bow gracefully, and return to their own seats."

So the formality of the march, which Anderson as a genteel dancing master
would wish to encourage, is actually prolonged!

The section which follows may indicate the growing popularity of the Grand
March or Anderson's wish to popularize it, or a little of both. Anderson
gives instructions for "A New Grand March," which he writes "is becoming
popular in Glasgow and the principal centres." This march is on a grand
scale: it ends with all marching in lines of 32, if required of 64, with
lines of ladies followed by lines of gentlemen. Then the MC gives the order
to form for a Contra Dance (Anderson's term for a country dance; he probably
liked the French overtones), when the ladies turn round and face their
partners (the country dance sets are across the hall).

One can scarcely imagine a march of this scale in an 18th-century assembly
room, where often not all the company could take the floor at once. Aside
from considerations of physical space, the 18th-century assembly was still
structured by the assumption that the couple of highest rank should
inaugurate the dancing, either by dancing a minuet or by leading the opening
country dance. The Grand March is democratic by comparison!

Rosemary Coupe

-----Original Message-----
From: Smith, Kent <xxxx.xxxxx@xxxxxxxx.xxx>
To: Strathspey (E-mail) <xxxxxxxxxx@xx.xxxxxxxxxx.xxx-xxxxxxxxx.xx>
Date: Thursday, June 29, 2000 11:46 AM
Subject: 18th century grand marches

>Here's another question to test your collective knowledge of SCD history.
>I'm in charge of the grand march before a ball with an 18th century theme.
>Has anyone ever read anything about grand marches in the 18th century?
>Did they have them? (I'm guessing they're probably a Victorian era addition
>but that is strictly a wild and uninformed guess.)
>If they did exist in the 18th century, does anyone know what sorts of
>formations or patterns were likely involved?
>Anyone who comes up with answers probably won't receive the bronze medal
>with gold filigree, but certainly will receive the admiration of this
>world-wide list.
> Thanks very much,
> Kent
> =<>=<>=<>=<>=<>=<>=<>=<>=<>=<>=<>=<>=<>=<>=<>=<>=<>=<>=<>=<>=<>
> Kent W. Smith mailto:xxxx.xxxxx@xxxxxxxx.xxx
> Institutional Research Telephones:
> Trinity College Work: 860-297-5195
> 300 Summit St. FAX: 860-297-4202
> Hartford, CT 06106-3100 Home: 860-313-0215
> Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that
> goes by you so quick you hardly catch it going.
> -- Tennessee Williams
>"Smith, Kent" <xxxx.xxxxx@xxxxxxxx.xxx>

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