The 2014 Anne of Green Gables Tea Party at Old World Wisconsin was one of the most charming events I have attended in my many years of teaching historic dance. All the young ladies wore their finest Anne-like dresses and arrived early to decorate hats and work on a variety of craft projects. An Old World interpreter read the story of Anne serving a cake concocted with anodyne liniment. After tea, the girls, mothers, and grandmothers filed out onto the warm green outside the Town Hall for an hour of dancing. We were quite the sight as visitors rode past on the tram and shuffled along the dusty road on foot. The dance cards were treasured by all guests.
Dance cards have been used at grand balls, socials, and hops since the mid-nineteenth century and usually list the dance, musical selection, and composer. Many provide space for a gentleman to mark his “engagement” to a partner. Some gentlemen carried their own pencils, but sometimes a small pencil was attached to the cards.
One of my favorite scenes from Return to Cranford (BBC) involves the memories stirred by the discovery of a dance card. Whether ornate or simple, every dance card carries the memory of “an association of kind and generous spirits”…or so we can hope. Here are a few of my creations that recall pleasant evenings on the dance floor throughout Wisconsin. I only wish I could show you some of the embellishments that made the cards sparkle.
Hand-fan dance cards for the Hard Times Ball in honor of Stephen Foster came in handy for three hours of dancing to the music Jack and Susan Nicholson (Frogwater). Below: Scott and Mary fill out their cards before dinner.
Sources for supplies: