Dandizettes and the Grecian Bend

Between 1817 and 1820 in Regency London, the dandizette, or female dandy, made her debut in the hallowed circles of elite, fashionable society. Newspapers, journals,  poems,  songs,  and satirical prints from this era recount her obsession with sartorial style, her penchant for attending the opera and ballet, her passion for dancing until dawn  at  society  balls,  and  her general cultivation of life’s pleasures. One defining affectation of the  dandizette  was  her posture. Contrary to the upright stance urged upon young  society  women  by  19th  century dancing masters, the dandizette stood with her spine stooped, her head poked forward, and her arms dangling at her sides, a stance that was dubbed ‘the Grecian bend.’

This paper will argue that the dandizette’s Grecian bend was adopted as a marker of social class during an era of profound  exclusivity  and  was  practiced  by  an  aristocracy  bent upon demonstrating their hegemony as the ruling class. Reminiscent of the air of complaisance affected by dancers in the 18th century ballroom, the dandizette’s Grecian bend of the early 19th century embodies the languid, leisurely air of negligence so favoured by the bon ton.   And one of the most conspicuous places to display this marker of aristocratic class was at the King’s Theatre, London, where boxes served as ministages in which the beau monde enacted elaborate performances of social status.

mouat@ucalgary.ca

Author: 
Anna Mouat
Symposium_number: 
17
Symposium Title: 
Dancing for Anniversaries and Occasions: Chamber, Court, Theatre & Assembly 2015
Author affiliation: 
University of Calgary, Canada