Dancing in the Barracks: Contexts for social dancing on the Eve of Waterloo

When, determined to end Napoleon's advance, the allies invaded the territory now known as Belgium, they never imagined they would stay so long. No less than 17 months lay between the first engagements at the Battle of Hoogstraten and the final battle at Waterloo. As  with  the Congress of Vienna, this  enduring presence provided ample  occasion for social mixing. And once again, dancing proved a good solution to overcome cultural barriers. Hence, many balls were organised, mostly relying on local musicians and dancing masters.

In this paper I will focus on the socio-cultural context for social dancing in the Southern Netherlands (1795 - 1830). The dissemination of music- and dance repertoires has, until now, mainly been investigated by looking at musical institutions in major cities. But at the time, balls were important events occurring far more frequently than concerts or operas. They also were more casual, even taking place in the barracks. Therefore it is vital to assess their impact. What formed the socio-cultural backcloth for the mythic Duchess of Richmond's Ball? Which cultural transfers occurred in the year preceding it and what did the international community finally take home?


Cornelius Vanistandael
Symposium Title: 
Dancing for Anniversaries and Occasions: Chamber, Court, Theatre & Assembly 2015
Author affiliation: 
Leuven, Belgium