Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An invite to Jane Austen's birthday dance party

Many literary lovers around the world,both on and offline,are celebrating today in honor of Jane Austen,whose 234th birthday it is today. Gatherings will be held by like minded friends while some chose to share the simple joys of the day either with a selected few or alone in a Marlene Dietrich fashion.

There are many good reasons to rejoice about Jane's legacy,which is doing a brisk business these days,thanks to the lively crew at Quirk Classics who are devoting most of the day to honoring Our Dear Jane at their new website and glowing with delight over the casting of Natalie Portman as the quick witted and fierce warrior maiden Lizzie Bennett for the film version of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.

If you prefer a more sedate setting,the Morgan Library & Museum's exhibit of Jane Austen is available online for perusal,with a fifteen minute video of such diverse company as Cornel West,Fran Lebowitz and Harriet Walter talking about what Jane means to them,plus images of her letters and other writings made available for viewing.

As for me,I think I'd like to dance-that's what Jane would be doing,after all. While she was a homebody at times,the lady did love to go out and kick her heels up at a ball or two(with a proper invitation and respectable escorts,of course)and dancing was a major part of socialization in the Regency world. Any talk of either her novels or her life story must and has included dancing,so with that in mind,we here at LRG have selected some prime examples of the art of the dance and it's importance in Austen's realm.

A dance in a public place or private home was considered a very proper way for young people to meet and mingle,with hopes of making a good marriage match in the bargain. Visits to cities such as Bath were done in the hopes of finding suitable suitors as well as acquaintances and good first impressions at establishments like the Upper Rooms were most desirable to be made:

Since the pacing of certain dance movements required one to spend a considerable amount of time on the dance floor with your partner,it was a great opportunity for people to get to know more about each other thru conversation. Many a romance blossomed under such circumstances and also some resentments as well,which is why many of the best moments of character revelation in Austen's work came about during those carefully timed twists and turns in the ballroom:

Body language is not just a modern concept;in Jane's day,where concealing your true feelings was an unofficial art, there were times when more could be revealed about a person's courtship intentions as he or she moved across the dance floor than in any lengthy conversation or time spent together.The exchange of longing looks and just how close someone would dare to be towards one partner or another during several of the movements could be read as an open declaration of love:

No matter what changes are made in adapting the novels of Jane Austen to film and/or TV,the dance scenes are always vital to the story and taking them out is something no one seems willing to do.

It's hard to imagine what Pride and Prejudice would be like without seeing Darcy and Elizabeth spar in sync at the Netherfield ball or Elinor meeting Willoughby while dancing at that London party before Marianne spots him and causes that sad scene which only fuels the fodder for gossip and heartbreak to come. All Austen couples share some sort of dancing moment together-even the self composed Emma looses up a little when she and Mr. Knightley take their turn together at the Crown Inn ball,a hint of things to come between those two before the end of the book:

Reimagings and modern stories that use Austen's novels as a template for their romantic plots also make sure to keep the characters on their dancing toes. No matter how times may change,folks still feel the need to flirt via tripping the light fantastic. You could almost say that such fancy footwork is a universal language of love:

As the music dies down,let us wish Jane Austen a happy birthday as she no doubt observes all this fuss being made over her and finds it most amusing(as well as flattering).

As brilliant as her wit was and the cleverness of her writing most highly appreciated by generations of readers now and yet to come,Jane also was ahead of her time in the knowledge that there are times when all a girl wants to do is dance:

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