I meant to blog about this site earlier: RegencyRedingote which is one of the most amazing Regency-related history blogs I’ve come across. I feel dumb for not finding it sooner.
this post on chalking Regency ballroom floors is what brought me to the site. I had no idea this took place, but on reflection, it makes perfect sense.
During the Regency, ball-givers often had elaborate images chalked onto the ballroom floor in order to keep the dancers from slipping on the surface. Usually, they used white chalk, as ladies complained about colored chalk staining their slippers. But of course this makes sense!
Think ballet. I took ballet for years. Classes were almost always on a wooden floor and whether you were wearing flats or toe shoes, the soles were leather and we were, well, dancing. There was always a box of rosin in the corner for us to step in to give a little more grip if the floor were recently cleaned or your slippers were new or just because.
So yes! Chalk on the ballroom floors makes perfect sense. And it makes sense as well that people would get fancy about it.
Floral designs were very popular for chalk designs, often larger images of the same varieties of flowers which had been used to decorate the ballroom. Arabesques were also fashionable, and in fact, it was a series of complex arabesque patterns which were chalked on the ballroom floor at Carlton House on the night of the grand fête. Mythological and fanciful motifs might also be seen, such as nymphs, mermaids, centaurs, satyrs, sea gods and/or classical heros. Heavenly bodies, such as the sun, the moon, stars, planets, comets and shooting stars were also popular motifs. For those who had the right to bear them, their coat of arms might be chalked on the ballroom floor. At one ball during the Regency, the guest of a gentleman who had had his coat of arms chalked on the ballroom floor that evening is reported to have quipped that his host was dancing on his arms as well as his legs. Floral patterns were most common for engagement or wedding balls, though if either the bride or the groom had a coat of arms, that might be chalked on the floor, often in the center, surrounded by flowers. If the bride and groom both came from families with coats of arms, the coat of arms of the bride might be quartered with those of her new husband in the design which was chalked on the floor for their celebratory ball. The dance floor was frequently chalked for masquerades, oftentimes with figures in keeping with the theme of the masquerade. There are suggestions that the more risqué masquerades had equally risqué drawings chalked on their floors for the titillation of the dancers.
This article, which is quite long and detailed, belongs on your list of wonderful information. The entire site belongs there. The author of the site is Kathryn Kane. Here’s her bio:
Historian with a particular interest the English Regency era. An avid reader of novels set in that time, holding strong opinions on the historical accuracy to be found in said novels.