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“To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 3) During Austen’s time, young people looked for a potential mate at dances. Austen, herself, enjoyed a good dance, and, therefore, she often used dance as part of her plot line. In a 1798 letter to her sister Cassandra, Austen wrote, “There were twenty Dances & I danced them all, & without any fatigue.” Dancing well was a “necessary evil.” Those who trod on their partners toes (i.e., Mr. Collins) were seen as gauche. Children of the gentry learned the latest dance steps early on.

Public balls or assemblies and private balls formed the two types of formal dances. Assemblies took place in large ballrooms in market towns and cities. They were constructed for the purpose of public…

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