Elegance and Decadence: The Age of the Regency
A ballroom, pretty dresses, couples twirling round the floor to the swelling music of the Waltz. What could be more genteel?
When it first appeared in the 1810s, this new dance from Germany caused a scandal.
Obviously, when I was offered a dancing lesson, I couldn't wait to have a go.
The Pump Rooms were used for Regency parties and balls, but are actually named for the pump there that produces some rather nasty-tasting spa water.
This water's supposedly health-giving properties lay behind Leamington Spa's spectacular growth as a tourist resort in the Regency period.
At the Pump Rooms I met the dance historian Robin Benie.
He told me how the country dances of the eighteenth century involved men and women standing in long lines, each person forming a couple briefly, in turn with all the other members of the set.
In the waltz, by contrast, you remain clasped in the arms of just one partner throughout, perhaps taking the opportunity for private conversation.
The Times newspaper condemned the new dance for its 'voluptuous intertwining of the limbs'.
Historian Robin Benie gives Lucy Worsley a lesson in waltzing
Lady Caroline was one of Lord Byron's many groupies, and for a while he indulged her in a scandalous affair.
He made her swear never to waltz, as it made him so jealous to see her in the arms of another man. (He couldn't waltz himself because he had a bad foot.)
After their break-up, though, they ran into each other at a ball, and she said to him that 'she supposed she might waltz now'.
Yes, he said, she could dance with anybody she liked.
Poor Caroline was devastated by this evidence that their relationship was really over.
She immediately got hold of a knife, cut herself, and blood went all over her gown.
I myself managed to get through my waltz lesson without bloodshed and can now twirl very nicely indeed.
And I really enjoyed my afternoon as a Regency Rihanna.
Lucy Worsley is the presenter of Elegance and Decadence: The Age of the Regency.
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