Monday, May 23, 2016

Curtsey Etiquette and Art

The curtsey is the foundation of drawing room grace, for through its bending and dipping, self-consciousness —which usually creates awkwardness — is eliminated. 

There is more in the art of curtseying than the novice imagines. It is a bow, a graceful exercise and an excellent method of teaching balance. The young girl who early masters the difficult movements need never fear making an awkward or unattractive appearance anywhere.

It might be said that the curtsey is the foundation of drawing room grace, for through its bending and dipping, self-consciousness —which usually creates awkwardness — is eliminated.

The curtsey is taught first as an exercise by itself. The young girl is given certain aesthetic movements to do which are a part of the curtsey, afterward she is told to lift her skirts daintily and bow as she would to some great person. The idea of rank inspires the girl with a sense of the great importance of the curtsey, although it is introduced into simple home affairs quite as much as it is used upon formal occasions.

The foundation principle of the curtsey is balance. No girl can bow and drop almost to the floor without toppling over and looking, as if in another minute, she would do so, unless she is well poised on her feet.

One foot should he placed in advance of the other, usually the right, while the weight of the body is divided between the two, unless a forward or backward movement is to follow, when the body should be so slightly poised that the weight can be shifted from one foot to the other without the shifting becoming noticeable.

With the body thus lightly poised, so that no effort is required to lift it or lower it, it should first be raised by standing on the tips of the toes, when the body should be bent in a long, sweeping, graceful bow.

When making a formal curtsey the body is lowered until it almost touches the floor. Less formal ones are graded according to the depth of the bow or the bending of the body. As the knees are bent, and the body slips toward the floor, the head should be inclined and then lifted again as the standing position is resumed.

When curtseying the old fashioned position of the feet must be assumed, with toes out at an angle from the body. It would be practically impossible to curtsey with any freedom and grace of movement if the feet were held in a straight line. With the feet placed at an angle to the body and one foot slightly advanced there is no danger of swaying or falling when the rules are observed.

And it is important that a step forward or backward be taken immediately preceding or following the act of curtseying. This position is one of the most important in drawing room or ballroom deportment, for upon its mastery and use depends the case with which a young woman passes down a receiving line and does not get out of step or find herself trying to advance with the wrong foot after she has curtseyed to one of the personages in line.

Suppose you have made a quaint old fashloned-bow to the head of the receiving line and you wlah to repeat the formal greeting to the person standing at the leader's left. When there is a large number of guests, a break In the line means confusion to every one and it takes time to get the column of guests under way again. Rather than become the awkward cause of such a disturbance it would be well to rehearse the bowing and resuming one's progress time after time at dancing school or at home until the movements follow each other correctly like clockwork.

The movements soon become more or less automatic and a girl learns to shift herself from one position to another without giving any conscious thought to the act, yet if she made a mistake she would realize It in a minute and might be able, if well versed in deportment rules, to recover herself without interrupting the procedure of others.

Reviving the old fashioned curtsey has suggested that there may be other little features of deportment requiring emphasis, and one of these is the graceful exit from a room. The awkwardness with which the average young girl quits a room has been the subject of much comment, and certain circles are demanding a reformation.

Teachers of etiquette and drawing room deportment are putting their pupils through exercises which are designed to improve the carriage and grace of the debutante.They are teaching her how to open a door and pass out through it while keeping her face toward her hostess or the person in the room. Carelessness has made girls forget that this attention is due the person to whom "good-bye" has been said.

Usually the girls are in a hurry to get to some other place or they are occupied with the next appointment or perhaps they have never had their attention called to the fact that saying "good-bye" is not the final act of departure. Having had this done, girls are now beginning to see that the formal leave-taking is not terminated until the guest has withdrawn from the room, if she is calling or has been summoned before her parents or some older person in authority.

In informal meetings, these details of deportment are not generally observed, but they should be learned as a preparation for more formal occasions, because one never knows at what time they will be valuable assets.

Girls often make the same mistake of entering a room, especially if they shut the door behind them. In entering they face the center of the room or the end where the person visited is seated; then in order to close the door they turn squarely around, back to the room, and gently push the door to. After accomplishing this act successfully they consider themselves ready to go on with the formal entrance, which by this time has lost all its dignity and attractiveness.

For no person can suggest both of these qualities by presenting her back to a gathering. It is easy to close a door after you without moving the body around. The arms and hands do it while the face is turned toward the center of the room. 


Of course these details seem trivial to very young girls, who seldom take all the interest in their manners that they should, but by the time a girl has finished school and is ready to enter society she will be grateful to the parent or teacher who insisted on her learning the little arts which seemed so useless to her before. — San Francisco, 1912

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia