7. Conduct of a dancing master’s practice (3 of 3)

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She has even greater disdain for professional dancers from the opera house employed to give private lessons. Vestris senior taught Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire, but it was Not Proper. Nor was the introduction into the ballroom of the Fandango and the Bolero ‘quite the thing’, even if it was a peaceful outcome of the Peninsular War.

The Lady had no mercy on men who did not dance: ‘… dancing is so neglected by men in general’, who prefer to ‘imitate grooms and coachmen’. She recommends them to a dancing master as a necessary evil, to learn steps and conduct but without the ‘affectation’ of the dancing master. It is a sad reflection that, while the dancing master taught an art, his pupils the Gentleman and (especially) the Lady must not aspire beyond propriety and elegance.

For their part the dancing masters called themselves ‘gentlemen’ not on the grounds of breeding but upon material worth. Boseley owned property, inherited a coat of arms and may actually have been a ‘gentleman born’. Francis Christian II owned property temporarily but reverted to ‘dancing master’ in his will. Edward Christian died a gentleman but failed as tradesman/professional.

The Noverres’ gentry status was both inherited and acquired. In his naturalisation papers of 1771 Augustin Noverre is ‘a Gentleman and a Protestant’. He probably took his status from his father who was an officer in the Swiss Army. His son, Francis, registering the births of two of his children, was a ‘dancing master’ in 1813 and a ‘gentleman’ in 1819; he was still in practice but he now owned the West wing of the Assembly House. He was also a weighty citizen, one of the original directors of Norwich Union, founded in 1809, with his brother-in-law the Earl of Craven as Trustee. But Craven’s involvement came about through his marriage to Mrs Noverre’s sister and has nothing to do with Francis Noverre as a dancing master.

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