I don’t know what came over me but recently I have been very enamored with finding “vintage dance cards” for my collection of “vintage stuff” at home. I just think they are so fun and wonderful to see when they have the card all filled up. I can just imagine all the glorious dances that the holder of the card would have had and I love seeing a story being told when you read who received those dances that night.
Lets explore the world of “Dance Cards” together.
The History of Dance Cards
A dance card or programme du bal (also known by its German-language name, Tanzkarte) is used by a woman to record the names of the gentlemen with whom she intends to dance each successive dance at a formal ball. They appear to have originated in the 18th century, but their use first became widespread in 19th century Vienna, especially at the massive balls during Fasching before Lent.
An actual dance card is typically a booklet with a decorative cover, listing dance titles, composers, and the person with whom the woman intended to dance. Typically, it would have a cover indicating the sponsoring organization of the ball and a decorative cord by which it could be attached to a lady’s wrist or ball gown. From the 19th century until World War I, dance cards for the elite of Austria-Hungary were often very elaborate, with some even incorporating precious metals and jewels.
In modern times the expression “dance card” is often used metaphorically, as when someone says “pencil me into your dance card,” meaning “find some time to spend with me”. Conversely, someone’s “dance card is full” implies that even though they may be interested, they have no time for another person (Source).
Now for some Wonderful Examples of Dance Cards
CLEARLY this lovely gal had only eyes for one gentleman..Ronald Howell.
I’m thinking this colourful 1920s dance card was for a nautical themed dance.
The Gold design on the cover of this University of Michigan 1931 Senior Ball card is really fantastic!
And the inscription on the back eludes to a very interesting night, I think.
Not all dance cards were made of cardboard or decorative paper some were made out of materials like wood, leather and even metal.
Here is a delightful example of a wood dance card.
At this particular Senior Ball of 1939 the famous Musician “Bobby Hackett” was playing with his Orchestra. Now that would have been a treat!
Here is another example of a “story” being told in a dance card. Someone by the name of “Gene” got the first dance, middle 2 dances and the last dance at the Ball. Did the romance of the night take these two off to marriage with kids? Or did they go their separate ways after the dance was done? We will never know but we can imagine, can’t we?
Now weren’t all those dance cards wonderful? Such a fun tradition, that sadly no longer exists and maybe for the best but as the Queen of Nostalgia I can’t help but yearn for maybe a night where it comes back. Maybe one day.