The length of invitation for a ball or dance is no longer strictly laid down, as was once the case. London hostesses sometimes get up a dance at almost a few hours' notice. The great ladies of high position, whose large houses and full staff of servants render the giving of a ball a very simple matter, sometimes summon their friends by telephone a day or two before the date of the entertainment. Country hostesses, however, give longer notice.
Five or six weeks constitute the limit, but a fortnight or three weeks are sometimes considered a sufficiently long interval. The word "ball" seems to be disappearing from the list of names by which a dance is known. It is retiring into obscurity, to be followed by oblivion, together with many other expressions belonging to the Victorian era.
The form of invitation to a dance is es follows:
Lady Sepia requests the pleasure of
___________________'s company on Wednesday, March 4th.
Dancing 10.30-3 Windover Square. r.s.v.p
This form is varied in the following circumstances. Suppose that the house of the hostess is of insufficient size to accommodate the guests, the dance is frequently given in hired rooms. In London there is a wide choice of such rooms, all the best hotels having laid themselves out to provide suites of rooms, including ball, supper, sitting-out, buffet, and retiring room-;. Refreshments, in such cases, are supplied by the hotel. Picture galleries in the West End are also available for the purpose, and there are suites of rooms to be hired for the evening, not only in the West End, but in the suburbs. It is important to have plenty of sitting-out places and good refreshments.
At almost every dance there is a refreshment buffet at which cool drinks, such as champagne-cup, claret-cup, lemonade, and mineral waters are provided for the consumption of heated dancers. Supper is usually served at 12 o'clock, and, though there is occasionally hot soup provided, it is more usual to have everything cold. In a succeeding article will be given a suitable menu for a ball supper. The giver of the dance must interview the caterer at least a week in advance, arrange with him the price per head, and settle the dishes according to her own taste and his capacity.
This is the easiest way of giving a dance, the caterers supplying everything necessary, the table, the dishes, the glass, china, knives, forks, spoons, even the flowers. The number of catering firms in London increases with every year, the flat system having proved inconvenient for entertaining at home. In the country a dance is often given in the hotel of the nearest town, sometimes in the town hall or other large building. The choice of programmes must also be made in very good time, giving the printers a margin of at least three or four days after the date on which they promise them. At any good stationer's a large and varied selection of dance programmes may be seen, and from these it is a simple matter to make a choice. The list of dances can be arranged to suit the taste of the young people; the number is usually eighteen. On the other side of the programme the date of the dance, with the address where it is to be given, are inscribed, together with any little ornamental device that may appeal to the fancy. Some people prefer pure white programmes, others pale green, blue, or mauve. The choice of pencils has also to be made, and it may be suggested that long, slender shapes are more convenient than short, stumpy ones. The names or initials have to be written while wearing gloves, and a very short pencil is difficult handling in such circumstances.
In all cases where the dance is not given in one's own residence the invitations run as follows:
Lady Sepia requests the pleasure of
--------'s company on Thursday, August 9th, at the Guildhall,
8, Windover Square. Dancing 10 to 2.30 Sometimes the dance is given by a number of people Who band themselves together as hosts. Very frequently names are too numerous to appear on the invitation card. If so, the Wording would be as follows:
Lady Blank, Mrs. -------, and other Members of the Committee request the pleasure of
------------------------------'s company on Wednesday, March 9th, at the County Hotel.
Lady Blank, The Laurels. Dancing 10 p.m.
In the case of subscription dances the committee is usually composed of members of both sexes. Frequently a series of three or more dances is given, possibly with some reduction on the price of tickets if cards for the whole are purchased. The invitations in this case dispense with the form "requesting the pleasure." The announcements sent out would be something after the following fashion:
"A series of Subscription Dances will take place at the Marathon Rooms on Thursday, the 9th: Thursday, the 16th; and Thursday the 23rd. 10.30 p.m. Tickets can be obtained of the Secretary, Mr. George Polton, 7, Greenfields Square. Vouchers must be obtained from one of the Patronesses whose names appear overleaf."
One of the troubles of getting up subscription dances in town or country is that of keeping them free from undesirable intruders. This is why a rule is almost always made that a voucher shall be necessary. It has once or twice happened that the name of a lady of position has appeared as a patroness without her express permission. In a moment of good nature she may have casually replied to a request in the affirmative, but such a vague permission as this should never be acted on. The consent of each lady in writing must be obtained. This is a matter of great importance. A county court case has been known to follow upon neglect of this precaution.
Sometimes the ladies of a district combine in giving a dance, and occasionally the unmarried girls give a spinsters' dance. If they are not too numerous, the names of all of them appear on the invitation card in the following form:
Miss Green Miss Jones Miss Black request the pleasure of
------------------------------'s company on Tuesday, January 20th, at the County Hotel. r.s.v.p. to Dancing 10 o'clock.
Miss Smith, The Larches.
The hostess, hosts, hostesses, as the case may be, receive the guests on their arrival in the ballroom. Should the givers be too numerous to perform this duty conveniently, a reception committee is formed, usually consisting of nine or ten or fewer.