On December 9, 1913, the El Paso Herald published three lessons on the Boston by famed ballerina Anna Pavlowa. Ordinarily, I give each lesson its own post. As Ms. Pavlova’s lessons have low information density, however, I will combine all three of Ms. Pavlowa’s lessons on the Boston into one discussion.
Her first lesson has been reproduced below:
Ms. Pavlowa claims the Boston Waltz is an evolution of something she calls the “Old Dutch Waltz.” She mentions the “Variation Boston,” the “Skip Boston,” and the “Spanish Boston” as other figures known to dancers in 1913. In her third lesson (below) she also references the Dip and Dorothea steps, though she doesn’t elaborate further upon these.
Ms. Pavlowa’s first lesson introduces the “Plain Boston,” as illustrated in the photograph that accompanies the article. The dancers are positioned much as they would be for a normal waltz, with the gentleman beginning back left, and the lady stepping into him forward right. The dance is characterized, Ms. Pavlowa states, by the timing – the dancers move on counts 1 and 2, and pause on count 3. The “Plain Boston” appears to be little more than a synchopated balance – the gentleman steps back on 1, collects on 2, and holds on 3, with the lady mirroring him. The step is then repeated in reverse, with the gentleman stepping forward and the lady stepping backwards.
In her third lesson (below), Ms. Pavlowa casually mentions turning the Plain Boston, and suggests that this turn can occur in either direction.
Ms. Pavlowa’s second lesson on the Boston was printed in the El Paso Herald on December 11, 1913:
In this second lesson, Ms. Pavlowa addresses the “Spanish Boston.” The directions assume that the couple has executed the Plain Boston before starting. Per the article, the lady steps to the right onto her left foot, which must mean she crosses between herself and her partner in executing the step. The cross step occurs on 1. She then steps with her right foot on 2, and points her left on 3. The gentleman then executes the same steps, on 4, 5, 6. This leaves both partners back to back, as demonstrated in the picture in the article:
I attempted this figure in my living room. The step is pretty to look at, but somewhat uncomfortable to execute, an issue that Ms. Pavlowa herself acknowledges at the end of the article. It benefits from appropriately heighted partners. Unfortunately, Ms. Pavlowa doesn’t explain how to exit the figure. I can only assume some sort of unwinding is in order.
Ms. Pavlowa’s final Boston lesson, published in the El Paso Herald on December 13, 1913, builds upon the Spanish-Boston theme of the previous article:
Once again, Ms. Pavlowa envisions entering this figure from the Plain Boston. She suggests executing the preceding Plain Boston while rotating the waltz to the right. The lady executes a quarter turn in Boston time (1, 2, hold), starting on the right foot and turning to the right. At the same time, the gentleman turns in the opposite direction, until the two are back to back, arms outstretched. Ms. Pavlowa and her partner demonstrate the position in the picture. Ms. Pavlowa specifies that the gentleman uses the same feet as the lady in his portion of the figure.
Once again, Ms. Pavlowa does not explain how to exit the figure. With the exception of Ms. Pavlowa’s prescribed Boston timing (1, 2, hold) this figure looks a bit like the one demonstrated by Emma Meissner and Rosa Grünberg in “Skilda Tiders Danser.” Ms. Meissner and Ms. Grünberg continue moving through the back-to-back element of the dance to return to a normal partner hold. Perhaps Ms. Pavlowa envisions something similar. Or not. In general, Ms. Pavlowa’s dance steps come from a place of performance rather than social ballroom considerations. Her lessons are characterized by a desire to produce figures that are pleasing to the outside observer, rather than figures that are enjoyable, or even practical, to dance socially.
The articles discussed in this post were provided by Chronicling America. The picture of Ms. Pavlowa in 1920 (sometimes spelled Pavlova) was made available by Wikimedia Commons. According to Wikimedia, the picture is in the public domain in the United States.