However, in Persuasion, Austen appears to have abandoned dance and relegated Anne Elliot to the status of "heroine without a ball." (1) While there is very little dancing in Persuasion, images and rhetoric of English country-dance appear at key moments in the text, enabling Austen to employ time, space, and physicality to advance a consideration of social mobility.
The country-dance with which Austen and her characters would have been familiar was "a social dance of English origin in which a number of couples perform a set pattern of figures" ("Country Dance" 254).
The role of the square formation in country-dance has been emphasized here because Persuasion is modeled on this dance form.
Balls and dances are significant occasions because they provide opportunities for socialization and courtship, and Jane Austen expresses the analogy between marriage and country-dance in Henry Tilney's often-quoted speech: "I consider a country-dance as an emblem of marriage.
Henry Tilney's comparison of marriage to a country-dance illustrates the function of dance in Austen's works.
In doing this, William Elliot violates the rules of country-dance, which state that dancers must remain with their original partners for the duration of the set: "No gentleman will leave his partner standing alone after having taken the floor" (Bonstein 4).
Austen structures Persuasion around country-dance patterns to draw attention to the role of individual bodies and their ability to move between physical locations in the novel and to foreground issues of social mobility.
Like the instructions for performing a country-dance, the social rules depicted in Persuasion challenge an individual's ability to direct her own movements.
Austen unfolds the narrative of Anne and Wentworth's romance through a series of scenes in which their physical bodies are centralized; however, the emphasis on the physical does not objectify the body, but rather speaks to the sexual charge that underlies Anne and Wentworth's relationship, just as it underlies the steps of a country-dance: For it is no accident that the dance is what it is.
Austen's depiction of movement between social circles again illustrates her incorporation and manipulation of country-dance etiquette as it is depicted in nineteenth-century dance manuals.
Though Johnson does not specifically invoke dance in her discussion of female immobility, because the country-dance was one of the few instances where female mobility was encouraged and admired, it is natural that Austen should have employed this motif in structuring Persuasion.
The rhythms of the country-dance, familiar to Austen, her characters, and her contemporary readers, are subtly woven through Persuasion.
(2.) The name "country-dance" does not have rustic: associations, but is a translation of the French "Contredanse," so named because men and women lined up across from one another (Wood 92; "Country Dance" 235).
Ironically, in describing the peculiar mix of elements of gentility adopted by Virginians (whether hospitality, horse-racing, country-dances
or cock-fighting), and the role of slavery in allowing the planters to pursue a backward-looking feudal model of gentility in contrast to the more forward-looking model proposed by spokesmen for the commercial classes in Britain, Rozbicki's work unintentionally challenges a more recent argument of Jack Greene's: that the Chesapeake, not the northern colonies, was the key model of colonial development.