“Preferring Death to the Embrace of a Strange Dancing Woman”: Jewish Dancers in Victorian Ballrooms

Dancing was perhaps the most universal and popular mixed-sex leisure pursuit in the nineteenth century. Yet dance was not purely a recreational activity. Ballroom etiquette demanded adherence to the rules of fashionable society, including precise rules for comportment, conversation, and choosing a dance partner. For upwardly mobile Jewish dancers, balls presented additional challenges. First of all, mixed-sex dancing was forbidden according to traditional Jewish law, which regarded men and women dancing together as a gateway to sexual impropriety. And while

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