Traditional Victorian Ball
During the Season, dances and balls of all sizes were given almost every night but Saturday and Sunday. The most exciting were the grand balls such as the ones given twice a year by the Prince and Princess of Wales and some of the other possessors of houses with large ballrooms. At these great events, all ages and ranks of the Upper Ten Thousand mixed, and it was here that a successful young debutante might hope to be introduced to an appropriate older man who was of her class if not her set. Married women had their own circle of respectful admirers, and often could be seen to be as much a belle as their younger, unmarried daughters. Men not actively searching for a wife often preferred the older woman's knowledge of the world to the younger one's still-shy schoolroom manners.
Balls were not given as frequently in the country, but masquerades, hunt balls, squire's balls and others gave those who loved dancing, opportunities to keep their steps polished. The four most popular dance were the Quadrille, the Lancer's, the polka, and the waltz. The Quadrille and the Lancer's were both square dances with a series of complicated steps that the dancers memorized. The polka was energetic and in polite society the dancers were to be spirited but not boisterous. The waltz was the new Viennese waltz, considered to be buch superior to the German kind.
Victoria kept Albert up late dancing it; the guests at the Duke of Marlborough's coming-of-age party danced it until dawn; and Jennie Jerome Churchill went into premature labor with her son Winston, he future prime minister, while waltzing at Blenheim Palace. To keep the dancers refreshed a light (by Victorian standards) midnight supper was served - champagne, oyster patties, lobster and chicken salad, cakes, jellies, ices, shrimps, meringues, tongue, and small hams - after which the dancing continued until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning.