Friday, March 16, 2012

Dancing, Bowing, And Chivalry

I wrote on the importance of dance and the covenant community last time, but now I will take on a different aspect of the historical dance. This time it is bowing. What exactly is meant when one bows to a partner in a dance? For a few years, bowing meant nothing to me. It was the beginning of the dance, to be cut out if I was moving slower than the rest of the line. But Kevin Swanson and Dave Buehner altered my concept of dance and bowing after I listened to their radio show on “Dancing with the Stars”. Now I believe that there are at least two important concepts at work here: greeting and chivalry.
1. Greeting
When I bow, I greet my partner in an honorable way. Bowing shows honor to the person receiving it, similar to removing one’s hat. James Fenimore Cooper and N. C. Wyeth bring this out in Last of the Mohicans, as General Montcalm bows to Colonel Monro. Montcalm shows honor to Monro, despite the fact that they bombarded each other with cannons for six days. This idea is elaborated on in Point #2.

2. Chivalry
Bowing also shows chivalry. When I bow, I say by my actions that my partner is a lady, worthy to be treated with respect and honor. On the other hand, her curtsy says that I am a gentleman to be followed and treated with honor. These concepts are as far from egalitarianism (men and women equal in marriage and everything else) as they are from romance. By curtsying, she explodes egalitarianism, by acknowledging my headship. My bow does the same for romance, by committing to treat her with honor and as one to be protected. One may be wondering if these concepts flow through my brain as I bow. Yes, they did. When I bowed, I mentally promised to treat my partner as an honorable lady.

In conclusion, can one make such a big deal of just a simple bow? I believe so. Bowing and curtsying reinforces God’s design for men and women while avoiding the pitfalls of egalitarianism and romance. As one does it in dance, it also guards against one more problem: that of exaggerated bowing to impress one’s partner. It is difficult to bow in an exaggerated fashion when one has less than fifteen seconds (or however long it is) in which to do it.

I also learned an intensely practical lesson. I know why gorgets were worn by officers only on duty and not off duty…especially when they danced. The gorget has a tendency to fly into the wearer’s face when he bows.


  1. Thank you, Jordan.
    I very much appreciate the custom of the bow/curtsy, for the reasons you've elucidated.

    "Montcalm shows honor to Monro, despite the fact that they bombarded each other with cannons for six days."

    That made me laugh, but I have an interesting question for you.

    While Christians engaged in warfare follow godly rules (such as not waging war on noncombatants) should Christians show special honor to their enemies? For a Christian in a defensive conflict (as opposed to a nation-building one) is there such a thing as a "worthy enemy?"

    1. Thank you for your comment, Daniel! I enjoy knowing that people are reading and thinking about what I have written.
      To answer your questions: Christians should treat their enemies with kindness and honor. What would special honor look like? I am not sure.
      I believe that a worthy enemy is one who follows Biblical principles in war, regardless of his or your cause. Joshua Chamberlain would be a good example of a worthy enemy, while William Sherman is, well, not a good example.
      Does this answer your questions?

  2. Jordan,
    What is your opinion on George Washington refusing to bow to any royality after he became president?

    1. Thank you for your question. I am always glad to see that someone is reading what I have written!

      To answer your question: I believe that if respect is coerced, it is not respect. Thus, if someone demands that you bow to them, it is not a freely given respect, rather, it is seemingly wrung out of you.

      Does this answer your question?

      Dieu le Roi,

  3. Hi, Jordon,

    I love gorgets! They are the coolest things on the planet!!! Although I guess I get the picture why it might be difficult to bow with one on unless it were safety pinned on to the doublet in a certain complex fashion, lol!

    I really wish they had folk dancing classes in my area, but I'm afraid they don't! The only thing we have is the occasional ball room dance, and I'm none-too-fond of those! (To be further explained in another comment!)

    I do find the protocol of days of yore to be fascinating, especially the exchanges between enemies in the midst of sieges! And oh my gosh, could those guys dress superbly or what? ;-)