In Jane Austen’s 1803 novel Northanger Abbey, seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland spends the winter in Bath, a town tucked away in the English countryside. While there, Morland finds herself at a series of balls and social dances. She also finds herself in the company of new friends—and suitors. One is Isabella Thorpe, a society sweetheart who deals—and delights—in gossip. Another is her brother John Thorpe, a wealthy young man whose arrogance and entitlement is evident even when he dances. As Morland spends more time with these characters at community dances, her view of wealthy English society evolves: although society culture at first seems enchanting, it quickly becomes indulgent and, ultimately, off-putting.
Pam Tanowitz Dance in “Sequenzas in Quadrilles.” Photograph by Yi-Chun Wu