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First Dance - At The National Library Gallery

First Dance - At The National Library Gallery

The National Library Gallery wants to hear about your first dance experience.

What did you wear? Hair up or down? Did you expect a corsage? Did you arrive alone? Did anyone dance with you? Did you ask someone to dance? And what if they declined? Did you try out the moves you'd practised at home? Or did you hug the wall and look on at the confident couple close dancing beside you? Were you kissed?

First Dance: dancehall stories from the Turnbull Library Collections is a new exhibition by curator Georgina White, opening at the National Library Gallery on 8 April 2005.

Drawn from the vast collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library, First Dance will reveal intimate, sensitive, unusual stories from dancehalls across New Zealand's history. The exhibition will feature colonial and modern era balls, country dances, dance clubs of the '20s and '30s, World War II dances with US servicemen, post war balls, debutante presentations, youth club dances, and school balls of the present day.

First Dance will include text, photographs, audio interviews, music, film, printed ephemera, costumes and accessories. Designed by Christchurch artist Julia Holderness, the exhibition will offer the viewer a dance-like experience. The apparent order of the dancehall, the great preparation and codes of behaviour/advised etiquette will hang with the loose threads of actual experience*

'There was dancing all the evening. Mrs. Russell, who always gets into uproarious spirits on any festive occasion, assured me next morning that she danced forty times and wore out the only tidy pair of thin boots she had (you cannot realize what a misfortune that means here) and did not get home till after eleven [a.m.] Mrs. Fitzgerald, who left soon after five, left her there with a dilapidated dress, and her hair all danced down.' (Report from a ball held onboard the Travancore, in port at Lyttelton, c May 1851. In Charlotte Godley's letter to her mother, begun 8 May 1851, in Letters from Early New Zealand, Bowering Press, Plymouth, pp 185-204).

We'd love to hear stories from your readers/audience about their first dance experiences. We'll select the best stories and include them in the exhibition. Email: or write to: Georgina White, c/o National Library Gallery, PO Box 1467, Wellington.

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