The Dance Corridor That Charmed Dickens in America’s First Slum

William Henry Lane, a well-known faucet dancer at Almack’s dance corridor, positioned at 67 Orange St. (Drawing: 1850, courtesy of New York Public Library)

Charles Dickens toured 5 Factors for a day and located solely two issues he favored about it. One was the pigs. Dickens described town swine in higher phrases than he described most of the native slum dwellers. The pigs had been gentlemanly, self-reliant and assured, whereas the folks had “coarse and bloated faces” and lived in homes of debauchery. Dickens surmised that the pigs, who lived in these homes too, smugly puzzled why their masters walked on two legs as a substitute of 4. 

The second factor Dickens favored was a dance corridor referred to as Almack’s, positioned in a basement at 67 Orange St. under a carpenter’s store. He arrived within the night, together with his police escort, balking on the inhumane situations he witnessed on the jail generally known as “The Tombs” and lamenting the “nice mounds of dusty rags” asleep on tenement flooring. However descending into Almack’s supplied him a glimpse of a wholly completely different facet of the slum. The dance corridor wasn’t trendy — the landlady and ladies dancers wore solely handkerchiefs on their heads — however it was vigorous.

One man performed the fiddle and one other shook a tambourine, whereas {couples} danced on the ground. One dancer particularly caught Dickens’ eye: it was William Henry Lane, also called “Grasp Juba.” Although solely a teen, he was the best dancer Dickens had ever seen. When Lane stepped out onto the dance flooring, a brand new vitality entered the room, lifting all people up and including extra brightness to the candles. Then his faucet dance started.

Dance historians contemplate Lane to be the primary — or one of many first — to ever carry out the faucet dance. He bought his begin…

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