In France, where Louis XVI had introduced skating to Paris, displays of petticoats were confined to dance halls. On the flooded fields of La Glacière, gentlemen pulled ladies across the ice in carriages shaped like swans or gondolas. The rink was an arena for male display; an excuse for Parisian dandies to don tights. The balletic moves outlined in Jean Garcin’s ‘Le Vrai Patineur’ (1813) were explicitly designed to ‘seduce weak mortals’ of unspecified sex. They included ‘L’Adonis’ — right arm raised — ‘L’Apollon’ — left arm raised — and ‘Le Beau Narcisse’ — both arms raised and bent above the head in a half-Mobot. Only French skaters, sniffed Garcin, had any style; with the Germans, English and Danes either ‘the body is bent, the arms swinging… or straight as a picket, all stiff, inflexible, without grace, without attitude’.


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