Gracefulness

One night while watching a dancer, and inwardly condemning her tours de force as barbarisms which would be hissed, were not people such cowards as always to applaud what they think it the fashion to applaud, I remarked that the truly graceful motions occasionally introduced, were those performed with comparatively little effort. After calling to mind sundry confirmatory facts, I presently concluded that grace, as applied to motion, describes motion that is effected with economy of force; grace, as applied to animal forms, describes forms capable of this economy; grace, as applied to postures, describes postures which may be maintained with this economy; and grace, as applied to inanimate objects, describes such as exhibit certain analogies to these attitudes and forms.

That this generalization, if not the whole truth, contains at least a large part of it, will, I think, become obvious, on considering how habitually we couple the words easy and graceful; and still more, on calling to mind some of the facts on which this association is based. The attitude of a soldier, drawing himself bolt upright when his serjeant shouts “attention,” is more remote from gracefulness than when he relaxes at the words “stand at ease.”

– Herbert Spencer, 1852

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