Everyone remembers the dance scene from Gangs of New York where Cameron Diaz' character "Miss Everdeane," is given her choice of dance partners by sitting on a chair in front of the gentlemen and looking at each one, in turn, in a mirror and shaking her head 'no' until the partner she wants passes by.
While the dresses are horrid from a historic perspective and the movie itself is not for young viewers and boasts a lot of fiction, the dance itself actually has some merit. Using a mirror to allow the women to choose dance partners was a popular beginning for waltzes in the 1860s and 1870s.
"There are a few rather funny dances. One not unlike a figure of our cotillon is called the speahio, or looking-glass dance, and is very amusing to watch. A chair is placed in the middle of the room, round which a couple dance once
or twice. The man then places the lady in the chair, and hands her a
looking-glass. He then goes and gets another man, with whom he dances,
and finally brings him up behind the girl in the chair. She sees his
face in the looking-glass, and, if she likes him, gets up and dances
with him for a short time. Then the man sits down, and girls are brought
up in the same manner for him to choose. If he does not like them, he
wipes the looking-glass with a handkerchief, and the girl has to retire,
with a red face, amidst the laughter of those looking on. It seems
rude, but is customary. Another dance I have never seen in England is called 'The Candle Dance,' perhaps on account of the amount of grease flying about, as the candle is kept lighted during the dance. It
begins by as many couples as care to take part dancing round in the
usual manner. One man who has not acquired a partner stands in the
middle of the room with the lighted candle. He
suddenly cries " Stop," and immediately each couple commences to walk
round him arm in arm. He then cries "Go forward" or "Go backward,"
whichever he likes, and all the men have to leave their partners and
take the girl in front or behind them as the
case may be. Meanwhile the man with the candle is himself trying to get a partner before one of the other men. If he succeeds the man left out has to take the candle, but if baffled he still continues to hold it. Dancing commences again as soon as everybody has got his new partner."