“Your partners for the Yule Ball, Potter,” she said coldly. “Your dance partners.”

Harry's insides seemed to curl up and shrivel.

“Dance partners?” He felt himself going red. “I don't dance,” he said quickly.

“Oh yes, you do,” said Professor McGonagall irritably. “That's what I'm telling you. Traditionally, the champions and their partners open the ball.”

Harry had a sudden mental image of himself in a top hat and tails, accompanied by a girl in the sort of frilly dress Aunt Petunia always wore to Uncle Vernon's work parties.

“I'm not dancing,” he said. ...

I got the definition for "open the ball" from dictionaries: To open the ball to begin the dancing, to begin operations. But I feel "begin the dancing" doesn't sound quite exactly what it means in this context. What does it suppose to mean here?

1 Answer 1


You are right that "open the ball" means "begin the dancing" or "start of dancing at a ball."

Professor McGonagall is asking Harry about his dance partner. I assume Harry is a champion and by tradition, "champions and their partners" should start the dancing at a ball. Presumably, the other competitors can join in after they start their dance.

Since he does not dance and does not have a dancing partner, he replied, "I don't dance" and "I'm not dancing".

  • I don't quite get "start the dancing" here. Is it "champions and their partners" dance first and the rest follow at the ball?
    – dan
    Dec 19, 2018 at 13:10
  • 1
    @dan Yep, it means the "champions and their partners" kick off the dancing while I assume the others could simply join after they start.
    – user86610
    Dec 19, 2018 at 13:11
  • 1
    @dan It's more of like "start the dancing", since "lead the dancing" has the meaning that everyone follows the leader's dancing moves; the idea is more or less there. The champions will start dancing first and the others gradually start dancing later.
    – user86610
    Dec 19, 2018 at 13:28
  • 2
    I would include "begin" and "commence" as alternatives as well, in addition to "start".
    – Alexander
    Dec 19, 2018 at 15:12
  • 1
    Yep, I agree that they're suitable alternatives ^ @dan
    – user86610
    Dec 19, 2018 at 15:13

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