Momus Turn’d Fabulist and Its ‘Grand Dance’

Momus Turn’d Fabulist; or, Vulcan’s Wedding was first performed on 3 December 1729 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. It was described in the bills as ‘After the Manner of the Beggar’s Opera’ and the printed edition of the same year confirms that it was another ballad opera.

It continued to be revived until 1736-1737, although following the company’s move to its new Covent Garden Theatre during the 1732-1733 season it became an afterpiece. The Grand Dance of Momus was first advertised independently of the ballad opera as early as 17 December 1729. It lasted until 1740-1741, with a final performance in 1745-1746.

Momus is probably an unfamiliar figure to most theatregoers nowadays. In classical mythology, he was the personification of satire and mockery and appeared in Aesop’s Fables as a figure who finds fault with everything. By the 17th century he was seen as a buffoon and associated with the licence of carnival. All of these aspects are seen in his appearances in Thomas Carew’s 1634 masque Coelum Britannicum, as well as John Dryden’s The Secular Masque added to an adaptation of John Fletcher’s The Pilgrim in 1700.

In France, Momus featured in two ballets de cour – the Ballet des Bienvenus of 1655, in which he was described as ‘Dieu de la Bouffonneries’ and danced by ‘Baptiste’ (Jean-Baptiste Lully), and the Ballet de Psyché of 1656, as the ‘Bouffon des Dieux’ danced by ‘Molier’ (Louis de Mollier). In 1695, he was the central character in Desmarets’s opera Les Amours de Momus given at the Paris Opéra that year but not subsequently revived. The livret for this work does not name the dancers. Momus also had a significant part in Le Carnaval et la Folie, a comédie-ballet by Destouches, given at the French court in 1703 and then at the Paris Opéra in 1704. For its public performances, the leading dancers were Ballon and Mlle Subligny. It was revived several times, including 1719 when the leading dancers were David Dumoulin and Mlles Prévost and Guyot.

1719 was the year when Momus Fabuliste ou les Noces de Vulcain, a comedy by Louis Fuzelier and Marc-Antoine Legrand, was given at the Comédie Française. This was the source of the Momus Turn’d Fabulist performed in London some ten years later. The Introduction to the published text of the English ballad opera, in the form of a dialogue between a Player and a Gentleman, refers explicitly to the French play and praises the adaptation from a ‘French farce’ to an ‘English opera’. There is certainly more to be said about the figure of Momus and Momus Fabuliste, but my interest is (of course) in the dancing on the London stage. The frontispiece to the printed text of Momus Fabuliste provides a flavour of Momus as he appeared in the Paris farce.

The main difference between Momus Fabuliste and Momus Turn’d Fabulist is the addition to the latter of forty-two tunes for the sung ballads that punctuate the action and accompany the various fables that are told in the course of both the French play and its English adaptation. The story revolves around Momus’s mockery of each of the gods and goddesses in the classical pantheon, leading to the making of a match between Vulcan and Venus and culminating in the celebration of their wedding. Momus Turn’d Fabulist includes the stage direction ‘Here an Entertainment of Dancing in Honour of Vulcan’s Wedding’. This is the only reference to dancing in the piece and must have been what became the entr’acte Grand Dance of Momus. There is no music provided for this, as the adjacent ‘Air XLII. Parson upon Dorothy’ is almost certainly associated with the ‘Fable by way of Ballad’ that Momus calls on each deity in turn to perform. The stage direction is actually taken directly from Momus Fabuliste, which had music by Jean-Baptiste-Maurice Quinault. The score for the ‘Divertissement de la comédie de Momus fabuliste’ was published in 1719 but seems to survive in only a single copy not accessible digitally.

The immediate question is, did London’s Grand Dance of Momus use Quinault’s music? It is impossible to answer definitively, for there are no references to its music in the bills or elsewhere. The dancers in the Grand Dance of Momus are not listed in the bills until 1731, when it was given at a benefit performance for Mr and Mrs Laguerre. The leading couple was Nivelon and Mrs Laguerre, with five male dancers and four female dancers to support them. The inclusion of one more male than female dancer in these ensembles is a regular feature of group dances on the London stage. I have been tempted to assume that such casting points to a solo by the leading male dancer billed, who may or may not also dance with one of the women, but additional information (below) shows that this is not quite the case with the Grand Dance of Momus. Nivelon probably did dance a solo for he was billed alone during the 1729-1730 summer season in ‘The Celebrated Dance in Momus, to the Black Joke Tune’ at the Richmond Theatre. He probably choreographed, or arranged, the Grand Dance of Momus.

Could Nivelon have used some or all of Quinault’s music for Momus Fabuliste? Without access to the score it is difficult to follow up that possibility. We have few clues to Nivelon’s career before he arrived at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1723, when he was billed as ‘lately arriv’d from the Opera at Paris’ (in his case presumably the Opéra Comique). Research is needed to discover what he had been doing prior to his move to London and whether he may have been familiar with Momus Fabuliste and had access to its music. In any case, the Black Joke seems to have been a regular feature of the Grand Dance of Momus. A much later advertisement identifies the two leading dancers as a Sailor and a Lively Lass, with two Swains, two Nymphs and three ‘College Youths’ – the same number of male dancers as in the earlier bills but only two and not four female supporting dancers. (An internet search turns up the Ancient Society of College Youths, a change-ringing society established in the early 17th century, which may or may not be relevant to this choreography.) The Grand Dance of Momus must have been a divertissement, with a number of contrasting dances within it.

The various tunes in Momus Turn’d Fabuliste may have nothing to do with its dancing, but several of them point to other entr’acte dances and even two within pantomimes. There is the ‘Pierrot Tune’ and the ‘Highland Dance’, as well as the ‘Hay-makers Dance, in Faustus’ and the ‘Dance in Sorcerer’. The Black Joke (which does not feature in the printed ‘opera’) also has a wider musical history. I sometimes complain that we lack music for so many of the entr’acte dances on the London stage, but I obviously need to look more widely – there must have been a great deal of sharing between dances and musical entertainments more generally in the theatres.

A Year of Dance: 1726

Following my recent detailed analysis of the 1725-1726 theatrical season on the London stage, I thought I should return to my A Year of Dance series and add 1726. (I wrote about 1725 quite some time ago). Politically, this seems to have been a quieter year than 1725.

In France in June, Louis XV appointed his old tutor André-Hercule de Fleury as his chief minister. Fleury was created a cardinal in September 1726. The previous spring, the poet and writer Voltaire had arrived in England for two years of exile from France following a second period of imprisonment in the Bastille. He quickly learned English, honing his language skills by regular visits to London’s theatres. During his stay he was to meet Alexander Pope, John Gay and Jonathan Swift, among others.

In England, 1726 was marked by the death of the architect and dramatist Sir John Vanbrugh on 26 March, followed by that of the scourge of London’s theatres Jeremy Collier on 26 April, whose A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage published in 1698 had attacked Vanbrugh among other leading playwrights. Towards the end of the year, George I’s former wife Sophia Dorothea of Celle died. Their marriage had been dissolved following her adultery in 1694 and she had been imprisoned in her native Celle for more than twenty years. 1726 also saw the publication of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (‘Lilliputians’ would in due course become a popular feature on the London stage), as well as the ‘rabbit’ hoax by Mary Toft which fascinated and bamboozled many over the autumn.

In the wider context for these posts, the most significant theatrical event of 1726 in London was the new pantomime at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Apollo and Daphne given on 14 January, which brought Francis and Marie Sallé back to the London stage after an absence of several years and reintroduced them to audiences as adult dancers. It answered Drury Lane’s 1725 Apollo and Daphne pantomime, which was revised and revived in reply. This small painting by the Italian artist Michele Rocca probably dates to the early 18th century.

There was also Italian opera at the King’s Theatre, with two new operas by Handel – Scipione on 12 March and Alessandro on 5 May. The Italian soprano Faustina Bordoni made her debut as Rossane in Alessandro, with Francesca Cuzzoni as Lisaura and Senesino in the title role.

In Paris, Destouches’s opéra-ballet Les Stratagèmes de l’Amour (composed to celebrate the marriage of Louis XV and Marie Leszczyńska the previous year) was given at the Paris Opéra on 28 March. The dancers included Françoise Prévost and David Dumoulin – she led the Troyennes in the first divertissement in Entrée I, while he led the Matelots in the second divertissement, and they danced together as Esclaves (with sixteen other dancers) in Entrée III. Rebel’s tragédie en musique Pyrame et Thisbé had its first performance on 17 October. David Dumoulin and Mlle Prévost also danced in this production, leading the Egyptiens (with Blondy) in act two and the Bergers and Bergères in act three.

No dances were published in notation this year. The last of the Paris collections had appeared in 1725, while in England the series of new dances ‘For the Year’ by Anthony L’Abbé had already ceased to be annual. It would resume in 1727 and continue, with occasional gaps, until 1733.

Stage Dancing and Classical Myths

Exploring Le Triomphe de l’Amour reminded me how often myths from classical antiquity were exploited for danced entertainments in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Some classical deities were more popular than others when it came to dancing characters in the ballets de cour – Bacchus appears in six and Flore in five (not counting Le Triomphe de l’Amour), whereas Ariane turns up in just one and Amphitrite does not feature as a dancer at all. I am not going to pursue their earlier appearances here. Instead, I will look at some of the later works given in Paris and London which are based on the characters and myths used in Le Triomphe de l’Amour. I won’t refer to the classical sources for these stories, except to point out that several are included in Ovid’s Metamorphoses – which seems to have been favourite reading at the period.

The first two scenes of Le Triomphe de l’Amour introduce, in turn, Venus and Mars. The god of war is vanquished and enchained in garlands of flowers by Amours, surely in reference to his love affair with the goddess of love which had long been a favourite subject for artists. The story became the theme of a masque in the late 1690s and then an opera, as well as a ballet and a pantomime in the early 1700s. This painting by Nicolas Poussin depicting Mars and Venus dates to 1630.

The masque was The Loves of Mars and Venus by Peter Motteux, with music by Gottfried Finger and John Eccles, given at London’s Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre in 1696 within Edward Ravenscroft’s The Anatomist. The title roles were sung by Anne Bracegirdle and John Bowman and there was dancing at the end of the prologue and each act. This comic version is worth further study for its dancing, which I hope to undertake elsewhere. The opera was Les Amours de Mars et de Vénus with music by André Campra and a libretto by Antoine Danchet, given at the Paris Opéra in 1712. This was also a comedy, banned after fourteen performances apparently for its depiction of the cuckolded Vulcain. Mars and Venus were singers, but the dancers in the production included Mlle Guyot (as La Jeunesse in the Prologue) as well as David Dumoulin and Françoise Prévost. The ballet was, of course, John Weaver’s The Loves of Mars and Venus given at London’s Drury Lane Theatre in 1717. I have written about this production elsewhere and I will have more to say in another context. It was answered by the pantomime Mars and Venus; or, The Mouse Trap, performed at Lincoln’s Inn Fields later the same year. The ‘London’ Dupré created the role of Mars in both Weaver’s ballet and the pantomime – the latter was billed as a ‘New Dramatic Entertainment of Dancing in Grotesque Characters’.

Neptune and Amphitrite do not seem to have been taken up by later composers or choreographers, but there was an antecedent to their appearance in Le Triomphe de l’Amour. When The Tempest was fully transformed into a dramatic opera at London’s Dorset Garden Theatre in 1674, it was given a concluding masque centred on them, the singers who took the roles were supported by dancing Tritons. This spectacular production was undoubtedly influenced by dancing and scenic effects in the French theatres, but might it also have influenced Paris? The Tempest became a fixture in the London stage repertoire throughout the 18th century and I will return to it in a later post. This depiction of Neptune and Amphitrite by the French painter Bon Boullogne is dated 1699.

Although Borée and Orithye had featured in the Ballet de l’Impatience of 1661, and Borée certainly turns up in at least one later choreographic context, no other musical works – either operas or ballets – were devoted to their story, so far as I know. This sculpture by Gaspard Marsy and Anselme Flamen was created between 1677 and 1687.

After Le Triomphe de l’Amour, the love story of Diane and Endymion was not taken up on the French stage until 1731, when the opera Endymion with music by François Colin de Blamont and a libretto by Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle was given at the Paris Opéra. It lasted for only a few performances, despite a cast of supporting dancers that included David Dumoulin, Marie-Anne de Camargo and ‘le grand’ Dupré. In London, Drury Lane had offered a production that drew on the myth as early as 1696. Thomas Durfey’s dramatic opera Cinthia and Endimion was given there that year and may have first been written some ten years earlier, for a performance at the court of Charles II that did not materialise. It featured not only Diana and Endymion but also Cupid and Psyche, Apollo and Daphne and Pan and Syrinx, as well as Neptune and Amphitrite, Zephyrus and Mercury. A link to Le Triomphe de l’Amour, while unlikely, is not impossible. Much later, in 1736, Endymion reappeared in the Covent Garden pantomime The Royal Chace, another work which is worth a closer look in a later post. Here, Diane and Endymion are depicted by Luca Giordano around 1680.

Bacchus and Ariane were depicted in the unsuccessful 1696 opera Ariadne et Bacchus by Marin Marais. The dancers were not named in the accompanying livret by Saint-Jean, so we have no idea who they were. The myth was more famously interpreted at London’s Covent Garden Theatre in 1734, when Malter and Marie Sallé danced as Bacchus and Ariadne in a ballet initially inserted into the pantomime The Necromancer and later given as an entr’acte entertainment. Eustache Le Sueur painted Bacchus and Ariane around 1640.

The last classical love story in Le Triomphe de l’Amour was that of Zéphire and Flore, which became an opera by Louis and Jean-Louis Lully in 1688. No dancers were named for the performances at that period, but when it was revived at the Paris Opéra in 1715 the leading dancers were David Dumoulin, Mlle Guyot and Mlle Prévost. As I have mentioned elsewhere, Zephyrus and Flora were the central characters in the divertissement which ended the 1726 Lincoln’s Inn Fields pantomime Apollo and Daphne. This elaborate scene may well have been adapted (or directly copied) from a divertissement in Jacques Aubert’s La Reine des Péris given at the Paris Opéra in 1725. Jacopo Amigoni depicted Zephyr and Flore in the 1730s, probably for an English patron.

These various stage versions of the love stories that were part of Le Triomphe de l’Amour, together with the painting and sculpture of the 17th and 18th centuries, show how deeply both the English and the French were immersed in the myths of classical antiquity. The court and theatre dance which was part of this culture, well before the advent of the ballet d’action, is all too often overlooked.

Le Triomphe de l’Amour

The ballet de cour came up in a recent email exchange about dance history. I haven’t written anything on this for a long time, but my thoughts quickly turned to Le Triomphe de l’Amour of 1681. It is usually associated with the introduction of female professional dancers to the stage of the Paris Opéra, but here I will concentrate on its first performances at the court of Louis XIV.

Le Triomphe de l’Amour was intended to celebrate the marriage of Louis XIV’s eldest son the Dauphin Louis (1661-1711), known as Monseigneur, to Marie Anne Christine de Bavière (1660-1690).

Their wedding had taken place on 7 March 1680, but the ballet in which he and the new Dauphine were to dance had been delayed by Monseigneur’s illnesses. Rehearsals finally began in December 1680 – there were 39 during December and January 1681. Le Triomphe de l’Amour was given its first performance on 21 January 1681, in the Salle de Comédie at the Château of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. There would be 29 performances in all, running until 18 February 1681. It was so successful that it became the first ballet de cour to transfer to the public theatre and it was given at the Paris Opéra by a wholly professional cast in May 1681. Among those professional dancers were Mlles de La Fontaine, Pesant, Carré and Leclercq – the first female dancers to appear on the Opéra stage.

At court, Le Triomphe de l’Amour was the first ballet to be given since Les Amants Magnifiques in 1670 (current scholarly opinion is that Louis XIV did not dance in that ballet). It was a large-scale work with 64 dancers, 48 singers and 75 or 76 instrumentalists. Among the dancers were 13 professionals, who appeared alongside 25 male and 22 female members of France’s royalty and nobility. There were also four dancers for whom I have not been able to ascertain their status – the ‘Sieurs’ Huet, Courcelles and Chalons were listed as ‘Petits Danceurs’ in Entrée V, while Jobelet joined them among the Jeux in Entrée XX – they may have been the children of the professional musicians employed by the court.

There were twenty danced Entrées in all, each of which had between one to four musical airs for the choreography. These Entrées are numbered in the livret published to accompany the court performances in 1681, although the ballet is not otherwise divided into acts or scenes. The following analysis of the structure of Le Triomphe de l’Amour is based on the appearance of successive deities and love stories.

This just one among many different approaches to the structure of this ballet.

Monseigneur made his first appearance in Entrée III as a Plaisir, his second in Entrée XIV as an Indien de la Suite de Bacchus and his last as Zephire in Entrée XIX, but for each of his appearances in the ballet the livret names another dancer with whom he alternated. These were, in turn, Lestang l’aîné, Lestang le cadet (both professionals) and M. de Mimurre. The Mercure Galant for January 1681, which provided a review of Le Triomphe de l’Amour, explained that ‘Monseigneur le Dauphin ne dança point le premier jour du Balet, mais on fut agreablement surpris quand on le dança  la seconde fois’, adding that his appearance was ‘une preuve de l’entier rétablissement de sa santé’ and that ‘Il a résolu de se donner le divertissement de son Entrée une fois chaque semaine’.

The Dauphine appeared first as the Première Nymphe de Diane in Entrée IX and then as Flore, alongside Monseigneur, in Entrée XIX. Marie Anne Christine de Bavière surprised everyone during the run of court performances of Le Triomphe de l’Amour, as the Mercure Galant recorded.

‘Madame la Dauphine qui s’estoit fait admirer dans toutes les siennes par sa justesse à la dance, s’attira de nouvelles acclamations le second jour qu’elle parut. Aussi fit-elle une chose assez extraordinaire. Madame la Princesse de Conty estant malade, & n’ayant pû dancer ses Entrées, le Roy dit deux heures avant le Balet, qu’il falloit que Madame la Dauphine en dançant quelqu’une. Son dessein n’estoit pas que ce fust dés ce jour mesme. Cependant cette Princesse apprit sur l’heure une grande Entrée toute remplie de figures, & dans laquelle il y a plus de douze reprises. Ainsi toute la Cour fut fort étonnée de luy avoir vû faire en moins de deux heures, ce qu’une Personne moins intelligente n’auroit pas appris en quinze jours.’

This story is perhaps less well known to dance historians than it deserves.

The Princesse de Conti, Marie-Anne de Bourbon (1666-1739), was the daughter of Louis XIV and Louise de la Vallière and (despite her tender age) recently married to the Prince de Conti. She danced as a Nereïde in Entrée VI and as Ariane in Entrée XIII. Louis XIV’s insistence on the Dauphine dancing in place of the Princesse de Conti was perhaps to do with the appearance of Monseigneur among the Indiens de la Suite de Bacchus in Entrée XIV, which included a chaconne which is likely to have been performed by all the dancers in this scene.

Other royal dancers in Le Triomphe de l’Amour were Mademoiselle, Anne Marie d’Orléans (1669-1728) the daughter of the King’s brother Philippe and his first wife Henriette Anne. She was the first among the three Graces who appeared in the very first Entrée of the ballet.

The final Entrée of Le Triomphe de l’Amour was for La Jeunesse, performed by Mlle de Nantes the seven-year-old daughter of Louis XIV and Mme de Montespan. The Mercure Galant declared ‘Mademoiselle de Nantes dance seul. Elle s’en acquitte avec tant de grace, de legereté, & de justesse, qu’elle enchante tout le monde. Aussi n’a-t-on jamais vu personne qui eust l’oreille plus fine, ny plus d’agrément pour toute sorte de Dances’.

Another of the noble female dancers was Marie Antoinette de Béthune, Duchesse de Sully (1643-1702) who appeared as a Nymphe de Diane in Entrée IX, a Fille Grecque de la Suite d’Ariane in Entrée XIV and a Nymphe de Flore in Entrée XIX. She was an experienced participant in ballets de cour, for she had danced in place of the first Madame, Henriette Anne, in the title role of the Ballet de Flore in 1669. I have not been able to find a portrait of her.

Notable among the noblemen were the Comte de Brionne, the nineteen-year-old Henri de Lorraine (1661-1712), who danced as a Plaisir in Entrée III, a Dieu Marin in Entrée VI and as Bacchus in Entrée XIII and M. de Mimurre, who danced alongside Brionne in Entrées III and VI, as an Indien de la Suite de Bacchus in Entrée XIV and as Zephire in Entrée XIX when Monseigneur did not take the role.

The professional dancers had more to do individually than the nobles, for most of them danced three or four roles apiece. One exception was Pierre Beauchamps (1631-1705), who took only the role of Mars in scene 2 – he is also credited with creating the choreography for Le Triomphe de l’Amour. Beauchamps was supported by courtiers as his Guerriers, together with more courtiers as Amours as well as the ‘Petits Danceurs’ mentioned earlier. The livret’s description hints at pantomime well as dancing and action in this scene. Mars appears armed among his Guerriers showing that he loves only ‘les Combats, le sang, & le carnage’ – which suggests that Entrée IV was a form of Pyrrhic Dance. He is disarmed by the Amours, who chain him with garlands of flowers before dancing to celebrate their victory over the god of war. This design by Berain is either for Mars or a Guerrier.

Borée and Orithye in scene 4 were both performed by professional dancers. Guillaume-Louis Pecour was Borée with Faüre as Orithye – all the female roles in this scene were danced by men en travesti. The livret’s description of the scene again suggests some pantomime as well as dance and mimed action. Borée watches Orithye from a distance and when he approaches her is overcome with love. Orithye is frightened by him and her companions the Filles Athéniennes try to defend her but ‘les vents qui suivent Borée escartent les Athéniennes, & donnent moyen à Borée d’enlever Orithye’. The following designs by Berain are for the Followers of Borée and Orithye.

In scene 5, devoted to Diane and Endymion, the professional dancer Favier l’aîne was Endymion. Jean Favier is well-known for his 1688 mascarade Le Mariage de la Grosse Cathos, recorded in his own system of dance notation. This scene brought together noble and professional dancers, with the Dauphine and noblewomen as the Nymphes de Diane, noblemen as Songes and finally professional dancers as the Peuples de Carie (who were also represented by a chorus of singers as they called upon the goddess to return to the night sky). This engraving shows Berain’s design for Endymion.

The god Apollon made his appearance in scene 8, danced by Lestang le cadet, followed by Lestang l’aîné as Pan. Apollo’s followers – Bergers héroïques – were all professional dancers, as were the Faunes that accompanied Pan. This was the last scene with professional dancers, although Le Triomphe de l’Amour closed with a ‘Danse generale’ by Apollon and his Bergers héroïques, Pan with his Faunes, Zephirs, Nymphes de Flore and the Jeux bringing a total of 27 dancers onto the stage. The livret makes no mention of Zephire, Flore or La Jeunesse, so presumably these royal dancers did not take part in the ballet’s finale.

Despite the scale of the performance, Le Triomphe de l’Amour had only one set throughout ‘un Lieu magnifique orné, & que l’on a disposé pour y recevoir l’Amour qui doit y venir en triomphe’, shown in this engraving from the livret.

There is far more to be said about Le Triomphe de l’Amour both at court and at the Paris Opéra and I may well return to this ballet in due course. In the meantime, here are some of the modern sources I have used in putting together this post.

James R. Anthony. French Baroque Music from Beaujoyeulx to Rameau (Portland, Or, 1997)

Barbara Coeyman, ‘Lully’s influence on the organization and performance of the “Ballet de Cour” after 1672’ in Jean-Baptiste Lully. Actes du Colloque … 1987 (Laaber, 1990)

Jérôme de La Gorce, Berain, dessinateur du Roi Soleil (Paris, 1986)

Jérôme de La Gorce, Féeries d’opéra (Paris, 1997)

Rebecca Harris-Warrick, Dance and Drama in French Baroque Opera (Cambridge, 2016)

Philippe Quinault, Le Triomphe de l’Amour in Benserade. Ballets pour Louis XIV, ed. Marie-Claude Canova-Green. 2 vols. (Toulouse, 1997), volume 2

Thomas Caverley’s Slow Minuet

I have recently been working on Thomas Caverley’s Slow Minuet and I thought I would look more closely at the two different versions of this solo that survive in notation. One was published by Edmund Pemberton, who gives it the subtitle ‘A New Dance for a Girl’, while the other survives in a manuscript version by Kellom Tomlinson. They differ enough from one another to be thought of as two dances rather than two versions of the same dance. There is another solo minuet for a female dancer, Mr Isaac’s Minuet, which was published by Pemberton in 1711 and is clearly linked to both versions of the Slow Minuet. I will mention this third dance from time to time.

The Sources

Mr. Caverley’s Slow Minuet ‘A New Dance for a Girl’ was among the series of notated ball dances published by Edmund Pemberton between 1715 and 1733. The notation is undated and has been ascribed to 1729, a date I accepted when I wrote about Pemberton in 1993 (references to the sources I have used are given at the end of the post). However, fresh examination of the dance notation suggests that it was probably notated and engraved much earlier. The title page (with its mention of ‘Mr. Firbank’ as the composer of the tune) was also used for the anonymous solo La Cybelline – another ‘New Dance for a Girl’ – but has clearly been altered for Caverley’s dance. La Cybelline was published in 1719, so the Slow Minuet might have appeared around the same time. However, there is another piece of evidence which might place the work of engraving the dance a few years earlier. The dance notation is densely laid out, mainly because Pemberton would have wanted to save on the cost of paper for printing by fitting it into four pages. The engraving is somewhat rough and ready, reminiscent of the first dances that Pemberton published independently after he stopped working for the music publisher John Walsh in 1715. Could the Slow Minuet have been the first dance notation that Pemberton produced himself and then re-issued with a new title page at a later date? Both Caverley and Isaac were keen proponents of the new art of dance notation, so Caverley could have favoured Pemberton with a dance just as Isaac had done a few years earlier. Here is the title page alongside the first plate of Pemberton’s version of Caverley’s Slow Minuet.

The manuscript version of the solo, titled ‘The Slow Minnitt: by Mr: Caverley:’ was transcribed by Kellom Tomlinson into his WorkBook, along with other notes and dances. The WorkBook was discovered in New Zealand and published in facsimile in 1992, edited by the dancer and dance historian Jennifer Shennan. Tomlinson was apprenticed to Thomas Caverley between 1707 and 1714 and would go on to publish several of his own dances in notation between 1715 and 1720. His version of the Slow Minuet is undated but probably belongs to the period of his apprenticeship – the WorkBook contains material which can be dated from 1708 to 1721. Tomlinson’s notation is actually more assured than Pemberton’s (he had fewer restrictions as to paper and gives a separate page to each section of the dance). His notational style differs from Pemberton’s (a topic to which I will return). Some of the differences between the two versions are discussed and analysed by Jennifer Shennan in her introduction to the facsimile. Here are the first two pages of Tomlinson’s notation.

The other dance I have mentioned is the Minuet by Mr Isaac, published in notation within Edmund Pemberton’s An Essay for the Further Improvement of Dancing in 1711. It follows Isaac’s Chacone and, in his Preface, Pemberton says that Isaac had ‘oblig’d’ him with ‘a single Dance’ suggesting that the two were meant to be performed together as one choreography. The same collection has Pecour’s solo forlana for a woman (titled a ‘Jigg’) and a solo version of Anthony L’Abbé’s ‘Passacaille’ originally choreographed as a duet for two professional female dancers to music from Lully’s opera Armide. Pemberton’s 1711 collection was published by John Walsh. Here are the first two plates of Isaac’s Minuet.

It is worth adding that Thomas Caverley and Mr Isaac were near contemporaries. Isaac (whose real name was Francis Thorpe, as I discovered some years ago when I was researching Jerome Francis Gahory) was perhaps born around 1650 and was buried early in 1721. Thomas Caverley’s birth date has been given variously as 1641, 1648 or 1651, although he may have been born as late as 1658 or 1659. He lived much longer than Isaac for he died in 1745. Isaac, of course, was a royal dancing master – described by John Essex in the ‘English’ Preface to his translation of Rameau, The Dancing-Master (1728), as ‘the prime Master in England for forty Years together’. Essex wrote of Caverley as ‘the first Master in teaching young Ladies to dance’, a reputation which explains the publication of his Slow Minuet.

The Dances

The two versions of Caverley’s Slow Minuet each use different music. In Pemberton’s version the tune is attributed to the dancing master Charles Fairbank, whereas Tomlinson’s music is anonymous. The solos are different lengths too. Pemberton’s music has the time signature 3 and four AABB repeats (A=B=8). The dance notation has 6 beats to the bar, so each pas composé takes two musical bars in accordance with the usual convention for minuets. Tomlinson also writes his music with a time signature of 3 but his has five AABB repeats (A=B=8). His notation has three beats to each dance bar, although he writes some steps over two bars with liaison lines to make clear that they are single pas composés. Pemberton’s Slow Minuet has 128 bars of music, while Tomlinson’s has 160.

An analysis of both notations reveals that, although these closely related choreographies are minuets, much of their vocabulary consists in demi-coupés, coupés and pas de bourée. The pas de menuet and contretemps du menuet are used mainly in the third repeat of the AA and again in the fourth AA. Tomlinson uses these steps additionally in his fifth and final AA and final B section.

Both choreographies begin with a sequence of two demi-coupés forwards and two backwards, followed by a coupépas de bourée sequence repeated six times. This fills the first AA and, it seems, sets out Caverley’s intention of teaching the minuet not through the conventional step vocabulary of that dance but through its building blocks. He uses these to introduce the girl to the rhythmic variety possible within the steps of this formal dance, among other ideas, as well as to provide a technical foundation. This approach is evidenced elsewhere in both versions of the Slow Minuet. In the third plate of Pemberton’s notation the pas de menuet à trois mouvements with a demi-jeté on the final step is introduced, and in the fourth plate there are pas de menuet à deux mouvements which begin on both the right and the left foot. In his third AA, Tomlinson uses the pas de menuet à deux mouvements, but in his fourth and fifth AA sections he turns to the pas de menuet used by Isaac in his Minuet (in The Art of Dancing, Tomlinson calls this the ‘English Minuet Step’). This is, essentially, a fleuret followed by a jeté and can be seen in the plates from Isaac’s Minuet shown above. This hints at a link between the choreographies and, perhaps, the teaching of both Isaac and Caverley.

Another such hint is provided by a pas composé used in Pemberton’s version of the Slow Minuet. This takes two bars of music and all the steps are linked together by liaison lines. I find such compound steps difficult to break down into their component parts, but this one may be analysed as a variant on the pas de bourée, incorporating an emboîté and ending with a pas plié, followed by two coupés avec ouverture de jambe. A slightly different version of the step is found in Isaac’s Minuet, with jetés-chassés instead of the coupés. Here are the two steps in notation for comparison. First Pemberton’s, from his fourth plate – without being able to examine an original notation it is not possible to be certain, but the initial emboîté shows the foot position on the balls of the feet.

Next Isaac’s, from his third plate – the dots showing the emboîté on the balls of the feet are clear.

Both Pemberton and Tomlinson use a variety of figures, which are quite often not the same or at least are notated differently. The opening figures are actually the same in both versions, although Pemberton notates all the sideways steps around the right line of the dancer’s direction of travel towards the presence, while Tomlinson shows the sideways travel explicitly. In the figures for the third AA, Pemberton notates the dancer travelling a semi-circular path anti-clockwise followed by another clockwise, whereas Tomlinson takes his dancer clockwise in a quarter-circle followed by a tighter three-quarter circle in the same direction and then traces the same figure anti-clockwise. Both dances have figures that reflect some of those in Isaac’s Minuet, notably zig-zags on the diagonal and repeated tight circles. Although some of the figures contain echoes of those in the ballroom couple minuet, parallels are not obvious in either notation.

Both versions of the Slow Minuet are constructed around a series of variations. Some of these are 8 bars long and are danced twice, starting with the right foot and then the left, to match the repeated musical sections. There are also 4 bar sequences, which might or might not be repeated within a musical section. Two of Tomlinson’s plates are missing a couple of bars of dance notation, but the structure of the section and its predecessor (as well as Pemberton’s version) suggest what the missing steps might be. The second BB section (plate 4) appears to be without its final two dance bars.

One suggestion is that the coupédemi-coupé steps that follow the two demi-coupés should take two bars of music each (rather than one bar as notated). I suggest instead that they do take one bar each and that they should be repeated after the last two demi-coupés on the plate, which gives two identical sequences to match the musical repeat.

The other omission comes in the last B of the third BB section (plate 6).

This is more difficult to guess, but I suggest that two contretemps should be added, one sideways to the left after the fourth step (another contretemps) and the other sideways to the right at the end of the sequence. This would then run as a repeated 4-bar sequence of contretempscoupépas de bouréecontretemps.

The different notational styles of Pemberton and Tomlinson are almost worth a post of their own and are evident from the very beginning of the two dances with the opening demi-coupés. Pemberton’s version is on the left and Tomlinson’s on the right.

Or, do these represent different steps? Tomlinson’s demi-coupé finishes on the first beat, followed by a two-beat rest, while Pemberton apparently gives the dancer two beats to bring the free foot into first position – making this a version of a coupé sans poser rather than a demi-coupé. Later on the same plate, Pemberton notates demi-coupés more conventionally, suggesting that the opening steps are not demi-coupés.

Conclusion

I have discussed these two notations in some detail because I believe that such close reading can help us get a better idea of how these notated dances were actually performed. Caverley’s Slow Minuet is one of very few choreographies that survive in more than one version and there is far more to say than I have set down here. I think that the dance was integral to his teaching of young ladies and that it was intended as a display piece for performance at formal balls held by the dancing master at his premises and elsewhere. It makes formidable demands on the young dancer’s mastery of aplomb – not merely her placement but also her address. She has to be secure in balancing on one foot and moving rhythmically (and sometimes quite slowly) from one foot to another. She also has to maintain her erect and easy carriage as she moves through her steps and figures. There are continuous rhythmic challenges as well as demands on her memory as she dances a series of variations no two of which are the same.

If I were called upon to devise a syllabus for teaching the minuet, I would begin with Thomas Caverley’s Slow Minuet. If aspirant historical dancers can perform this exacting solo (in either version) successfully, the ballroom minuet would surely hold no terrors for them.

This image from Kellom Tomlinson’s The Art of Dancing is well known. Does it suggest that he continued to adapt and teach a Slow Minuet to his young female pupils?

References

Thomas Caverley. Mr. Caverley’s Slow Minuet. A New Dance for a Girl. The Tune Composed by Mr. Firbank. Writt by Mr. Pemberton. [London, c1720?]

For the 1729 dating see Little and Marsh, La Danse Noble, [c1729]-Mnt

An Essay for the Further Improvement of Dancing; Being a Collection of Figure Dances, of Several Numbers, Compos’d by the Most Eminent Masters; Describ’d in Characters … by E. Pemberton (London, 1711)

Kellom Tomlinson. A WorkBook by Kellom Tomlinson. Commonplace Book of an Eighteenth-Century English Dancing-Master, a Facsimile Edition, edited by Jennifer Shennan. (Stuyvesant, NY, 1992)

Moira Goff, ‘Edmund Pemberton, Dancing-Master and Publisher’, Dance Research, 11.1 (Spring 1993), 52-81.

Moira Goff, ‘The Testament and Last Will of Jerome Francis Gahory’, Early Music, 38.4 (November 2010), 537-542.

Meredith Ellis Little, Carol G. Marsh. La Danse Noble. An Inventory of Dances and Sources. (New York, 1992)

Season of 1725-1726: An Epilogue

Although I mentioned the Little Theatre in the Haymarket in my first post on the 1725-1726 season and occasionally referred to it subsequently, I didn’t really include it in my survey of dancing in London’s theatres.

The Little Theatre was built late in 1720 on a site immediately beside where the Theatre Royal, Haymarket now stands. So far as we know, it was unlicensed, although this did not prevent it from offering short seasons of drama and other entertainments by foreign and amateur companies of players. In three of the five seasons between its opening and the 1725-1726 season, the Little Theatre provided a venue for companies of French comedians who offered an extensive repertoire of commedia dell’arte pieces alongside comedies by Molière and, in 1721-1722, tragedies by Corneille and Racine. In the first season of 1721-1722, the company included Francisque Moylin as Arlequin and Monsieur Roger as Pierrot. Roger returned to the Little Theatre for the 1724-1725 season and in 1725-1726 he joined the Drury Lane company as a dancer and choreographer. Dancing was offered each season at the Little Theatre, although the proportion of performances with entr’acte dancing ranged between 85% and only 24%. The concept of ‘entr’acte dancing’ does not really fit with the repertoire presented by these French companies, so the statistics may not be as significant as they appear.

Usually, the French companies appeared from December to March but in 1725-1726 they played only from March until May 1726. Their repertoire was entirely pieces from the commedia dell’arte, apart from Molière’s Le mariage forcé (which seems to have been a favourite with these troupes).  Sixteen of the twenty-three performances were billed with dancing and the bills name eleven dancers (7 men and 4 women). Among the men were Poitier and Lalauze, the former would become a leading dancer in London in the years to come. There is some doubt about the identity of the Lalauze who danced in London from the 1730s. Between them, these dancers gave thirteen entr’acte dances – 7 group dances, 1 trio, 3 duets and 2 solos. Choreographies for commedia dell’arte characters predominate, closely followed by those for other characters, not least Peasants. Among the other dances was Le Cotillon, given at Poitier’s benefit on 9 May 1726 by twelve dancers . He may well have been the choreographer.

The Little Theatre in the Haymarket in the early 1720s was the place where the Paris forains met London audiences and influenced London’s dancers and theatre managers. They, and their repertoire, await the detailed research that will uncover their place within the eco-system of the 18th-century London stage. These paintings by Watteau evoke their many-faceted performances.

Dancing in London’s Theatres, the 1725-1726 season

Since October 2020, I have written more than 15,600 words in a total of twelve posts devoted to dancing in London’s theatres during the season of 1725-1726. This survey covered the capital’s four theatres, who gave nearly 460 performances between them. No dancing was advertised at the King’s Theatre, while both Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields billed entr’acte dancing at about half of their performances. Drury Lane offered afterpieces with dancing about 25% of the time and Lincoln’s Inn Fields did the same at nearly 45% of its performances. There was little overlap between entr’acte dancing and afterpieces – bills at Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields generally included either one or the other, but rarely both – so at least 70% of that season’s bills (other than at the King’s Theatre) must have had some sort of dancing. That amounts to more than 330 performances.

So much dancing called for a group of specialist dancers at London’s two theatres royal. Drury Lane had thirteen dancers (seven men and six women), while Lincoln’s Inn Fields had sixteen (nine men and seven women). Among the women, several were also actresses (Drury Lane’s leading dancer, Hester Booth, was also one of the company’s leading actresses). At both playhouses, these dancers formed a company within the theatre company which brought together performers with different backgrounds as well as of various ages and experience. Several seem to have had quite extensive training in the French serious style (several more did not) and some had skills in speciality dance techniques. All the dancers, in both companies, seem to have been expected to dance in a range of styles and genres. Far more research is needed into the careers and repertoires of both leading and supporting dancers at this period to help us to understand how dancers were recruited and deployed. Such knowledge is closely linked to any attempt to analyse the repertory of dances at the two theatres.

This season, as in many others during the late 17th and 18th centuries, there were a number of French dancers on the London stage. Some, like Marie Sallé at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, were ‘guest artists’ while others, like her brother Francis and Monsieur Roger at Drury Lane, became members of the theatre’s dance company. Attention has been focussed on visitors from the Paris Opéra, but dancers from the Opéra Comique and the Paris fairs (the forains) were equally if not more influential. ‘French’ dance on the London stage is another topic that awaits detailed research and analysis.

As explained in my earlier pieces, 28 entr’acte dances were given at Drury Lane and 43 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The majority of these were duets. There seem to have been around eight choreographies which (on the evidence of their titles) were performed at both playhouses. The lack of music as well as other sources makes it difficult to distinguish between dances with the same, similar or otherwise related titles. A study over a longer period than a single season might help us to resolve some of these queries, as well as providing insights into the entr’acte dance repertoire at each of the two patent theatres.

Even this one season of 1725-1726 gives us some clues about the popularity of individual dances. For example, many of the duets given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields were, or would become, staples of the repertoire with stage lives extending over many seasons. The same was true at Drury Lane, although to a lesser extent. It is difficult to assign many of these dances to a single, specific genre, although the editors of The London Stage made an attempt at a list of categories (Introduction to Part Two, pp. cxxxiii – cxxxv) and so did I in chapter three of my PhD thesis ‘Art and Nature Join’d: Hester Santlow and the Development of Dancing on the London Stage, 1700-1737’ (2000). I won’t set out details of these categorisations here, although I make some use of them in what follows.

At Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726, the most popular dances fall into the ‘National’ genre – French, Dutch, Irish and Spanish foremost among them. Many of these dances overlap with the ‘Character’ genre, dances performed by particular character types of which the most popular were Peasants. The ‘National’ dances were followed quite closely by choregraphies titled according to their dance type – Passacaille, Chacone, Saraband, Minuet, and so on. There were, relatively speaking, few dances linked to commedia dell’arte characters, who were being steadily absorbed into the pantomime afterpieces, and not as many ‘Pastoral’ dances as might be expected although the longevity of group dances like Myrtillo and Le Badinage Champetre (which was new in 1725-1726) suggest that over time the hierarchy of popular dances might look different. There is also the question of the number of performances enjoyed by each entr’acte dance, which might change the pecking order. One factor, which needs detailed research, is the influence of the dancers themselves (more specifically the dancer-choreographers) over their own and their theatre’s repertoire. And, there were the theatre managers who had the final say on each evening’s bill. John Rich at Lincoln’s Inn Fields is known to have favoured dance, while at Drury Lane Colley Cibber, Robert Wilks and Barton Booth thought it detracted from the serious drama.

All but one of the afterpieces with dancing given at the two theatres royal this season were pantomimes, still a new and emerging genre. These brought together comic and serious dancing, by commedia dell’arte characters and figures from classical mythology, in productions that made full use of scenes, machines, tricks and transformations to entertain and amaze audiences. In 1725-1726, Drury Lane revived three pantomimes that had been successful in earlier seasons, notably Harlequin Doctor Faustus, while Lincoln’s Inn Fields revived five (including The Necromancer) and put on one new production. Drury Lane used dancers for the serious plots in its pantomimes, while Lincoln’s Inn Fields preferred singers. The Lincoln’s Inn Fields Apollo and Daphne was an exception to this rule, since it responded to the Drury Lane pantomime of the same name by casting Francis and Marie Sallé in the title roles. Both versions of Apollo and Daphne seem to have had affinities with John Weaver’s earlier dramatic entertainments of dancing – a link that remains largely unexplored, although the lack of detailed evidence about these pantomimes makes this difficult.

How much time was devoted to dancing each evening? Entr’acte dances must have varied in length, but one or two minutes is a reasonable average for solos and duets while group dances might take five or six minutes (or longer in those cases where there was a narrative thread to the choreography). So, the entr’acte dances might take up ten to fifteen minutes in an evening, more or less. Pantomimes are thought to have lasted around 40 minutes altogether, with varying amounts of comic and serious dancing depending on the production. Around fifteen to twenty minutes of actual dancing might be a reasonable guess. This is another area that needs research and analysis.

The 1725-1726 season fell within a pivotal period for dancing on the London stage. Pantomimes had just begun their long reign, dancers from France were bringing new choreographies that would be influential as the dancing in London’s theatres changed. Throughout the 18th century dancing was an integral and far from negligible part of most performances in London’s principal theatres, yet, in the absence of surviving choreographies and even their music, it remains intangible and unintelligible to all but those dance historians specialising in the period. I hope that this will change as more research is done.

I have still to look at the dancing at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket, which I will do in a separate piece by way of an epilogue to this lengthy investigation.

Season of 1725-1726: Afterpieces with Dancing at Lincoln’s Inn Fields

There were seven afterpieces with dancing at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726. One was a masque, while the rest were the pantomimes listed below.

Jupiter and Europa

The Necromancer

Harlequin a Sorcerer

Apollo and Daphne

The Cheats; or, The Tavern Bilkers

The Jealous Doctor

Only Apollo and Daphne was new. The list shows clearly how important pantomimes were to John Rich and his theatre company.

The masque was St. Ceciliae; or, The Union of the Three Sister Arts, which had first been performed in 1723-1724 and was briefly revived in 1724-1725 and 1725-1726. When it was given on 22 November 1725 (St. Cecilia’s day) it was advertised with ‘Proper Dances’ performed by three couples.

Jupiter and Europa; or, The Intrigues of Harlequin was given on 21 October 1725 with ‘Lun’ (John Rich) as Jupiter (Harlequin) and Mrs Wall as Europa and performed eight times in all during the season. The pantomime had first been performed in 1722-1723, when it had been billed as a ‘new Dramatic Entertainment of Dancing in Burlesque Characters’.  It lasted in the repertoire in its original form until 1727-1728 and was then revived in 1735-1736 within a new pantomime, The Royal Chace; or, Merlin’s Cave: With Jupiter and Europa. Like many of the pantomimes of this period, it is worth a post of its own. The abduction of Europa by Jupiter in the form of a bull was a favourite theme of artists of the period. This French painting by Pierre Gobert dates to the 1710s.

The Necromancer; or, Harlequin Doctor Faustus was given on 3 November 1725 with Lun as Faustus. This pantomime had been John Rich’s answer to John Thurmond Junior’s Harlequin Doctor Faustus in 1723-1724. It proved to be far more popular than its rival and would be regularly revived into the 1740s. The serious parts of Rich’s pantomimes used singers, rather than dancers as at Drury Lane, so Rich’s practice was to publish libretti for the ‘Vocal Parts’ with brief references to the action of the comic characters. The competition between the two Faustus pantomimes and the craze for these afterpieces which ensued meant that there were two scenarios printed for the Lincoln’s Inn Fields version. These provide details of the comic plot. The bills highlight the commedia dell’arte characters who appear in the final scene, performed by the company’s leading dancers – Harlequin Man and Woman, Pierrot Man and Woman, Mezzetin Man and Woman and Scaramouch Man and Woman. The Necromancer also featured Francis Nivelon as Punch.  This particular pantomime has attracted much scholarly attention, including analyses of the surviving music, and I will look at it more closely in a separate post. One drawing survives which is generally agreed to show the singer Richard Leveridge as an Infernal Spirit with John Rich as Faustus in scene one.

Harlequin a Sorcerer: With the Loves of Pluto and Proserpine, given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 21 January 1725, was Rich’s next new pantomime after The Necromancer. It received nearly 30 performances in its first season and was revived on 13 November 1725 for another ten. In 1725-1726, it was overshadowed by the popularity of that season’s new pantomime Apollo and Daphne. Rich, as Lun, took the title role in Harlequin a Sorcerer, while Pluto and Proserpine were played by singers. The pantomime’s subtitle refers to the pantomime that Rich had wanted to produce (and would indeed put on the following season). The libretto that was published to accompany performances records a few details of the scenic tricks and transformations in the piece, which I will also look at separately. Harlequin a Sorcerer lasted until the early 1730s and was revived at Covent Garden in the 1750s.

The 1725-1726 season’s new pantomime, Apollo and Daphne; or, The Burgomaster Tricked, was first given on 14 January 1726 with Francis and Marie Sallé in the title roles and Francis Nivelon as the Burgomaster. It had 45 performances before the end of the season and would be regularly revived into the 1750s, making it one of Rich’s most popular pantomime afterpieces. Apollo and Daphne was unusual among the Lincoln’s Inn Fields pantomimes for using dancers to play the principal characters in the serious plot – Rich was, of course, replying to Thurmond Junior and Mrs Booth at Drury Lane. Only the words for the ‘Vocal Parts’ were published, with little beyond the descriptions of the various scenes to hint at the dance and mime performed by the Sallés. There is no mention of the comic scenes with the Burgomaster or the various commedia dell’arte characters. Rich went one better than Drury Lane with his concluding entertainment to Apollo and Daphne, in which Francis and Marie Sallé reappeared as Zephyrus and Flora. Recent research suggests that this was taken from Aubert’s opera La Reine des Péris given at the Paris Opéra in 1725. Again, I will have to devote a separate post to this pantomime. The Triumph of Flora, like Zephyrus and Flora, was a favourite theme for artists. This version by Poussin is much earlier, although the artist was still greatly admired in the 18th century.

The last two pantomimes in repertoire at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726 were given during the summer season. The Cheats; or, The Tavern Bilkers was revived on 1 July 1726 for the first of five performances. Over the years casts were rarely listed for this pantomime, and this summer’s advertisements were no exception. The Cheats had begun life in 1716-1717 and was undoubtedly intended by Rich as a hit at John Weaver, whose danced afterpieces were popular at Drury Lane that season (Weaver’s first piece for the stage had been titled The Tavern Bilkers). On the occasions when the characters in The Cheats were named in the bills they were revealed as drawn from the commedia dell’arte – the piece was billed as an ‘Italian Night Scene’ at its first performance. The Cheats was revived into the early 1730s.

The Jealous Doctor; or, The Intriguing Dame, given on 19 July 1726 and then for another three performances, also dated back to 1716-1717. It had replied to the play by John Gay, Alexander Pope and John Arbuthnot Three Hours after Marriage given at Drury Lane that same season. The play lasted for only a few performances, but the pantomime was revived around half-a-dozen times each season until 1725-1726. Its relegation to the 1726 summer season marked the end of its stage life.

I am going to round up this lengthy exploration of dancing on the London stage during the 1725-1726 season in my next post by considering what all these details might tell us about dancing at the two patent theatres and stage dancing in London more generally.

Season of 1725-1726: Afterpieces with Dancing at Drury Lane

There were three afterpieces with dancing at Drury Lane during the 1725-1726 season. All were pantomimes.

The Escapes of Harlequin

Harlequin Doctor Faustus

Apollo and Daphne

All had been created by John Thurmond Junior and none were new this season. The second two are worth posts of their own and I will write these in due course.

The Escapes of Harlequin was given on 19 October 1725. The cast listed in the bills consisted entirely of commedia dell’arte characters – Roger and Mrs Booth were Harlequins, Thurmond and Boval together with Mrs Brett and Miss Lindar were Punches, Bridgwater and Mrs Willis (both actors rather than dancers) were the Doctor and his Wife, while Rainton danced Pierrot and Miss Tenoe Columbine. The pantomime had first been given, at Drury Lane, on 10 January 1722 and had been moderately successful in subsequent seasons, although it was performed only twice in 1725-1726 and would be revived only once more, in 1727-1728. No scenario was published and no music is known to survive (the composer is never mentioned in the bills). The afterpiece is ascribed to John Thurmond Junior by John Weaver, who included it in his ‘List of the Modern Entertainments that have been Exhibited on the English Stage; Either in Imitation of the Ancient Pantomimes, or after the Manner of the Modern Italians’ within his The History of the Mimes and Pantomimes published in 1728. Weaver’s lengthy title provides a summary of the influences that lay behind the new pantomimes. The Escapes of Harlequin was initially described in the bills as ‘A new Dramatick Entertainment of Dancing in Grotesque Characters’ linking it to the ‘Modern Italians’.

The pairs of characters suggest a series of duets, while the separate characters of Pierrot and Columbine perhaps hint at a plot which involves them, although it is impossible to guess at the action of the afterpiece. Thurmond Junior may have drawn on one or more of the plays (many of which were commedia dell’arte pieces) performed by a company of French comedians at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket during 1720-1721. I did wonder whether he might have been using existing entr’acte dances, but the evidence points another way – a Harlequin duet later performed in the entr’actes which might have originated in The Escapes of Harlequin. We know little, if anything about the dancing in Thurmond Jr’s pantomime but, since it had a cast of characters entirely from the commedia dell’arte performed by leading dancers at Drury Lane, might this drawing by Claude Gillot evoke its style?

Harlequin Doctor Faustus, given on 9 November 1725, was the pantomime that had started a craze for the genre when it was first performed at Drury Lane on 26 November 1723. John Rich had swiftly responded at Lincoln’s Inn Fields with the even more successful pantomime The Necromancer; or, Harlequin Doctor Faustus (which I will discuss in my next post) and both productions were integral to the repertoires of the two theatres for many seasons. At least three scenarios were published for Harlequin Doctor Faustus, which differ in some details, so we have a good idea of its action. Little if any of the music survives. The pantomime is, of course, based on the legend of Doctor Faustus and his pact with the Devil, told through the distorting lens of the commedia dell’arte. Thurmond Junior is identified as the author of the piece on the title pages of the scenarios. At the first performances, he played Mephistophilus with John Shaw as Faustus. In 1725-1726, no cast was listed until 3 June 1726 when Roger was Harlequin / Faustus and either Rainton or Haughton (both young dancers) performed Mephistophilus.

An important feature of this particular pantomime was the ‘grand Masque of the Heathen Deities’ with which it ended. This was an extended divertissement of serious dancing, in complete contrast to the grotesque commedia dell’arte characters who appeared in the main part of the afterpiece. The transition from pantomime to divertissement is described in the scenario, Harlequin Doctor Faustus: with the Masque of the Deities (1724). Time and Death enter the Doctor’s study and sing, in turn, to warn Faustus his time is up.

‘When the Songs are ended, it Thunders and Lightens; two Fiends enter and seize the Doctor, and are sinking with him headlong thro’ Flames, other Devils run in and tear him piece-meal, some fly away with the Limbs, and others sink. Time and Death go out.

The Music changes, and the Scene draws, and discovers a Poetical Heaven with the Gods and Goddesses rang’d in order on both sides the Stage, who express their joy for the Enchanter’s Death, (who was supposed to have power over the Sun, the Moon, and the Seasons of the Year.)’

The ‘Gods and Goddesses’ are the dancers in the masque. The excerpt above from the printed text shows how elaborate the staging was, with its tricks, transformations and sophisticated scenery. Sadly, there is no visual record at all of Harlequin Doctor Faustus but the ‘assembly of the gods’ was a favourite topic for ceiling paintings, including this one by William Kent which dates to around 1720.

The last of Thurmond Junior’s pantomimes to be given in 1725-1726 was his most recent, Apollo and Daphne; or, Harlequin’s Metamorphoses on 11 February 1726. Thurmond Junior and Mrs Booth danced the title roles, with Theophilus Cibber as Harlequin. It had first been given as Apollo and Daphne; or, Harlequin Mercury at Drury Lane on 20 February 1725 with the same leading dancers. John Rich had had to wait nearly a year before he could reply from Lincoln’s Inn Fields with Apollo and Daphne; or, The Burgomaster Tricked, in which the title roles were danced by Francis and Marie Sallé with Francis Nivelon as the Burgomaster. Two scenarios were published for the Drury Lane pantomime, which tell us that it began and ended with episodes from Apollo’s fruitless pursuit of Daphne, separated by a complete comic plot in four scenes, and had a concluding pastoral divertissement. In 1724-1725, Thurmond Junior and Mrs Booth were a Sylvan and a Nymph, while in 1725-1726 the divertissement had become ‘a Rural Masque: Les Bois d’Amourette’ with Mrs Booth again as a Nymph and both Thurmond Junior and Roger as two Rival Swains.

It is worth noting that, for its first performance in 1724-1725, Apollo and Daphne is billed as ‘A New Dramatick Entertainment of Dancing’, linking it to John Weaver’s ballets of a few years before. In 1725-1726, Thurmond Junior had obviously revised his pantomime in answer to Rich’s version and it received more than 25 performances that season (more than in 1724-1725), although it would remain in the Drury Lane repertoire only until 1727-1728. The music for Thurmond Junior’s Apollo and Daphne was by Richard Jones and Henry Carey, but no score survives. We have little idea of the visual effect of the production, although the scenarios record some of the scenic and special effects in both the serious and the comic parts of the pantomime. Apollo’s pursuit of Daphne and her transformation into a laurel tree when he catches her, were favoured topics for artists of the period and both moments were depicted in the pantomime. This version, by Giambatista Tiepolo, is nearly thirty years later, but it shows Daphne beginning her transformation beside her father the river god Peneus as Apollo catches up with her too late.

In my next post, I will turn to the Lincoln’s Inn Fields afterpieces with dancing.

Highland Dances on the London Stage

Highland Dances were never advertised as often as Scotch Dances, at least over the period up to 1760. The earliest surviving advertisement is for a performance on 6 July 1700 at Drury Lane for ‘A Scotch Song with the Dance of the Bonny Highlander; never done but once before on the English Stage’ (the single previous performance may also have been given during 1699-1700). ‘Highlanders’ had a much longer history in dance music, as the tune ‘The Highlanders’ March’ in the 1657 third edition of Playford’s The Dancing Master suggests. The tune for the ‘Scotchman’s dance’ in Brome’s The Northern Lass, in Playford’s seventh edition of 1687, has the alternative title ‘The Highlanders’ March’, indicating that ‘Scotch’ and ‘Highland’ could be seen as equivalent.

A handful of billings in the early 1700s may point to the wider popularity of Highland Dances. Claxton performed The Highland alongside The Whip of Dunboyn (thereby pairing a Scottish with an Irish dance) at Drury Lane on 18 June 1703, while the Devonshire Girl (later billed under her own name as Mrs Mosse) gave at least three performances of a Highland Lilt at the same theatre during the 1702-1703 and 1704-1705 seasons. The first of these was a duet with her ‘Master’, who was in fact Claxton. There was also the Grand Dance of the Laird and his Highland Attendance, performed with ‘other Scotch dances’ at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 28 April 1704, alongside a Scotch Song in Praise of a Highland Laird and ‘other Scotch songs’. This seems to have been the only such performance at Lincoln’s Inn Fields this season. No performers were named in the bill and no context is given for this particular entertainment.

Apart from a ‘new Scotch Highlander by de la Garde’s Two Sons’ performed at their Lincoln’s Inn Fields benefit in 1718-1719, there were no more Highland Dances advertised until the 1720s when Lally Jr (Michel Lally) offered a solo and Newhouse performed a duet with Mrs Ogden at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, while Mrs Bullock danced a solo Highland Lilt at Drury Lane. The most popular dance of this period came towards the end of the decade, with the Highlander and Mistress first given by Francis Sallé and Mrs Laguerre at his benefit on 8 April 1729 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The duet was repeated on 17 April for Mrs Laguerre’s benefit (shared with her husband) and it received nine more performances before the end of the 1728-1729 season. It was revived for several more performances in each of the three following seasons and would undoubtedly have continued in repertoire if Sallé had not died in 1732. Was it this duet that was taken into the afterpiece The Dutch and Scotch Contention; or, Love and Jealousy given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 22 October 1729 and revived there in 1730-1731 and 1731-1732?

The Dutch and Scotch Contention was, in its turn, taken from a ballet performed during the summer of 1729 at the Opéra Comique in Paris, within the opera La Princess de la Chine. The Mercure de France for July 1729 provides an account of the piece, which replaced a ‘Divertissement de Chinois’ in act three.

‘Le 7. de ce mois [July], on donna à la place du Divertissement du 3e Acte de la Piece dont on vient de parler [La Princesse de la Chine], un Balet singulier, extrémement picquant & vrai par sa composition, par le naïf des caracteres qui y sont excellemment rendus, & par la finesse & la legereté de l’execution; cinq hommes & deux femmes, dansant sur des Airs d’un Musicien Ecossois, presentent avec une intelligence à laquelle on ne sçauroit rien desirer, par leurs pas, leurs attitudes & leurs gestes, ce qui se passe dans les Musicaux d’Hollande, qui sont des especes de Cabarets à Biere à peu près comme nos Guingettes, où les Matelots & autres Particuliers de differentes Nations, éprouvent diverses avantures de galanterie. Ce qu’on exprime ici par des Tableaux animez, très ingenieux & très-agréables, c’est l’Amour & la Jalousie. Ces Passions y sont renduës très sensibles par les inimitables Danseurs qui composent ce Balet. Le Sieur Nivelon & La Dlle Rabon, jeune personne, très-bonne Danseuse, y paroissent en Hollandois, comme l’Amant & la Maîtresse. Le sieur Roger, qui a composé les pas du Balet, & dont la seule figure est capable de faire éclater de rire le plus grand Stoïcien, y figure le Valet du Hollandois. Le sieur Sallé, en Ecossois, & le sieur Rinton; en Ecossoise, sa Maîtresse. Le sieur Boudet, Valet de l’Ecossois. Ces deux Nations sont très-bien caracterisées par ces excellens Pantomimes. On n’entrera pas dans un plus grand détail pour donner une idée de ce Balet figuré, dans lequel, sans le secours de la parole, on s’exprime avec l’intelligence la moins équivoque & la plus claire.’

[Spelling and diacritics are as given as in the original text]

Marian Hannah Winter (The Pre-Romantic Ballet (London, 1974), p. 84) mentions l’Amour et la Jalousie as an example of the beginnings of the ballet d’action, to which English performers and ideas made significant contributions. Of the five men and two women who danced in the piece (no mention is made of the second woman in the Mercure de France), only one was English so far as we know, but all were working regularly in London. Winter does not make the link to the entr’acte and afterpiece repertoire on the London stage, although she may have been aware of it.

The original ballet was by Roger, whose entr’acte dance Love and Jealousie given at Drury Lane on 18 October 1729 was probably also derived from his Paris version. It received only two performances and, sadly, the bills provide no information about the dancers. The cast may well have included Rainton, who was in the company that season. The review in the Mercure de France suggests that Sallé’s duet, with Rainton en travesti, was a comic number. When Nivelon introduced The Dutch and Scotch Contention at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, he danced the ‘Burgomaster’ (a well-known dance character in London) with the dancer-actress Mrs Younger as his wife and Sallé danced the ‘Highlander’ with Mrs Laguerre (another dancer-actress) as his wife. The piece also had four couples as supporting dancers, so could have had quite a bit of danced and mimed action. Nivelon obviously thought it worth his while to draw attention to entr’acte duets that were already popular – the ways in which these might have been re-choreographed by him and Roger is worth further consideration, as is the extent to which the ballet given in Paris might have been crafted around these duets, in particular Sallé’s Highlander and Mistress.

I wonder if this drawing by Louis Philippe Boitard, which may date to the early 1730s, provides a flavour of some of the dancing in The Dutch and Scotch Contention? Boitard engraved the illustrations for Nivelon’s The Rudiments of Genteel Behaviour in 1737.

This vignette from a single-sheet song in George Bickham Junior’s The Musical Entertainer, published in the late 1730s, perhaps suggests the sort of stage picture Nivelon wished to present in his afterpiece.

There were occasional advertisements for Highland Dances by dancers from Scotland, for example at Drury Lane in 1731-1732 when a solo Highland Dance was performed by ‘a Native of that Country, for his Diversion’. He was probably the same man as the ‘Scotch Gentleman’ and the ‘Native of Scotland’ also billed in Highland Dances that season. Such performances were the exception, raising the question how and where London’s professional dancers learnt their ‘Highland’ and ‘Scotch’ dances, or even whether their choreographies were recognisably Scottish at all.

Around 1750, there seems to have been a change in the Scottish dancing to be seen in London’s theatres. I have previously mentioned the Scotch Measure and Highland Reel danced by Froment and Mlle De La Cointrie at Covent Garden in 1748-1749 and repeated there by Froment (apparently as solos) the following season. Following these performances, the Highland Reel and the Reel did not begin to be advertised regularly until the late 1760s. I hope to be able to return to these later Highland Dances at some point.