Dancing the cotillon: the changes

In his A New Collection of Forty-four Cotillons Gallini stated ‘At the beginning of every Cotillon, the dancers must perform Le Grand Rond, and Return to their Places’. He then listed ten changes beginning ‘Each Couple join their Right hands and turn, then back with the Left’.

  1. Each Couple join both hands and turn to the Right, then back to the Left.
  1. The Ladies Moulinet to the Right, then to the Left.
  1. The Gentlemen Moulinet to the Right, then to the Left.
  1. The Ladies join hands and go Round to the Right, then to the Left.
  1. The Gentlemen join hands and go Round to the Right, then to the Left.
  1. Each Couple Allemande to the Right, then to the Left.
  1. La Grande Chaine.
  1. La Course, or La Promenade, to the Right.
  1. Le Grand Rond.

Gallini specifies Le Grand Rond at the beginning of all but one of his cotillons.

Gherardi listed nine changes in his Fourteen Cotillons or French Dances of 1768. Like Gallini, he omitted Le Grand Rond (which he calls ‘All Round’) from the beginning of his list. He also left out Gallini’s first change, right and left hands.

1st. Turn your partner with both hands

2d. Four ladies hands across

3d. Four gentlemen hands across

4th. Four ladies hands round

5th. Four gentlemen hands round

6th. L’Allemande

7th. La Chaine

8th. La Promenade

9th. All Round

Gherardi specifies ‘All round’ at the beginning of all but one of his cotillons (the odd one out begins ‘Ballance & Rigadoon Step then all round’).

Villeneuve listed the same changes as Gherardi in his 1769 Collection of Cotillons and he begins all of his dances ‘All round’.

Thomas Hurst, whose The Cotillons Made Plain and Easy also dates to 1769, was apparently determined to anglicize the cotillon. His list was longer, with fourteen changes, although he did include many from Gallini and Gherardi.

First Change, called Swing Partners.

Second Change. Turn Partners.

Third Change. Ladies Hands across.

Fourth Change. Gentlemen Hands across

Fifth Change. Ladies Hands round.

Sixth Change. Gentlemen Hands round.

Seventh Change. Ring Top and Bottom.

Eighth Change. Ring on each side.

Ninth Change. Hands across Top and Bottom.

Tenth Change. Hands across on each side.

Eleventh Change. Right and Left all round.

Twelfth Change. The Promenade, or Walk.

Thirteenth Change. Beat all round.

Fourteenth Change. The Great Ring

Hurst’s first, third to sixth, eleventh to twelfth and fourteenth changes can be found in Gallini and Gherardi, but he added five changes not found in other cotillon collections of this time. In his ‘Method of performing one dance throughout’, two pages before his list of changes, Hurst makes clear that all his cotillons begin with the ‘Great Ring’.

In his A Third Book of French Country Dances or Cotillons, published about 1770, Gherardi revised his list of changes although he still specified nine.

1st. All round.

2d. Turn your Partner with your right Hand to your own Place, then with your left.

3d. Turn your Partner with both hands.

4th. The 4 Ladies hands across.

5th. The 4 Gentlemen the same.

6th. The Ladies hands round.

7th. The Gentlemen the same.

8th. L’allemande two and two.

9th. All round.

He left out La Chaine and La Promenade. He also begins all the cotillons in this collection with ‘All round’.

Siret, whose A Set of Cotillons, or French Dances may also date to 1770, listed the same nine changes as in Gherardi’s third collection. He specifies ‘All round as usual’ at the beginning of all but one of his cotillons.

Were these variations in the Changes part of the development of the cotillon in England? Were they influenced by fashion, as the cotillon became familiar and dancers sought more variety, or (in these collections at least) did they reflect the preferences of individual dancing masters?

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