Dancing the cotillon: Gallini’s figures

In his New Collection of Forty-Four Cotillons, Gallini makes clear that figures are made up of specific steps, fitted to floor patterns traced by the dancers as they move. He puts steps and patterns together into one list and describes the figures for each of his cotillons in terms of these elements.

Rather than trying to analyse the figures for individual cotillons in the various English collections, I will look only at the patterns forming part of those figures which are explained by the dancing masters. I am definitely not an expert on country dancing, so the obvious may occasionally elude me as I work through these.

In his ‘General Rules’ at the beginning of his collection Gallini lists the following:

Allemande: ‘This Figure is performed by interlacing your Arms with your Partner’s, in various ways’.

Les Chaines: he gives three – La Grande Chaine or Las D’Amour, ‘by forming a Love-knot’, the Vis-a Vis, ‘done by two opposite Couple with Right-hand and Left’,  and a Chaine ‘performed by two Couple Right-hand and Left, side-ways’. The second sounds like the chaine anglaise, but what is the third?

Moulinet: ‘the same as Hands cross’, and ‘the Grand, or Double Moulinet’ performed by all the dancers.

La Poussette: ‘performed by holding the Lady’s hands, and making her Retreat, then She does the same by her Partner’.

La Course, or La Promenade: ‘performed by taking hold of your Partner’s hands, and walking with her’, through a quarter, a half, three-quarters or the whole of the set.

Les Quarrés: Le Grand Quarré has all the dancers moving, whereas Le Petit Quarré has only four dancers.

La Queue du Chat: ‘performed by two Couple [sic] changing places, beginning at the Right, and then returning to their own places’.

Les Ronds: ‘performed by taking hold of each others hands, and going round with the Chassé’. Le Grand Rond is performed by all the dancers.

As Gallini indicates, several of these patterns are also used separately as changes. The dancers would have been guided by the music, since the changes were danced to the first strain and the figure to the second and any subsequent strains. In his instructions for each cotillon, Gallini was careful to specify which musical strain accompanied which section of the figure.

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