Dances for four: Dezais, Premier Livre de Contre-Dances (1725)

Since my first blog post on dances for four, I have acquired a copy of the Premier Livre de Contre-Dances by Jacques Dezais, published in Paris in 1725. This collection contains the following dances:

Cotillon Hongrois à quatre

L’Inconstante à quatre

L’Infante à 8

Cotillon de Surenne à 8

La Blonde à quatre

La Brunne à quatres

L’Esprit Follet à 4 [in fact à 8]

L’Ecossoise à six

La Carignan menuet à quatre

So, there are five dances for four in this collection.

Dezais uses the simplified form of notation developed by Feuillet for contredanses, notating just a few steps in each dance. The pas de rigaudon appears in nearly every dance and several dances include half-turn pirouettes, balancé, pas de bourée and assemblé. Dezais obviously classified these choreographies as contredanses. He describes them as such on the title page and, as well as using the simplified notation, he refers readers to Feuillet’s 1706 Recueil de contredances for the ‘principes’ needed to read and perform each dance. Indeed, he goes further by offering to notate and publish any ‘contre-dances des Provces. [Provinces]’ he may receive. According to Dezais, then, these are definitely contredanses, for the ballroom. Nevertheless, I will take a closer look at some of them in future posts within other contexts.

There is one other interesting aspect to this collection. The Premier Livre de Contre-Dances was engraved by Mlle Louise Roussel. When cotillons began to be published in large numbers in Paris in the 1760s, one name prominent on their title pages was Mlle Castagnery. Both she and Mlle Roussel are worth further investigation.


2 thoughts on “Dances for four: Dezais, Premier Livre de Contre-Dances (1725)

  1. Gabor Domjan

    Dear N.N.,

    I am in seemengly hopeless search of Dezais’ Premier Livre de Contre-dances as no library’s catalogue gives me any clue. The reason for it: some sources state that there are two Hungarian-related dance tunes in it (Cottilllon Hongroise and Menuette a la Tansylvanie).

    So, I was happy to read in your article by chance that you have a copy of this book. Could you possibly help me about how to locate it, or simply about these musical pieces (even scan and send them to me perhaps, if they do exist at all)? They are all I need actually.

    Thank you very much indeed for whatever help you can give me! Best regards,

    Gabor Domjan (a lutenist in Hungary)

    1. moiragoff Post author

      Dear Gabor,

      There is a copy of Dezais’ Premier Livre de Contre-Dances (Paris, 1725) in the Biblioteca Riccardiana in Florence, Italy, shelfmark Miscell. 387 1. If you look at the website for the library, you can email them to request copies from microfilm. The Cotillon Hongrois is the first dance in the collection (pages 1 – 8). Page 1 shows the A section and page 3 the B section. The dance music runs AABB (A=B=8), repeated three times in all.

      The Menuet a la Transylvanie is not in this collection, and I cannot readily find a dance of that title. There is a dance called La Transilvanie, but it is a gavotte dated 1715. That dance is held by the Bibliotheque-Musee de l’Opera in Paris, shelfmark Res. 841 (19). You could try their website. I know that all the notations were microfilmed many years ago, so perhaps they can supply copies. According to the reference source I have this dance has 7 pages and the music runs AABACAA (A=B=C=8), so I guess that each page has one section of the music.

      I hope this is of some help.

      Best wishes

      Moira Goff


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