Kellom Tomlinson devotes chapter XXX of Book 1 of The Art of Dancing to one particular pas composé, ‘the Close beating before and falling behind in the third Position, upright Spring changing to the same before, and Coupee to a Measure’. The ‘Close beating before and falling behind’ appears in Feuillet’s Choregraphie in the ‘Table des Pas de Sissonne’ (p. 81) – in modern ballet terminology the step is an assemblé battu. The ‘upright Spring changing to the same before’ does not appear in Choregraphie – it is the equivalent of the modern changement. The coupé is, of course, one of the fundamental steps of la belle danse. As Tomlinson says, all three elements must be performed within a single bar of music. He provides notation for the pas composé in his Plate I.
Tomlinson also refers to two dances where this pas composé is used. Both can be identified as choreographies by Guillaume-Louis Pecour from the 1704 Recueil de dances, the first published collection of his entrées de ballet. One is the Entrée pour deux hommes ‘Dancée par Mr. Piffetau et Mr. Cherrier au Ballet de l’Europe galante’, for which the music is a loure – the ‘Air pour les espagnols’ from the Entrée ‘L’Espagne’. The other is the Entrée Espagnolle pour un homme et une femme ‘Dancée par Mr. Balon et Mlle. Subligny au Ballet de l’Europe galante’, for which the music is the ‘Air. Rondeau’ also from ‘L’Espagne’ – the music is in triple time but is not identifiable with a particular dance type. Is it simply coincidence that both are ‘Spanish’ dances?
Tomlinson adds that this pas composé is usually followed by a coupé avec ouverture de jambe, to allow it to be repeated on the other foot. In the Entrée pour deux hommes, it is followed by a coupé avec ouverture de jambe ornamented with an additional ‘tour de jambe’ (Feuillet’s term for a pas rond with no transfer of weight). In the Entrée Espagnolle pour un homme et une femme, the coupé avec ouverture de jambe incorporates a beat. In neither dance is Tomlinson’s pas composé then repeated.
Is this pas composé widely used? Does it appear in dances without ‘Spanish’ connotations? I looked through the three published collections of theatre dances, together with Feuillet’s 1700 Recueil of his own choreographies (which are not described as theatrical, but have close links to the genre of stage dances). The step does not appear at all in Feuillet’s 1700 collection, although some of the men’s dances include what is obviously a related sequence over two bars of music. Using modern terminology, this is an assemblé battu followed by a changement in the first bar and either a pas de bourée or a coupé in the second. This and other variants occur in a number of stage choreographies. Here I will look only at occurrences of the step as described by Tomlinson.
In Pecour’s Recueil de dances of 1704, apart from Tomlinson’s two examples, the step appears in the following dances.
Passacaille pour une femme, music from Gatti’s Scylla (1701). The onstage characters are Plaisirs. (plate 31)
Sarabande à deux, a male-female duet to music from Campra’s Tancrède (1702). The onstage characters are Plaisirs. (plate 131)
Loure pour deux hommes, music from Gatti’s Scylla (1701). The onstage characters are Candiots. In the loure, each bar contains two distinct pas composés – this occurs as the second. (plate 175)
Chaconne de Phaeton pour un homme, music from Lully’s Phaeton (1683, latest revival before this collection of dances 1702). This solo was not danced at the Paris Opéra, so we do not know which (if any) character was danced. (plate 186)
L’Aimable Vainqueur, a solo for a man to music from Campra’s Hésione (1700). This solo was not danced at the Paris Opéra and the character danced (if any) is unknown. (plate 209)
Sarabande pour un homme, music otherwise unknown and not danced at the Paris Opéra. (plate 215)
Folies d’Espagne pour un homme, to the well-known tune. (plate 224)
In all the dances, the pas composé is followed by a coupée avec ouverture de jambe, with a variety of ornaments. In six cases, it comes towards the end of the choreography although in three of these a variant version appears earlier in the dance.
In Pecour’s Nouveau Recueil de Dance de Bal (c1713), the step appears in one dance only – the Passacaille pour une femme to music from Lully’s Armide (1686, latest revival before this collection 1703. The 1713 revival must have come after the collection was prepared for publication). This solo is stated to have been ‘dancée par Mlle. Subligny en Angleterre’. In the opera the character is a demon disguised as an Amante Fortunée. The choreography apparently belongs to the period 1701-1702, when Mlle Subligny danced in London, where this dance may have been performed simply as a virtuosic belle danse solo. The pas composé appears twice (plates 84, 86). The second time the following bar has three jettés backwards (the first a jetté battu), since the pas composé itself initiates the dancer’s final retreat as she ends her solo.Tomlinson’s version of this pas composé is not used in L’Abbé’s A New Collection of Dances (c1725), although it appears in variant versions in several of the choreographies.
Does all of this tell us anything about how baroque dance vocabulary was used? It seems that Tomlinson’s ‘Close beating before and falling behind in the third Position, upright Spring changing to the same before, and Coupee to a Measure’ is a step used in theatre dance, but it has few ‘Spanish’ connotations. In its basic form it seems to have been most popular in the early 1700s, according to the evidence provided by the musical sources as well as the notated dances. By the 1710s, it was more often used in variant forms. Perhaps it provides evidence of changing choreographic tastes, unless it simply indicates differences in style between individual dancing masters.