The pas de sissonne battu occurs in many, but certainly not all, of the male solos and duets in the 1704, c1713 and c1725 collections of stage dances I am investigating.
The collection of ‘Entrées de Ballet’ by Pecour published in 1704 has 8 male solos and 5 male duets. Of these, two solos and two duets do not include the pas de sissonne battu. In the other dances, some conventions surrounding the step begin to emerge. The assemblé battu is often followed by a changement rather than the sissonne (a vertical spring from two feet to one, from which the pas de sissonne presumably derives its name). The assemblé battu occasionally incorporates a turn in the air. In the two examples in this collection, it is a half-turn. Although the step is preceded by a variety of pas composés, it is most often followed by a coupé simple and a coupé (sometimes a coupé battu) avec ouverture de jambe. Does this reveal one of Pecour’s favoured choreographic motifs?
Here is an example from a solo, the ‘Sarabande pour un homme non dancée a l’Opera’, bar 46 (plate 215).
And another from a duet, ‘Entrée pour deux hommes’ a loure danced by ‘Mr. Piffetau et Mr. Cherrier’, bar 11 (plate 165).
Another example in this collection may not really be a pas de sissonne battu at all, for the plié is shown on the first beat and there is no following changement or sissonne – ‘Loure pour deux hommes’ danced by Blondy and Philbois, bar 18 (plate 173).
In this collection, the pas de bourée en presence also appears a number of times after the pas de sissonne battu.
There are quite a lot of mistakes in the notations within this collection. Is the following, from the ‘Sarabande pour un homme’ bar 35 (Plate 227), an assemblé with an additional beat or simply a pas élevé battu?
Pecour’s second collection of theatrical choreographies, published around 1713, has three male solos and four male duets. Only one solo and one duet include the pas de sissonne battu. There is no way of telling whether this might point to changing choreographic choices by Pecour or is purely by chance. What is interesting is that the immediate choreographic context for the step is the same in both dances. Here is the step in Pecour’s ‘Entrée seul pour un homme’, bar 32 (plate 106).
And here it is in Pecour’s ‘Entrée de cithe dancée par Mrs. Blondy et Marcel’, bar 12 (plate 100).
In both, the pas de sissonne concludes with a changement. It is immediately preceded by a chassé battu and immediately followed by a pas de bourée en presence.
Could a study of the use of such phrases help us to understand more about the choreographic style of individual dancing masters?
There are hints of individual choreographic style in L’Abbé’s use of the pas de sissonne battu and his contexts for the step. There are four male solos and two male duets in his New Collection of Dances published in the mid-1720s. One of the solos and one of the duets do not contain the step. Among the others, when the assemblé battu is followed by a changement, Le Roussau often uses a variant notation method, for example in L’Abbé’s ‘Spanish Entry Performed by Mr Desnoyer’, bar 20 (plate 74).
L’Abbé seems to enjoy placing this step within a phrase of more demanding pas battus, for example entrechats. Although he may simply be exploiting the virtuosity of his male dancers. As in the ‘Chacone of Amadis Perform’d by Mr Dupré’, bar 43 (plate 60).
Or in the ‘Spanish Entry Performed by Mr Desnoyer’, bar 29 (plate 75).
However, L’Abbé also uses Pecour’s device of a coupé followed by a coupé avec ouverture de jambe from time to time, always after the pas de sissonne battu and sometimes with an extra embellishment such as a rond de jambe (see the ‘Entrée performd’ by Mr Desnoyer’, bars 30-31, plate 81). Apart from the addition of a turn to the assemblé battu and the regular substitution of a changement for the sissonne, L’Abbé does not embellish the pas de sissonne battu itself.
In all these collections the assemblé battu is notated just as it appears in the women’s dances. Of course, the men may have added their own ornamentations in performance, just as the women may have done.