Season of 1725-1726: Dancers at Lincoln’s Inn Fields

The figures I initially gave for the dancers at the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre during the 1725-1726 season were not right either. There were, in fact, 16 dancers (9 men and 7 women) who danced regularly in the entr’actes during the main season. Of the others, Glover danced only on 14 April 1726. He had been a member of the dance ‘company within the company’ since 1723-1724 but was absent from Lincoln’s Inn Fields this season, apart from this one performance. ‘Pollett’s Son’, who made a single appearance on 25 April 1726 may have been a child dancer – there were other dancers named Pollett in London’s theatres around this time, although their careers need further research. Burny made only one appearance before the end of the main season, but he (together with Morgan and Smith) danced during the theatre’s summer season. I will look at the summer season and its dancers separately.

The following entr’acte dancers were at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726:

Nivelon

Lally

Dupré

Newhouse

Pelling

Dupré Jr

Sallé

Le Sac

Lanyon

Mrs Laguerre

Mrs Wall

Mrs Bullock

Mrs Ogden

Mlle Sallé

Miss La Tour

Mrs Anderson

At least one name in this list is likely to be familiar to those interested in the 18th-century dance.

Among the dancers at Lincoln’s Inn Fields the one most often billed in 1725-1726 was Nivelon, who danced in the entr’actes some 50 times. He was followed by Sallé (46 billings). None of the other men appeared nearly so often – next was Lally (31 billings), Le Sac (22), Dupré (17), Newhouse (15), Pelling (9), Dupré Jr (7) and Lanyon (4). Among the women, Mlle Sallé was the most in demand with 38 entr’acte billings. Mrs Wall danced some 34 times, followed by Mrs Bullock (32), Mrs Laguerre and Miss La Tour (22 performances each), Mrs Ogden (15) and Mrs Anderson (10). Mrs Ogden and Mrs Anderson also danced during the summer season.

As at Drury Lane, each dancer’s repertoire provides clues to his or her status. Nivelon and Sallé were first among the men. Nivelon performed 6 solos, 4 duets and 1 trio, while Sallé danced 1 solo, 6 duets, 1 trio and 2 group dances. Dupré had 2 duets and 6 group dances (he was also billed as a choreographer). Newhouse also performed 2 duets but appeared in only 1 group dance. Le Sac gave 1 solo and also performed 4 duets. Pelling, Dupré Jr and Lanyon were all supporting dancers, appearing only in group choreographies. Among the women, Mrs Wall had the most extensive repertoire, with 3 solos, 7 duets and 6 group dances. Mlle Sallé danced 1 solo (Les Caractères de la Danse), 5 duets and 1 trio. Mrs Laguerre performed in 6 duets and 1 group dance, while Mrs Anderson gave 1 solo and 2 duets and performed in 4 group dances. Miss La Tour danced 1 solo and 4 duets and Mrs Ogden was billed in 2 duets and 2 group dances. None of the women can be described simply as supporting dancers.

All the men, except for Le Sac, danced in the pantomime afterpieces which were performed on nearly as many evenings as entr’acte dancing. As at Drury Lane, the roles performed by these dancers reveal more about their place within the ‘dance company’. They also tell us a little about the specialities of individual dancers. Four pantomimes were given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields during the main season – Jupiter and Europa, The Necromancer, Harlequin a Sorcerer and Apollo and Daphne. The first two are anonymous, but may have been devised by the theatre’s manager John Rich who was himself a Harlequin and took that role in these afterpieces. The second two have libretti by the writer Lewis Theobald. Nivelon’s role was Punch, while Lally was Mezzetin, Pelling was Pierrot and Newhouse was Scaramouch (Lanyon also appeared as Scaramouch). Nivelon’s status was shown by Apollo and Daphne; or, The Burgomaster Tricked (to give the pantomime its full title), in which he was the Burgomaster and thus central to the comic plot. Lally (Edward Lally, who may or may not have been the brother of Michael Lally at Drury Lane that season) and Dupré both took prominent dancing roles in the pantomimes. Dupré also performed as a dancing Harlequin (Rich did not dance).

Mlle Sallé danced both Daphne and Flora, ‘An Inconstant’, in Apollo and Daphne, the only pantomime in which she appeared. Mrs Wall was Europa in Jupiter and Europa and took prominent roles in three more pantomimes. Mrs Bullock and Mrs Anderson also had significant dancing roles. Mrs Laguerre, Mrs Ogden and Miss La Tour did not appear in pantomimes at all. Mrs Laguerre had been one of the leading dancers at Lincoln’s Inn Fields and would be so again, but she seems to have been absent from late November 1725 to mid-March 1726. She was also an actress (the only one among Lincoln’s Inn Fields’s female dancers in 1725-1726) and played 11 acting roles during the months she was present.

So, what of the ‘dance company’ at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726? Le Sac and Miss La Tour made their debuts together and danced a series of duets. They were advertised as ‘Scholars of Mr. Dupre’ and were presumably just emerging from his tutelage. Were they members of the ‘dance company’ or more like apprentices? Francis and Marie Sallé were returning to dance in London for the first time since the 1718-1719 season, so they may have been seen as ‘guest artists’. Nivelon must have been the leading male dancer, and perhaps the company’s dancing master. (Although the meaning and even the existence of that position needs investigation and discussion). Lally and Dupré may have been more-or-less equal, followed by Newhouse and Pelling, then Dupré and Lanyon.

The relative status of the women is more difficult to unravel. Their benefits perhaps provide additional clues (although Rich at Lincoln’s Inn Fields seems to have been less hierarchical about these than the management at Drury Lane), along with their dancing partners. Mrs Laguerre was probably the leading local female dancer, her benefit (shared with her husband, the singer-actor John Laguerre) was on 14 April 1726. She was most often partnered by Nivelon. Mrs Wall shared her benefit with Newhouse, on 30 April, her main partner was Lally although she also danced with Dupré (who may have been one of her teachers). Mrs Bullock shared her 2 May benefit with her brother-in-law, the actor William Bullock. She danced her only duet with Nivelon, but in the group dances she seems to have been partnered by Sallé and Dupré most often. Mrs Anderson’s benefit (also shared) came on 9 May and Mrs Ogden had no benefit at all. They were evidently the lowest ranking of the female dancers in the company.

There are accounts surviving for Lincoln’s Inn Fields for the seasons 1724-1725 and 1726-1727 which provide more information about the relative status of the dancers, based on their pay scales. The 1724-1725 accounts have been analysed in some detail – I provide a reference to the article below – and I looked at those for 1726-1727 myself some years ago (although my notes are not extensive). They tell us that Nivelon earned by far the most among the dancers – much more than even the two Sallés (at least in 1726-1727) – and that Dupré was the next highest paid of the male dancers, followed by Lally. The highest paid of the women were Mrs Laguerre and Mrs Bullock. Apart from Nivelon, none of the dancers received anything like as much as the principal singers in Rich’s company.

The only one of the dancers at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726 for whom we have a portrait is Marie Sallé. Here she is, as a dancer and off-stage.

Reference

Judith Milhous, ‘The Finances of an Eighteenth-Century London Theatre: the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Company under John Rich in 1724-1725’ in Berta Joncus and Jeremy Barlow (editors), “The Stage’s Glory” John Rich, 1692-1761 (Newark, 2011), pp. 61-69.

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