Season of 1725-1726: Other Entr’acte Duets at Drury Lane

The other entr’acte duets given at Drury Lane this season were the following:

Hussars

Muzette

Pierette

Whitson Holiday

Country Dance

Wooden Shoe Dance

Serious Dance

As their titles suggest, they provided a variety of danced entertainment.

Hussars was danced by Thurmond Jr and Mrs Booth on 2 October 1725 and repeated several times during the season. The duet had originally been performed by John Shaw and Mrs Booth in 1719-1720 and she would go on to dance it with William Essex as well as John Thurmond Jr. It is easy to suggest that it was created by Shaw, but it is certainly possible that it originated with Mrs Booth. I discussed the duet and its costuming in The Incomparable Hester Santlow, including its music which (according to a contemporary source) was the forlana from La Sérénade vénitienne, added by Campra to the Ballet des Fragmens de Lully in 1703. This music suggests that Hussars may have been seen as a dance in masquerade.

John Shaw (who sadly died on 8 December 1725) had been one of London’s leading male dancers. He is one of the very few dancers of this period for whom we have a portrait, although only an engraving of the painting by John Ellys now survives.

The Muzette seems to have been introduced to the London stage by Rainton and Miss Robinson in 1724-1725, so their performances of the duet in 1725-1726 were a revival of the dance. As with Hussars, it was Miss Robinson who would go on to perform the Muzette with a series of partners, including William Essex and in 1729-1730 ‘Master Lally’ (probably Samuel Lally, a younger member of the Lally family). Muzette dances continued to be performed into the early 1740s, although it is likely that there were a number of different choreographies. I am reluctant to link this dance to the choreographies that were published in notation, the majority of which were created for the ballroom, although it certainly belongs to the genre of French-inspired pastoral dances that were popular in London’s theatres.

La Peirette or Pierette, given by Roger and Mrs Brett at Drury Lane on 21 March 1726 almost certainly has links to the French comedians who specialized in commedia dell’arte (the French influences on this Italian dramatic form are important to performances in London). This Pierrot or Pierette duet was almost certainly created by Roger – he had been described as the ‘French Pierrot’ in earlier bills – who continued to dance it with Mrs Brett and then other partners in subsequent seasons. Although the duet continued in the entr’acte repertoire after Roger’s death in 1731, it may or may not have drawn on his original choreography.

Whitson Holiday, danced at Drury Lane on 18 April 1726 by Boval and Miss Tenoe, was first performed at Drury Lane on 29 May 1721 by Boval and Mrs Younger. It was evidently by Boval, who danced it with a series of female partners until 1729-1730. The duet was created for a benefit performance and continued to be danced at benefits a few times each season throughout its stage life. The music may have come from Songs Compleat, Pleasant and Divertive, the new edition of Thomas Durfey’s Wit and Mirth; or, Pills to Purge Melancholy published in 1719 and then reissued under the original title 1719-1720. The collection includes the song tune ‘The Parson among the Pease’, which begins with the line ‘One long Whitson Holliday’.

The use of country dances towards the end of plays is quite well-known, but both solo and duet Country Dances were occasionally billed in the entr’actes – as at Drury Lane on 21 April 1726, when Rainton and Miss Robinson were billed together in a Country Dance at his shared benefit. I suspect that these dances should really be billed as Countryman and Countrywoman (as some were). None of the dances with these titles were performed regularly.

The Wooden Shoe Dance was far more popular as a solo than as a duet, and in the latter form was performed this season only at Drury Lane by Sandham’s children. I will take a closer look at these dances when I consider the entr’acte solos performed at the two patent theatres during 1725-1726.

The title Serious Dance was used regularly in the bills from the mid-1710s onwards. Advertisements rarely mentioned Serious Dances and Comic Dances together, although dancing ‘Serious and Comic’ was quite often billed thus. I don’t know why this should be, although the latter wording indicates that the two were seen as quite different. I haven’t yet written a post on comic dancing, although I have addressed Serious Dancing (back in 2017) and The Grand Ballet, Grand Dance and Serious Dance on the London Stage (in early 2018). The only Serious Dance billed in 1725-1726 was a duet by Michael Lally and Mrs Walter at Drury Lane on 18 May 1726, a benefit for Mrs Walter shared with Sandham’s children. It occurs to me that the title may have been used for another dance performed by them this season. Was it perhaps the Pastoral they gave at other performances in 1725-1726?

My next post will be about the other duets performed at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726.

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