Season of 1725-1726: Solo Entr’acte Dances at Drury Lane

The following solo entr’acte dances were given at Drury Lane during 1725-1726:

Passacaille

Harlequin

Peasant

Drunken Peasant

Punch

Scaramouch

Dutch Skipper

Pastoral

Spanish Entry

French Peasant

A solo Passacaille was performed by Miss Robinson at Drury Lane on 2 October 1725. She had first been advertised in the dance the previous season and she repeated it four times in 1725-1726. Mrs Booth also danced a solo Passacaille on 15 April 1726. This was one of the solos shared between the two playhouses, for Mrs Bullock performed another solo Passacaille at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 2 May 1726. In London’s theatres, the solo passacaille was firmly linked to female dancers. The first surviving advertisement is for a performance by Mrs Elford in 1705-1706 (although Mlle Subligny is known to have danced Pecour’s Passacaille d’Armide in London during the 1701-1702 season), while the latest is for a ‘New Dance call’d Le Passecalle de Zaid’ performed by Mlle Auretti in 1753-1754. There is one notation which can shed light on the style and technique of London’s leading female dancers in such solos – Anthony L’Abbé’s ‘Passagalia of Venüs & Adonis’ created for Mrs Booth (then Mrs Santlow) around 1717 and published in the mid-1720s. I have written elsewhere about this astounding solo and here is the first plate.

It is interesting that all the solo passacailles published in notation are also for women.

Solo Harlequin dances were popular throughout the first three decades of the 18th century and enjoyed occasional revivals into the mid-1750s. In 1725-1726, Mrs Booth was billed in a Harlequin entr’acte dance on 14 October 1725. She had been famous for this solo since very early in her career and would continue to dance it into the early 1730s. I wrote at some length about the dance in The Incomparable Hester Santlow and I am sure that this portrait is intended to represent her in this solo, although – as I have said many times before – there is strong evidence that she wore an ankle-length skirt in performance.

The other solo Harlequin given at Drury Lane this season was danced by Rainton several times in April and May 1726.

On 25 October 1725, Roger danced a solo Peasant, followed by a Drunken Peasant on 3 November and a French Peasant on 13 May 1726. Peasant dances were popular for many years, although they were generally only billed a few times each season. Drunken Peasant dances would become extremely popular in the 1730s, while French Peasant solos were regularly revived into the early 1740s. It is impossible to be certain how these dances might have related to one another, although they may well have had overlapping step vocabularies and choreographic motifs. The Drunken Peasant may have relied more heavily on pantomime, while the French Peasant may have used a recognisably ‘French’ tune. Of course, the advertisements may have been inaccurate and the difference between Peasant and French Peasant dances may simply have been an inconsistency of billing.

Lambranzi includes a Drunken Peasant and a Drunken Peasant with his Wife in Part One of his Neue und curieuse theatrialische Tantz-Schul of 1716, describing the solo thus:

‘When the curtain is raised this drunken peasant is seen. As the air begins he tries to get up, but falls down several times. At last he staggers to his feet and waves his hand to the tankard of beer, which does not want to come to him. Reeling, he snatches it up, drinks from it thrice, puts it on the ground again and finishes the strain by staggering backwards and forwards, walking and jumping. At the end he claps on his hat, picks up the tankard and exits tottering from side to side.’ (Gregorio Lambranzi, translated by Derra de Moroda and edited by Cyril Beaumont, New and Curious School of Theatrical Dancing. Reprint (London, 2002), p. 20)

He also provides this image:

The description may well relate to performances of the Drunken Peasant in London’s theatres. However, during the 1720s there were also regular performances of an entr’acte Drunken Man solo by the comic actor John Harper at Drury Lane. Although he was predominantly an actor, Harper also danced from time to time. So, one question is – was the Drunken Peasant influenced by the Drunken Man or vice versa?

There was only one performance of a Punch dance at Drury Lane this season, a solo by Sandham’s son given on 27 January 1726. Although there had been Punch dances on the London stage since at least the first decade of the 18th century, these would not really become popular until the 1730s. During the 1710s and 1720s, Punch was usually seen dancing in company with Harlequin and from the 1720s he also featured in pantomime afterpieces. I hope to explore the London stage history of Punch dances in a later post.

Scaramouch made regular entr’acte appearances from the very early 1700s through to the 1760s. Like Punch, he featured in pantomimes and is also worth a post of his own. His depictions by Lambranzi, who refers to his ‘beautiful pas de Scaramouch’ and his ‘long steps combined with cabrioles and pirouettes’, are well known. Here are two of them.

In 1725-1726, Sandham’s son danced a ‘new Scaramouch’ on 15 April 1726, repeating it on 23 April and 18 May. All were benefit performances – the last was shared between the two Sandham children and the dancer Mrs Walter.

I wrote about the solo Dutch Skipper when I looked at the shared entr’acte duets at Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields, so I will not say any more here. I also discussed the Pastoral duets in that post. There were very few solos with the title Pastoral advertised in London’s theatres and all but one were performed by female dancers. The exception was the Pastoral danced by ‘Vallois, lately arrived from the Opera at Paris, the first Time of his dancing in England; a Scholar to M Marcelle’ at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 13 April 1732 – both his dance and Vallois himself are worth further research.

I discussed the Spanish Entry duets in my post Season of 1725-1726: Other Entr’acte Duets at Lincoln’s Inn Fields but the solo Spanish Dances and Spanish Entries are worth additional consideration. These certainly go back to the late 17th century in London, and most (if not all) have a French origin. Music for a ‘Spanish Entry’ danced by Anthony L’Abbé and published in 1698 in The Second Book of the Dancing Master comes from Campra’s L’Europe galante. René Cherrier’s solo Spanish Dance given at Drury Lane in 1704-1705 may well also have used French music. Both solos probably drew on choreographies danced at the Paris Opéra, where both men spent part of their careers. In 1725-1726, a solo Spanish Entry was danced by Miss Robinson at Drury Lane on 9 May 1726. She seems to have made the dance a regular part of her repertoire, for she continued to perform it until 1728-1729. The whole question of Spanish Dances in London’s theatres is complicated by occasional advertisements for the Folies d’Espagne (although these are rare), solo Louvres (the Louvre duet was almost always Aimable Vainqueur) and Sarabands (many of which were certainly French, although – given the identification of the Saraband with the Spanish in English plays of the period – some must surely have indeed been Spanish). I looked briefly at ‘Spanish’ Dances and Dancing ‘Spaniards’ in earlier posts, but the topic is certainly worth more detailed investigation at a future date.

In my next post, I will look at the solos performed at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726. The topic of dancing in London’s theatres during the 1725-1726 season is turning into a marathon and I still have danced afterpieces and mainpiece plays with dancing to explore!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s