Category Archives: Ballroom Dancing

Charles Mason, Charles Beaupré and Steps for the Quadrille

Last weekend I attended (if that is the right word) a virtual festival of historical dance. One of the sessions was given by a young dancing master I have worked with over several years. He was looking at steps for the early 19th-century quadrille. I have written elsewhere about my difficulties with these – they are very similar to modern ballet vocabulary, except that they aren’t quite the same. He finished with the pas de Zephyr, a step I have also written about, which shows a clear link between the stage and the ballroom. There is currently ongoing discussion about the relationship between dancing on stage and in the ballroom, with some arguing for a clear division between the two while others consider that there was often little difference between them. For what it is worth, I think that the truth is rather more complicated. Much more research is needed before we can understand the various, and varying, relationships between stage dancing and ballroom dancing.

For the pas de Zephyr, the dancing master drew on a treatise by Charles Mason who described himself as ‘Professeur de Danse’ on the title page of his A Short Essay on the French Danse de Société published in 1827. The title page goes on to tell us that the treatise offers ‘No. I. of Different Enchainemens de Pas: being a Complete Analysis of a Modern Parisian Quadrille for Ladies’ and that this was composed by Monsieur Beaupré ‘Premier Sujet Pensionnaire du Roi, et de l’Académie Royale de Musique, à Paris’. Charles Mason may have been English, but for the purposes of his dance treatise he looked to the French. Here is the title page of Mason’s treatise.

Mason Danse de Societe Title Page (2)

Who was Monsieur Beaupré? At the end of his treatise Mason tells us that Beaupré taught ‘many of the French as well as the English nobility who visit Paris’. The title page tells us that he had enjoyed a dance career at the Paris Opéra, where he had attained the rank of ‘Premier Sujet’ and had earned a pension on his retirement. So, when was he dancing at the Opéra and what did he dance? As luck would have it, the answers to these questions can be found in two recent works of dance history – Ivor Guest’s The Ballet of the Enlightenment (London, 1996) and Ballet under Napoleon (Alton, 2001). Both are invaluable for exploring ballet at the Paris Opéra between 1770 and 1820.

According to Guest, Beaupré’s real name was Charles-Florentin Richer de la Rigaudière and he lived from 1764 to 1842. He made his debut at the Opéra in 1789 and finally retired (Guest uses the term ‘pensioned off’) in 1818. Beaupré was short in stature and evidently had a powerful virtuoso technique, which he put to good use in comic dancing. By 1793 he was a ‘senior comic dancer’ and by 1808 he had become the leading dancer in the genre comique. Guest also describes Beaupré as one of several ‘exceptionally gifted silent actors’ at the Opéra (Ballet under Napoleon, p. 482).

Beaupré’s development from virtuosic comic dancing to teaching the refinements of social dancing to the nobility calls to mind the similar trajectory of Francis Nivelon. The latter was a leading comic dancer in London during the 1720s and 1730s and, after he retired from the stage, became a teacher of social dancing. Nivelon wrote The Rudiments of Genteel Behaviour (1737) for aspiring members of the English gentry. Such careers raise many questions about the relationship between dancing on the stage and in the ballroom.

When Beaupré made his debut in 1789, a reviewer wrote of his ‘brilliant execution, great lightness and precision’ (Ballet of the Enlightenment, p. 298, citing Affices, annonces et avis divers, 15 October 1789). Beaupré may have made his career in the genre comique but he had a refined and sophisticated dance technique. Ivor Guest mentions several of Beaupré’s roles, but here I will focus on only one of the ballets in which he appeared, La Dansomanie, first performed at the Paris Opéra on 14 June 1800. Gardel’s ballet recounts the story of M. Duléger, who is obsessed with dancing, and the effects of his dansomanie on his daughter Phrosine and her suitor Colonel Demarsept. Duléger gets carried away as he watches the Gavotte de Vestris and decrees that Phrosine may only marry a man who can dance. Colonel Demarsept admits that he cannot dance and so an elaborate ruse is required to ensure his marriage to Phrosine. The joke behind this folie-pantomime was that Colonel Demarsept was performed by Auguste Vestris, the foremost danseur noble of the day.

La Dansomanie includes a dancing lesson for M. Duléger, with Louis-Jacques Milon as Flicflac the dancing master and Beaupré as his assistant Brisotin. The latter was depicted in his costume for the role a few years later.

Beaupre in Dansomanie 1

Flicflac tries to teach M. Duléger not only the jeté battu, but also tems de cuisse ‘doublés’, ‘triplés’ and even ‘quadruplés’, as well as pirouettes sur le cou-de-pied. The lesson includes several jokes about the differences between social and stage dancing. As Brisotin, Beaupré presumably assisted Milon in demonstrating the latest, and most difficult steps to be seen on the stage of the Paris Opéra for Duléger to copy! La Dansomanie was first performed in London at the King’s Theatre on 15 May 1806 and was revived several times over the next few years. Mason may well have seen it both in Paris and in London, and probably taught pupils who had seen it too.

The Dancing Master in Print

I have just begun a new topic of research, which has taken me in an old direction. It has returned me to the point of intersection between dance history and book history – I am, of course, both a dance historian and a rare books curator.

My new research involves John Essex, who is well known to almost everyone interested in baroque dance as the translator of both Feuillet’s 1706 Recüeil de contredances and Rameau’s 1725 Le Maître a danser. For the Furthur Improvement of Dancing was published in London in 1710 and The Dancing-Master followed in 1728. I did quite a lot of research on Essex when I wrote his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. I’ve just gone back to my notes and, with a bit of additional work, I’ve made some interesting discoveries. I don’t know whether what I have found is already out there (some of it definitely is), but here is a summary of the publication of history of each of Essex’s translations. In both cases, this can only be described as convoluted!

For the Furthur Improvement of Dancing was first mentioned in the Tatler on 25 March 1710 and again on 30 March. Here is the advertisement from 30 March.

Tatler 30 Mar 1710

As you can see, the volume was offered for 5 shillings (at least £16 at today’s values, and probably more like £40 or even £50). Another advertisement in the Spectator for 5 March 1712 referred to the ‘3d Edition’, although there seems to be no record of a second edition and I don’t know of a surviving copy of either a second or a third edition. (The English Short Title Catalogue shows that there were at least two different editions, or issues, but I’m not going to get into the arcane niceties of historical bibliography here).

There is, however, another very different edition of this text. This survives in a single copy which is now in the British Library. I have not been able to find an advertisement for this, which tends to confirm that it was made as a presentation copy for Caroline, Princess of Wales around 1715. Essex’s original 1710 edition is an octavo, a quite small book. The later edition is a much larger folio, with additional country dances and a ‘new French Dance Call’d the Princess’s Passpied’ choreographed and notated by Essex himself. Here is the title page of the 1710 edition.

Essex Further Improvement 1710

Here is the title page of the later edition.

Essex Further Improvement 1715

The plates for the country dances in the original edition are printed four to a page in the new edition, as here.

Essex Further Improvement 1715 Trip

Essex added four new country dances, which follow that same convention but were obviously engraved on single plates. Here is the first plate of one of them.

Essex Further Improvement 1715 Liberty

I knew that the publication history of The Dancing-Master was complicated, but my additional research has managed to add to the confusion. The title page of Essex’s original edition is dated 1728. Here is the advertisement in Mist’s Weekly Journal for 13 January 1728

Mist's 13 Jan 1728

I haven’t been able to track down a later advertisement confirming that it was indeed published the following week. However, the Country Journal or the Craftsman for 22 November 1729 has another advertisement for the self-same book, which says ‘This Day in Published’ albeit with a different list of booksellers. The paper ran another identical advertisement on 27 December 1729.

On 24 December 1730, the Grub Street Journal declared ‘This Day is published, the second edition’ of The Dancing-Master, with the added enticement that it appeared ‘With the Approbation of Mr. Pecour, Master of the Opera at Paris, and Mr. L’Abee, Court Master to the present Royal Family’. The next advertisement I have been able to find is in the Country Journal or the Craftsman again, on 1 January 1732, saying the same thing (minus the ‘Approbation’) and with different booksellers. All of these ‘editions’ are evidently the same, including the ‘Figures for their better explanation. In sixty Draughts. Done from the Life, and engraved on copper plates’, all signed ‘G.A.’ or ‘G. Alsop’ in the surviving copies. There is a second edition of Essex’s The Dancing-Master dated 1731 on the title page.

On 5 May 1733, the Country Journal and Craftsman announced ‘Just Published, The Dancing Master. Third Edition with Additions, all the Figures newly done from the Life, and engraved by G. Bickham’. Yet another advertisement in the Grub Street Journal for 8 November 1733 declared ‘Just Publish’d, the Second Edition with Additions’ of The Dancing-Master, with some further information:

‘N.B. The Figures in the first Edition being ill design’d, are all entirely new drawn from the Life, and engraved by G. Bickham, jun. Those Gentlemen or Ladies who have clean Books, shall have them changed for this new Edition gratis, if they please to send to Mr. Essex in Roode-Lane, Fenchurch-street.’

It would be interesting to know who posed for these ‘Figures … drawn from the Life’ (the same claim was made for Alsop’s drawings). The story does not end there, for the Country Journal or the Craftsman for 5 January 1734 advertised ‘This Day is Published’ The Dancing-Master, with no mention of an edition.

Here are the title pages from the 1728 and 1731 editions.

Here is one of Alsop’s plates, beside the corresponding plate by Bickham, so you can verify the truth of the assertion in the Grub Street Journal advertisement.

I have to be a resourceful if I am to find suitable illustrations – the Bickham one on the right is actually taken from Cyril Beaumont’s 1931 translation of Rameau’s Le Maître a danser (Beaumont chose to make his own translation of that text, but used the Bickham plates from Essex’s edition).

There was just one more ‘Second Edition’ of The Dancing-Master, announced in the Daily Advertiser for 12 January 1744.

Daily Advertiser 12 Jan 1744

Look particularly at the foot of the advertisement, which tells us that ‘There are but very few left of this Second Edition’. I know of two surviving copies, which has 1744 on the title page and uses Bickham’s plates. This final ‘edition’ appeared very shortly before Essex’s death. He was buried in St Dionis Backchurch in the City of London on 6 February 1744.

So, what was going on with all these ‘editions’? In fact, apart from the new plates, they were not really new editions at all but reissues. Close examination of the surviving copies, by several researchers independently, indicates that all have the same setting of the text and so were all printed in one run. Essex’s The Dancing-Master was expensive. One guinea approximates to at least £100 today, more likely to between £200 and £300. The original print run was evidently too ambitious for the market, as the book was probably of more interest to provincial dancing masters than to the aspiring metropolitan ballroom dancers it was principally aimed at. The advertisements thus represent a series of increasingly ingenious (or desperate) marketing ploys to sell the rather too many remaining copies.

There is much more to say about John Essex and his two translations, not least in relation to rival dancing masters and to the ingenious George Bickham junior, but I will leave it there – for now at least.

Minuets on the London Stage

Those of you who are familiar with the minuet probably know it best as the pre-eminent ballroom duet of the 18th century. Some will have encountered it within the figure dances in Edmund Pemberton’s An Essay for the Further Improvement of Dancing, published in 1711, while others may have learnt one or other of the notated minuets. How many of you have discovered that the minuet, in various guises, was regularly performed in London’s theatres throughout the 1700s? I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of these stage minuets.

Some time ago, I compiled a list of entr’acte performances of minuets on the London stage between 1700 and 1760. Extensive as it is, the list certainly has omissions, since the surviving advertisements do not always provide full details of the dances performed each evening. The earliest mention is a solo Minuet, performed with a Chacone and a Jigg by the dancer Miss Lindar at Drury Lane on 30 October 1717. This is very unlikely to have been the first solo minuet given in London’s theatres. The ‘Menuet performd’ by Mrs Santlow’, published in notation within Anthony L’Abbé’s A New Collection of Dances in the mid-1720s, may well date to between 1708 and 1712 – although there is no advertisement to confirm this. I have danced this choreography many times and I love the intricacy of its steps, its subtly allusive figures and its unusual use of the stage space. Here is the final plate of the dance, which I think shows all of those characteristics.

Menuet Solo 1725 21

Hester Santlow is not billed in a solo minuet until 25 March 1731, when she danced a Chacone and a Minuet in the entr’actes at Drury Lane, but the dance must surely have been part of her repertoire long before then. There is no way of telling whether she continued to perform L’Abbé’s solo, or had new minuet choreographies created for her (or crafted her own dances) over the years.

Another solo minuet which has escaped record in The London Stage is Kellom Tomlinson’s ‘Minevit’ created for Mrs Schoolding to dance in The Island Princess at the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre in 1716. In comparison to Mrs Santlow’s ‘Menuet’, this is a miniature (32 bars of music and 16 minuet steps to 120 bars and 60 minuet steps), but Tomlinson adds complexity with successive half-turns in several steps (which are all variants on the contretemps du menuet).

MInevit Tomlinson 1

Later solo minuets in the period I am looking at apparently include a ‘Minuet in Boy’s Cloaths’, danced by Mlle Grognet at Lincolns Inn Felds on 18 April 1734. I am uncertain about this one, as Mlle Grognet was billed as dancing a minuet in ‘Men’s Clothes’ with other female dancers several times that season. I suggest that they were dancing a version of the ballroom minuet.

Solo minuets were rarely advertised and the last examples before 1760 were performances by young actresses. At Drury Lane Miss Pritchard ‘Danc’d a Minuit for the King’ in a Masquerade Dance inserted into Mrs Centlivre’s The Wonder on 8 November 1756. The performance had been commanded by George II. Was this choreography closer to Thomas Caverley’s Slow Minuet … for a Girl than to Mrs Santlow’s sophisticated ‘Menuet’? If it was, in fact, a solo minuet.

The minuet was usually performed as a duet in London’s theatres, although the earliest advertisement dates only to 14 April 1726 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, when Glover and Mrs Laguerre did the honours. As with the majority of bills on which the Minuet appears, the performance was a benefit (in this case for the actor-singer John Laguerre and his wife Mrs Laguerre). The next advertisement for a Minuet was not until 3 May 1731, when Glover danced at his own benefit with Mlle Sallé. Thereafter, the minuet became a fixture in the bills for benefit performances. It was given by a galaxy of star dancers (as well as those of lesser rank) – Desnoyer and Mrs Booth (Hester Santlow before her marriage in 1719), Desnoyer and Mlle Sallé in 1735 (performed at each other’s benefits), Desnoyer and Signorina Barberini in 1741 and 1742. If Glover began the idea, Desnoyer seems to have established the minuet as an entr’acte dance of choice for benefits. Anne Auretti would do the same from 1748 into the early 1750s.

What were these minuets like? Were they essentially the ballroom minuet, designed as demonstrations of perfect – and perfectly restrained – style and technique, albeit scaled-up for the stage? Or were they heightened forms of the dance, with virtuoso steps and figures and perhaps few, or no, minuet steps? I will return to this question in a later post.

One issue I will explore here is the question of costume. When George Desnoyer and Marie Sallé danced a Minuet together at Drury Lane on 17 March 1735 (for his benefit) and he then performed a Minuet with Mrs Walter for another benefit on 22 March, they were described as dancing ‘in modern Habits’. They were not so described when Desnoyer danced a Minuet with Marie Sallé at Covent Garden on 24 April 1735 (for her benefit). The phrase ‘in modern Habits’ had not been used in advertisements before then and was only occasionally used later – most often, but not always, when Desnoyer was dancing – and only for minuets. The last such usage seems to have been for his benefit on 13 March 1738, when he again danced a Minuet with Mrs Walter.

What did ‘in modern Habits’ mean? When I first encountered it, I assumed that it meant that the dancers were wearing fashionable dress, rather than more archaic court costume (the ‘grand Habit’ of formal court wear). Returning to it now and looking more closely at its use in advertisements, I wonder if I had that the wrong way round. What illustrations there are of couples dancing the minuet in a ballroom setting (I know of none in a theatre) all show them in what looks like fashionable dress. The range of dancers who performed minuets in London’s theatres suggest that this was the case on stage too. So, did ‘in modern Habits’ suggest that Desnoyer and his partners wore the latest form of court dress, with him in an elaborate but fashionable suit and her in a court mantua with a hooped skirt rather than the stiff-bodied gown that was already beginning to disappear in England? I really need a costume expert to answer this!

Here is Augusta, Princess of Wales, in a stiff-bodied gown. The portrait, by Charles Philips, was painted at the time of her marriage in 1736.

Augusta Princess of Wales 1736

I have been unable to find a depiction of a court mantua of that period, but here is a portrait of Lady Betty Germain (also by Charles Philips) in a very elaborate mantua painted in 1731.

(c) National Trust, Knole; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

In both cases the skirt is far smaller than the dimensions it would attain in the 1740s. Desnoyer was, of course, part of court circles as dancing master to Frederick, Prince of Wales and some of his siblings, as well as (from 1736) Princess Augusta.

A minuet was quite often added to another ball dance at benefit performances. I have written in other posts about Aimable Vainqueur (the ‘Louvre’) and La Mariée on the London stage. Both were quite often performed with a Minuet, as were L’Abbé’s Prince of Wales’s Saraband, The Britain or Britannia (most likely Pecour’s La Bretagne) and even Isaac’s The Union, as well as a variety of named and unnamed ball dances that have not survived in notation. There were also minuets for three and for four, a Grotesque Minuet and a Mock Minuet. I hope to return to some, if not all, of these in later posts.

How Easy Are Regency Quadrille Steps?

In an earlier post, Jumping or Rising? Regency Quadrille Steps, I admitted that I had found it difficult to learn the step sequences used for the various quadrille figures in Strathy’s Elements of the art of dancing (1822) and Gourdoux-Daux’s Elements and principles of the art of dancing (translation, 1817). I’m still puzzling over the reasons for this. I’ve been dancing quadrilles for a good few years, admittedly using only a small range of steps, and my background in ballet (as well as my work on baroque dance) means that I can usually pick up step sequences quite quickly. So, in this post, I thought I would take a closer look at what made the new quadrille sequences so challenging.

I’ll begin with the upper body and the arms. Strathy advises:

‘The graceful display of the arms depends greatly on the manner in which the elbows and wrists are turned. The arms should be held in a rounded form, so that the elbows and wrists make the least appearance possible; the elbows turned forward in a small degree, and the wrists held in contrast with them; the hands gently rounded, and the thumbs placed on the joint, or rather over the first joint of the fore-finger, and turned towards the sides. In this position, the arms have a much more delicate appearance, than when the back of the hands are held foremost’.

The lady, of course, holds her skirt, and Strathy helpfully provides illustrations.

The arms are in what is nowadays called a bras bas position and this is where they stay, except when taking hands with another dancer in the quadrille set. Strathy places a lot of emphasis on the ‘proper deportment of the body’ and the ‘proper disposition of the waist’. It takes quite a lot of practice to control the upper body (including the head and the shoulders) and keep the arms still without becoming tense and looking stiff.

In my earlier post, I looked at whether regency dancers jumped or merely rose for their springing steps. With further experimentation, and advice from the dancing master who began this enquiry, I came to the conclusion that the answer was somewhere between the two and that some steps, for example the jeté, travel relatively little. This style of dancing is far more contained than modern ballet. Just as much as its baroque predecessor, it requires what Strathy calls ‘à-plomb,- that steadiness and facility of execution’ achieved by keeping the weight well over the feet.  At the end of each step, you must be ready to go in any direction (or none) – just as in baroque dance. I am beginning to master this, but it has taken quite a while.

My main struggles have been with the sequences used in regency quadrilles. As I tried, and failed, to learn these well enough to do them without repeatedly checking the notes, I attempted to analyse what was going on. I came to the conclusion that I was actually trying to replicate what was expected in modern ballet. I was just too used to sequences that were fully symmetrical as well balletic conventions for closing the working foot either ‘under’ or ‘over’. Baroque dance, of course, works differently but I’ve almost always been learning notated dances and not short step sequences.

I’ll give, as an example of how regency quadrille sequences work, one of Gourdoux-Daux’s alternatives for traverser – in which the dancer crosses the set to the other side. Most of us (myself included) generally use the sequence of three temps levé-chassé ending with a jeté and assemblé.  Here is what Gourdoux-Daux suggests (and this is only one of several alternatives offered by him and Strathy):

‘Presenting the right shoulder to your opposite dancer, perform the glissade above with the right foot, glissade under, jeté in the third position under the left foot, turning round on that side at the same time. Then do the assemblé with the left foot under the right. To complete this trait, rise sisone under with the left foot, glissade above with it, glissade under and assemblé with it under the right foot.’

The description does need a bit of interpretation, but it is an asymmetric sequence and you have to get the correct foot in front at the end of each glissade as well as finishing your jeté and assemblés ‘under’. You also have to be ready to change orientation, as well as direction, immediately after dancing to the right side and the left. It has taken me a while to get it right.

Perhaps my problems also related to the fact that I was trying to learn several different sequences (for dos-à-dos, traverser, chassé croisé and dancing right and left) all at the same time, as well as having very little time for practice each week. I’m sure that it would have taken regency dancers some weeks of careful tuition by an expert dancing master before they became proficient. Still, never underestimate the skills of even amateur dancers in history!

 

Morgiana in the Ballroom

At a workshop recently, I learnt an early 19th-century English dance with the name Morgiana in the title. The teacher (who is always finding new country dances and quadrilles from this period) mentioned that it was only one of several dances in which her name features. So, who was Morgiana and why was she so popular in the ballroom?

A quick search on the web revealed that she is a character in the Arabian Nights’ Entertainment and that she features in the tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. This collection of stories reached western Europe in a French translation early in the 18th century and was quickly translated into English in a version which went through many editions and remained popular well into the 19th century. In the modern edition I have, Morgiana is described as ‘a cunning artful slave, so fruitful in her inventions, that she would succeed in the most difficult undertaking’. In fact, she plays a central role in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, saving her master from death several times – it is she who kills the forty thieves.

Morgiana’s last exploit comes as Ali Baba is, unwittingly, entertaining the captain of the thieves who intends to murder him. She employs a particularly interesting ‘invention’ to outwit the would-be killer. She ‘dressed herself like a dancer, girded her waist with a silver-gilt girdle, to which there hung a poniard of the same metal, and put a handsome mask on her face’. The story goes on:

‘Morgiana, who was an excellent dancer, danced after such a manner as would have created admiration …

After she had danced several dances with a great deal of justness, she drew the poniard, and holding it in her hand, danced a dance, which was very surprising for the many different figures and fine movements it required.’

At the end of her dance, Morgiana stabs and kills the captain, saving Ali Baba once again. She has already earned her freedom, so her final reward is to marry Ali Baba’s son.

Such a colourful and exciting tale was ripe for adaptation on the London stage, although it apparently had to wait until the early 19th century for its first production. On 8 April 1806, Drury Lane presented The Forty Thieves, a ‘New Grand Operatical Romance’ with a scenario by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, music by Michael Kelly and ‘Ballets and Action’ by James Harvey d’Egville. The playbill shows that it was a lavish production.

Forty Thieves DL 1806

Other versions of The Forty Thieves soon followed in London’s minor theatres, including one as late as 1835 at the Lyceum. The Drury Lane ‘melo-dramatic romance’ was quickly published, as was its vocal score. Further versions of Ali Baba; or, The Forty Thieves destroyed by Morgiana were published around Britain into the mid-19th century, suggesting that many provincial theatres also gave performances of the piece.

Of course, Morgiana danced in The Forty Thieves. In a printed edition of the play, she is described in the penultimate scene as appearing ‘in a dancing dress, with gold pitcher, (splendid) and goblet’ (the original manuscript ignores the pitcher and goblet but says she has ‘a dagger in her girdle’). While the printed text says only that there is a ‘short dance by Figurantes, then by Morgiana with Tambourine’ the manuscript expands this:

‘Morgiana’s Dance in which imitating two or three of the Passions she prevents Hassarac’s [the captain] attempts to assassinate Ali Baba without her intention being discover’d by Hassarac or Ali Baba & Family – Hassarac has, at last, lifted up his dagger & is on the very point of stabbing Ali Baba when she seizes his arm and in a violent struggle she forces the Robber to plunge his weapon in his own breast.’

It was surely Morgiana’s tambourine dance (as much as her dramatic action) that caught the imagination of the public and encouraged dancing masters to use her name, and perhaps her music, to create new dances for the ballroom – some of which my 21st-century dancing master has re-discovered.

Here is Morgiana dressed to dance, and to kill!

 

Morgiana Gallica

England’s Royal Dancing Masters, 1714-1788

On 1 August 1714, Queen Anne died and the Elector of Hanover became King George I. He arrived in England with his son, George Prince of Wales, in September. The following month Caroline Princess of Wales arrived with her three daughters, Anne the Princess Royal, Princess Amelia and Princess Caroline. The couple’s son, Prince Frederick, remained in Hanover as the representative of the electoral family. For the first time since the turn of the century, the royal family included children who would need the tuition of a dancing master.

There seem to have been at least two contenders for the role. John Essex made a pitch for the post with a new edition of his translation of Feuillet’s 1706 collection of contredanses, For the Further Improvement of Dancing (first published in 1710). This seems to have appeared in 1715 and is known from a copy now in the British Library in London. Essex reprinted the treatise in a much larger folio format, adding five new country dances and a ballroom duet the Princess’s Passpied. On the title page he pointed out that he taught ‘all the Ball Dances of the English and French Court’. More tellingly, he dedicated the new edition to Caroline, Princess of Wales, with particular reference to her ‘Patronage and Encouragement’ of the art of dancing. The single surviving copy may once have belonged to Caroline herself.

The other contender, who would become royal dancing master, was Anthony L’Abbé. His ballroom duet, The Princess Royale ‘a new dance for his Majesty’s birth day 1715’ must have been published in the Spring of 1715 (George I’s birthday was on 28 May). L’Abbé included a dedication to the five-year-old princess, revealing that he had already been appointed as her dancing master.

‘Madam, I should not think I entirely deserved the Honour of Instructing Your Royal Highness in the Art of Dancing, did I only confine myself in teaching You what has been published by other Masters.’

He went on to offer her his new dance, the first in a series that he (like Mr Isaac before him) would create for royal birthday celebrations.

Anthony L’Abbé had begun his career at the Paris Opéra in 1688 and came to London in 1698 at the invitation of the actor-manager Thomas Betterton. That year, L’Abbé danced before William III at Kensington Palace and in 1699 he and the visiting French star Claude Ballon performed a duet before the King, later published in notation. L’Abbé danced and choreographed in London’s theatres for several years. Like Isaac, he seems initially to have had no official appointment as royal dancing master. By 1720, though, he was receiving an annual salary to teach the three princesses. It is worth noting that L’Abbé was Mr Isaac’s brother-in-law, suggesting an element of family interest (if not inheritance) in the post. His tenure lasted until 1737, just a few years after his eldest pupil Anne the Princess Royal married Prince William of Orange and left England. He may also have taught the younger children of the Prince and Princess of Wales, Prince William, Princess Mary and Princess Louisa.

L’Abbé was succeeded by Leach Glover who, according to Read’s Weekly Journal or British Gazetteer 7 January 1738, ‘was appointed Dancing Master to the Royal Family’ at the beginning of that year. Like L’Abbé, Glover danced for many years on the London stage before retiring as a performer in 1741. The reason behind the choice of him to teach the younger children of George II and Queen Caroline remains obscure – he does not seem to have moved in court circles or to have been related to L’Abbé in any way. Glover apparently taught Prince William and the princesses Amelia, Caroline, Mary and Louisa. Princess Mary married Frederick, Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel in 1740, for which Glover created his only known ballroom duet The Princess of Hesse, published in notation that year. He continued to be listed in The Court and City Register as royal dancing master until at least 1759, by which time his only pupil was Princess Amelia (Princess Caroline had died in 1757 and Princess Louisa had married Prince Frederick of Norway in 1743). Leach Glover died in 1762.

Prince Frederick had his own dancing master in Hanover. George Desnoyer was first advertised on the London stage at Drury Lane on 11 January 1721, dancing there for the rest of the season and returning in 1721-1722. Three dances created for him by Anthony L’Abbé and published in notation around that time show him to have been a virtuosic dancer. He may have been born in Hanover, where his father (who had danced at the Paris Opéra) was dancing master to the Elector. In 1722, Desnoyer was appointed in succession to his father, who had died the previous year. The Weekly Journal or Saturday’s Post 15 September 1722 reported:

‘One Mr. De Noye, a Dancing Master, is gone over to teach Prince Frederick, for which we hear his Majesty allows him a Sallary of Five Hundred Pounds per Annum.’

If the reporter had not highly inflated the amount, it must have reflected Desnoyer’s appointment as court dancing master and not simply as personal tutor to the prince.

In 1729, Prince Frederick came to London at the command of his father, now King George II. Desnoyer was dismissed from his post in Hanover the following year. He later followed his pupil to England, making his first appearance in nearly ten years at Drury Lane on 20 December 1731. He would enjoy a renewed and very successful career on the London stage until 1742. There is much evidence to suggest that Desnoyer was close to Prince Frederick, so it is not surprising that when the Prince married Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha in 1736 Desnoyer quickly became her dancing master. He subsequently began to teach the couple’s children. The General Advertiser 1 August 1748, reporting on the celebrations for the birthday of their eldest daughter, described Desnoyer as ‘Dancing Master to the Prince of Wales’s children’. By then, there were five – Princess Augusta, Prince George (later King George III), Prince Edward, Prince William and Prince Henry. George Desnoyer continued to receive a salary as dancing master to Princess Augusta’s children until 1764 (Prince Frederick died in 1751). He may have died not long after.

The last of the royal dancing masters with whom I am concerned provides further evidence of a hereditary strand to the appointment. Philip Denoyer (his preferred spelling) is listed as dancing master in the household of the Princess Dowager of Wales by the Royal Kalendar in 1767, having taken up the post the previous year. Over the following years, he appears as dancing master to the children of King George III and Queen Charlotte. He taught George Prince of Wales (later Prince Regent and King George IV), Prince Frederick, Prince William, Prince Edward, Prince Ernest and Prince Adolphus. He continued as dancing master to the younger princes until 1788, the year he died. There is no evidence to suggest that Philip Denoyer ever appeared on the stage, marking a break in tradition. Such dance training as he received must surely have been from his father, and may well have been limited to ballroom and country dances. He brings to an end the service by the Desnoyer family to the Hanoverian royal family that had lasted for nearly 100 years, from the first employment of his grandfather by the Elector of Hanover in 1694.

There are, so far as I know (and I would be happy to be proved wrong), no surviving portraits of Anthony L’Abbé, Leach Glover, George Desnoyer or his son Philip. There is only Hogarth’s caricature of George Desnoyer, used in his painting ‘Taste in High Life’ as well as the print ‘The Charmers of the Age’ and within plate 1 to The Analysis of Beauty. Hogarth’s cruel depiction probably belongs to the final years of Desnoyer’s career in the early 1740s. Here he is with his last dancing partner La Barberina in ‘The Charmers of the Age’.

Charmers of the Age BM

England’s Royal Dancing Masters, 1660-1714

When Charles II was restored to his throne in 1660, it seems that he lost little time in appointing a royal dancing master. The patent for Jerome Francis Gahory as ‘dancing master to his Majesty’ is dated 19 April 1665, but other evidence suggests that he had taken up his post by Christmas 1660. He was the first of a series of dancing masters employed to teach members of the royal family during the late 17th and 18th centuries. This post looks at the period 1660 to 1714. A second post will look at 1714 to 1788.

Gahory was sworn as a ‘Groom of her Majesty’s Privy Chamber’ on 21 July 1663 but, as my post on Catherine of Braganza suggests, he must have begun teaching her some months earlier. A later document specifies his duties as ‘attending and teaching the art of dancing to the King and Queen at all times when he shall be required’.Gahory may well have been required to decide on and teach the dances given at court balls and even been involved in the more elaborate court entertainments that included dancing. Various records suggest that he held his post until at least 1688, and that he was called upon to teach royal scholars even later.

In Edmund Pemberton’s An Essay for the Further Improvement of Dancing, published in 1711, Gahory is mentioned in the dedication of part two as ‘the admirable Mr. Goree’. The dedicatee is the Duchess of Buckingham and Normanby who is described as his ‘last Masterpiece’ and Pemberton tells us that Gahory ‘had the Honour to teach eight or nine Crown’d Heads, and likewise most of our Quality’ during his long career. Apart from Charles II and his Queen, who were these ‘Crown’d Heads’? He certainly taught three more Queens, for in 1669 he is listed among the officers and servants to James, Duke of York’s eldest daughter Princess Mary (later Queen Mary II) and in 1677 he is recorded as dancing master to the Duchess of York (Mary of Modena, later James II’s Queen) and the Duke’s younger daughter Princess Anne (later Queen Anne). By implication, he may have taught the Duke of York (later James II) himself and perhaps even William of Orange (later William III and known as a good dancer) when he married Princess Mary in 1677. Gahory had begun his career in Paris, where he appeared in the Ballet du Dérèglement des Passions in 1648. Might he also have given lessons to the young Louis XIV? His last royal pupil seems to have been Anne’s son William, Duke of Gloucester, to whom he gave lessons in 1694. Jerome Gahory died, a very rich man, in 1703.

In 1681, the reversion of Gahory’s post was granted to Francis Thorpe who thereby became his designated successor. Quite by accident, I discovered that Francis Thorpe was the famous Mr Isaac. The clue lay in Gahory’s will, for he left the residue of his English estate (he also had a considerable estate in France) to ‘Francis Thorpe his nephew (known by the name of Isaac)’. Francis Thorpe was the son of Gahory’s sister and Isaac Thorpe. His father, named as ‘Monsr. Isac’ was described in 1653 as one of the best dancing masters in Paris. Francis Thorpe may have used the name ‘Mr Isaac’ as a compliment to his father as well as to show his lineage with its associated status. Isaac Thorpe may have danced alongside Gahory in the 1648 ballet de cour mentioned above. Francis Thorpe seems to have danced (under the name Isaac) in the French comédies-ballets Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (1670) and Psyché (1671).  By 1673 the younger ‘Mr Isaac’ was in England and in 1675 he danced in the English court masque Calisto.

Isaac Thorpe died in London in 1681, so references to the dancing master ‘Mr Isaac’ after that date must refer to his son. There is evidence for him teaching several young women, some of who appeared at court, including Katherine Booth, who may have danced a solo at a birth night ball in 1689, and Anne South, one of the Maids of Honour, in 1694. Oddly, there seems to be no direct evidence of him teaching Princess Anne, apart from the testimony of John Essex in his Preface to The Dancing-Master in 1728.

‘The late Mr. Isaac, who had the Honour to teach and instruct our late most excellent and gracious Queen when a young Princess, first gained the Character and afterwards supported that Reputation of being the prime Master in England for forty Years together: He taught the first Quality with Success and Applause, and was justly stiled the Court Dancing-Master, therefore might truly deserve to be called the Gentleman Dancing-Master.’ (p. xi)

Princess Anne married Prince George of Denmark in 1683 and thereafter was very often pregnant, so perhaps Mr. Isaac taught her (on behalf of his uncle) before then. Mr Isaac is now best known for his series of annual dances, published in notation between 1706 and 1716, several of which were created to celebrate Queen Anne’s birthday and probably performed at the birth night balls given at court. He died in 1721 and was buried at St James’s Church in Piccadilly.

After the death of William, Duke of Gloucester in 1700 there were no young princes or princesses for England’s royal dancing master to teach. This changed with the death of Queen Anne and accession of George I in 1714. I will turn to the later royal dancing masters in my next post.

So far as I know, there is no portrait of Jerome Francis Gahory, but Francis Thorpe – Mr Isaac – was painted by Louis Goupy. The original portrait apparently does not survive, but it was engraved by George White and published early in the 18th century.

Mr Isaac

Catherine of Braganza: A Dancing Queen

Catherine of Braganza (1638-1705) is generally known as the Portuguese princess who married Charles II in 1662 and failed to provide him with an heir. As his Queen, she had much to endure – not only the King’s repeated and flagrant infidelities but also the spiteful politics of the English court. Much less well known is her love of dancing and her role in the promotion of dancing both at court and on the London stage.

Catherine of Braganza Huysmans 2

Attributed to Jacob Huysmans. Queen Catherine of Braganza, 1660-1670

She is first recorded as attending a ball at court on 31 December 1662, just a few months after her arrival and marriage. Samuel Pepys records the entrance of ‘the King and Queen, the Duke and Duchesse [of York], and all the great ones’. On this occasion, the Queen seems not to have danced, for Charles II ‘takes out the Duchess of Yorke, and the Duke the Duchesse of Buckingham, the Duke of Monmouth my Lady Castlemayne, and so other lords other ladies; and they danced the Bransle’. Pepys also mentioned that ‘when the King dances, all the ladies in the room, and the Queen herself, stands up’. Catherine of Braganza had a sheltered upbringing so she may not have been familiar with the courante, the formal couple dance repeated several times after the bransles, and she was unlikely to have encountered the English country dances which followed.

Charles II had appointed a royal dancing master, the Frenchman Jerome Francis Gahory, around Christmas 1660. In July 1663, Gahory was sworn as a groom of the Queen’s Privy Chamber. He must have begun teaching the Queen some months earlier, for John Evelyn records a ball at court on 5 February 1663 at which both the King and the Queen danced. On 11 May 1663, the French visitor Balthasar de Monconys wrote of the Queen’s ‘petit bal en privé’ at which ‘L’on commença le bal par un branle comme en France, & ensuite l’on dança des courantes & d’autres danses; le Duc d’York commença avec la Reyne’ adding ‘Quand elle ou le Roy dansoient, toutes les Dames demeuroient debout’. Catherine of Braganza had obviously learnt both the steps and the etiquette of the court ball quickly. Sadly, we have no record of the lessons she must have had (presumably from Gahory) to acquire this new skill.

The first ball to celebrate Queen Catherine’s birthday that we know of took place at Whitehall Palace on 15 November 1666. I have discussed the account by Pepys in another post, ‘The Restoration Court Ball’. There were certainly further birthday balls for the Queen in 1671, 1672, 1673, 1675, 1676, 1677, 1681 and 1684, enough to establish such events within the annual court calendar well into the 18th century. Such accounts as survive of Catherine of Braganza’s birthday balls tend to be brief, particularly those by John Evelyn who usually fails to mention whether or not the Queen danced herself. However, Evelyn’s account of the last ball on 15 November 1684 (when the Queen would have been forty-six) tells us that ‘all the young ladys and gallants daunced in the greate hall’ suggesting that she looked on rather than dancing. He adds that ‘The Court had not been seen so brave and rich in apparell since his Majesty’s Restauration’, presumably the King was there alongside her.

The Queen was also responsible for some more elaborate entertainments with dancing. The ‘Queens’ Ballett’ was given at Whitehall Palace in the mid-1660s but seems to have left no records of its performance. It may have been the event described by Pepys on 2 February 1665, at which Lady Castlemaine and the Duke and Duchess of Monmouth among others (he does not mention the Queen) ‘did dance admirably and most gloriously’. The ‘Queen’s Masque’ given at Whitehall, probably on 20 and 21 February 1671, did leave some evidence. One would-be member of the audience wrote:

‘The Queen is preparing a ball to bee danced in the greate Hall by herself and the Dutchesse of Buckingham, Richmond, Monmouth, Mrs Berkely, and Madame Kerwell the French maid of honor. There are no men of quality but the Duke of Monmouth, all the rest are gentlemen.’

The event did not disappoint, for the writer affirmed that the performers in this grand ballet ‘danced very finely, and shifted their clothes three times’. There is evidence that the music included pieces from the ‘Ballet des Nations’ in Lully and Molière’s Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, which had been performed at the French court just a few months earlier. The ‘Queen’s Masque’ came a year before the first adaptation of the comédie-ballet reached the London stage in the form of Edward Ravenscroft’s The Citizen Turn’d Gentleman, given at the Dorset Garden Theatre in early 1672. Her lavish entertainment could not compare in scale and ambition with the court masque Calisto, given by young members of the royal family and the court before the King and Queen on 22 February 1675. Calisto, with its English and French professional dancers performing alongside the royal and noble amateurs, undoubtedly affected dancing on the London stage. The Queen’s earlier ballets must surely have influenced dancing at court as well as in the theatre.

Catherine of Braganza is well worth further study as both a dancer and a patron of dancing.

THE RESTORATION COURT BALL

Samuel Pepys provides us with two descriptions of balls at the Restoration court that deserve to be better known.

The first took place on 31 December 1662. After seeing the Duke and Duchess of York at supper, Pepys went ‘into the room where the Ball was to be, crammed with fine ladies, the greatest of the Court’, all waiting for the ball to begin.

‘By and by comes the King and Queen, the Duke and Duchesse, and all the great ones; and after seating themselfs, the King takes out the Duchess of Yorke, and the Duke the Duchesse of Buckingham, the Duke of Monmouth my Lady Castlemayne, and so other lords other ladies; and they danced the Bransle. After that the King led a Lady a single Coranto; and then the rest of the Lords, one after the other, other ladies. Very noble it was, and a great pleasure to see. Then to Country dances; the King leading the first which he called for; which was – says he, Cuckolds all a-row, the old dance of England. … The manner was, when the King dances, all the ladies in the room, and the Queen herself, stands up; and endeed he dances rarely and much better then the Duke of Yorke.’

Pepys enjoyed the occasion. ‘Having stayed here as long as I thought fit, to my infinite content, it being the greatest pleasure I could wish now to see at Court, I went out, leaving them dancing.’

On 15 November 1666, Pepys wrote of ‘the Ball at night at Court, it being the Queenes Birthday’. He took himself along to Whitehall Palace to watch the event.

‘Anon the house grew full, and the candles lit, and the King and Queen and all the ladies set. And it was endeed a glorious sight to see Mrs. Steward in black and white lace – and her head and shoulders dressed with Dyamonds. And the like a great many great ladies more (only, the Queene none); and the King in his rich vest of some rich silk and silver trimming, as the Duke of York and all the dancers were, some of cloth of silver, and others of other sorts, exceeding rich. Presently after the King was come in, he tooke the Queene, and about fourteen more couple there was, and begun the Bransles.’

Pepys tried to recall all the dancers, but could remember only some of them, ‘But all most excellently dressed, in rich petticoats and gowns and Dyamonds – and pearl.’ He then turned back to the dancing.

‘After the Bransles, then to a Corant, and now and then a French Dance; but that so rare that the Corants grew tiresome, that I wished it done. Only, Mrs. Steward danced mighty finely, and many French dances, especially one the King called the New Dance, which was very pretty. But upon the whole matter the business of the dancing itself was not extraordinarily pleasing. But the clothes and sight of the persons was indeed very pleasing, and worth my coming, being never likely to see more gallantry while I live – if I should come twenty times.’

Pepys does not say what time the ball began, but ‘About 12 at night it broke up’. He had mixed feelings about it ‘between displeased at the dull dancing, and satisfied at the clothes and persons.’

Pepys is not the most reliable narrator when it comes to dancing. His attention was constantly drawn to the women, particularly the countess of Castlemaine, and it is doubtful that he knew much about dance steps and figures. Nevertheless, he provides us with valuable information about the sequence of dances at court balls. These began with branles, led by the King, followed by a series of courantes (also initiated by the monarch) which might be interspersed with ‘French Dances’ before the country dances with which the ball ended. The ‘French Dances’ were perhaps choreographed duets – earlier versions of the ballroom dances published in notation in the early 1700s – whereas the country dances may well have been regarded as distinctly English.

The order, with its emphasis on precedence according to rank, is very similar to that outlined by Pierre Rameau in chapter 16 of Le Maître a danser, published in 1725. Charles II was the son of a French princess, Henrietta Maria, and had spent part of his exile in Paris, so he must have been well aware of the protocol governing the court balls of Louis XIV. There was also a French dancing master at the Restoration court, Jerome Francis Gahory, who must surely have been involved in organising these balls and perhaps creating choreographed dances for them, as his successors Mr Isaac and Anthony L’Abbé certainly did.

Charles II Dancing

Gonzales Coques, Charles II dancing at the Hague, May 1660? (Identification of the dancers is uncertain, but their deportment is very similar to other versions in which Charles II is recognisable)

It seems that there was a long tradition behind the grand balls at the early 18th-century French court, which was shared by the English court. Although Charles II rarely celebrated his birthday with a ball, those for his Queen became almost annual occasions. Such birthday balls would continue from the Restoration well into the 18th century. The bransles disappeared and the courante was replaced by the minuet but, except for these changes, later evidence suggests that the sequence of dances observed by Pepys remained much the same throughout the reigns of William and Mary, Queen Anne and the first three Georges.

Le Menuet de la Cour

More than three years ago, I posted a piece on Le Menuet d’Espagne, a duet published in 1715 that I had recently performed. I meant to follow it with a series of posts on various aspects of the minuet, but I went on to other topics instead. A few months ago, I performed Le Menuet de la Cour, a choreography published in notation around 1780. This minuet is, arguably, one of the most famous ballroom dances ever created. It inspired many later versions (from duets to quadrilles and beyond) and, in essence, survived for over 150 years.

Le Menuet de la Cour began life as a piece of music in Grétry’s opera Céphale et Procris, first given at Versailles in 1773. The tune was then used by the choreographer Maximilien Gardel for a minuet danced in act 2 of his ballet-pantomime Ninette à la Cour, first performed before the French court in 1777. In that production, and when the ballet arrived on the London stage in 1781, it was danced by two of the Paris Opéra’s stars Gaëtan Vestris and Anne Heinel. Was the dance published in notation by Malpied the same as the stage duet? We don’t know.

This minuet is short, with 78 bars in all, including the opening 8-bar révérence. It has an ABAABA structure. The notated Menuet de la Cour is not an orthodox ballroom minuet, despite containing figures that are quickly recognisable as the taking of right hands, the taking of left hands and the taking of both hands to draw the dance to a close. The Z-figure is there too, but it is hinted at through choreographic elaborations in each of the two B sections. The A section has 8 bars of music, but the B section is unusual with its 19 bars, if you remember that all minuet steps take two bars of music in 3/4 time. There are minuet steps, but these occur only in the two B-sections. However, much use is made of the minuet ‘grace’ steps (included since at least the early 18th century).

I have danced Le Menuet de la Cour on three separate occasions, with three different partners, and it is only this third time that I have felt I was beginning to understand and properly perform the choreography. The music, at least in the version I danced to, is dynamic. To my mind, it lends itself to heightened style and technique which is grand and almost combative. The playfulness that lies within the choreography is less obvious, and perhaps should not be emphasized.

I won’t try to analyse the dance in detail, but here are two plates from the notation. The first shows the end of the first B-section, at the finish of the Z-figure. The sequence is a series of jettés battus (unusual in the context of a minuet) followed by the pas de Marcel.

Menuet de la Cour 4

Maximilien Gardel, Le Menuet de la Cour, notated Malpied [1780?], plate 4

The other follows the second Z-figure and has a series of jettés and assemblés, followed by chassés and then a full turn on both feet ending with an ouverture de jambe. None are steps to be expected in a minuet.

Menuet de la Cour 8

Maximilien Gardel, Le Menuet de la Cour, notated Malpied [1780?], plate 8

Both sequences are followed by the anomalous single bar, used for a rond-de-jambe by the left leg, transferring the weight to leave the right foot free to begin the next step.

Is the notated Menuet de la Cour a ballroom dance? Well, yes, it is. But it is an exhibition ballroom dance meant to display before a discerning audience the technical skills, refined style and sophistication of the couple performing it. The choreography is demanding, in keeping with its stage origin.