Category Archives: Dance Treatises & Notations

The ‘Z’ Figure of the Minuet: Taubert and Tomlinson

I am not going to undertake a lengthy and exhaustive investigation of the ‘Z’ figure of the minuet. My aim is simply to discover the origins of the version I originally learned. Here, I will look at two sources in particular, and glance at some others.

The earliest notated source for a minuet comes from Jean Favier’s notation for Le Mariage de la Grosse Cathos of 1688. This minuet is for four dancers and was performed within an entertainment given by professional dancers at the court of Louis XIV. It thus falls outside my present topic. Details can, of course, be found in Musical Theatre at the Court of Louis XIV: Le Mariage de la Grosse Cathos by Rebecca Harris-Warrick and Carol G. Marsh, a study published in 1994 which includes a facsimile reprint of the manuscript.

The treatise by I.H.P. ‘Maître de danse, oder Tantz-Meister’, published in Glueckstadt and Leipzig in 1705, contains the ‘Menuet d’Anjou’ a ballroom duet for a couple. This is a choreographed dance rather than a conventional ballroom minuet, so it too falls outside my topic. The dance and its notation, together with a translation of the treatise can be found in Barocktanz / La Danse Baroque / Baroque Dance, edited by Stephanie Schroedter, Marie-Thérèse Mourey and Giles Bennett and published in 2008.

The next treatise to deal with the ballroom minuet, and apparently the earliest to look at the basic form of this dance, is Gottfried Taubert’s Rechtschaffener Tantzmeister published in Leipzig in 1717. This valuable treatise is now available in an English translation by Tilden Russell published in 2012. Taubert turns to the minuet in chapter 30 of his second book. After a lengthy discussion of the various minuet steps, he discusses the ‘principal figure of the minuet’ in chapter 33. He gives a short history of the ‘Z’ figure and identifies three versions currently in use – a reversed ‘S’, a ‘2’ and the ‘Z’. For the reversed ‘S’, Taubert prescribes sideways pas de menuet for the first semi-circle and forward pas de menuet for the second. For the ‘2’ he suggests various combinations of sideways and forwards pas de menuet, but he also says:

‘Some use only side steps throughout, in this way: three or four to the left, bringing them down to the beginning of the straight line, along which they turn and make one or two side steps to the right, thus using no forward steps in the principal figure, which I find displeasing. Also it should be remembered that nowadays many do not make the turn to the left [at the straight line], but instead, after having passed by the woman with side steps, always keeping her before their eyes, they dance backward, and then sideways to the right.’ (p. 640 original text, p. 529 translation)

So, we have another backwards step – although Taubert’s sequence is not the same as Rameau’s.

For the ‘Z’ version of the figure, Taubert says ‘Two side steps to the left are made along the upper horizontal line, two or three forward steps along the long middle line, and another one or two side steps to the right along the lower horizontal line’ (p. 640, p. 529. Taubert is describing the figure as danced by the man). He adds ‘Recently it was reliably reported to me that two royal personages were seen dancing this figure with nothing but side steps from right to left, circling round each other at the same time; but I would never lightly advise anyone to try this’. Taubert also notates the ballroom minuet – the ‘Z’ figure looks like this (p. 658, p. 541):

As you can see, there are two pas de menuet à trois mouvements to the left, two more forward and two pas de menuet à deux mouvements to the right having turned around the left shoulder. The half turn is divided into two quarter-turns performed over the final demi-jeté of the fourth pas de menuet and first demi-coupé of the fifth.

In Le Maître a danser, some eight years later, Rameau explained that Guillaume-Louis Pecour had been responsible for changing the original reversed ‘S’ to a ‘Z’ figure (chapter 22, p. 84).

In his Trattato del Ballo Nobile published in Naples in 1728, Giambatista Dufort has a second section devoted to the minuet and looks at the ‘Z’ figure in chapter 5. Essentially, he prescribes two pas de menuet to the left, two more to cross and then two to the right. He does not mention any backwards steps.

Kellom Tomlinson published The Art of Dancing in London in 1735 (although he claimed to have completed the work in 1724, before Rameau published Le Maître a danser). He provides a detailed account of the steps and figures of the minuet in book two, reaching the ‘Figure of S reversed’ in chapter 7. Tomlinson uses eight pas de menuet for the figure. He begins with four pas de menuet à trois mouvements sideways – two to the left and two on the diagonal to meet in the middle – followed by four pas de menuet (‘one and a fleuret’) forwards to complete the ‘S reversed’. He adds that the last of the eight pas de menuet may be made sideways. Like Taubert, Tomlinson includes a notation for his ballroom minuet with two ‘S reversed’ figures in which he varies the last step.

Tomlinson also includes several engravings showing couples dancing the minuet. In this one they are about to begin the ‘S reversed’ figure.

Not only does the ‘Z’ figure include a pas de menuet backwards, in more than one treatise, but the type of step as well as the number used varies according to the different dancing masters who wrote about it in the early 1700s. I wish I had known this when I was learning the dance. The version I learned most closely resembles Taubert’s notation, although I do not remember him ever being cited as the source. I am not going to take this particular line of enquiry any further, at least for the time being, but I think there is ample material for some practical research by those who would like to get a little closer to how the minuet might have been danced at balls and assemblies in the 18th century.

The ‘Z’ Figure of the Minuet: Pierre Rameau

I recently saw a demonstration of the ‘Z’ figure of the minuet that gave me pause for thought. Citing Pierre Rameau and the diagram in Le Maître a danser, the figure was danced with two pas de menuet sideways to the left, two forwards on the diagonal and one backwards to the right. So far as I can remember, I have never been taught the ‘Z’ figure in this way, but instead of rushing to the conclusion that the interpretation must be wrong, I decided to do some research. A quick look on YouTube revealed very few videos of the ballroom minuet, let alone Rameau’s version of this dance. Of the two videos I found, the couple in one danced the final section of the ‘Z’ figure with two pas de menuet sideways to the right (turning around the right shoulder for the necessary quarter-turn), while the other couple did indeed do a single pas de menuet backwards. It was interesting that the latter video was far more recent than the former, so was I looking at a fresh interpretation of Rameau’s instructions?

Rameau deals with the figures of the ballroom minuet in his chapter XXII, ‘Du Menuet, & de la maniere de le danser régulierement’. Here is Rameau’s illustration of the ‘Z’ figure – ‘Figure Principal du Menuet’ – from this chapter.

As you can see, it says that both dancers perform two pas de menuet sideways to the left, two more forwards to pass one another by the right shoulder ‘en effaçant l’épaule’ and one backwards to the right (‘un en arriere du coté droit’).

When we turn to Rameau’s text, his written instructions are less clear.

Although he includes the numbers 1, 2 and 3 on his diagram, Rameau refers only to 2 and 3 in his text. In fact, he says nothing at all about the final step of the ‘Z’ figure. Is it possible that a part of Rameau’s instructions was omitted when the book was printed? So far as I am aware, there has been no detailed bibliographical study of this text that might address such issues.

I turned to John Essex’s 1728 translation of Rameau’s treatise, The Dancing-Master, to see whether he might have made good the omission in the original. Essex reproduces Rameau’s diagram, titling it ‘The fourth & Principal Figure of the Menuet’ and he too shows ‘two menuet Steps to ye left’ followed by ‘two forward, shading the shoulder’, but he has ‘two backwards to the right’.

Essex has made a change to Rameau’s illustration, but he merely translates the associated text without alteration.

Although Rameau’s treatise was published in 1725, was he perhaps reflecting an earlier French convention for the performance of the ‘Z’ figure? Was Essex merely making a faithful translation, or was he referring to a convention still current in English performances of the minuet?

Why was I taught a ‘Z’ figure with two pas de menuet sideways to the left, two forwards on the diagonal and two sideways to the right? Does the answer lie in other dance manuals of the early 18th century rather than in an idiosyncratic approach to dance reconstruction? I will turn to the other sources for the ‘Z’ figure in a new post.

More Steps for Cotillons

My curiosity about the change in step vocabulary between the cotillons of the 1760s and 1770s and the quadrilles of the early 1800s has been further piqued by information from an additional source. I had heard of Josson’s Traité abrégé de la danse of 1763 – I had even seen and catalogued a copy in a private collection – but I had never really taken note of its contents. Catherine Turocy of the New York Baroque Dance Company drew my attention to the digital copy on Gallica, prompting me to take a proper look. Josson is probably best known for what he has to say about the minuet but his Traité also deals with ‘les différens pas & figures des contre-danses en usage’. At the time he was writing, I think we can assume that these contredanses were in fact cotillons.

Josson lists as the basic steps – ‘les pas dont on fait usage dans les Contre-danses’ – balancé, pas de rigaudon, pas de gavotte, chassés and pirouettes. He also describes how they should be performed and there are some interesting differences from what is said elsewhere, notably by De la Cuisse. I will not go into detail here, but I will mention the pas de gavotte. Josson’s version is not the same as that of De la Cuisse (who equates it to the demi-contretems). This is what Josson says (p. 77):

This isn’t the pas de gavotte I was taught in years past either – a contretems forwards or backwards followed by an assemblé into first position, with or without a pas marché to fill the upbeat – although it obviously relates to that pas composé.

My attention was also drawn to Josson’s supplementary list of steps (p. 81):

The entre-chat, sissonne brisé and jetté battu can claim to be steps for the stage, although there is evidence beyond Josson’s Traité they were also used in the ballroom. However, I am now wondering about the term brisé. So far as I know, it isn’t found in the early 18th-century treatises, although it certainly appears in Magri’s Trattato teorico-prattico di ballo as well as some of the various treatises on the cotillon and the quadrille. In the context of social dancing, what is a brisé? Also, why does Josson list the demi-contretems here? It presumably isn’t the step described by de La Cuisse as ‘le Pas fondamental de la Contredanse’ but something altogether more demanding.

Josson has upset my notion of the cotillon as a dance with a circumscribed step vocabulary in which the emphasis is on the figures. His Traité raises questions about the range of steps actually used in these contredanses. How could this showy vocabulary be fitted into the tight figures and relentless momentum of cotillons? We still have much to learn about these demanding little choreographies.

Cotillon Steps and Quadrille Steps

The Cotillon

Cotillion Dance 1771 (2)

A few years ago, I wrote a series of posts about the cotillon steps recorded by London’s dancing masters in the 1760s. In 1762, De la Cuisse (who began the cotillon craze by publishing these dances) listed six steps in his Le Repertoire des bals ou theorie-pratique des contredansesbalancé, rigaudon, contretems, chassé, pirouette and pas de gavotte (the demi-contretems, which he described as ‘un Pas naturel; C’es le Pas fondamental de la Contredanse’). All are familiar from the dance manuals of the early 1700s. Between them, Gallini, Gherardi and Villeneuve added another six – assemblé, glissade, ‘brizè à trois pas’, ‘chassé à trois pas’, double chassé and sissonne.  Three of these were also described in the earlier manuals, while three – the brizé and chassé ‘a trois pas’ and the double chassé were apparently more recent.

The Quadrille

Quadrilles - Practising at Home

The step vocabulary for the early 19th-century quadrille was more extensive and some of the steps were certainly more challenging than any used in the cotillon. One of the earliest works to deal with the quadrille was Notions élémentaires sur l’art de la danse by J. H. Gourdoux-Daux, published in Paris in 1804. The second edition was titled Principes et notions élémentaires sur l’art de la danse pour la ville and appeared in 1811. It was presumably this edition that was translated into English for publication in Philadelphia in 1817 as Elements and Principles of the Art of Dancing as used in Polite and Fashionable Circles. This translation describes nine steps for use in quadrilles – the ‘change of foot’ (changement de jambe), assemblé, jeté, sissonne, échappé, temps levé, grand coupé, chassé and glissade. Only one, chassé, is among the cotillon steps prescribed by De la Cuisse, while three more appear in the collections published in London – assemblé, glissade and sissonne. The last of these occurs only in Villeneuve’s Collection of Cotillons and he does not describe it. By the time Gourdoux-Daux was writing, the sissonne had become a spring from two feet to one, beginning in third position and ending with the free foot either extended to second or fourth position or brought into the ankle. It is recognisable as the second part of the pas de sissonne recorded in the early 1700s.

Gourdoux-Daux published a third edition of his treatise titled simply De l’art de la danse in 1823, which is accessible digitally. It adds a tems du balonné, pas de bourrée, tems de cuisse, demi-contretems, brisé and entrechat. His third edition is described as ‘revue, corrigé et augmenté’, indicating that it contains new material. However, without access to Gourdoux-Daux’s earlier editions, it is not possible to know whether he included any of these steps before 1823 or whether his American translator simply omitted them as either not generally used or, perhaps, not appropriate for social dancing.

In 1822, Alexander Strathy published his Elements of the Art of Dancing in Edinburgh. His list has twelve quadrille steps – assemblé, jeté, glissade, sissonne, temps levé, chassé, échappé, pirouette, changement de jambe, pas de Zéphyre or pas battu, jeté tendu and jeté du côté. His vocabulary overlaps with that of Gourdoux-Daux, but both have steps not included by the other.

The only other treatise I will look at here is Charles Mason’s A Short Essay on the French Danse de Société published in London in 1827. His vocabulary overlaps with both Gourdoux-Daux and Strathy and also includes steps they do not list. Mason’s list has twenty of what he calls ‘Les Mouvemens’ – changement de jambes, assemblé, jeté, sissonne, tems levé, chassé, glissade, jeté ballonné, tems de Zéphyre, coupé, pas de basque, pas de bourrée, tems de ‘coudepied’, jeté brisé, pas tombé, fouetté, contretems, pirouette, emboîté and petits battemens. Some of these may have been embellishments to steps, rather than steps in their own right, and some may have been used only within the ‘Differens Enchainemens de Pas’ Mason refers to on his title page.

In the following table I have tried to set out the steps recommended for the cotillon and quadrille respectively, with the name of each dancing master to include it listed in order of the date of their first publication in which it appears. For the purposes of this investigation, I have omitted the Allemande step used in so many cotillons – it is probably worth another post of its own (although I did write about it a few years ago). There were, of course, several other works on dancing – and the quadrille – published in the early decades of the 19th century, so my list of steps is probably far from complete and it is certainly not definitive. How and why did the step vocabulary change and expand so much as the cotillon gave way to the quadrille?

Table of Cotillon and Quadrille Steps


Mlle Théodore and the Pas de Basque

I have been discussing quadrille steps with an historical dance teacher of my acquaintance and he has been wondering about the origins of the pas de basque. In 1827, Charles Mason described it thus in his A Short Essay on the French Danse de Société:

Mason Pas de Basque (2)

There are several versions of this step in both modern and historical genres of dance, some of which can be traced back a long way – although, so far as I know, none are given the name pas de basque before the early 19th century.

I am sure that there are various theories about the origins of the step, although from my perspective it seems likely that the versions used in early 19th-century quadrilles owe something to the vocabulary of early 18th-century ballroom dancing. Recognisably related steps can certainly be found in the notated dances of the early 1700s. Where did the name come from and when did it start to be used?

In the course of another piece of research, I came across an advertisement for a performance at the King’s Theatre on 11 January 1783 which might provide a clue. The bill that evening declared that the ballet to accompany the evening’s opera (the King’s Theatre was London’s opera house) would include ‘two Pas de Basque by Mlle Theodore’. In this case, the ‘Pas de Basque’ were evidently solo dances given by the French ballerina. She repeated her Pas de Basque several times that season. The following season, the bill for Mlle Théodore’s benefit at the King’s Theatre on 13 May 1784 announced that she ‘will also dance the favourite Pas de Basque’.

Mlle Théodore had begun her career at the Paris Opéra, where she made her debut in 1777. She had first come to London, and the King’s Theatre, for the 1781-1782 season where she had quickly become popular with critics and audiences alike.

Mlle Theodore

In 1783, she married the dancer and choreographer Jean Bercher, known as Jean D’Auberval, who would later create La Fille mal gardée with his wife in the title role.

Is it possible that these dances performed in 1783 and 1784 could have given a name to a step that would become part of the quadrille vocabulary? She seems to have made a mark with these solos. A critic in the Public Advertiser for 18 January 1783 wrote ‘The Theodore, in her two Pas de Basque, especially the latter, is every Thing that is meant by the Words Liveliness, Vigour, and Agility’. Another critic, in the Morning Herald a few days earlier on 13 January, gave additional details of the performance:

‘As long as the Theodore confines herself to those light and skipping motions in dancing, which have so powerfully recommended her to public notice, she will ever remain unrivaled. She was greatly and deservedly applauded in her two Pas de Basque; but especially in the last; when there happening a little accident of her shoe slipping off, she went on with her dance, and convinced the spectators, that shod or unshod, she is the liveliest of the lively train.’

Apart from the evident vivacity of her dancing, the mishap may well have drawn extra attention to her steps and ignited a desire to imitate them.

These Pas de Basque were performed in ‘an entirely new Ballet’ Le Tuteur trompé; or, the Guardian outwitted by Charles Le Picq, being performed for the first time on 11 January 1783. It was taken, in part, from Beaumarchais’s Le Barbier de Séville and according to the Morning Herald had dancing ‘which was mostly in the Spanish stile, and of course a novelty on this theatre’. The early 1780s were also a period when quadrilles were being danced both on stage and in the ballroom in London. Quadrilles were still quite new and may well have been establishing and extending both their steps and figures.

I don’t actually believe that Mlle Théodore and her dances introduced this step and gave it the name pas de basque. However, could they have played a part in its adoption into the ballroom and addition to the vocabulary of the newly emerging quadrille and even influenced its naming?

La Bretagne in London

A dance titled The Bretagne turns up very occasionally in the bills for London’s theatres during the first half of the 18th century. Its earliest appearance was at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 5 April 1731, when Francis and Marie Sallé danced the ‘Louvre and Bretagne’ at his benefit performance. The Louvre is, of course, Pecour’s Aimable Vainqueur which was a favourite dance of the period. From this performance, it seems clear that the second dance must have been Pecour’s La Bretagne, created in honour of the duchesse de Bourgogne following the birth of her son the duc de Bretagne in 1704. This ballroom choreography was published in notation the same year, in Feuillet’s IIIme. Recüeil de danses de bal. Here is the title page for the dance (which was evidently also sold separately) and the first plate.

In 1706, P. Siris included La Bretagne in his translation of Feuillet’s Choregraphie, published in London as The Art of Dancing by Characters and Figures. Here is the first plate.

Bretagne Siris plate 1

His version differs from Feuillet’s in some of the steps and the figures. It must have served to make the dance known in London, for John Weaver included it in the second edition of his translation of Choregraphie, Orchesography, published around 1722. Siris’s version also attracted the attention of Sir Richard Steele, who referred to the dance in his periodical The Lover on 4 March 1714. Steele mentions a separate edition of Siris’s notation of The Bretagne which had been published in London the same week (no copy is known to survive). The short essay that Steele weaves around it (with references to the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht that ended the War of Spanish Succession and made peace between Britain and France) needs detailed analysis that I cannot undertake here.

By the time that the Sallés performed it on stage in 1731, La Bretagne must have been known in London – at least to the capital’s dancing masters and perhaps to some of their pupils as well. Its next known performance on the London stage was not until 25 May 1738, when it was given (again at a benefit performance) alongside a Minuet by Miss Wright and Miss Morrison. The advertisement makes no mention of cross-dressing by one of the young women, although the practice was not unusual on the London stage. The next performance was on 5 May 1740 at Covent Garden, when James Dupré and Mrs Ozanne danced ‘The Britain (Ball Dance) and Minuet’ for his benefit. The last recorded performance was on 1 April 1742, again at Covent Garden, when Desnoyer and Sga Barberina gave ‘A Ball Dance call’d the Britannia, and a Louvre concluding with a Minuet’ for his benefit. I have wondered whether this might have been Isaac’s The Britannia, published in notation in 1706 and reissued a number of times subsequently, or perhaps a dance to music from Thomas Arne’s 1740 masque Alfred. The latter included the song ‘Rule Britannia’ and Sga Barberina had danced at the masque’s first performance before Prince Frederick at Cliveden. On reflection, I am inclined to believe that the dance at Covent Garden in 1742 was Pecour’s La Bretagne, but I cannot be sure.

La Bretagne appeared in notation many times over the years. The duet was notated afresh by Pierre Rameau and published in his Abbrégé de la nouvelle méthode, which was reissued several times after its first appearance in 1725. It also turns up in a number of manuscript sources – see the entry for the dance in Francine Lancelot’s invaluable catalogue of surviving notations La Belle Dance (1996). It is mentioned by Taubert in his Rechtschaffener Tantzmeister (1717) as well as Rameau in Le Maître a danser (1725) and Kellom Tomlinson in The Art of Dancing (1735) – in each case in relation to the performance of individual steps, indicating its use in teaching.

I haven’t diligently pursued the teaching of La Bretagne in London or elsewhere, but the dance does turn up occasionally in dancing masters’ advertisements. One, for Messrs Welch and Hart in the Public Advertiser for 14 April 1768, offers cotillons, minuets, the Louvre, Passepied, Matlotte, the ‘Almand François’ and English country dances, as well as a ‘Nouvelle Bretaigne’ listed among the duets. I haven’t been able to locate any notation for a ball dance called ‘Nouvelle Bretaigne’ but it does hint that La Bretagne was routinely offered by London’s dancing masters, so Welch and Hart were attempting to go one better.

The explicit references to the teaching of the duet in London come much later, long after it had disappeared from the theatres. An advertisement in the Morning Post for 13 September 1776 announces that ‘Mr. Ferrere’ had established himself in London.

Ferrere Morning Post 13 Sep 1776 (2)

He must surely have been the Ferrère who created some of the works preserved in the manuscript compiled in 1782 by August Ferrère, who was his son. So far as I am aware, no reference to Ferrère Senior teaching in London has previously been found. He was still successfully plying his trade some sixteen years later, as this advertisement in the Oracle from 12 April 1792 shows.

Ferrere Oracle 12 Apr 1792 (2)

The list of dances that he was teaching includes several of Pecour’s ballroom choreographies from the beginning of the 18th century. Ferrère was surely not the only dancing master to include these in his curriculum, although I have been unable to locate other examples from the earlier 1700s.

More research is needed – into the inclusion of these early ballroom dances in performances on the London stage, as well as into London’s dancing masters and what they taught. There is more to be said, too, about Pecour’s choreography for La Bretagne, but that will have to wait for another occasion.

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!


The ’Passagalia of Venüs & Adonis’ and Professional Female Dancing

The ‘Passagalia of Venüs & Adonis’ was choreographed by Anthony L’Abbé for Drury Lane’s (and London’s) leading dancer Hester Santlow. It was published in notation around 1725 in his A New Collection of Dances. It is the female counterpart to the ‘Chacone of Amadis’ for Louis Dupré who, like Mrs Santlow, has four dances in the collection. We do not know where or when she performed this solo, although I have wondered whether the ‘Passagalia’ might have been created for performance before George I at the Hampton Court Theatre. During September and October 1718, the Drury Lane Company (including Hester Santlow) gave seven performances there, some of which included ‘Entertainments of Dancing’ which were later repeated at their own theatre. Mrs Santlow was a favourite performer of the King and it would surely be appropriate for the royal dancing master to create a new choreography for her to dance before him.

I have myself performed the ‘Passagalia of Venüs & Adonis’ many times and I have also written about it. Returning to this dance after quite a while, partly for the purpose of writing this post, it still amazes me. It isn’t the longest of the surviving notated dances – that honour goes to Pecour’s ‘Passacaille pour une femme’ created for Mlle Subligny to music from Gatti’s Scylla and published in 1704 (with 219 bars of music it is 10 bars longer than L’Abbé’s ‘Passagalia’). Nor is it the best known – it cannot compete with Pecour’s ‘Passacaille pour une femme … de lopera darmide’ again created for Mlle Subligny and published around 1713 in the Nouveau recüeil de dance de bal et celle de ballet. The latter is regularly performed by specialists in baroque dance and has attracted analysis by a number of scholars.

Here, I am concerned only with the pas battus in L’Abbé’s solo, which is to music from Desmarest’s 1697 opera Vénus et Adonis. Unusually for a passacaille, this has a central 80-bar section in duple time framed by tripe-time sections of 64 and 65 bars respectively. The music provides the basis for a choreography that is richly expressive, but my focus is simply on what the notation might tell us about the technique of a leading female professional dancer at this period.

In a post of almost exactly a year ago, I looked at the jetté ‘emböetté’ and asked whether it might usually have been performed by women on stage as a demie cabriole. This step turns up several times in the ‘Passagalia’. It features in the very first variation of the dance (bar 4, plate 46) in a variant form at the beginning of a pas composé and is used, again as the first element of a pas composé, within a short passage in which Mrs Santlow travels rapidly downstage (bars 34-35, plate 48). The density of the notation makes the second of these difficult to show, but here is the first.

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 46 (2)

Another instance on plate 48 (bar 40) presents a puzzle, for at some point the notation was amended. In the British Library copy, it looks like this.

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 48 (2)

In the Bodleian Library copy, it looks like this.

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 48 Bodley (3)

In the second version, Mrs Santlow takes off from both feet and a pas battu is clearly notated. There are several small differences between the notations in these two copies. It is difficult to be certain, but these differences suggest that the Bodleian copy is a later issue than that in the British Library.

The jetté-step sequence also turns up in the duple-time section, within a repeated sequence in which the pas composé it begins alternates with another (coupépas plié). This is repeated three times and here is the second occurrence (bars 92-93, plate 51).

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 51 (2)

It is also inserted into pas composés which alternate with chassés as Mrs Santlow retreats upstage (bars 122-125, plate 52). In this case, each pas composé is different – bars 122-123 are shown first, followed by bars 124-125.

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 52 (3)

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 52 (4)

In the final triple-time section, L’Abbé plays with a similar idea (in this section, the music has the feel of duple-time). Here are the concluding bars of the sequence (bars 187-188, plate 55).

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 55 (2)

He uses the jetté-step again as the dance draws to a conclusion (bars 206-207, plate 56).

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 56 (2)

These are the last steps in which Mrs Santlow advances, before she makes her final retreat to end the solo.

There is no question that Hester Santlow could have performed any, or all, of these steps as demies cabrioles. There are just two more steps that I wish to draw attention to within this complex and surprising choreography. One is the demi entre-chat within the first triple-time section, which begins a pas composé which continues with a coupé to plié and a coupé battu avec ouverture de jambe (bar 50, plate 49).

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 49 (2)

The other is that quintessentially male step the demie cabriole en tournant un tour en saut de basque within the duple-time section (bar 129, plate 52).

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 52 (5)

Mrs Santlow does only a half-turn in the air (Feuillet notated it with a three-quarter turn followed by a quarter-turn on the concluding step), but she does perform a pas cabriolé.

The ‘Passagalia of Venüs & Adonis’ is an exceptionally demanding solo – because of its length, the complexity of its steps (there are no exactly repeated variations), its changes in time signature and its expressivity. For me, it signals very clearly that the leading female professional dancers of the early 18th century were fully the equals of their male partners when it came to pas battus.