Category Archives: Dancers & Dancing Masters

How Many Dancers Can You Fit on an Early 18th-Century London Stage?

Watching several excerpts from baroque operas performed in period style recently, I was struck by how crowded the stage was – particularly when there were also dancers. I couldn’t help wondering how this might relate to dancing in London’s theatres during the 1700s and what this might tell us about the view seen from the audience. These operas were not performed in an 18th-century theatre, although the stage and its scenery emulated its much earlier predecessors. The main differences (so far as London is concerned) were that there was no forestage (the area in front of the proscenium arch which projected into the auditorium) and the stage was not raked. I have been told that the overall space for the dancers to perform, with some variation between individual productions, was 24 feet across the front of the stage, narrowing to around 15 feet upstage and with a depth of some 10 to 12 feet. How does this compare with London’s Drury Lane, Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Covent Garden Theatres in the early decades of the 18th century?

Stages in London’s Theatres

By 1714, London had three theatres with either a patent or a license which allowed them to present a variety of entertainments to the public. Drury Lane, built in 1674, and Lincoln’s Inn Fields, reopened in 1714 after the rebuilding of an earlier theatre, offered plays and related genres with a variety of entr’acte entertainments. The King’s Theatre, known as the Queen’s Theatre when it opened in 1705, was to all intents and purposes London’s opera house offering the newly-fashionable Italian opera. Covent Garden, like the King’s Theatre an entirely new playhouse, opened in 1732 and took over the repertoire previously given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, although it also offered Italian opera from time to time. Drury Lane, Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Covent Garden all included entr’acte dances and danced afterpieces on their bills.

The three theatres used for drama accommodated their audiences on several levels. The pit was in front of and a little below the stage, the front boxes faced the stage on a level with it and the side boxes ran along the sides of the auditorium from the stage in two or more tiers at stage level and above. Some of the side boxes were within the stage area. Above the front boxes rose one or two galleries. There were no separate numbered seats and no fixed capacity at any of the theatres. On special occasions, for example performer benefits, seating could be altered by railing part of the pit into boxes and at many performances members of the audience might sit on the stage itself. Drury Lane could hold around 1000 spectators, while at Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Covent Garden there could be as many as 1400. The auditoriums were fan-shaped, rather than the horse-shoe shape more familiar to us now, and provided good sightlines from most parts of the house. The whole of each theatre was illuminated by candles, with footlights at the front of the stage, and both the auditorium and stage remained fully lit throughout the performance.

The stage itself had three distinct parts. The forestage was in front of the proscenium arch and was wider than it was deep. It was well in front of the scenery and the most brightly lit of the stage areas. The scenic stage was immediately behind the proscenium arch.  It was deeper than the forestage and narrowed progressively towards the upstage area. It was enclosed by the wings and shutters which formed the scenery, and was also the area where machines were used for special effects like flying or transformations. It contained traps for surprise appearances and disappearances. Beyond the scenic stage was the vista stage used for deep perspective scenes, an area not used for acting or dancing.  Dance historians are divided on whether dancers were able to perform within the scenic stage, because of the traps and the placing of the grooves which held the scenes and shutters. There is some evidence that the first set of shutters was normally placed some nine feet upstage of the proscenium arch, which could have allowed dancers to use the area in front of them.

This plan of the Covent Garden Theatre of 1732, published in Paris some forty years later, shows the layout of the stage and points to the area most likely to have been used by dancers.

The incomplete data from the three theatres does not readily translate into precise measurements. In The Development of the English Playhouse, Richard Leacroft provides detailed drawings for conjectural reconstructions of Drury Lane and Covent Garden, but he does not try to do the same for Lincoln’s Inn Fields. His drawings are difficult to interpret in any detail by those of us who are non-specialists in architecture. Using Leacroft together with an essay by Edward A. Langhans and a pamphlet by Paul Sawyer it is possible to provide some indicative figures (references for all these sources are given at the end of this post). At Drury Lane the forestage was some 30 feet wide and 20 feet deep, while at Covent Garden it was 30 feet wide but only 12 feet deep. The scenic stage at Drury Lane was 25 feet wide and 30 feet deep. At Covent Garden it was 30 feet wide and 30 feet deep. There are no certain figures for Lincoln’s Inn Fields, but the forestage may have been some 25 feet wide and its depth has been estimated at only 12 to 15 feet. However, a visitor who saw the playhouse more than a dozen years after it had fallen out of use for performances said that it ‘stretched itself to nearly the center of the house greatly to the dimunation of the Pit’, suggesting that it was in fact deeper than the forestage at its contemporary Drury Lane.

It is hard to assess how far the dancers moved upstage as they were performing, as this will have depended on the scenery and props for individual productions as well as the amount of upstage lighting. With this fresh review of the evidence, I think that dancers might have had a maximum space of some 30 feet by 30 feet (across and up the stage) at each of the playhouses.

Dancers on London’s Stages

How many dancers did London’s theatres have on stage at any one time in mainpieces, afterpieces and the entr’actes? I can’t answer this question definitively. For now, I will concentrate on the 1720s when, for some reason, advertisements were more detailed and specific than they were in the surrounding decades.

There were a handful of mainpieces with dancing that were given in many seasons. They were, essentially, dramatic operas. One from the Drury Lane repertoire was The Tempest and another, given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, was The Island Princess. I hope to take a closer look at each of them in due course, but for now here is an estimate of the maximum number of dancers they each put on stage at any one time – so far as I can tell from their published texts and the bills published in the newspapers and elsewhere.

The 1674 production of The Tempest (when Shakespeare’s play became a dramatic opera with alterations by Dryden, Davenant and Thomas Shadwell) called for as many as 12 Tritons for the dancing in the concluding masque of Neptune and Amphitrite. The Tritons seem to have disappeared from the cast as the masque changed in the early years of the 18th century, but none of the bills are clear as to which and how many dancing characters replaced them. The Drury Lane performance on 15 May 1734 announced a ‘Grand Dance of Spirits’ but provided no further information.

The Island Princess was first given as a dramatic opera in 1699, with swains and shepherdesses dancing in act 2 (we don’t know how many there were) and a concluding masque of the ‘Four Seasons or Love in Every Age’. The text published at the time of the 1699 performances lists at least 12 dancing characters for the masque, which ends as ‘Cupid with the four ages and four seasons, mingle in a dance’ while a chorus is sung. The stage directions are not clear about the dancers in this final choreography, but there must have been at least nine and perhaps as many as fifteen. When The Island Princess was revived at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 24 October 1729, the bill announced dancing ‘Incident to the Play’ by some 14 dancers (nine men and five women). There seems to be no way of telling how many of them performed in the masque’s concluding dance.

The Grand Dances and Grand Ballets are the most likely of the many entr’acte dances given in London’s theatres to have deployed larger numbers of dancers. Eight to ten dancers seem to have been quite usual in the 1720s and early 1730s, but there were sometimes more (particularly at Lincoln’s Inn Fields). On 6 May 1728 a ‘new Grand Dance’ was given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields by Glover with five men and five women at his benefit. On 19 April 1729 at the same theatre there was a ‘new Grand Ballet (English, French, Dutch Characters) composed by Moreau’ with six couples including Moreau and his wife. On 14 November 1724, Drury Lane had advertised a ‘new Grand Dance’ with six men and three women, a pattern that was repeated with another ‘new Grand Dance’ on 14 April 1729. Of course, there is no way of knowing if all the dancers in these choreographies actually appeared on stage together – these Grand Dances and Grand Ballets may have been divertissements rather than single dances – but it would have enhanced the spectacle if they did.

Then, there are the afterpieces. Weaver’s The Loves of Mars and Venus, first given in 1717 ad revived as late as 1724, ends with a Grand Dance by ‘Mars, with the rest of the Gods, and Goddesses’, so there were nine or perhaps ten dancers, if Cupid also joined in. I am assuming, perhaps wrongly, that the Cyclops have already left the stage. The Lincoln’s Inn Fields Apollo and Daphne; or, the Burgomaster Tricked, first given on 14 January 1726, included the triumph of Cupid with a ‘Grand Entry’ centred on Zephyrus and Flora. According to advertisements, this must have had eight dancers, with Spanish, Polish and French couples alongside Zephyrus and Flora. Drury Lane’s Cephalus and Procris, first given on 28 October 1730, culminated in a masque for Neptune and Amphitrite (which must surely have drawn on that for The Tempest) which ended with a ‘Grand Dance’. It is impossible to be sure how many dancers appeared together but there must have been between eight and fifteen.

The deployment of dancers in mainpieces and afterpieces may have taken them further into the scenic stage than would have been the case for entr’acte dances, in which the performers may well have kept to the forestage. Apart from space for the dancers to perform steps and figures, there is also the question of what the audience could see. How might a stage crowded with dancers have influenced choreographies created for them? The forestage allowed dancers to be seen from three sides as well as from above, while the rake would have helped to make dancers upstage more visible to the audience seated in the pit and boxes. We need to think beyond what we know from the notated dances, to the theatres and stages where these were performed, if we are to understand the dancing in 18th-century London theatres.

Reading List

Edward A. Langhans, ‘The Theatres’ in The London Theatre World, 1660-1800, ed. Robert D. Hume (Carbondale, 1980), 35-65

Richard Leacroft, The Development of the English Playhouse (London, 1988)

Paul Sawyer, The New Theatre in Lincoln’s Inn Fields (London, 1979)

Richard Southern, Changeable Scenery: its Origin and Development in the British Theatre (London, 1952)

Season of Dancing: 1716-1717

One of the London stage seasons I have wanted to look at more closely is 1716-1717. It was the season that saw the first performances of John Weaver’s ‘Dramatick Entertainment of Dancing’ The Loves of Mars and Venus. I am not going to explore 1716-1717 in as much detail as I did 1725-1726, although I will pick up some of the topics I mention here in later posts.

1716-1717 was the third season to follow the reopening of the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre in 1714, which ended Drury Lane’s monopoly over drama and associated entertainments. I have mentioned elsewhere that John Rich at Lincoln’s Inn Fields turned to dancing to counter Drury Lane’s far more experienced acting company. His success forced Drury Lane to take other genres, including dancing, more seriously so it could respond in kind. In 1715-1716, the forain performers Joseph Sorin and Richard Baxter had appeared at Drury Lane and presented a variety of entr’acte dances and two afterpieces which drew on the commedia dell’arte. I will return to the afterpieces, The Whimsical Death of Harlequin and La Guingette, on another occasion, but it may have been their success which prompted Drury Lane’s managers to look out for other similar entertainments and to engage the dancer and choreographer John Weaver for the next season.

During 1716-1717, Drury Lane offered 204 performances between September and the following August – including a summer season with 19 performances, which ran from 24 June to 23 August 1717. At Lincoln’s Inn Fields, there were 185 performances between October 1716 and July 1717 with no separate summer season. There was also the King’s Theatre, which offered a season of Italian opera between December 1716 and June 1717 with a total of six operas and 32 performances. At King’s, dancers were advertised at just three performances although they must have appeared more often.

The figures for performances with entr’acte dances are very different at the two main theatres. At Drury Lane there were 93 (including the summer season, 45% of the total), while at Lincoln’s Inn Fields there were 154 (83% of the total). Drury Lane had 10 performances with danced afterpieces and Lincoln’s Inn Fields had 12. However, Lincoln’s Inn Fields was evidently working hard to catch up, because their afterpieces were given in April and May – after Drury Lane’s in March and April.

As for the dancers, Drury Lane had 5 men and 3 women who danced regularly in the entr’actes, although the three women were also actresses. These dancers were:  Dupré, Boval, Dupré Jr, Prince and Birkhead; Mrs Santlow, Mrs Bicknell and Miss Younger. John Weaver and Wade danced only in afterpieces. Dupré and Mrs Santlow were the company’s leading dancers. At Lincoln’s Inn Fields there were 7 men and 3 women as regular entr’acte dancers: Thurmond Jr, Moreau, Cook, Newhouse, Delagarde, Shaw and ‘Kellum’s Scholar’ (perhaps the dancer John Topham); Mrs Schoolding, Miss Smith, Mrs Bullock. Rich’s leading dancers were Anthony Moreau and Mrs Schoolding (although Miss Smith was most often billed among the women). There were also the Sallé children, Francis and Marie, who were a special attraction. At both playhouses there were other dancers who were only billed a few times during the season, although they may have performed more often. At the King’s Theatre, the dancers were Glover, billed as ‘De Mirail’s Scholar’ and Mlle Cerail. The Sallé childen made what was apparently a single appearance there on 5 June 1717, alongside Handel’s opera Rinaldo.

Francis and Marie Sallé were making their first appearance in London. At their first performance at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 18 October 1716, they were billed as ‘two Children, Scholars of M Ballon, lately arriv’d from the Opera at Paris’ with the additional notice that ‘Their Stay will be short in England’. They were undoubtedly the star dancers of the 1716-1717 season at Lincoln’s Inn Fields.  Rich even resorted to a ‘count down’ trick to increase audiences, with an announcement on 5 December 1716 that they ‘stay but nine days longer’, while 10 December was ‘the last time but one of their Dancing on the Stage during their Stay in England’. If this was true, he must have negotiated an extension to their contract for they reappeared not only on 11 December but on 15 December (their ‘last appearance’) and again, without comment, on 20 December. They then danced regularly until 10 June 1717.

Unsurprisingly, there were far more entr’acte dances advertised at Lincoln’s Inn Fields than at Drury Lane. Rich’s dancers gave 27 (6 group dances, 18 duets and 3 solos), while those at Drury Lane gave only 10 (5 group dances, 1 trio, 1 duet and 3 solos). Two of the Drury Lane dances – a solo Mimic Song and Country Dance and the group Countryman and Women – were only given during the summer season. The overlap in entr’acte dances between the two theatres was among the commedia dell’arte numbers. On 18 October, Drury Lane advertised Dame Ragundy and her Family, in the Characters of a Harlequin Man and Woman, Two Fools, a Punch and Dame Ragundy. According to the dancers billed for the performance, the Harlequin Man and Woman were probably Dupré and Mrs Santlow. At Lincoln’s Inn Fields that same evening there was Two Punchanellos, Two Harlequins and a Dame Ragonde, ‘the Harlequins to be perform’d by the Two Children’. Both dances were revivals from the previous season, probably with some changes. Drury Lane was trying to capitalise on its success with Sorin and Baxter in 1715-1716 as well as answer the Lincoln’s Inn Fields forays into commedia dell’arte.

On 22 October 1716, Drury Lane billed a Mimic Night Scene, after the Italian Manner, between a Harlequin, Scaramouch and Dame Ragonde, ‘being the same that was perform’d with great Applause, by the Sieurs Alard, 14 years ago’. The theatre’s revival of a piece from its own past (if that is what it was) was a success, for this Night Scene was given some 19 times during the season. The response from Lincoln’s Inn Fields was a Night Scene by the Sallé children, given three performances between 5 and 7 November. There had been some tit-for-tat billing of Night Scenes between the two theatres in 1715-1716, but Rich may now have felt he had other fish to fry when it came to dancing ‘after the Italian Manner’.

His focus was, of course, on the Sallé children, who together performed in a dozen entr’acte dances during 1716-1717. They gave nine duets and took part in three group dances. I have already mentioned the Dame Ragonde dance in which they performed as Harlequins and I will come to the other group dances shortly. Their London repertoire as child dancers in the late 1710s is worth closer analysis and I hope to return to it in another post.  Here, I will only mention the ‘Scene in the French Andromache burlesqued’ in which Francis danced Orestes with Marie as Hermione – the play was presumably Racine’s Andromaque and the children may have been drawing on their repertoire at the Paris fairs. This was repeated at least five times during the season. They also performed a new duet, The Submission, by the London dancing master Kellom Tomlinson who was then starting out on his career. This was first given on 21 February 1717 and repeated another three times that month. The Submission is the only dance performed by Marie Sallé to survive in notation, for it was published by Tomlinson that same year. Here is the first plate.

The leading dancer and perhaps the dancing master at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Anthony Moreau, was credited with five dances in the bills and may well have been responsible for more. His most popular choreography by far was the Grand Comic Dance first performed with The Prophetess on 15 November 1716. It was advertised as the Grand Comic Wedding Dance alongside The Emperor of the Moon on 28 December but reverted to its original title when it was given on 8 April 1717. It received 21 performances in all in the course of 1716-1717 and the Sallé children were among its dancers.

Drury Lane revived two of its popular pastoral dances from the previous season – Lads and Lasses on 18 October and Myrtillo on 13 December – although neither of them were given more than a few performances, perhaps because there was no response from Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Lads and Lasses is one of those dances for which it is impossible to discover exactly who danced it at most, if not all, of its performances. Myrtillo may have deployed the same six dancers as in the previous season (Dupré, Boval, Dupré Jr, Mrs Santlow, Mrs Bicknell, Miss Younger – who were all named as entr’acte dancers at its first performance in 1716-1717). Lads and Lasses would last into the late 1720s. Myrtillo became a regular feature of the entr’acte dance repertoire at Lincoln’s Inn Fields as well as Drury Lane and lasted into the mid-1730s.

Both companies gave mainpieces with dancing this season. At Drury Lane these were Macbeth and The Tempest, while at Lincoln’s Inn Fields The Island Princess, Macbeth and The Prophetess as well as The Emperor of the Moon were performed. However, the most important productions, so far as future developments are concerned, were the afterpieces at both theatres. With these, the sequence of first performances is of interest as it shows clearly the progress of the rivalry between Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

Drury Lane, 2 March 1717, The Loves of Mars and Venus by John Weaver

Drury Lane, 2 April 1717, The Shipwreck; or, Perseus and Andromeda by John Weaver

Lincoln’s Inn Fields, 22 April 1717, The Cheats; or, The Tavern Bilkers

Lincoln’s Inn Fields, 29 April 1717, The Jealous Doctor

Lincoln’s Inn Fields, 20 May 1717, Harlequin Executed

These were all new productions and it is evident that Rich at Lincoln’s Inn Fields was responding to Weaver at Drury Lane. I have written about The Loves of Mars and Venus elsewhere and I will take another closer look at this ballet in due course. Rich would produce a direct response to it in 1717-1718 and there would be several Lincoln’s Inn Fields afterpieces which used the phrase ‘Loves of’ in their titles. This season, though, there was only an entr’acte dance, The Loves of Harlequin and Colombine, performed by Francis and Marie Sallé on 23 April 1717. Might this suggest that the two children had been taken to Drury Lane to see Dupré and Mrs Santlow as Mars and Venus, so they could mimic them?

The Cheats; or, The Tavern Bilkers was, of course, a direct hit at Weaver by Rich – who obviously knew of Weaver’s claim to have created a piece entitled The Tavern Bilkers some fifteen years earlier, described by Weaver some years later as ‘The first Entertainment that appeared on the English Stage, where the Representation and Story was carried on by Dancing, Action and Motion only’ (The History of the Mimes and Pantomimes, published 1728, see page 45). The Jealous Doctor was based on a new, short-lived play given at Drury Lane on 16 January 1717, Three Hours after Marriage by John Gay, Alexander Pope and John Arbuthnot. Harlequin Executed had begun as a Lincoln’s Inn Fields entr’acte dance, entitled Italian Mimic Scene between a Scaramouch, Harlequin, Country Farmer, His Wife and Others on 26 December 1716 before being renamed as Harlequin Executed; or, The Farmer Disappointed on 29 December. After some seven performances as an entr’acte dance, it became an afterpiece on 10 May 1717 and would last in the Lincoln’s Inn Fields repertoire until 1721-1722. Although there is no mention of him in Harlequin Executed until 1717-1718, ‘Lun’ (John Rich himself) took the role of Harlequin in both The Cheats and The Jealous Doctor – directly challenging Weaver as Vulcan in The Loves of Mars and Venus and Perseus (Harlequin) in The Shipwreck. All of these afterpieces were, of course, laying the foundations for the new genre of English pantomime that would emerge over the next few years. This satirical print depicts how unsettling that would be for serious drama on the London stage. ‘Lun’ as Harlequin takes centre stage.

Momus Turn’d Fabulist and Its ‘Grand Dance’

Momus Turn’d Fabulist; or, Vulcan’s Wedding was first performed on 3 December 1729 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. It was described in the bills as ‘After the Manner of the Beggar’s Opera’ and the printed edition of the same year confirms that it was another ballad opera.

It continued to be revived until 1736-1737, although following the company’s move to its new Covent Garden Theatre during the 1732-1733 season it became an afterpiece. The Grand Dance of Momus was first advertised independently of the ballad opera as early as 17 December 1729. It lasted until 1740-1741, with a final performance in 1745-1746.

Momus is probably an unfamiliar figure to most theatregoers nowadays. In classical mythology, he was the personification of satire and mockery and appeared in Aesop’s Fables as a figure who finds fault with everything. By the 17th century he was seen as a buffoon and associated with the licence of carnival. All of these aspects are seen in his appearances in Thomas Carew’s 1634 masque Coelum Britannicum, as well as John Dryden’s The Secular Masque added to an adaptation of John Fletcher’s The Pilgrim in 1700.

In France, Momus featured in two ballets de cour – the Ballet des Bienvenus of 1655, in which he was described as ‘Dieu de la Bouffonneries’ and danced by ‘Baptiste’ (Jean-Baptiste Lully), and the Ballet de Psyché of 1656, as the ‘Bouffon des Dieux’ danced by ‘Molier’ (Louis de Mollier). In 1695, he was the central character in Desmarets’s opera Les Amours de Momus given at the Paris Opéra that year but not subsequently revived. The livret for this work does not name the dancers. Momus also had a significant part in Le Carnaval et la Folie, a comédie-ballet by Destouches, given at the French court in 1703 and then at the Paris Opéra in 1704. For its public performances, the leading dancers were Ballon and Mlle Subligny. It was revived several times, including 1719 when the leading dancers were David Dumoulin and Mlles Prévost and Guyot.

1719 was the year when Momus Fabuliste ou les Noces de Vulcain, a comedy by Louis Fuzelier and Marc-Antoine Legrand, was given at the Comédie Française. This was the source of the Momus Turn’d Fabulist performed in London some ten years later. The Introduction to the published text of the English ballad opera, in the form of a dialogue between a Player and a Gentleman, refers explicitly to the French play and praises the adaptation from a ‘French farce’ to an ‘English opera’. There is certainly more to be said about the figure of Momus and Momus Fabuliste, but my interest is (of course) in the dancing on the London stage. The frontispiece to the printed text of Momus Fabuliste provides a flavour of Momus as he appeared in the Paris farce.

The main difference between Momus Fabuliste and Momus Turn’d Fabulist is the addition to the latter of forty-two tunes for the sung ballads that punctuate the action and accompany the various fables that are told in the course of both the French play and its English adaptation. The story revolves around Momus’s mockery of each of the gods and goddesses in the classical pantheon, leading to the making of a match between Vulcan and Venus and culminating in the celebration of their wedding. Momus Turn’d Fabulist includes the stage direction ‘Here an Entertainment of Dancing in Honour of Vulcan’s Wedding’. This is the only reference to dancing in the piece and must have been what became the entr’acte Grand Dance of Momus. There is no music provided for this, as the adjacent ‘Air XLII. Parson upon Dorothy’ is almost certainly associated with the ‘Fable by way of Ballad’ that Momus calls on each deity in turn to perform. The stage direction is actually taken directly from Momus Fabuliste, which had music by Jean-Baptiste-Maurice Quinault. The score for the ‘Divertissement de la comédie de Momus fabuliste’ was published in 1719 but seems to survive in only a single copy not accessible digitally.

The immediate question is, did London’s Grand Dance of Momus use Quinault’s music? It is impossible to answer definitively, for there are no references to its music in the bills or elsewhere. The dancers in the Grand Dance of Momus are not listed in the bills until 1731, when it was given at a benefit performance for Mr and Mrs Laguerre. The leading couple was Nivelon and Mrs Laguerre, with five male dancers and four female dancers to support them. The inclusion of one more male than female dancer in these ensembles is a regular feature of group dances on the London stage. I have been tempted to assume that such casting points to a solo by the leading male dancer billed, who may or may not also dance with one of the women, but additional information (below) shows that this is not quite the case with the Grand Dance of Momus. Nivelon probably did dance a solo for he was billed alone during the 1729-1730 summer season in ‘The Celebrated Dance in Momus, to the Black Joke Tune’ at the Richmond Theatre. He probably choreographed, or arranged, the Grand Dance of Momus.

Could Nivelon have used some or all of Quinault’s music for Momus Fabuliste? Without access to the score it is difficult to follow up that possibility. We have few clues to Nivelon’s career before he arrived at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1723, when he was billed as ‘lately arriv’d from the Opera at Paris’ (in his case presumably the Opéra Comique). Research is needed to discover what he had been doing prior to his move to London and whether he may have been familiar with Momus Fabuliste and had access to its music. In any case, the Black Joke seems to have been a regular feature of the Grand Dance of Momus. A much later advertisement identifies the two leading dancers as a Sailor and a Lively Lass, with two Swains, two Nymphs and three ‘College Youths’ – the same number of male dancers as in the earlier bills but only two and not four female supporting dancers. (An internet search turns up the Ancient Society of College Youths, a change-ringing society established in the early 17th century, which may or may not be relevant to this choreography.) The Grand Dance of Momus must have been a divertissement, with a number of contrasting dances within it.

The various tunes in Momus Turn’d Fabuliste may have nothing to do with its dancing, but several of them point to other entr’acte dances and even two within pantomimes. There is the ‘Pierrot Tune’ and the ‘Highland Dance’, as well as the ‘Hay-makers Dance, in Faustus’ and the ‘Dance in Sorcerer’. The Black Joke (which does not feature in the printed ‘opera’) also has a wider musical history. I sometimes complain that we lack music for so many of the entr’acte dances on the London stage, but I obviously need to look more widely – there must have been a great deal of sharing between dances and musical entertainments more generally in the theatres.

A Year of Dance: 1726

Following my recent detailed analysis of the 1725-1726 theatrical season on the London stage, I thought I should return to my A Year of Dance series and add 1726. (I wrote about 1725 quite some time ago). Politically, this seems to have been a quieter year than 1725.

In France in June, Louis XV appointed his old tutor André-Hercule de Fleury as his chief minister. Fleury was created a cardinal in September 1726. The previous spring, the poet and writer Voltaire had arrived in England for two years of exile from France following a second period of imprisonment in the Bastille. He quickly learned English, honing his language skills by regular visits to London’s theatres. During his stay he was to meet Alexander Pope, John Gay and Jonathan Swift, among others.

In England, 1726 was marked by the death of the architect and dramatist Sir John Vanbrugh on 26 March, followed by that of the scourge of London’s theatres Jeremy Collier on 26 April, whose A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage published in 1698 had attacked Vanbrugh among other leading playwrights. Towards the end of the year, George I’s former wife Sophia Dorothea of Celle died. Their marriage had been dissolved following her adultery in 1694 and she had been imprisoned in her native Celle for more than twenty years. 1726 also saw the publication of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (‘Lilliputians’ would in due course become a popular feature on the London stage), as well as the ‘rabbit’ hoax by Mary Toft which fascinated and bamboozled many over the autumn.

In the wider context for these posts, the most significant theatrical event of 1726 in London was the new pantomime at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Apollo and Daphne given on 14 January, which brought Francis and Marie Sallé back to the London stage after an absence of several years and reintroduced them to audiences as adult dancers. It answered Drury Lane’s 1725 Apollo and Daphne pantomime, which was revised and revived in reply. This small painting by the Italian artist Michele Rocca probably dates to the early 18th century.

There was also Italian opera at the King’s Theatre, with two new operas by Handel – Scipione on 12 March and Alessandro on 5 May. The Italian soprano Faustina Bordoni made her debut as Rossane in Alessandro, with Francesca Cuzzoni as Lisaura and Senesino in the title role.

In Paris, Destouches’s opéra-ballet Les Stratagèmes de l’Amour (composed to celebrate the marriage of Louis XV and Marie Leszczyńska the previous year) was given at the Paris Opéra on 28 March. The dancers included Françoise Prévost and David Dumoulin – she led the Troyennes in the first divertissement in Entrée I, while he led the Matelots in the second divertissement, and they danced together as Esclaves (with sixteen other dancers) in Entrée III. Rebel’s tragédie en musique Pyrame et Thisbé had its first performance on 17 October. David Dumoulin and Mlle Prévost also danced in this production, leading the Egyptiens (with Blondy) in act two and the Bergers and Bergères in act three.

No dances were published in notation this year. The last of the Paris collections had appeared in 1725, while in England the series of new dances ‘For the Year’ by Anthony L’Abbé had already ceased to be annual. It would resume in 1727 and continue, with occasional gaps, until 1733.

Thomas Caverley’s Slow Minuet

I have recently been working on Thomas Caverley’s Slow Minuet and I thought I would look more closely at the two different versions of this solo that survive in notation. One was published by Edmund Pemberton, who gives it the subtitle ‘A New Dance for a Girl’, while the other survives in a manuscript version by Kellom Tomlinson. They differ enough from one another to be thought of as two dances rather than two versions of the same dance. There is another solo minuet for a female dancer, Mr Isaac’s Minuet, which was published by Pemberton in 1711 and is clearly linked to both versions of the Slow Minuet. I will mention this third dance from time to time.

The Sources

Mr. Caverley’s Slow Minuet ‘A New Dance for a Girl’ was among the series of notated ball dances published by Edmund Pemberton between 1715 and 1733. The notation is undated and has been ascribed to 1729, a date I accepted when I wrote about Pemberton in 1993 (references to the sources I have used are given at the end of the post). However, fresh examination of the dance notation suggests that it was probably notated and engraved much earlier. The title page (with its mention of ‘Mr. Firbank’ as the composer of the tune) was also used for the anonymous solo La Cybelline – another ‘New Dance for a Girl’ – but has clearly been altered for Caverley’s dance. La Cybelline was published in 1719, so the Slow Minuet might have appeared around the same time. However, there is another piece of evidence which might place the work of engraving the dance a few years earlier. The dance notation is densely laid out, mainly because Pemberton would have wanted to save on the cost of paper for printing by fitting it into four pages. The engraving is somewhat rough and ready, reminiscent of the first dances that Pemberton published independently after he stopped working for the music publisher John Walsh in 1715. Could the Slow Minuet have been the first dance notation that Pemberton produced himself and then re-issued with a new title page at a later date? Both Caverley and Isaac were keen proponents of the new art of dance notation, so Caverley could have favoured Pemberton with a dance just as Isaac had done a few years earlier. Here is the title page alongside the first plate of Pemberton’s version of Caverley’s Slow Minuet.

The manuscript version of the solo, titled ‘The Slow Minnitt: by Mr: Caverley:’ was transcribed by Kellom Tomlinson into his WorkBook, along with other notes and dances. The WorkBook was discovered in New Zealand and published in facsimile in 1992, edited by the dancer and dance historian Jennifer Shennan. Tomlinson was apprenticed to Thomas Caverley between 1707 and 1714 and would go on to publish several of his own dances in notation between 1715 and 1720. His version of the Slow Minuet is undated but probably belongs to the period of his apprenticeship – the WorkBook contains material which can be dated from 1708 to 1721. Tomlinson’s notation is actually more assured than Pemberton’s (he had fewer restrictions as to paper and gives a separate page to each section of the dance). His notational style differs from Pemberton’s (a topic to which I will return). Some of the differences between the two versions are discussed and analysed by Jennifer Shennan in her introduction to the facsimile. Here are the first two pages of Tomlinson’s notation.

The other dance I have mentioned is the Minuet by Mr Isaac, published in notation within Edmund Pemberton’s An Essay for the Further Improvement of Dancing in 1711. It follows Isaac’s Chacone and, in his Preface, Pemberton says that Isaac had ‘oblig’d’ him with ‘a single Dance’ suggesting that the two were meant to be performed together as one choreography. The same collection has Pecour’s solo forlana for a woman (titled a ‘Jigg’) and a solo version of Anthony L’Abbé’s ‘Passacaille’ originally choreographed as a duet for two professional female dancers to music from Lully’s opera Armide. Pemberton’s 1711 collection was published by John Walsh. Here are the first two plates of Isaac’s Minuet.

It is worth adding that Thomas Caverley and Mr Isaac were near contemporaries. Isaac (whose real name was Francis Thorpe, as I discovered some years ago when I was researching Jerome Francis Gahory) was perhaps born around 1650 and was buried early in 1721. Thomas Caverley’s birth date has been given variously as 1641, 1648 or 1651, although he may have been born as late as 1658 or 1659. He lived much longer than Isaac for he died in 1745. Isaac, of course, was a royal dancing master – described by John Essex in the ‘English’ Preface to his translation of Rameau, The Dancing-Master (1728), as ‘the prime Master in England for forty Years together’. Essex wrote of Caverley as ‘the first Master in teaching young Ladies to dance’, a reputation which explains the publication of his Slow Minuet.

The Dances

The two versions of Caverley’s Slow Minuet each use different music. In Pemberton’s version the tune is attributed to the dancing master Charles Fairbank, whereas Tomlinson’s music is anonymous. The solos are different lengths too. Pemberton’s music has the time signature 3 and four AABB repeats (A=B=8). The dance notation has 6 beats to the bar, so each pas composé takes two musical bars in accordance with the usual convention for minuets. Tomlinson also writes his music with a time signature of 3 but his has five AABB repeats (A=B=8). His notation has three beats to each dance bar, although he writes some steps over two bars with liaison lines to make clear that they are single pas composés. Pemberton’s Slow Minuet has 128 bars of music, while Tomlinson’s has 160.

An analysis of both notations reveals that, although these closely related choreographies are minuets, much of their vocabulary consists in demi-coupés, coupés and pas de bourée. The pas de menuet and contretemps du menuet are used mainly in the third repeat of the AA and again in the fourth AA. Tomlinson uses these steps additionally in his fifth and final AA and final B section.

Both choreographies begin with a sequence of two demi-coupés forwards and two backwards, followed by a coupépas de bourée sequence repeated six times. This fills the first AA and, it seems, sets out Caverley’s intention of teaching the minuet not through the conventional step vocabulary of that dance but through its building blocks. He uses these to introduce the girl to the rhythmic variety possible within the steps of this formal dance, among other ideas, as well as to provide a technical foundation. This approach is evidenced elsewhere in both versions of the Slow Minuet. In the third plate of Pemberton’s notation the pas de menuet à trois mouvements with a demi-jeté on the final step is introduced, and in the fourth plate there are pas de menuet à deux mouvements which begin on both the right and the left foot. In his third AA, Tomlinson uses the pas de menuet à deux mouvements, but in his fourth and fifth AA sections he turns to the pas de menuet used by Isaac in his Minuet (in The Art of Dancing, Tomlinson calls this the ‘English Minuet Step’). This is, essentially, a fleuret followed by a jeté and can be seen in the plates from Isaac’s Minuet shown above. This hints at a link between the choreographies and, perhaps, the teaching of both Isaac and Caverley.

Another such hint is provided by a pas composé used in Pemberton’s version of the Slow Minuet. This takes two bars of music and all the steps are linked together by liaison lines. I find such compound steps difficult to break down into their component parts, but this one may be analysed as a variant on the pas de bourée, incorporating an emboîté and ending with a pas plié, followed by two coupés avec ouverture de jambe. A slightly different version of the step is found in Isaac’s Minuet, with jetés-chassés instead of the coupés. Here are the two steps in notation for comparison. First Pemberton’s, from his fourth plate – without being able to examine an original notation it is not possible to be certain, but the initial emboîté shows the foot position on the balls of the feet.

Next Isaac’s, from his third plate – the dots showing the emboîté on the balls of the feet are clear.

Both Pemberton and Tomlinson use a variety of figures, which are quite often not the same or at least are notated differently. The opening figures are actually the same in both versions, although Pemberton notates all the sideways steps around the right line of the dancer’s direction of travel towards the presence, while Tomlinson shows the sideways travel explicitly. In the figures for the third AA, Pemberton notates the dancer travelling a semi-circular path anti-clockwise followed by another clockwise, whereas Tomlinson takes his dancer clockwise in a quarter-circle followed by a tighter three-quarter circle in the same direction and then traces the same figure anti-clockwise. Both dances have figures that reflect some of those in Isaac’s Minuet, notably zig-zags on the diagonal and repeated tight circles. Although some of the figures contain echoes of those in the ballroom couple minuet, parallels are not obvious in either notation.

Both versions of the Slow Minuet are constructed around a series of variations. Some of these are 8 bars long and are danced twice, starting with the right foot and then the left, to match the repeated musical sections. There are also 4 bar sequences, which might or might not be repeated within a musical section. Two of Tomlinson’s plates are missing a couple of bars of dance notation, but the structure of the section and its predecessor (as well as Pemberton’s version) suggest what the missing steps might be. The second BB section (plate 4) appears to be without its final two dance bars.

One suggestion is that the coupédemi-coupé steps that follow the two demi-coupés should take two bars of music each (rather than one bar as notated). I suggest instead that they do take one bar each and that they should be repeated after the last two demi-coupés on the plate, which gives two identical sequences to match the musical repeat.

The other omission comes in the last B of the third BB section (plate 6).

This is more difficult to guess, but I suggest that two contretemps should be added, one sideways to the left after the fourth step (another contretemps) and the other sideways to the right at the end of the sequence. This would then run as a repeated 4-bar sequence of contretempscoupépas de bouréecontretemps.

The different notational styles of Pemberton and Tomlinson are almost worth a post of their own and are evident from the very beginning of the two dances with the opening demi-coupés. Pemberton’s version is on the left and Tomlinson’s on the right.

Or, do these represent different steps? Tomlinson’s demi-coupé finishes on the first beat, followed by a two-beat rest, while Pemberton apparently gives the dancer two beats to bring the free foot into first position – making this a version of a coupé sans poser rather than a demi-coupé. Later on the same plate, Pemberton notates demi-coupés more conventionally, suggesting that the opening steps are not demi-coupés.

Conclusion

I have discussed these two notations in some detail because I believe that such close reading can help us get a better idea of how these notated dances were actually performed. Caverley’s Slow Minuet is one of very few choreographies that survive in more than one version and there is far more to say than I have set down here. I think that the dance was integral to his teaching of young ladies and that it was intended as a display piece for performance at formal balls held by the dancing master at his premises and elsewhere. It makes formidable demands on the young dancer’s mastery of aplomb – not merely her placement but also her address. She has to be secure in balancing on one foot and moving rhythmically (and sometimes quite slowly) from one foot to another. She also has to maintain her erect and easy carriage as she moves through her steps and figures. There are continuous rhythmic challenges as well as demands on her memory as she dances a series of variations no two of which are the same.

If I were called upon to devise a syllabus for teaching the minuet, I would begin with Thomas Caverley’s Slow Minuet. If aspirant historical dancers can perform this exacting solo (in either version) successfully, the ballroom minuet would surely hold no terrors for them.

This image from Kellom Tomlinson’s The Art of Dancing is well known. Does it suggest that he continued to adapt and teach a Slow Minuet to his young female pupils?

References

Thomas Caverley. Mr. Caverley’s Slow Minuet. A New Dance for a Girl. The Tune Composed by Mr. Firbank. Writt by Mr. Pemberton. [London, c1720?]

For the 1729 dating see Little and Marsh, La Danse Noble, [c1729]-Mnt

An Essay for the Further Improvement of Dancing; Being a Collection of Figure Dances, of Several Numbers, Compos’d by the Most Eminent Masters; Describ’d in Characters … by E. Pemberton (London, 1711)

Kellom Tomlinson. A WorkBook by Kellom Tomlinson. Commonplace Book of an Eighteenth-Century English Dancing-Master, a Facsimile Edition, edited by Jennifer Shennan. (Stuyvesant, NY, 1992)

Moira Goff, ‘Edmund Pemberton, Dancing-Master and Publisher’, Dance Research, 11.1 (Spring 1993), 52-81.

Moira Goff, ‘The Testament and Last Will of Jerome Francis Gahory’, Early Music, 38.4 (November 2010), 537-542.

Meredith Ellis Little, Carol G. Marsh. La Danse Noble. An Inventory of Dances and Sources. (New York, 1992)

Season of 1725-1726: An Epilogue

Although I mentioned the Little Theatre in the Haymarket in my first post on the 1725-1726 season and occasionally referred to it subsequently, I didn’t really include it in my survey of dancing in London’s theatres.

The Little Theatre was built late in 1720 on a site immediately beside where the Theatre Royal, Haymarket now stands. So far as we know, it was unlicensed, although this did not prevent it from offering short seasons of drama and other entertainments by foreign and amateur companies of players. In three of the five seasons between its opening and the 1725-1726 season, the Little Theatre provided a venue for companies of French comedians who offered an extensive repertoire of commedia dell’arte pieces alongside comedies by Molière and, in 1721-1722, tragedies by Corneille and Racine. In the first season of 1721-1722, the company included Francisque Moylin as Arlequin and Monsieur Roger as Pierrot. Roger returned to the Little Theatre for the 1724-1725 season and in 1725-1726 he joined the Drury Lane company as a dancer and choreographer. Dancing was offered each season at the Little Theatre, although the proportion of performances with entr’acte dancing ranged between 85% and only 24%. The concept of ‘entr’acte dancing’ does not really fit with the repertoire presented by these French companies, so the statistics may not be as significant as they appear.

Usually, the French companies appeared from December to March but in 1725-1726 they played only from March until May 1726. Their repertoire was entirely pieces from the commedia dell’arte, apart from Molière’s Le mariage forcé (which seems to have been a favourite with these troupes).  Sixteen of the twenty-three performances were billed with dancing and the bills name eleven dancers (7 men and 4 women). Among the men were Poitier and Lalauze, the former would become a leading dancer in London in the years to come. There is some doubt about the identity of the Lalauze who danced in London from the 1730s. Between them, these dancers gave thirteen entr’acte dances – 7 group dances, 1 trio, 3 duets and 2 solos. Choreographies for commedia dell’arte characters predominate, closely followed by those for other characters, not least Peasants. Among the other dances was Le Cotillon, given at Poitier’s benefit on 9 May 1726 by twelve dancers . He may well have been the choreographer.

The Little Theatre in the Haymarket in the early 1720s was the place where the Paris forains met London audiences and influenced London’s dancers and theatre managers. They, and their repertoire, await the detailed research that will uncover their place within the eco-system of the 18th-century London stage. These paintings by Watteau evoke their many-faceted performances.

Dancing in London’s Theatres, the 1725-1726 season

Since October 2020, I have written more than 15,600 words in a total of twelve posts devoted to dancing in London’s theatres during the season of 1725-1726. This survey covered the capital’s four theatres, who gave nearly 460 performances between them. No dancing was advertised at the King’s Theatre, while both Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields billed entr’acte dancing at about half of their performances. Drury Lane offered afterpieces with dancing about 25% of the time and Lincoln’s Inn Fields did the same at nearly 45% of its performances. There was little overlap between entr’acte dancing and afterpieces – bills at Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields generally included either one or the other, but rarely both – so at least 70% of that season’s bills (other than at the King’s Theatre) must have had some sort of dancing. That amounts to more than 330 performances.

So much dancing called for a group of specialist dancers at London’s two theatres royal. Drury Lane had thirteen dancers (seven men and six women), while Lincoln’s Inn Fields had sixteen (nine men and seven women). Among the women, several were also actresses (Drury Lane’s leading dancer, Hester Booth, was also one of the company’s leading actresses). At both playhouses, these dancers formed a company within the theatre company which brought together performers with different backgrounds as well as of various ages and experience. Several seem to have had quite extensive training in the French serious style (several more did not) and some had skills in speciality dance techniques. All the dancers, in both companies, seem to have been expected to dance in a range of styles and genres. Far more research is needed into the careers and repertoires of both leading and supporting dancers at this period to help us to understand how dancers were recruited and deployed. Such knowledge is closely linked to any attempt to analyse the repertory of dances at the two theatres.

This season, as in many others during the late 17th and 18th centuries, there were a number of French dancers on the London stage. Some, like Marie Sallé at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, were ‘guest artists’ while others, like her brother Francis and Monsieur Roger at Drury Lane, became members of the theatre’s dance company. Attention has been focussed on visitors from the Paris Opéra, but dancers from the Opéra Comique and the Paris fairs (the forains) were equally if not more influential. ‘French’ dance on the London stage is another topic that awaits detailed research and analysis.

As explained in my earlier pieces, 28 entr’acte dances were given at Drury Lane and 43 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The majority of these were duets. There seem to have been around eight choreographies which (on the evidence of their titles) were performed at both playhouses. The lack of music as well as other sources makes it difficult to distinguish between dances with the same, similar or otherwise related titles. A study over a longer period than a single season might help us to resolve some of these queries, as well as providing insights into the entr’acte dance repertoire at each of the two patent theatres.

Even this one season of 1725-1726 gives us some clues about the popularity of individual dances. For example, many of the duets given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields were, or would become, staples of the repertoire with stage lives extending over many seasons. The same was true at Drury Lane, although to a lesser extent. It is difficult to assign many of these dances to a single, specific genre, although the editors of The London Stage made an attempt at a list of categories (Introduction to Part Two, pp. cxxxiii – cxxxv) and so did I in chapter three of my PhD thesis ‘Art and Nature Join’d: Hester Santlow and the Development of Dancing on the London Stage, 1700-1737’ (2000). I won’t set out details of these categorisations here, although I make some use of them in what follows.

At Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726, the most popular dances fall into the ‘National’ genre – French, Dutch, Irish and Spanish foremost among them. Many of these dances overlap with the ‘Character’ genre, dances performed by particular character types of which the most popular were Peasants. The ‘National’ dances were followed quite closely by choregraphies titled according to their dance type – Passacaille, Chacone, Saraband, Minuet, and so on. There were, relatively speaking, few dances linked to commedia dell’arte characters, who were being steadily absorbed into the pantomime afterpieces, and not as many ‘Pastoral’ dances as might be expected although the longevity of group dances like Myrtillo and Le Badinage Champetre (which was new in 1725-1726) suggest that over time the hierarchy of popular dances might look different. There is also the question of the number of performances enjoyed by each entr’acte dance, which might change the pecking order. One factor, which needs detailed research, is the influence of the dancers themselves (more specifically the dancer-choreographers) over their own and their theatre’s repertoire. And, there were the theatre managers who had the final say on each evening’s bill. John Rich at Lincoln’s Inn Fields is known to have favoured dance, while at Drury Lane Colley Cibber, Robert Wilks and Barton Booth thought it detracted from the serious drama.

All but one of the afterpieces with dancing given at the two theatres royal this season were pantomimes, still a new and emerging genre. These brought together comic and serious dancing, by commedia dell’arte characters and figures from classical mythology, in productions that made full use of scenes, machines, tricks and transformations to entertain and amaze audiences. In 1725-1726, Drury Lane revived three pantomimes that had been successful in earlier seasons, notably Harlequin Doctor Faustus, while Lincoln’s Inn Fields revived five (including The Necromancer) and put on one new production. Drury Lane used dancers for the serious plots in its pantomimes, while Lincoln’s Inn Fields preferred singers. The Lincoln’s Inn Fields Apollo and Daphne was an exception to this rule, since it responded to the Drury Lane pantomime of the same name by casting Francis and Marie Sallé in the title roles. Both versions of Apollo and Daphne seem to have had affinities with John Weaver’s earlier dramatic entertainments of dancing – a link that remains largely unexplored, although the lack of detailed evidence about these pantomimes makes this difficult.

How much time was devoted to dancing each evening? Entr’acte dances must have varied in length, but one or two minutes is a reasonable average for solos and duets while group dances might take five or six minutes (or longer in those cases where there was a narrative thread to the choreography). So, the entr’acte dances might take up ten to fifteen minutes in an evening, more or less. Pantomimes are thought to have lasted around 40 minutes altogether, with varying amounts of comic and serious dancing depending on the production. Around fifteen to twenty minutes of actual dancing might be a reasonable guess. This is another area that needs research and analysis.

The 1725-1726 season fell within a pivotal period for dancing on the London stage. Pantomimes had just begun their long reign, dancers from France were bringing new choreographies that would be influential as the dancing in London’s theatres changed. Throughout the 18th century dancing was an integral and far from negligible part of most performances in London’s principal theatres, yet, in the absence of surviving choreographies and even their music, it remains intangible and unintelligible to all but those dance historians specialising in the period. I hope that this will change as more research is done.

I have still to look at the dancing at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket, which I will do in a separate piece by way of an epilogue to this lengthy investigation.

Season of 1725-1726: Afterpieces with Dancing at Lincoln’s Inn Fields

There were seven afterpieces with dancing at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726. One was a masque, while the rest were the pantomimes listed below.

Jupiter and Europa

The Necromancer

Harlequin a Sorcerer

Apollo and Daphne

The Cheats; or, The Tavern Bilkers

The Jealous Doctor

Only Apollo and Daphne was new. The list shows clearly how important pantomimes were to John Rich and his theatre company.

The masque was St. Ceciliae; or, The Union of the Three Sister Arts, which had first been performed in 1723-1724 and was briefly revived in 1724-1725 and 1725-1726. When it was given on 22 November 1725 (St. Cecilia’s day) it was advertised with ‘Proper Dances’ performed by three couples.

Jupiter and Europa; or, The Intrigues of Harlequin was given on 21 October 1725 with ‘Lun’ (John Rich) as Jupiter (Harlequin) and Mrs Wall as Europa and performed eight times in all during the season. The pantomime had first been performed in 1722-1723, when it had been billed as a ‘new Dramatic Entertainment of Dancing in Burlesque Characters’.  It lasted in the repertoire in its original form until 1727-1728 and was then revived in 1735-1736 within a new pantomime, The Royal Chace; or, Merlin’s Cave: With Jupiter and Europa. Like many of the pantomimes of this period, it is worth a post of its own. The abduction of Europa by Jupiter in the form of a bull was a favourite theme of artists of the period. This French painting by Pierre Gobert dates to the 1710s.

The Necromancer; or, Harlequin Doctor Faustus was given on 3 November 1725 with Lun as Faustus. This pantomime had been John Rich’s answer to John Thurmond Junior’s Harlequin Doctor Faustus in 1723-1724. It proved to be far more popular than its rival and would be regularly revived into the 1740s. The serious parts of Rich’s pantomimes used singers, rather than dancers as at Drury Lane, so Rich’s practice was to publish libretti for the ‘Vocal Parts’ with brief references to the action of the comic characters. The competition between the two Faustus pantomimes and the craze for these afterpieces which ensued meant that there were two scenarios printed for the Lincoln’s Inn Fields version. These provide details of the comic plot. The bills highlight the commedia dell’arte characters who appear in the final scene, performed by the company’s leading dancers – Harlequin Man and Woman, Pierrot Man and Woman, Mezzetin Man and Woman and Scaramouch Man and Woman. The Necromancer also featured Francis Nivelon as Punch.  This particular pantomime has attracted much scholarly attention, including analyses of the surviving music, and I will look at it more closely in a separate post. One drawing survives which is generally agreed to show the singer Richard Leveridge as an Infernal Spirit with John Rich as Faustus in scene one.

Harlequin a Sorcerer: With the Loves of Pluto and Proserpine, given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 21 January 1725, was Rich’s next new pantomime after The Necromancer. It received nearly 30 performances in its first season and was revived on 13 November 1725 for another ten. In 1725-1726, it was overshadowed by the popularity of that season’s new pantomime Apollo and Daphne. Rich, as Lun, took the title role in Harlequin a Sorcerer, while Pluto and Proserpine were played by singers. The pantomime’s subtitle refers to the pantomime that Rich had wanted to produce (and would indeed put on the following season). The libretto that was published to accompany performances records a few details of the scenic tricks and transformations in the piece, which I will also look at separately. Harlequin a Sorcerer lasted until the early 1730s and was revived at Covent Garden in the 1750s.

The 1725-1726 season’s new pantomime, Apollo and Daphne; or, The Burgomaster Tricked, was first given on 14 January 1726 with Francis and Marie Sallé in the title roles and Francis Nivelon as the Burgomaster. It had 45 performances before the end of the season and would be regularly revived into the 1750s, making it one of Rich’s most popular pantomime afterpieces. Apollo and Daphne was unusual among the Lincoln’s Inn Fields pantomimes for using dancers to play the principal characters in the serious plot – Rich was, of course, replying to Thurmond Junior and Mrs Booth at Drury Lane. Only the words for the ‘Vocal Parts’ were published, with little beyond the descriptions of the various scenes to hint at the dance and mime performed by the Sallés. There is no mention of the comic scenes with the Burgomaster or the various commedia dell’arte characters. Rich went one better than Drury Lane with his concluding entertainment to Apollo and Daphne, in which Francis and Marie Sallé reappeared as Zephyrus and Flora. Recent research suggests that this was taken from Aubert’s opera La Reine des Péris given at the Paris Opéra in 1725. Again, I will have to devote a separate post to this pantomime. The Triumph of Flora, like Zephyrus and Flora, was a favourite theme for artists. This version by Poussin is much earlier, although the artist was still greatly admired in the 18th century.

The last two pantomimes in repertoire at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726 were given during the summer season. The Cheats; or, The Tavern Bilkers was revived on 1 July 1726 for the first of five performances. Over the years casts were rarely listed for this pantomime, and this summer’s advertisements were no exception. The Cheats had begun life in 1716-1717 and was undoubtedly intended by Rich as a hit at John Weaver, whose danced afterpieces were popular at Drury Lane that season (Weaver’s first piece for the stage had been titled The Tavern Bilkers). On the occasions when the characters in The Cheats were named in the bills they were revealed as drawn from the commedia dell’arte – the piece was billed as an ‘Italian Night Scene’ at its first performance. The Cheats was revived into the early 1730s.

The Jealous Doctor; or, The Intriguing Dame, given on 19 July 1726 and then for another three performances, also dated back to 1716-1717. It had replied to the play by John Gay, Alexander Pope and John Arbuthnot Three Hours after Marriage given at Drury Lane that same season. The play lasted for only a few performances, but the pantomime was revived around half-a-dozen times each season until 1725-1726. Its relegation to the 1726 summer season marked the end of its stage life.

I am going to round up this lengthy exploration of dancing on the London stage during the 1725-1726 season in my next post by considering what all these details might tell us about dancing at the two patent theatres and stage dancing in London more generally.

Season of 1725-1726: Afterpieces with Dancing at Drury Lane

There were three afterpieces with dancing at Drury Lane during the 1725-1726 season. All were pantomimes.

The Escapes of Harlequin

Harlequin Doctor Faustus

Apollo and Daphne

All had been created by John Thurmond Junior and none were new this season. The second two are worth posts of their own and I will write these in due course.

The Escapes of Harlequin was given on 19 October 1725. The cast listed in the bills consisted entirely of commedia dell’arte characters – Roger and Mrs Booth were Harlequins, Thurmond and Boval together with Mrs Brett and Miss Lindar were Punches, Bridgwater and Mrs Willis (both actors rather than dancers) were the Doctor and his Wife, while Rainton danced Pierrot and Miss Tenoe Columbine. The pantomime had first been given, at Drury Lane, on 10 January 1722 and had been moderately successful in subsequent seasons, although it was performed only twice in 1725-1726 and would be revived only once more, in 1727-1728. No scenario was published and no music is known to survive (the composer is never mentioned in the bills). The afterpiece is ascribed to John Thurmond Junior by John Weaver, who included it in his ‘List of the Modern Entertainments that have been Exhibited on the English Stage; Either in Imitation of the Ancient Pantomimes, or after the Manner of the Modern Italians’ within his The History of the Mimes and Pantomimes published in 1728. Weaver’s lengthy title provides a summary of the influences that lay behind the new pantomimes. The Escapes of Harlequin was initially described in the bills as ‘A new Dramatick Entertainment of Dancing in Grotesque Characters’ linking it to the ‘Modern Italians’.

The pairs of characters suggest a series of duets, while the separate characters of Pierrot and Columbine perhaps hint at a plot which involves them, although it is impossible to guess at the action of the afterpiece. Thurmond Junior may have drawn on one or more of the plays (many of which were commedia dell’arte pieces) performed by a company of French comedians at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket during 1720-1721. I did wonder whether he might have been using existing entr’acte dances, but the evidence points another way – a Harlequin duet later performed in the entr’actes which might have originated in The Escapes of Harlequin. We know little, if anything about the dancing in Thurmond Jr’s pantomime but, since it had a cast of characters entirely from the commedia dell’arte performed by leading dancers at Drury Lane, might this drawing by Claude Gillot evoke its style?

Harlequin Doctor Faustus, given on 9 November 1725, was the pantomime that had started a craze for the genre when it was first performed at Drury Lane on 26 November 1723. John Rich had swiftly responded at Lincoln’s Inn Fields with the even more successful pantomime The Necromancer; or, Harlequin Doctor Faustus (which I will discuss in my next post) and both productions were integral to the repertoires of the two theatres for many seasons. At least three scenarios were published for Harlequin Doctor Faustus, which differ in some details, so we have a good idea of its action. Little if any of the music survives. The pantomime is, of course, based on the legend of Doctor Faustus and his pact with the Devil, told through the distorting lens of the commedia dell’arte. Thurmond Junior is identified as the author of the piece on the title pages of the scenarios. At the first performances, he played Mephistophilus with John Shaw as Faustus. In 1725-1726, no cast was listed until 3 June 1726 when Roger was Harlequin / Faustus and either Rainton or Haughton (both young dancers) performed Mephistophilus.

An important feature of this particular pantomime was the ‘grand Masque of the Heathen Deities’ with which it ended. This was an extended divertissement of serious dancing, in complete contrast to the grotesque commedia dell’arte characters who appeared in the main part of the afterpiece. The transition from pantomime to divertissement is described in the scenario, Harlequin Doctor Faustus: with the Masque of the Deities (1724). Time and Death enter the Doctor’s study and sing, in turn, to warn Faustus his time is up.

‘When the Songs are ended, it Thunders and Lightens; two Fiends enter and seize the Doctor, and are sinking with him headlong thro’ Flames, other Devils run in and tear him piece-meal, some fly away with the Limbs, and others sink. Time and Death go out.

The Music changes, and the Scene draws, and discovers a Poetical Heaven with the Gods and Goddesses rang’d in order on both sides the Stage, who express their joy for the Enchanter’s Death, (who was supposed to have power over the Sun, the Moon, and the Seasons of the Year.)’

The ‘Gods and Goddesses’ are the dancers in the masque. The excerpt above from the printed text shows how elaborate the staging was, with its tricks, transformations and sophisticated scenery. Sadly, there is no visual record at all of Harlequin Doctor Faustus but the ‘assembly of the gods’ was a favourite topic for ceiling paintings, including this one by William Kent which dates to around 1720.

The last of Thurmond Junior’s pantomimes to be given in 1725-1726 was his most recent, Apollo and Daphne; or, Harlequin’s Metamorphoses on 11 February 1726. Thurmond Junior and Mrs Booth danced the title roles, with Theophilus Cibber as Harlequin. It had first been given as Apollo and Daphne; or, Harlequin Mercury at Drury Lane on 20 February 1725 with the same leading dancers. John Rich had had to wait nearly a year before he could reply from Lincoln’s Inn Fields with Apollo and Daphne; or, The Burgomaster Tricked, in which the title roles were danced by Francis and Marie Sallé with Francis Nivelon as the Burgomaster. Two scenarios were published for the Drury Lane pantomime, which tell us that it began and ended with episodes from Apollo’s fruitless pursuit of Daphne, separated by a complete comic plot in four scenes, and had a concluding pastoral divertissement. In 1724-1725, Thurmond Junior and Mrs Booth were a Sylvan and a Nymph, while in 1725-1726 the divertissement had become ‘a Rural Masque: Les Bois d’Amourette’ with Mrs Booth again as a Nymph and both Thurmond Junior and Roger as two Rival Swains.

It is worth noting that, for its first performance in 1724-1725, Apollo and Daphne is billed as ‘A New Dramatick Entertainment of Dancing’, linking it to John Weaver’s ballets of a few years before. In 1725-1726, Thurmond Junior had obviously revised his pantomime in answer to Rich’s version and it received more than 25 performances that season (more than in 1724-1725), although it would remain in the Drury Lane repertoire only until 1727-1728. The music for Thurmond Junior’s Apollo and Daphne was by Richard Jones and Henry Carey, but no score survives. We have little idea of the visual effect of the production, although the scenarios record some of the scenic and special effects in both the serious and the comic parts of the pantomime. Apollo’s pursuit of Daphne and her transformation into a laurel tree when he catches her, were favoured topics for artists of the period and both moments were depicted in the pantomime. This version, by Giambatista Tiepolo, is nearly thirty years later, but it shows Daphne beginning her transformation beside her father the river god Peneus as Apollo catches up with her too late.

In my next post, I will turn to the Lincoln’s Inn Fields afterpieces with dancing.

Francis Peacock and Learning to Dance in London

Francis Peacock published Sketches relative to the history and theory, but more especially to the practice of dancing in 1805 in Aberdeen, the city where he had been dancing master since 1747. His treatise pursues themes familiar from many earlier such works, as his contents pages show.

Peacock’s book is best known for Sketch V, with its ‘Observations on the Scotch Reel’ along with a ‘Description of the Fundamental Steps’ of that dance. He provides the only known account of this vocabulary, although there is much discussion among today’s teachers of historical dance as to how ‘Scotch’ his steps may have been. Even experts in Scotland’s traditional dancing suspect the influence of ‘French’ dancing in what Peacock has to say.

I am not going to pursue that question, but I am going to look at what Peacock tells us about his own early training to see if that might contribute any useful information relating to his later writing. He provides some helpful clues in the ‘Advertisement’ to his Sketches.

Peacock tells us that he learnt his craft from three of London’s leading dancing masters – George Desnoyer, Leach Glover and Michael Lally, all of whom were also leading dancers in London’s theatres. At an informed guess, he studied with them between the late 1730s and early 1740s. It seems most likely that he had private tuition. He apparently did not follow any form of apprenticeship, which would have bound him to one of these dancing masters for several years and not allowed him to take lessons from all of them. What might they have taught him above and beyond what we know from other dance manuals like Rameau’s Le Maître à danser?

George Desnoyer (c1700-1764?) was possibly born in Hanover, since he was the son of the electoral court’s dancing master (who was probably French and perhaps danced at the Paris Opéra around 1690). Desnoyer is first recorded when he came to dance in London in 1721. L’Abbé’s ‘Spanish Entree’, ‘Entrée’ and ‘Türkish Dance’ created for him, and published in notation around 1725, give us an idea of the young Desnoyer’s virtuosity. In 1722, he returned to Hanover to take up the post of dancing master to Prince Frederick, son of George Prince of Wales, which he held until the Prince was called to London by his father, then George II, in 1728. Desnoyer was not formally dismissed from his post as court dancing master in Hanover until 1731, but by then he was already employed as ‘first Dancer to the King of Poland’ – as he was described in the bills when he returned to London that year. He danced at Drury Lane most seasons from 1731-1732 to 1739-1740 and then at Covent Garden from 1740-1741 to 1741-1742, his final seasons on the stage. On his return to London in 1731, Desnoyer had resumed his relationship with Prince Frederick (the two seem to have been close friends) and he would be dancing master to the Prince, his wife Princess Augusta and their children (including the future George III) until his death.

Leach Glover (1697-1763) was born in London, but not to a theatrical family. He may have begun his career as an actor, but he was first advertised as a dancer at the King’s Theatre in 1717. In his first season on the London stage, Glover was billed as ‘de Mirail’s Scholar’ and he was indeed a pupil of Romain Dumirail, the French dancer and teacher who had worked at the court of Louis XIV and the Paris Opéra. Between 1717 and 1723, Glover’s appearances in London were intermittent and he usually danced with companies of French comedians. He joined John Rich’s company at Lincoln’s Inn Fields for the 1723-1724 season and stayed with Rich until 1740-1741, his last season on the stage. Over that period, Glover rose from a supporting dancer to the company’s leading male dancer (in 1739-1740) before he was eclipsed by the arrival of Desnoyer at Covent Garden. Glover was appointed as royal dancing master in 1738, in succession to Anthony L’Abbé, although Desnoyer continued to teach Prince Frederick and his family. He created a ballroom duet The Princess of Hesse to celebrate the marriage of George II’s daughter Princess Mary in 1740 and it was published in notation.

Michael Lally (1707-1757) came from a family of dancers working in London’s theatres from the late 17th to the mid-18th century. Their respective careers are yet to be properly disentangled (the entries in the Biographical Dictionary of Actors require much revision). Michael was the son of Edmund Lally and brother of Edward Lally (born 1701), who were among the subscribers to John Weaver’s Anatomical and Mechanical Lectures upon Dancing in 1721. He may have made his stage debut in 1720, dancing for his brother’s benefit at Drury Lane. With his brother, he danced briefly at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, but returned to Drury Lane for the 1723-1724 season and stayed there for ten years. He joined John Rich’s company at Covent Garden in 1734-1735 and continued to work there until 1742-1743, although after 1737 he danced only at his annual benefit performances (he may have been dancing master to the company). Advertisements confirm that Michael Lally was a leading dancer first at Drury Lane and then at Covent Garden.

During the period when Francis Peacock may have studied with them, all three men were active as both dancers and dancing masters. They assuredly provided him with a grounding in French belle danse as practised in the ballroom, but could their teaching have gone further? Might they have included ‘Scotch Dancing’ as part of their tuition? Although all three were best known on stage for their serious dancing, they did also perform in other genres – including Scotch Dances.

Desnoyer came to Scotch Dances right at the end of his career. During his last season on the London stage, he danced a ‘New Scots Dance’ with Sga Barbarina (the Italian ballerina Barbara Campanini) at his benefit on 1 April 1742. They performed the duet together at least four times. It is worth noting that at the same performance Desnoyer and Sga Barbarina also danced ‘A Ball Dance call’d the Britannia [probably Pecour’s La Bretagne of 1704], and a Louvre concluding with a Minuet’. The ‘Louvre’ was Pecour’s Aimable Vainqueur. All three choreographies were routinely taught by London’s dancing masters. Glover choreographed his own Scotch Dance, for three couples, and it was first given at Covent Garden on 16 January 1733. It was one of the most popular of the Scotch Dances in London’s theatres and remained in repertoire until the 1740-1741 season.  Like Desnoyer, Glover regularly performed the Louvre, usually with a Minuet, at his own and other benefits. Lally is not known to have performed other than a solo Highland Dance, given early in his career during the 1722-1723 season. However, like Desnoyer and Glover, he regularly performed the Louvre and a Minuet at his benefit performances.

Even if none of his teachers could or would have taught Francis Peacock a Scotch Dance, he would have been able to see such choreographies quite frequently in London’s theatres. As I explained in my post Scotch Dances on the London Stage, 1660-1760, there was a surge in their popularity during the mid-1730s which lasted into the early 1740s and even beyond – just at the time that Peacock must have been in London.

While the evidence I have brought together here remains inconclusive as to whether Francis Peacock might have learnt Scotch Dances while he was in London, it does suggest that Scotch Dances and French dancing had plenty of opportunities to influence each other during the years when he was taking lessons with Desnoyer, Glover and Lally. The following illustrations – one plate from L’Abbé’s ‘Spanish Entrée’ for Desnoyer with two entre-chats à six and Peacock’s description of the ‘Kem Badenoch’ with its mention of an ‘Entrechat’ – may perhaps provide food for thought.

References:

I have written more about Desnoyer and Glover elsewhere (I am currently working on an article about the Lally family).

Moira Goff, ‘Desnoyer, Charmer of the Georgian Age’, Historical Dance, 4.2 (2012), 3-10.

Moira Goff, ‘The Celebrated Monsieur Desnoyer, Part 1: 1721-1733, Part 2: 1734-1742’, Dance Research, 31.1 (Summer 2012), 67-93.

Moira Goff, ‘Leach Glover, “Dancing Master to the Royal Family”, Part One: The Professional Dancer in Context, Part Two: Teachers of Dancing’, Dance Research (forthcoming).

Apart from his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, I couldn’t find any articles devoted to Francis Peacock either in print or online, although he does of course feature in George S. Emmerson’s A Social History of Scottish Dance (Montreal, 1972).