Category Archives: Stage Dancing

The Brisé in the Ballroom

Among the steps listed for use in the cotillon, when the dance became popular in the 1760s, were a sissonne brisé (Josson, 1763) and brizé à trois pas (Gherardi, 1769?). Neither source describes how these steps should be performed, nor does the brisé turn up in earlier dance manuals (at least not under that name). It does appear later among the steps recommended for quadrilles  (where it is described) and it does, of course, also form part of the vocabulary of modern classical ballet. What was a brisé in late 18th and early 19th century social dancing?

The earliest description of a brisé that I know comes from Gennaro Magri’s Trattato teorico-prattico di ballo of 1779. Apart from appearing some ten to fifteen years later than Josson and Gherardi, Magri deals principally with stage dancing. Here is what he has to say about the brisé:

‘The brisé done in its true form has nothing in common with the capriole; indeed an assemblé to the side is more like a capriole than a brisé. This step is greatly used by the French, and although it might be a little thing in itself, none the less it appears to have more value by being a brilliant step, as it makes more effect done by those ballanti with supremely lively footwork than a capriole done by another. In truth then, referring to the subject of the capriole, it is executed as though it were a fourth capriolata to the side, but since it is done on the ground it becomes a step and not a capriole, whence in calling it a capriole the teachers of the art commit an error, showing that they cannot distinguish this from the step. It may be done forwards, backwards, sideways, turning, repeated, or doublé.

To do it forwards, if you wish to take it with the right leg, place yourself in any position except the first and the second, but the best is always the fourth; placed then in this with the right behind, bending, extend the foot to second in the air from where, with the calf of the same leg, beat in front of the instep of the other, which by the same strike is chased to fourth in front.’

(Magri, Theoretical and practical treatise on dancing, translated by Mary Skeaping, 1988, p. 138)

A footnote explains that ‘The right foot cuts in front of the left, which is simultaneously snatched up to touch the calf of the right’. Magri’s remark that ‘it is done on the ground’, without a jump, is particularly interesting in the context of cotillons and quadrilles. Steps that we would today associate with jumps seem to have been done simply with a rise in the ballroom. Magri’s caprioles include the entre-chat and cabriole, i.e. they are steps with both jumps and beats.

Magri also has a step called the demi-sissonne, described thus:

‘The sissonne, whether it be simple or with a rise and of whatever other category except the repeated, may be halved by ending it with a bend of both knees, without rising after the landing.’ (Skeaping translation, p. 106)

He adds that ‘This demi will have its place whenever another different step which begins with a plié has to be attached, either a jump or a capriole’ and tells us that serious dancers ‘add a pas brisé to it’. Might this shed some light on Josson’s sissonne-brisé?

The sources for quadrilles do explain how to perform the steps they mention. Here is what Gourdoux-Daux has to say in his De l’art de la danse of 1823 about the ‘pas ou tems qu’on nomme brisé dessus et à trois tems’. He begins ‘Pour faire ce pas, les pieds étant à la troisième’ and continues:

Gourdoux-Daux seems to be suggesting that the brisé is followed by a sissonne (the early 19th-century version) and then a close in third position. Was this, in fact, Gherardi’s brizé à trois pas?

Mason describes a jeté brisé dessous in his A Short Essay on the French Danse de Société of 1827 as follows:

‘Jeté devant upon the right foot, passing the left to fourth position behind; make a little battement forward and back; jeté devant upon the left, and continue.’

The pas battu seems to have no jump, in keeping with the conventions of social dancing.

Modern dictionaries of ballet describe the brisé as a small travelling assemblé with a beat. The earlier versions I have been discussing here seem not to travel and to have been executed with a rise and not a jump. Otherwise, the 18th and 19th-century brisé is clearly the ancestor of the modern step. Reading the various early descriptions, I can begin to see how the brisé could be incorporated into the perpetuum mobile of the cotillon and be performed within an early 19th-century quadrille.

Dances on the London Stage: The Running Footman

The bill at the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre for 16 November 1723 included, among the entr’acte dances, a Running Footman’s Dance by Nivelon and Mrs Rogier. It was evidently quite popular, for it was given ten times that season (two of the performances were billed as a solo by Nivelon). It was copied at the Richmond Theatre the following summer, where it was danced as a solo by Haughton.

The running footman must have cut a conspicuous figure on the streets of London and elsewhere. Footmen were part of aristocratic and wealthy entourages and running footmen were highly prized. All footmen were young men with good carriage and good physiques, but running footmen were particularly fit and strong as they were employed to run just ahead of their master’s coach on a journey, in a livery designed to attract attention. A satirical piece in the Universal Spectator describes them as wearing ‘fine Holland Drawers and Waistcoats, Thread Stockings, a blue silk Sash fringed with Silver, a Velvet Cap with a great Tassel’ and carrying ‘a Porter’s Staff with a large Silver Handle’. The details of their livery obviously varied according to their employer, but such features as the cap and the staff made them instantly recognisable, as in this undated image.

The running footman also ran errands in town and was entered into competitive foot races by his employer. These events included wagers and could be elaborate. They were regularly reported in the newspapers during much of the 18th century, as in Applebee’s Original Weekly Journal for 24 September 1720.

It was surely such exploits that gave Nivelon the idea for the dance – it seems likely that he was the original choreographer.

Nivelon and Mrs Laguerre (as Mrs Rogier became following her remarriage in 1724) performed the Running Footman from 1723-1724 until 1727-1728, with a brief revival in 1732-1733. The fact that it was a duet, when put together with the duties of real running footmen, suggests that the dance had a narrative element and was not simply a display of dancing skills. The Running Footman would feature among entr’acte dances in London’s theatres until the 1763-1764 season. Many of these dances were solos, which does suggest virtuosic display, and in 1750-1751 the Running Footman was given as a male duet which may well have mimicked the races mentioned above. The last mention of the Running Footman as an entr’acte dance was on 4 May 1764, when Robert Aldridge danced with Miss Baker and supporting dancers (indicated, as usual, only by ‘&c.’). Did this choreography make use of a narrative? Could it have looked back to Nivelon’s original dance?

Music for a Running Footman country dance can be found in several sources of the mid-18th century. The earliest to bear the title seems to be that in The Compleat Country Dancing-Master published by John Walsh in 1731, where it has the title Running Footman’s Jigg. Could this be the tune used by Nivelon? All these country dances have a time signature of 6/8.

The Running Footman also seems to have been absorbed into an entr’acte dance named The Medley. There were a couple of early entr’acte dances with that title, performed in 1702-1703 and 1734-1735 respectively, but the one that is relevant to this post must be the ‘New Entertainment call’d The Medley, by Slingsby, Miss Baker, &c.’ given at Drury Lane on 20 November 1764. This was performed more than forty times that season although oddly, given its popularity, it wasn’t revived until 1767-1768 (with different performers). It was subsequently given in 1770-1771, when it was performed by ‘Scholars of Giorgi’ (he was a leading dancer at Drury Lane). That version of The Medley continued in repertoire into the 1772-1773 season. All of these performances were at Drury Lane. The Medley moved to the Theatre Royal, Haymarket for 1774-1775 and 1775-1776 and took a last bow there in 1783-1784 when it was danced by ‘Master Giorgi, Miss Byrne and others’. There are no hints in the surviving advertisements about the theme of the dance, although the title suggests that it included several different choreographies.

At least one version of The Medley was performed in the provinces, where it was advertised with full details. Here is the relevant section from the advertisement in the Derby Mercury for 28 February 1782. My thanks to Keith Cavers for providing both the information and the reference.

The list of characters in The Medley suggests that it was drawn not only from entr’acte dances popular on the London stage, but also from well-known dances within afterpieces. Were these linked together by a narrative thread spun by the Running Footman himself? Mr West was the dancer and choreographer William West (born circa 1757). As I write, I haven’t been able to find evidence that he did succeed Slingsby in The Medley at Drury Lane – unless he was one of the unnamed ‘Scholars of Giorgi’ who performed it there in the early 1770s (when West would have been in his mid-teens).

The Running Footman made two other stage appearances in the late 18th century. One was at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket on 8 August 1781 in an afterpiece titled Medea and Jason. This was a parody of Noverre’s well-known ballet, which had been given in London for the first time at the King’s Theatre earlier that season. The Haymarket cast included the ‘Prince de la Cour (as a Running Footman)’ danced by Master Byrn. This production may be worth returning to in a later post. The Running Footman’s last appearances seem to have been in another afterpiece, Here and There and Everywhere, also given at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, from 31 August 1785. The role was taken by Master Goosetree. In both cases, the Running Footman seems to have been performed by a boy rather than an adult male dancer.

There is another image of the running footman in a series of four studies by the Italian artist Giovanni Paolo Panini, possibly dating to the mid-1750s. They provide an idea of the figure represented on the London stage by Nivelon, Slingsby and some of the other dancers who performed the Running Footman.

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 Last Quadrilles on the 18th-Century London Stage?

Between 1776 and 1787 quadrilles continued to be mentioned in London theatre bills from time to time. On 16 May 1778, the bill at Covent Garden included ‘a variety of new Quadrilles’ at the end of act four of Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer. These ‘new Quadrilles’ may well have been cotillons for four, since they were immediately preceded by ‘Le Minuet à Quatre by Dumay, Holloway, Miss Matthews, Miss Ross’ who presumably provided all the dancing in this entr’acte.

In 1782, there was another outburst of quadrilles which is worth looking at in some detail. Late in 1781, a masked ball ‘with Quadrilles’ was announced at the King’s Theatre. Subsequent newspaper reports suggest that it was deferred until 24 January 1782. The advertisement in the Morning Chronicle for that day listed an elaborate sequence of entertainments by the theatre’s leading dancers.

Morning Chronicle 24 Jan 1782

These quadrilles seem to have been danced by four couples and had been created by none other than Jean-Georges Noverre. The practice of holding masquerades alongside the opera performances dates back to much earlier in the history of London’s opera house, as this image of 1724 shows.

KIn's Theatre Masquerade Grisoni 1724 (2)

On 2 February 1782, the performance at the King’s Theatre included entr’acte dancing with ‘the Dances introduced in the Masquerade’.

On 7 February 1782, there was a cotillon ball at the Pantheon. The advertisement in that day’s Morning Chronicle helpfully explained:

‘Several Ladies having expressed a desire to dance Quadrilles, and other figure dances at the Cotillon Ball, Ladies who wish to make their party for that purpose, may be accommodated with a room to practice the same any morning from Twelve to Three, free of any expence.’

The ‘Ladies’ would of course have subscribed in advance to attend the cotillon ball. There was probably more than a little rivalry between the various venues mounting public balls.

In April and May 1782, there were a number of performances at the Covent Garden Theatre which included quadrilles in the entr’actes. On 2 April there was ‘a new Grand Divertisement’ at the end of the mainpiece play. Here is playbill for the performance.

CG 2 April 1782

The Gala, with its Quadrilles and Cotillons, was repeated on 16 and 27 April. The advertisement is open to interpretation – either the quadrilles and cotillons used four and eight dancers respectively, or the dances were distinguished from one another by their steps, choreographic structure and music. The wording does not suggest that the dancers were divided into groups, so it is impossible to tell what the difference was. On 25 May 1782 a ‘New Quadrille’ was given in the entr’actes at Covent Garden, but the bill says no more than that title.

There were only occasional mentions of quadrilles later in the 1780s. The last reference to quadrilles on the London stage before 1800 was in the bill for a performance at the King’s Theatre on 20 January 1787. However, it came within the description of ‘an allegorical Ballet’ at the end of the opera ‘divided into 3 Quadrilles’ which must surely mean simply that the dancers were divided into three groups for the purposes of the choreography.

I suspect that there are many more references to danced quadrilles to be uncovered in newspapers and other sources during the last decades of the eighteenth century. Paul Cooper’s ‘Cotillion Dancing in England, 1760s to 1810s’ on the Regency Dances website cites an advertisement in the Bath Chronicle of 30 October 1794 for a dancing master named Deneuville, who was teaching quadrilles in that city. I am certain that London’s dancing masters must have been doing the same, even if the dance (in any form) was not being given in London’s theatres. Further research will surely shed light on the ‘quadrilles’ danced in London and elsewhere before the 19th century.

More Quadrilles in 18th-Century London

After the burst of interest in 1773, no more quadrilles were advertised in London’s theatres until 3 May 1776 when the performance at Covent Garden included:

‘New Dance Call’d The Academy, in which will be introduced the New Court Minuet and Rigadoon (never perform’d before) by Mas. Holland and Miss Armstrong; with a Minuet and Allemande, by Mas. Daigueville, and a Girl only 5 years old; to conclude with a new Cadrille, by Sg and Sga Zuchelli, Dagueville, and Sga Vidini’.

In this case, the identification of a quadrille with a cotillon performed by only four dancers seems plausible. The performance was a benefit for ‘Dagueville’ (Peter D’Egville), described as ‘ballet master’ in the advertisement, so did he create this quadrille?

However, just a couple of years earlier, there had been a private performance of quadrilles which might have bought them back on stage, although they are not explicitly mentioned in any bills. On 9 June 1774, Lord Stanley (Edward Smith Stanley, later 12th Earl of Derby) had given a Fête Champêtre at his country seat The Oaks, near Epsom in Surrey to celebrate his forthcoming marriage to Lady Elizabeth Hamilton. The report in the General Evening Post, 9-11 June 1774, mentioned (among many other entertainments) ‘an infinite number of persons habited as peasants who attended swings and other amusements, and occasionally formed parties quarrees to dance quadrilles’. The description ‘parties quarrees’ suggests four couples dancing in a square. I couldn’t find individual portraits of the happy couple around the time of the Fête Champêtre, but here is a double portrait of them with their son painted by Angelica Kauffman in 1776.

Lord and Lady Stanley Kaufmann 1776

Lord Stanley’s entertainment later became part of a play by John Burgoyne, The Maid of the Oaks, first performed at Drury Lane on 5 November 1774. A review in the Westminster Magazine for November 1774 sets out the plot and describes its divertissements:

‘After some superb exhibitions of transparent scenery, several characteristic airs, and elegant dances, Mr Oldworth … proclaims Maria his only daughter and gives her to Sir Harry. After a dance of Cupids, Hymen, &c. … offering them eternal wreaths, the Druid of the Oaks, freed by the present powers of Beauty from that sequestered habitation to which by mystic spells he had long been doomed, appears to ratify their union, and astonishes the spectators by his magic influence, in a glorious vision of that felicity the virtues of the happy pair had so justly insured. An admirable vaudeville, and a grand dance, conclude the dramatic entertainment’.

Cupid, Hymen and the Druid had all featured in Lord Stanley’s Fête Champêtre. The published text of the play makes clear that some of the scenes seen on stage represented the gardens and temporary buildings which had formed its backdrop the previous June. This print shows the ballroom designed and erected by Robert Adam for the occasion.

Adam Ballroom Oaks 1774 Stanley Fete (2)

The advertisement for the first performance of The Maid of the Oaks told would-be audiences that the piece would include a ‘Fête Champêtre’ with singing and dancing – ‘The Dances by Slingsby … Atkins, Como, Giorgi, Sga Crespi, Mrs Sutton, &c. and Sga Hidou, … The Ballets by M. Larevier’. The distinction between ‘Dances’ and ‘Ballets’ is interesting and perhaps reflects a difference between the choreographies performed by the guests at the Fête and the divertissement dances given by the professionals. Another source tells us that the Ballets were ‘very Grand’. There is no mention of quadrilles either on the bills or in the printed text. The latter refers only to ‘a Grand Dance of Shepherds and Shepherdesses’ at the end of act two, a ‘Country Dance’ towards the end of act four, and a Minuet at the beginning of act five – which ends with the ‘Grand Dance’. Perhaps the ‘Country Dance’ was actually a quadrille.

I am inclined to believe that The Maid of the Oaks did include quadrilles, if only because on 31 August 1774 the Daily Advertiser Carried the following announcement:

Daily Advertiser 31 Aug 1774 (2)

The Morning Chronicle for 22 November 1774 announced that Delatre’s New Set of Cotillons was to be published that day, with its ‘first published’ quadrille. Delatre may well have been making use of the publicity surrounding Lord Stanley’s Fête Champêtre. Was he also capitalizing on the dancing in The Maid of the Oaks? He may have been the Monsieur Delaître who danced at Drury Lane in the 1750s, beginning with Jean-Georges Noverre’s The Chinese Festival in 1755. He is one of the very few dancing masters for whom trade cards have survived. This is the most elaborate of three that are known and may date to the 1780s.

Delatre Trade Card (2)

I had thought that two pieces on these early stage quadrilles would have been enough, but I found quite a bit of interesting material. A third piece will take the story forward to the 1780s.

The First Quadrilles in London?

At an online cotillon workshop a few weeks ago, someone asked when cotillons changed to quadrilles. I was curious to know more about this, so I thought I would do some research. Of course, once I got started, I found more information and it was more complicated to analyse than I had anticipated. There may be more than one post on this topic.

I began with a couple of modern sources – Ellis Rogers’s extensively researched book The Quadrille (3rd edition, 2005) and Paul Cooper’s research paper ‘Cotillion Dancing in England, 1760s to 1810s’, which includes a section on early quadrilles, on the Regency Dances website. Both supply a wealth of information and references which I have tried to follow up and build on. My focus is usually dancing on the 18th-century London stage, so I thought I would also see if there were any quadrilles advertised in London’s theatres during that period. There were, so I have looked first and foremost at these. I don’t usually provide references in my posts, but I will give some here. Details of stage performances can be found in The London Stage.

In The Quadrille (p. 13), Ellis Rogers cites Jean-Michel Guilcher who states in his La Contredanse that before the 19th century the term ‘quadrille’ meant simply a group of dancers brought together to perform a dance. Paul Cooper tells us that quadrilles were danced in England from the mid-1770s and cites the dancing master S. J. Gardiner who, in his 1786 treatise A Definition of Minuet-Dancing, has a section ‘Of Cotillions, Quadrilles, &c.’ and writes of quadrilles – ‘They are Danced the same as the Cotillions, only with this difference, that instead of four Couple in the Cotillions, there are but two in the Quadrilles’ (p. 55).

On the London stage, the earliest recorded performance of a quadrille was on 27 March 1773 at Drury Lane. At the end of the play there was ‘A New Dance, in which will be introduced a Quadrille, by Daigueville, Giorgi, Atkins, Grimaldi, Sga Vidini, Sga Giorgi, Mrs Sutton, Mme Daigville, &c.’ The New Dance with its Quadrille was repeated on 30 March. It is interesting that eight dancers (four men and four women) are named, although the ‘&c.’ indicates that there were additional supporting dancers. It is impossible to tell which of the dancers might have performed the Quadrille – although my guess is that it was the eight who are named.

That same season a Grand Quadrille was given at the end of the opera at the King’s Theatre on 27 April. The advertisement tells us:

La Fete de Village will be done in the same manner as it was at Mlle Heinel’s Benefit, in which Mlle Heinel and Fierville will dance a Minuet, to conclude with a Country Dance and a Grand Quadrille by the principal dancers.’

There had been no mention of either a Country Dance or a Grand Quadrille when La Fete de Village was danced at Mlle Heinel’s benefit on 1 April 1773, although that ballet was repeated on 28 May and 8 June as well as 27 April with these additions. On 8 June the Grand Quadrille was advertised as danced by ‘Slingsby, etc.’ Simon Slingsby must have been one of the unnamed ‘principal dancers’ referred to on 27 April and presumably led both the Country Dance and the Grand Quadrille with a female partner.

These performances came soon after a private ball at which quadrilles were danced. Horace Walpole provides us with a description of the dancing at the ball given at the French Ambassador’s house on 26 March 1773:

‘The quadrilles were very pretty: Mrs Damer, Lady Sefton, Lady Melbourn and the Princess Czartoriski, in blue satin and blond and collets montés à la reine Elizabeth, Lord Robert Spencer, Mr Fitzpatrick, Lord Carlisle and I forget whom, in like dresses with red sashes, beaucoup de rouge, black hats with diamond loops and a few feathers before, began: then the Henri Quatres and Quatresses, who were Lady Craven, Miss Minching, the two Misses Vernons, Mr Storer, Mr Hanger, the Duc de Lausun and George Damer, all in white, the men with black hats and white feathers flapping behind, danced another quadrille, and then both quadrilles joined’. (The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, ed. W.S. Lewis (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1937-1983), vol. 32, pp. 108-113. Letter to Lady Ossory, 27 March 1773).

Walpole’s use of the word ‘quadrilles’ here may well have Guilcher’s meaning and so does not really refer to what they were dancing – although each of the quadrilles did have eight dancers. The footnotes to the letter identify most of the dancers, almost all of whom were in their mid-twenties. At least two of them were painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds around this time – Anne Seymour Damer (1748-1828) in 1773 and Lord Robert Spencer (1747-1831) in 1769. They may have been partners for the first quadrille.

The ball was given an advance mention in the Public Advertiser for 25 March 1773, which provided the additional information that ‘The directors of the dances are Mr Slingsby and Monsieur Lepy’. Both were dancers at the King’s Theatre this season, raising the question whether Drury Lane stole a march on their rivals by adding a quadrille to the bill on 27 March, well before the King’s Theatre were ready to do so. Reading all this over, I am not sure I have quite fathomed the relationship between the French Ambassador’s ball and the various later stage performances.

There are references to quadrilles beyond this ball and the subsequent theatre performances, which seem to indicate that quadrilles were being introduced to London for the first time in 1773. On 8 April 1773 (after the French Ambassador’s ball and the first ‘quadrille’ performance at Drury Lane), Gallini advertised his forthcoming annual ball at Almack’s in the Public Advertiser and drew attention to the fact that the tunes in the second volume of his Treatise on the Art of Dancing ‘may be danced to in Quadrille as well as Cotillons’. When the ball was advertised again in the Public Advertiser on 17 April (it was to take place on 23 April) there was an addition to the wording – ‘By particular Desire, a double Quadrille will be performed’. On 30 April 1773 the Public Advertiser carried a notice for ‘Mr. Noverre’s Annual Ball’ to be held on 3 May (Mr Noverre was Augustin, younger brother of Jean-Georges). The dances would include ‘Minuets, Cotillons and a Double Quadrille, by Mr. Noverre’s Scholars’. Both Gallini and Noverre seem to have been trying to capitalise on the new dance that had caught public attention as well as emulate the double quadrille at the French Ambassador’s ball.

These quadrilles were being danced in London just a few years after the start of the craze for cotillons. Were they really quadrilles, or just another form of cotillon? I will return to the question of the combination of steps, figures, choreographic structure and music that defines a quadrille.

Minuets Mocked

Among the many minuets danced in London’s theatres in the course of the 18th century, two have titles that single them out from the majority. A Mock Minuet was performed at Covent Garden on 12 April 1733 and lasted into the following season. A Grotesque Minuet was given a single performance at the same theatre on 20 April 1758. What might their titles tell us about these particular entr’acte dances, or about minuets performed on the London stage more generally?

According to the advertisement in the Daily Journal on 12 April 1733, the performance at Covent Garden included a ‘Mock Minuet by Nivelon and Mrs Laguerre, introduced by Pelling, Mrs Pelling, Newhouse, Miss La Tour, De la Garde, Mrs Ogden, Lesac, Miss Baston’ to be given at the end of act 4 of Thomas Otway’s tragedy Venice Preserv’d.

Mock Minuet Daily Journal 12 Apr 1733 (2)

The entr’acte dance was given another six performances before the end of the season, with several different mainpieces although all the performances were benefits (including one for Mrs Laguerre and her husband, the actor-singer John Laguerre). On 7 May, and for all subsequent performances, the number of supporting couples was reduced from four to three. The Mock Minuet was revived for another eight performances in 1733-1734 at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket. Nivelon again led the dancers, with Miss Robinson as his partner, but there were only two supporting couples. Such variations in the number of dancers and even changes of venue were not unusual for dances given on the London stage, although in this case Nivelon revived the dance at the Haymarket following his departure from the Covent Garden company.

Why was the dance titled a ‘Mock Minuet’? The answer lies beyond the dance repertoire in London’s theatres, for it must surely relate to an extremely successful play. Henry Fielding’s The Mock Doctor; or, The Dumb Lady Cur’d, an adaptation of Molière’s Le medecin malgré lui, was first given at Drury Lane on 23 June 1732. It had been such a hit that not only was it revived the following season but it secured a place in the repertory into the 19th century. At Drury Lane it was given several times early in the 1732-1733 season and then revived again in January 1733. The Mock Doctor was performed for the first time at the Goodman’s Fields Theatre and the Little Theatre in the Haymarket on 13 and 14 February 1733 respectively, underlining its popularity with audiences.

All this was followed by several other plays that tried to capitalise on Fielding’s success. The anonymous The Mock Officer; or, The Captain’s Lady was given at Drury Lane on 28 March 1733, followed by Chetwood’s The Mock Mason ‘a Ballad Opera of one Act’ given a single performance at Goodman’s Fields on 13 April 1733 (for Chetwood’s benefit). Covent Garden joined in with The Mock Lawyer, ‘a Farcical Ballad Opera’ by Edward Phillips, on 27 April 1733 and finally there was the anonymous The Mock Countess at Drury Lane on 30 May 1733. Most of these copy-cat productions responded to the format of Fielding’s play which, with its several songs, resembled a small-scale ballad opera. The Mock Minuet was given in the middle of all this opportunistic rivalry – which surely explains its title.

The choreographer of the Mock Minuet was very likely Francis Nivelon, with whom the dance moved from Covent Garden to the Haymarket. Can all this information tell us anything about the entr’acte dance itself? Nivelon had been a member of John Rich’s company since the 1723-1724 season and may well have created many, if not all, of the choreographies he had performed at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in both entr’acte dances and afterpieces. Among the entr’acte dances he performed in 1732-1733 were two first given around the same time as the Mock Minuet – the Sleeping Dutchman and his Frow on 27 March 1733 and The Amorous Clowns; or, the Courtezan on 3 May 1733.

The advertisement for the Sleeping Dutchman and his Frow in the Daily Journal for 16 May 1733 follows the same pattern as that for the Mock Minuet (I couldn’t locate the advertisement for 27 March).

Mock Doctor Daily Journal 16 May 1733 (2)

Nivelon subsequently took this same dance to Drury Lane and the advertisement for the performance there on 10 October 1734 makes it clear that Nivelon is the Sleeping Dutchman with Mrs Laguerre as his wife. There were many ‘Dutch’ duets performed on the London stage at this period, so Nivelon seems to be giving a new twist to an old theme and perhaps also using some familiar music.

The Amorous Clowns; or, the Courtezan was actually advertised with its own cast list in the Daily Journal for 3 May 1733.

Mock Doctor Daily Journal 3 May 1733 (2)

Nivelon had made a speciality of Clowns (in this context meaning ‘Boors’ or ‘Rustics’) and so was presumably drawing on his own dances and perhaps their music too. He may have collaborated with Pelling on this entr’acte dance, for it turns up at Drury Lane in 1735-1736 with Pelling as the lead Clown. It seems likely that both of these dances – and the Mock Minuet – incorporated comic action alongside dances.

Could the Mock Minuet have drawn on The Mock Doctor? Nivelon may well have used music from some of the latter’s songs but did he draw on one or other of Fielding’s two intertwining plots? The major strand concerns Gregory, his wife Dorcas and her revenge when he beats her – Gregory is the ‘Mock Doctor’ of the play’s title. The other follows Charlotte and Leander, who cannot marry because her father intends her for another. Charlotte is the ‘Dumb Lady’ of the play’s sub-title, who is treated by the ‘Mock Doctor’. If Nivelon did refer explicitly to Fielding’s farce (and the Mock Minuet was one of Covent Garden’s responses to Drury Lane’s success with The Mock Doctor), the scenes with Dorcas and Gregory probably provided the sort of comic action he had already created so often.

Another Mock Minuet was given single performances in each of the 1752-1753 and 1753-1754 performances. In both cases it was danced by ‘Maranesi and Sga Bugiani’, each time for Maranesi’s benefit. This was a duet and may well owe something to the Italian grottesco dance tradition. It is also worth noting that another Mock Minuet held the stage from the 1770-1771 season until the end of the century. This dance was associated with James Townley’s farce High Life Below Stairs, in which two servants impersonate their master and mistress to dance an ‘awkward and conceited’ minuet. The dance became such a hit with audiences that it was regularly billed as a feature of the performance when the afterpiece was given.

The Grotesque Minuet is less of a conundrum. On the London stage the term ‘Grotesque’ is not often used for dances and in advertisements signifies performance by characters from the commedia dell’arte – as John Weaver made clear in his The History of the Mimes and Pantomimes (1728) – ‘By Grotesque Dancing, I mean only such Characters as are quite out of Nature; as Harlequin, Scaramouch, Pierot, &c.’ (p. 56). Weaver did muddy the waters by adding ‘tho’ in the natural Sense of the Word, Grotesque among Masters of our Profession, takes in all comic Dancing whatever’. When it comes to dancing on the London stage, one can never be quite sure about anything.

The single performance of the Grotesque Minuet was given by Leppie and Miss Hillyard for her benefit. Unfortunately, I can’t find any evidence to suggest which commedia characters they may have represented, if indeed they did. Perhaps their duet looked a little like this dance depicted by Giandomenico Tiepolo in 1756?

Gian Domenico Tiepolo Grotesque Minuet 1756

 

Charles Mason, Charles Beaupré and Steps for the Quadrille

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

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

Mason Danse de Societe Title Page (2)

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

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

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

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

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

Beaupre in Dansomanie 1

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

The Saraband on the Restoration Stage

I keep coming across references to sarabands in plays from the Restoration period. I am wondering why this dance was popular at this period. I have previously written about the saraband as an entr’acte dance in London’s theatres during the early 18th century, but here I will look a little further back.

My research into dancing on the London stage only goes back to 1660 and a little before. The earliest mention of a saraband I have encountered appears in Sir William Davenant’s The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru, first performed in 1658. The entertainment has six Entries, each of which ends with a dance.  In the fourth Entry:

‘… a saraband is played, whilst two Spaniards enter from the opposite sides of the scene, exactly clothed and armed according to the custom of their nation and, to express their triumph after the victory over the natives, they solemnly uncloak and unarm themselves to the tune and afterwards dance with castanets.’

Davenant’s The Law against Lovers (a conflation and adaptation of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure and Much Ado About Nothing) was seen by Samuel Pepys on 18 February 1662, when he noted ‘the little girl’s (whom I never saw before) dancing and singing’. She was Mary (‘Moll’) Davis, who played Viola in Davenant’s play and is described in the text as ‘dancing a Saraband awhile with Castanietos’.

Did John Dryden draw on one or the other (or both) of these for the scene in his The Indian Emperor in which two Spaniards ‘dance a Saraband with Castanieta’s’? The Indian Emperor was first performed in 1665 and published in 1668. The dance comes near the beginning of act four scene three. Here is the description from the second edition of 1668 (coincidentally the year the play was performed at the court of Charles II).

Indian Emperor Saraband 1668 (2)

The context for the dance, with its unarmed Spaniards, is strikingly similar to Davenant’s in The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru.

Here is a Spaniard dancing with castanets from a much earlier work. Might he have influenced the dancing seen on the London stage?

Spaniard Ballet de la Nuit

Dancing Spaniard from designs for Le Ballet de la Nuit, 1653

I was prompted to write this post by the discovery of yet another saraband performed in a play. Shakespeare’s The Tempest was adapted by Davenant and Dryden and, in their new version, first performed in 1667. I won’t go into all the details of the adaptation here but, among other additional characters, Ariel was given a companion female spirit named Milcha. At the end of the play, just before Prospero’s final speech, Ariel and Milcha dance a saraband together.  It is worth noting that Ariel may originally have been performed by Mary Davis.

I am aware, of course, of the ‘sarabands’ in The English Dancing-Master published by John Playford in 1651. Further afield, there are the appearances by Mlle Verpré in the ballets de cour of Louis XIV, as ‘L’Espagnolle … dansant avec Castagnettes’ in the final Entrée of the Ballet de la Raillerie (1659) and ‘dansant une Sarabande’ in the seventh Entrée of the Ballet des Saisons (1661). The saraband appears most notably in the ‘Ballet des Nations’ within Le Bourgeois gentilhomme in 1670, which just postdates the period I have been concentrating on. Research among the music sources of the period would doubtless reveal many more examples of this dance, with and without castanets.

What were the reasons for Davenant’s and Dryden’s repeated use of the saraband in their plays? How would their audiences have seen and interpreted this dance? It isn’t difficult to see, with these examples, that on the early Restoration stage the saraband was often closely linked to Spanish characters, but is there more to its use than simply the Spanish connection? Further research, in both earlier and later periods, could well uncover a far richer picture and perhaps reveal more about dancing in London’s theatres during the 1660s and 1670s.