Category Archives: Stage Dancing

Publishing the Scenario for The Loves of Mars and Venus

John Weaver’s innovative ‘Dramatick Entertainment of Dancing’ The Loves of Mars and Venus was first performed at the Drury Lane Theatre on 2 March 1717. The scenario for the afterpiece was published the same week, as announced in the Evening Post, 23-26 February 1717.

‘This Week will be published, as it will be perform’d at the Theatre in Drury Lane. The Loves of Mars and Venus, a Dramatick Entertainment of Dancing in Imitation of the Pantomimes of the ancient Greeks and Romans, compos’d by Mr. Weaver being a Description thereof, written by him for the Benefit of the Spectators, the Novelty of the Undertaking absolutely requiring some Instructions for the better [illustrating?] the same. Printed for W. Mears at the Lamb, and J. Brown at the Black Swan both without Temple-bar.’

This small work is the only surviving source for Weaver’s ballet and it is worth looking more closely at its publication history.

The scenario is the first work to describe in detail the action, dance and gesture in a ballet. It has been linked to the livrets published to accompany ballets at the French court in the late 17th century, but these works had little in the way of extended narrative and included songs which helped audiences to understand the action.

As the advertisement states, The Loves of Mars and Venus was printed for William Mears and J. Browne. Both were involved in the printing of plays and active in selling them. Mears also published opera libretti as well as masques and some early pantomime texts. The origins of Weaver’s scenario perhaps lie in such printed play texts and libretti for the Italian operas that were so popular in London. It was printed as an octavo – the same format as most plays in the early 18th century. The scenario was not ‘printed for the author’, so Weaver presumably sold his copyright to Mears and Browne and did not have to cover any of the printing costs. They were free to republish the text as and when they wished.

Weaver’s scenario is a pamphlet of just 24 pages. The imprint tells us that it cost 6d. (6 old pence), the same price as brief interludes or song texts. Mainpiece plays were 1s. 6d., reflecting their greater length. Although modern equivalents of 18th-century prices are difficult to calculate, 6d. was roughly £5 to £7.50 in today’s money. The size of the print run can only be guesswork, although 250 to 500 copies provide a reasonable estimate.

The relationship between the number of copies printed and audiences at performances of The Loves of Mars and Venus indicates that, even in its first season, very few spectators are likely to have been able to consult the scenario. Drury Lane held 800 to 1000, of whom around half were seated in the more expensive seats in the pit and boxes. We have no idea how many were in the audience at each of the seven performances of the afterpiece in 1716-1717. The advertisement says nothing about the scenario being available for purchase at the theatre, so would-be members of the audience would have needed to seek out a copy at the bookseller. On the other hand, the sale of the scenario elsewhere may have encouraged theatre-goers to attend Weaver’s experimental ballet.

There were more than forty performances of The Loves of Mars and Venus between 1716-1717 and 1723-1724 and another edition of the scenario was published by William Mears in 1724 to accompany the last revival of the afterpiece. This new edition was advertised in the Evening Post for 28-30 January 1724, a few days after the initial performance that season. It carries no edition statement and has the same internal pagination as the 1717 edition, so it may have been a reissue of unsold copies of the original edition. Unfortunately, I have not been able to examine a copy of the 1724 edition and there is no digital version which might allow me to check its status.

There was also an edition published in Dublin in 1720, which I would dearly like to see (according to the English Short Title Catalogue there is only one known copy, which is not accessible digitally). The Loves of Mars and Venus was never performed in Dublin, so far as we know, so this edition perhaps reflects the ballet’s success in London.  Mears and Browne went on to publish the scenario for Weaver’s next ‘Dramatick Entertainment of Dancing’ Orpheus and Eurydice in 1718, which needs a post of its own.

The irregularity in the pagination of the 1717 scenario is worth investigating. The volume collates [A]2 B – C4 D2, which is not unusual, but the pagination runs [4], ix-xvi, 17-28. There seems to be a four-page gap, suggesting either an initial gathering of four leaves rather than two, or perhaps an additional two-leaf gathering after [A]. Was Weaver hoping to include a dedication, which did not materialise? In 1706, he had dedicated Orchesography (his translation of Feuillet’s Choregraphie) to Mr Isaac and his An Essay Towards an History of Dancing of 1712 to Thomas Caverley. Who might have been the intended recipient of The Loves of Mars and Venus? Did Weaver perhaps wish to dedicate the scenario to Sir Richard Steele, licensee and manager of the Drury Lane Theatre and also a playwright? Steele had apparently invited Weaver to return to Drury Lane to mount his ballet but may not have wanted to accept the dedication. Or did Weaver have an aristocratic or even a royal patron in mind, only to be disappointed at the last moment?

The scenario for The Loves of Mars and Venus has a Preface, in which Weaver explains his intention to introduce dancing ‘in Imitation of the Pantomimes of the Ancient Greeks and Romans’ to the London stage and apologises for the deficiencies in the performance of this ‘entirely novel’ form of entertainment. This is followed by a cast list, with mini-biographies of Mars, Vulcan and Venus. The action and the dancing in the afterpiece are divided into six scenes and described in detail. Another innovation is that Weaver adds descriptions of the gestures used in scenes two and six. Without this information, we would have little idea of his approach to expressive mime. Here is the description of scene two together with the first of the pages devoted to the gestures used by Vulcan.

Weaver’s scenario allows us to envisage his ‘Dramatick Entertainment of Dancing’ in performance. The Loves of Mars and Venus is one of very few 18th-century ballets for which we have evidence which, even without any music or surviving choreography, gives us the possibility of recreating a seminal work.

Further Reading

Richard Ralph, The Life and Works of John Weaver (London, 1985), which includes a facsimile reprint of Weaver’s The Loves of Mars and Venus published in 1717.

Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, The Publication of Plays in London 1660-1800 (London, 2015)

Scenery for Dancing on the Early 18th-Century London Stage

Visiting the theatre in early eighteenth-century London was a very different experience from that of the theatre-goer in the twenty-first century. There were very few theatres and all were small and intimate by modern standards. The entertainment offered was likely to include a variety of genres, which today we would expect to be rigidly separated by venue. On a single evening in any one theatre, the playgoer might see a mainpiece tragedy or comedy, followed by an afterpiece which could be a farce, a masque with singing or a pantomime with dancing. Between the acts of the first as well as before and sometimes after the second there would be music, dancing and occasional speciality acts. There was a great deal of dancing on the London stage during the early eighteenth century. What was the scenic context for this dancing? Were the danced afterpieces provided with new scenery, suitable to their action, or could and did they draw on the theatre’s stock scenery? Were the entr’acte dances performed against whatever scenery was in place for the play they interrupted? How might the scenery have affected playgoers’ perceptions of the choreographies they saw?

Afterpieces

The first wholly danced afterpiece on the London stage was John Weaver’s The Loves of Mars and Venus, performed at Drury Lane on 2 March 1717. Weaver published a detailed scenario to accompany performances which tells us that The Loves of Mars and Venus has six scenes, most of which have a specific location. Scene one, which introduces Mars, is set in ‘A Camp’. In scene two, ‘the Scene opens and discovers Venus in her Dressing-Room at her Toilet’, while scene three ‘opens to Vulcan’s Shop’. Mars and Venus meet for a love tryst in scene four in ‘A Garden’, after which scene five returns to Vulcan’s shop. The setting for scene six is unspecified, but it may return to the garden of scene three, or perhaps an interior as Mars and Venus are described as ‘sitting on a Couch’. The subsequent descent of several gods and goddesses to resolve the quarrel between Vulcan, his wife and her lover, would not have looked any less surprising in either an interior or exterior location.

All of these scenes, with the exception of Vulcan’s shop, are recognisably from Drury Lane’s stock. The shop may have used a generic interior with suitable freestanding props, including Vulcan’s anvil, a forge and a ‘Grindlestone’. Colley Cibber, in his Apology published in 1740, indicated the use of existing scenery when he wrote of Weaver’s The Loves of Mars and Venus that ‘from our Distrust of its Reception, we durst not venture to decorate it, with an extraordinary Expence of Scenes, or Habits’. The familiarity of the scenery may have helped with the success of the ballet, countering its ‘Design so entirely novel and foreign’ as Weaver himself put it.

A few years later, the pantomime Harlequin Doctor Faustus was advertised with the enticement ‘All the Scenes, Machines, Habits and other Decorations being entirely New’ when it was first performed at Drury Lane on 26 November 1723. The afterpiece, which had a great deal of serious as well as grotesque dancing, included such locations as ‘The Doctor’s Study’, ‘The Street’ and ‘A Room in the Doctor’s House’, all of which sound suspiciously like stock scenery which must have domesticated the action for audiences who would have recognised the scenes from use in mainpiece plays. However, the concluding ‘Grand Masque of the Heathen Deities’ (a divertissement of serious dancing) was provided with ‘A Poetical Heaven. The Prospect terminating in plain Clouds’. Finally ‘the Cloud that finishes the Prospect flies up’ to reveal ‘Diana standing in a fix’d Posture on an Altitude form’d by Clouds, the Moon transparent over her Head in an Azure Sky, tinctur’d with little Stars’. The scene must have surprised and charmed, perhaps even awed, audiences before Hester Booth as Diana danced a step.

Entr’acte Dances

The scenic context for entr’acte dances must have been quite different. On 11 April 1728, The Provok’d Husband was performed at Drury Lane for the benefit of Theophilus Cibber and his wife. The play, adapted and completed by the actor’s father Colley Cibber from Sir John Vanbrugh’s unfinished A Journey to London, had proved extremely successful following its first performance on 10 January 1728. Its initial run of 28 performances was cut short only by the overwhelming popularity of The Beggar’s Opera, which opened at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 29 January. The 11 April performance of The Provok’d Husband was the first for which entr’acte dances were billed in detail. Here is the advertisement in the Daily Post for 11 April 1728:

The information about the dancing allows us to explore the scenes the dances may have been performed against.

Much of the action in The Provok’d Husband is set in either ‘Lord Townly’s House’ or ‘Mrs Motherly’s House’, that is in rooms within their houses, they being two of the principal characters. Presumably these locations were distinguished from one another by differences in the wings and shutters (which may have been minimal) and by onstage props placed within the scenic stage area. So, the Harlequins duet could have been performed either in front of the scene representing ‘Lord Townly’s Apartment’ (for act one) or before ‘Mrs Motherly’s House’ (the scene for act two). Either scene would have placed a grotesque dance against an interior scene which was intended to remind audiences of a room familiar to them from either their own town houses or those of their family, friends or neighbours. The dance given in this performance against such a backdrop might have suggested the idea of an entertainment, more specifically a masquerade ball, thus anticipating a later scene in the play.

The use of scenes behind dances, and the relationship between the two, is shown by the engravings in Gregorio Lambranzi’s Neue und curieuse Theatralische Tantz-Schul published in Nuremberg in 1716. Although it was printed in one of the German states and was the work of a Venetian dancing master, Lambranzi’s book shows many parallels with what we know of entr’acte dancing in London at this period, including the titles and themes of many of the dances he illustrates. The stage sets in the engravings are formed of wings and shutters with a variety of interior and exterior scenes. The backdrop to the duet of male and female Harlequins, seems to be decorative rather than realistic although it could represent an interior hung with tapestries.

Other engravings apparently show rooms in houses, and not all of these are associated with the serious dances portrayed by Lambranzi.

Of course, it may have been standard practice in London’s theatres to close the downstage set of shutters behind the entr’acte dancers, providing them with a neutral backdrop against which to perform. Such an effect can be seen in a painting by Marcellus Laroon the younger.

The scene has many fanciful touches and, although it does seem to show dancers on stage, it cannot be securely linked to any of London’s theatres. Nevertheless, it provides a glimpse of how entr’acte dances may have been presented. Decorative but otherwise neutral scenes can also be seen in some of Lambranzi’s engravings.

The effect is to present the dancers in their own space, focussing attention directly on them and distancing them and their choreography from the action of the play which they interrupt.

The dances ‘In the Masquerade Scene’ within The Provok’d Husband as well as that given at the ‘End of the Play’ on 11 April 1728 raise some more questions. The masquerade, a key part of the play’s dénouement, takes place in act five. The scene is ‘another Apartment’ in Lord Townly’s house and several stock masquerade characters are mentioned, including a ‘Shepherdess’, a ‘Nun’ and a ‘running Footman’. The action calls for ‘A Dance of Masks … in various Characters’ and it is here that the Polonese, probably a Polonaise by dancers who perhaps wore recognisably ‘Polish’ costumes, must have been performed as part of the play, against the wings and shutters in place for this scene. The other performers in the ‘Dance of Masks’ may have been actors rather than the company’s dancers. The Coquette Shepherdess, performed at the end of play, may have been a tiny scene as well as a dance. Could it also have been a mute commentary on the play’s moral as demonstrated by Lady Townly ‘Immoderate in her Pursuit of Pleasures’ at the beginning who has become a ‘Wife Reform’d’ by the end?

Later in the season, for a performance on 3 May 1728, the entr’acte dances were again billed in detail for a benefit with The Provok’d Husband as the mainpiece, this time for Mrs Brett and Miss Lindar. The differences between the two bills are interesting. Here is the advertisement from the Daily Post for 3 May 1728.

They were almost all inserted in different places from those of 11 April, and there was no mention of dancing in the ‘Masquerade Scene’. Acts three and four of The Provok’d Husband were also both set in interiors. The omission of any mention of the dance in the masquerade scene suggests that this was either left out or, perhaps, performed by the actors. This would have favoured the entr’acte dances performed elsewhere on the bill. The fact that any of them could plausibly have formed part of a ‘Dance of Masks … in various Characters’ may have affected its staging at this performance.

The differences between the bills of 11 April and 3 May make it obvious that entr’acte dances were not usually meant to relate to the action of the play. The performance histories of the respective dances given at the end of act one in each performance underline this. On 11 April, there was a Harlequins duet by two of Drury Lane’s youngest dancers, Master Lally and Miss Brett, whereas on 3 May Miss Brett danced a solo Saraband. Apart from the fact that the Harlequins duet was a comic (if not a grotesque) dance and the solo Saraband belonged to the serious genre, the former probably had its origin in a very different context. It may well have come from the pantomime Harlequin Happy and Poor Pierrot Married, which had been first performed at Drury Lane on 11 March ‘With new Scenes and proper Decorations’. Master Lally and Miss Brett had been billed as ‘Children of Love representing two Harlequins’ and their duet seems to have been so popular that it quickly became an entr’acte dance to allow for more frequent performances. During the 1727-28 season, the two youngsters also danced Harlequins at the end of act three of Farquhar’s  The Recruiting Officer (7 May 1728) and on the same bill as both Vanbrugh’s The Relapse (8 April 1728) and Macbeth (Davenant’s version, 8 May 1728). Miss Brett performed her Saraband once in 1727-28.

Conclusion

The advertisements for danced afterpieces, as well as other evidence, show that these made use of stock scenery but could also be provided with new and lavish individual scenes when such expense could be justified. There is insufficient evidence to allow a definitive answer to the question about the background scenery for entr’acte dances. Were they danced before the scenes in place for the mainpiece play or before decorative but neutral shutters? We don’t know. Entr’acte dances were such an integral part of the theatrical bill, and audiences were so familiar with the conventions surrounding them, that the backdrops must rarely have attracted notice. Audiences undoubtedly picked up the subtext provided by choreography and the dancers, quite independently of the scenes that framed them. Given that dancing in London’s theatres mostly took place on the forestage, whatever was behind them dancers had in any case stepped out of the frame provided by the proscenium arch into a space shared with their audience.

This post was originally a conference paper, given several years ago but never published, which I have both revised and amended.

Reading List

John Weaver, The Loves of Mars and Venus (London, 1717)

Colley Cibber, An Apology for the Life of Colley Cibber, ed. B. R. S. Fone (Mineola, NY, 2000)

An Exact Description of the Two Fam’d Entertainments of Harlequin Doctor Faustus (London: [1724])

Colley Cibber, The Provok’d Husband (London, 1728)

Gregorio Lambranzi, Neue und curieuse Theatralische Tantz-Schul (Nurnberg: Johan Jacob Wolrab, [1716]). I use the modern English translation of this work, New and Curious School of Theatrical Dancing, transl. Derra de Moroda (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2002)

The Music Party. Paintings, Drawings & Prints by Marcellus Laroon (1679-1772), comp. James Miller [London?, 2011]

Moira Goff, The Incomparable Hester Santlow (Aldershot, 2007)

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.

Stage Dancing and Classical Myths

Exploring Le Triomphe de l’Amour reminded me how often myths from classical antiquity were exploited for danced entertainments in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Some classical deities were more popular than others when it came to dancing characters in the ballets de cour – Bacchus appears in six and Flore in five (not counting Le Triomphe de l’Amour), whereas Ariane turns up in just one and Amphitrite does not feature as a dancer at all. I am not going to pursue their earlier appearances here. Instead, I will look at some of the later works given in Paris and London which are based on the characters and myths used in Le Triomphe de l’Amour. I won’t refer to the classical sources for these stories, except to point out that several are included in Ovid’s Metamorphoses – which seems to have been favourite reading at the period.

The first two scenes of Le Triomphe de l’Amour introduce, in turn, Venus and Mars. The god of war is vanquished and enchained in garlands of flowers by Amours, surely in reference to his love affair with the goddess of love which had long been a favourite subject for artists. The story became the theme of a masque in the late 1690s and then an opera, as well as a ballet and a pantomime in the early 1700s. This painting by Nicolas Poussin depicting Mars and Venus dates to 1630.

The masque was The Loves of Mars and Venus by Peter Motteux, with music by Gottfried Finger and John Eccles, given at London’s Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre in 1696 within Edward Ravenscroft’s The Anatomist. The title roles were sung by Anne Bracegirdle and John Bowman and there was dancing at the end of the prologue and each act. This comic version is worth further study for its dancing, which I hope to undertake elsewhere. The opera was Les Amours de Mars et de Vénus with music by André Campra and a libretto by Antoine Danchet, given at the Paris Opéra in 1712. This was also a comedy, banned after fourteen performances apparently for its depiction of the cuckolded Vulcain. Mars and Venus were singers, but the dancers in the production included Mlle Guyot (as La Jeunesse in the Prologue) as well as David Dumoulin and Françoise Prévost. The ballet was, of course, John Weaver’s The Loves of Mars and Venus given at London’s Drury Lane Theatre in 1717. I have written about this production elsewhere and I will have more to say in another context. It was answered by the pantomime Mars and Venus; or, The Mouse Trap, performed at Lincoln’s Inn Fields later the same year. The ‘London’ Dupré created the role of Mars in both Weaver’s ballet and the pantomime – the latter was billed as a ‘New Dramatic Entertainment of Dancing in Grotesque Characters’.

Neptune and Amphitrite do not seem to have been taken up by later composers or choreographers, but there was an antecedent to their appearance in Le Triomphe de l’Amour. When The Tempest was fully transformed into a dramatic opera at London’s Dorset Garden Theatre in 1674, it was given a concluding masque centred on them, the singers who took the roles were supported by dancing Tritons. This spectacular production was undoubtedly influenced by dancing and scenic effects in the French theatres, but might it also have influenced Paris? The Tempest became a fixture in the London stage repertoire throughout the 18th century and I will return to it in a later post. This depiction of Neptune and Amphitrite by the French painter Bon Boullogne is dated 1699.

Although Borée and Orithye had featured in the Ballet de l’Impatience of 1661, and Borée certainly turns up in at least one later choreographic context, no other musical works – either operas or ballets – were devoted to their story, so far as I know. This sculpture by Gaspard Marsy and Anselme Flamen was created between 1677 and 1687.

After Le Triomphe de l’Amour, the love story of Diane and Endymion was not taken up on the French stage until 1731, when the opera Endymion with music by François Colin de Blamont and a libretto by Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle was given at the Paris Opéra. It lasted for only a few performances, despite a cast of supporting dancers that included David Dumoulin, Marie-Anne de Camargo and ‘le grand’ Dupré. In London, Drury Lane had offered a production that drew on the myth as early as 1696. Thomas Durfey’s dramatic opera Cinthia and Endimion was given there that year and may have first been written some ten years earlier, for a performance at the court of Charles II that did not materialise. It featured not only Diana and Endymion but also Cupid and Psyche, Apollo and Daphne and Pan and Syrinx, as well as Neptune and Amphitrite, Zephyrus and Mercury. A link to Le Triomphe de l’Amour, while unlikely, is not impossible. Much later, in 1736, Endymion reappeared in the Covent Garden pantomime The Royal Chace, another work which is worth a closer look in a later post. Here, Diane and Endymion are depicted by Luca Giordano around 1680.

Bacchus and Ariane were depicted in the unsuccessful 1696 opera Ariadne et Bacchus by Marin Marais. The dancers were not named in the accompanying livret by Saint-Jean, so we have no idea who they were. The myth was more famously interpreted at London’s Covent Garden Theatre in 1734, when Malter and Marie Sallé danced as Bacchus and Ariadne in a ballet initially inserted into the pantomime The Necromancer and later given as an entr’acte entertainment. Eustache Le Sueur painted Bacchus and Ariane around 1640.

The last classical love story in Le Triomphe de l’Amour was that of Zéphire and Flore, which became an opera by Louis and Jean-Louis Lully in 1688. No dancers were named for the performances at that period, but when it was revived at the Paris Opéra in 1715 the leading dancers were David Dumoulin, Mlle Guyot and Mlle Prévost. As I have mentioned elsewhere, Zephyrus and Flora were the central characters in the divertissement which ended the 1726 Lincoln’s Inn Fields pantomime Apollo and Daphne. This elaborate scene may well have been adapted (or directly copied) from a divertissement in Jacques Aubert’s La Reine des Péris given at the Paris Opéra in 1725. Jacopo Amigoni depicted Zephyr and Flore in the 1730s, probably for an English patron.

These various stage versions of the love stories that were part of Le Triomphe de l’Amour, together with the painting and sculpture of the 17th and 18th centuries, show how deeply both the English and the French were immersed in the myths of classical antiquity. The court and theatre dance which was part of this culture, well before the advent of the ballet d’action, is all too often overlooked.

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.