In my first post about dancing on the London stage during the 1725-1726 season, I provided some statistics for the number of entr’acte dances performed in the theatres. At Drury Lane there were 28 dances in all – 4 group dances, 1 trio, 13 duets and 10 solos. At Lincoln’s Inn Fields there were 43 entr’acte dances – 7 group dances, 2 trios, 22 duets and 12 solos. I should qualify this set of figures immediately by noting that 5 dances – 1 trio, 3 duets and 1 solo – were given only during the Lincoln’s Inn Fields summer season. Nevertheless, the disparity between the two theatres is interesting since Drury Lane had 91 performances with entr’acte dancing billed, whereas (excluding its summer season) Lincoln’s Inn Fields had 81.
As with the dancers, the figures are not quite accurate, although it is probably next to impossible to be sure exactly what dances were performed. At Drury Lane, Roger danced a solo Peasant, a solo Drunken Peasant and a solo French Peasant. Were these all different choreographies? Were all (or perhaps two) of them the same dance, but performed differently according to the various characters depicted? At Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Nivelon gave both a solo Wooden Shoe Dance and a solo Wooden Shoe Dance in the Character of a Clown. Were these actually the same choreography? There were also two Shepherd and Shepherdess duets given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields during the course of the season, one by Francis and Marie Sallé and the other, titled Shepherd and Shepherdess representing Acis and Galatea, by Le Sac and Miss La Tour. I think that these had different music and different choreographies (which may, however, have been related in terms of steps, figures and even choreographic motifs). The duet by Le Sac and Miss La Tour may have used music by Handel, whose Acis and Galatea had first been performed some years previously, although it would not reach the London stage (in a revised version) until 1731. The duet was performed at their joint benefit on 11 May 1726, when Miss La Tour also played a ‘Set of Mr Hendel’s Lessons’ on the harpsichord as an entr’acte entertainment. It seems likely that the Sallés danced to music from a French opera. I also made a mistake when I included the new Dance of Slaves advertised on 25 October 1725 among the entr’acte dances. When I took another look, I concluded that it was probably danced within Oroonoko which was the mainpiece that evening.
There is an overlap in the dance titles advertised at the two theatres, suggesting a common source for some dances and perhaps shared music, if not similar choreographies. Here are those titles.
Myrtillo, a group dance
Polonese, a duet
Dutch Skipper, a duet
Pastoral, a duet
Saraband, a duet
Minuet, a duet
Peasants, a duet
Spanish Entry / Spanish Dance, a solo
I will use these dances as the starting point to look more closely at the repertoire of entr’acte dances given at Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726. I will deal with each of the dance types – group (including trios), duet and solo – in separate posts. Curiously, there is quite a lot we can discover (and that I can say) about them, even though we cannot reach the actual choreographies.
The figures I initially gave for the dancers at the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre during the 1725-1726 season were not right either. There were, in fact, 16 dancers (9 men and 7 women) who danced regularly in the entr’actes during the main season. Of the others, Glover danced only on 14 April 1726. He had been a member of the dance ‘company within the company’ since 1723-1724 but was absent from Lincoln’s Inn Fields this season, apart from this one performance. ‘Pollett’s Son’, who made a single appearance on 25 April 1726 may have been a child dancer – there were other dancers named Pollett in London’s theatres around this time, although their careers need further research. Burny made only one appearance before the end of the main season, but he (together with Morgan and Smith) danced during the theatre’s summer season. I will look at the summer season and its dancers separately.
The following entr’acte dancers were at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726:
Miss La Tour
At least one name in this list is likely to be familiar to those interested in the 18th-century dance.
Among the dancers at Lincoln’s Inn Fields the one most often billed in 1725-1726 was Nivelon, who danced in the entr’actes some 50 times. He was followed by Sallé (46 billings). None of the other men appeared nearly so often – next was Lally (31 billings), Le Sac (22), Dupré (17), Newhouse (15), Pelling (9), Dupré Jr (7) and Lanyon (4). Among the women, Mlle Sallé was the most in demand with 38 entr’acte billings. Mrs Wall danced some 34 times, followed by Mrs Bullock (32), Mrs Laguerre and Miss La Tour (22 performances each), Mrs Ogden (15) and Mrs Anderson (10). Mrs Ogden and Mrs Anderson also danced during the summer season.
As at Drury Lane, each dancer’s repertoire provides clues to his or her status. Nivelon and Sallé were first among the men. Nivelon performed 6 solos, 4 duets and 1 trio, while Sallé danced 1 solo, 6 duets, 1 trio and 2 group dances. Dupré had 2 duets and 6 group dances (he was also billed as a choreographer). Newhouse also performed 2 duets but appeared in only 1 group dance. Le Sac gave 1 solo and also performed 4 duets. Pelling, Dupré Jr and Lanyon were all supporting dancers, appearing only in group choreographies. Among the women, Mrs Wall had the most extensive repertoire, with 3 solos, 7 duets and 6 group dances. Mlle Sallé danced 1 solo (Les Caractères de la Danse), 5 duets and 1 trio. Mrs Laguerre performed in 6 duets and 1 group dance, while Mrs Anderson gave 1 solo and 2 duets and performed in 4 group dances. Miss La Tour danced 1 solo and 4 duets and Mrs Ogden was billed in 2 duets and 2 group dances. None of the women can be described simply as supporting dancers.
All the men, except for Le Sac, danced in the pantomime afterpieces which were performed on nearly as many evenings as entr’acte dancing. As at Drury Lane, the roles performed by these dancers reveal more about their place within the ‘dance company’. They also tell us a little about the specialities of individual dancers. Four pantomimes were given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields during the main season – Jupiter and Europa, The Necromancer, Harlequin a Sorcerer and Apollo and Daphne. The first two are anonymous, but may have been devised by the theatre’s manager John Rich who was himself a Harlequin and took that role in these afterpieces. The second two have libretti by the writer Lewis Theobald. Nivelon’s role was Punch, while Lally was Mezzetin, Pelling was Pierrot and Newhouse was Scaramouch (Lanyon also appeared as Scaramouch). Nivelon’s status was shown by Apollo and Daphne; or, The Burgomaster Tricked (to give the pantomime its full title), in which he was the Burgomaster and thus central to the comic plot. Lally (Edward Lally, who may or may not have been the brother of Michael Lally at Drury Lane that season) and Dupré both took prominent dancing roles in the pantomimes. Dupré also performed as a dancing Harlequin (Rich did not dance).
Mlle Sallé danced both Daphne and Flora, ‘An Inconstant’, in Apollo and Daphne, the only pantomime in which she appeared. Mrs Wall was Europa in Jupiter and Europa and took prominent roles in three more pantomimes. Mrs Bullock and Mrs Anderson also had significant dancing roles. Mrs Laguerre, Mrs Ogden and Miss La Tour did not appear in pantomimes at all. Mrs Laguerre had been one of the leading dancers at Lincoln’s Inn Fields and would be so again, but she seems to have been absent from late November 1725 to mid-March 1726. She was also an actress (the only one among Lincoln’s Inn Fields’s female dancers in 1725-1726) and played 11 acting roles during the months she was present.
So, what of the ‘dance company’ at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726? Le Sac and Miss La Tour made their debuts together and danced a series of duets. They were advertised as ‘Scholars of Mr. Dupre’ and were presumably just emerging from his tutelage. Were they members of the ‘dance company’ or more like apprentices? Francis and Marie Sallé were returning to dance in London for the first time since the 1718-1719 season, so they may have been seen as ‘guest artists’. Nivelon must have been the leading male dancer, and perhaps the company’s dancing master. (Although the meaning and even the existence of that position needs investigation and discussion). Lally and Dupré may have been more-or-less equal, followed by Newhouse and Pelling, then Dupré and Lanyon.
The relative status of the women is more difficult to unravel. Their benefits perhaps provide additional clues (although Rich at Lincoln’s Inn Fields seems to have been less hierarchical about these than the management at Drury Lane), along with their dancing partners. Mrs Laguerre was probably the leading local female dancer, her benefit (shared with her husband, the singer-actor John Laguerre) was on 14 April 1726. She was most often partnered by Nivelon. Mrs Wall shared her benefit with Newhouse, on 30 April, her main partner was Lally although she also danced with Dupré (who may have been one of her teachers). Mrs Bullock shared her 2 May benefit with her brother-in-law, the actor William Bullock. She danced her only duet with Nivelon, but in the group dances she seems to have been partnered by Sallé and Dupré most often. Mrs Anderson’s benefit (also shared) came on 9 May and Mrs Ogden had no benefit at all. They were evidently the lowest ranking of the female dancers in the company.
There are accounts surviving for Lincoln’s Inn Fields for the seasons 1724-1725 and 1726-1727 which provide more information about the relative status of the dancers, based on their pay scales. The 1724-1725 accounts have been analysed in some detail – I provide a reference to the article below – and I looked at those for 1726-1727 myself some years ago (although my notes are not extensive). They tell us that Nivelon earned by far the most among the dancers – much more than even the two Sallés (at least in 1726-1727) – and that Dupré was the next highest paid of the male dancers, followed by Lally. The highest paid of the women were Mrs Laguerre and Mrs Bullock. Apart from Nivelon, none of the dancers received anything like as much as the principal singers in Rich’s company.
The only one of the dancers at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726 for whom we have a portrait is Marie Sallé. Here she is, as a dancer and off-stage.
Judith Milhous, ‘The Finances of an Eighteenth-Century London Theatre: the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Company under John Rich in 1724-1725’ in Berta Joncus and Jeremy Barlow (editors), “The Stage’s Glory” John Rich, 1692-1761 (Newark, 2011), pp. 61-69.
In my first post devoted to the 1725-1726 season on the London stage, I gave the number of dancers billed in the entr’actes at the Drury Lane Theatre as 19 (12 men and 7 women). Further research has shown that these numbers were not correct and also revealed some of the problems with the information in both The London Stage, 1660-1800 and the Biographical Dictionary of Actors, which were my principal sources. (I provide full references for these at the end of this post).
For the total number of dancers who appeared in the entr’actes, I first read through the calendar of performances for the season noting down the names as they appeared. When I went back to check the number of entr’acte appearances by each of those dancers, I discovered that some of them were billed only once. The Topham advertised only on 25 September 1725 is identified by the Biographical Dictionary as John Topham, although he may equally well have been his brother H. Topham. In any case, his single performance shows that he was not a regular member of the Drury Lane company in 1725-1726. The ‘Cheshire Boy’ was billed only on 6 January 1726 and his performance record over the seasons suggest that he was an occasional ‘guest artist’ and not a member of the Drury Lane company in this or other seasons. Sandham, who was billed for a single entr’acte appearance on 5 May 1726, may or may not have been the father of the two Sandham children who performed on a number of occasions (the billing may instead have referred to ‘Master Sandham’, his son, but I am not sure). The London Stage also records Nivelon as dancing a Drunken Peasant on 3 November 1725, but the advertisement in the Daily Courant for that day clearly records the performer as Monsieur Roger.
There was also the puzzle of two dancers, one named Rainton and the other Young Rainton. The Biographical Dictionary records them as two different individuals. However, a comparison of their respective dance repertoires in 1725-1726 as well as checks on the original newspaper advertisements show that they were one and the same.
So far as I can tell, the following dancers appeared at Drury Lane throughout the 1725-1726 season, in both the entr’actes and the pantomime afterpieces:
Thus, there were 13 entr’acte dancers (7 men and 6 women), together with two children – Sandham’s son and daughter – making 15 in all. The adults formed a ‘company within the company’, although that concept is not entirely straightforward. Among the women four also took acting roles (one additionally sang), while the men were all first and foremost dancers.
It is possible to characterise the members of this ‘company’ more precisely, through the number of their appearances and their repertoire. Among the men, Rainton appeared most often (52 entr’acte billings) followed by Boval (49), Thurmond Jr (41), Roger (38), Lally (33), Duplessis (22) and Haughton (20). Among the women, Miss Robinson was the busiest (61 entr’acte billings), followed by Miss Tenoe (47), Mrs Brett (45), Mrs Booth (35), Mrs Walter (24) and Miss Lindar (13). Sandham’s son and daughter made 8 and 6 entr’acte appearances respectively.
The individual repertoires performed by these dancers provide a different perspective. Among the men, Roger and Boval performed the most choreographies – Roger appeared in 3 solos, 1 duet and 3 group dances, while Boval danced 4 duets and 3 group dances. Duplessis and Haughton had the narrowest repertoires with 1 trio and 2 group dances each. Miss Robinson had the most extensive entr’acte repertoire of the women, with 3 solos and 4 duets, while (at the other extreme) Miss Lindar appeared in only 1 group dance. These figures point to dancers at different stages of their careers as well as of varying status within the dance ‘company’. It is worth pointing out that Mrs Booth was also one of Drury Lane’s leading actresses and played 21 principal acting roles during 1725-1726. Miss Tenoe also did a lot of acting, taking 15 supporting roles during the season.
Every one of the 13 entr’acte dances also took roles in Drury Lane’s popular pantomime afterpieces. It is with these productions that the status of individual dancers emerges. All three of Drury Lane’s 1725-1726 pantomimes – The Escapes of Harlequin, Harlequin Doctor Faustus and Apollo and Daphne – had been created by John Thurmond Jr. The title roles in Apollo and Daphne were danced by him and Mrs Booth. Roger was Harlequin in both The Escapes of Harlequin and Harlequin Doctor Faustus, appearing in Apollo and Daphne as both Pierrot and, in the pantomime’s concluding ballet, a Rival Swain. Two of that season’s popular group dances, La Folete and Le Badinage Champetre, were created by Roger. It is possible that both he and Thurmond Jr acted as dancing masters to the Drury Lane company.
Rainton and Miss Robinson enjoyed a dance partnership this season and seem to have been the young, up-and-coming stars. Lally, Boval, Duplessis and Haughton, like Miss Tenoe, Mrs Walter, Mrs Brett and Miss Lindar, were essentially supporting dancers in both the entr’actes and afterpieces. The two Sandham children were really a popular speciality act, although their repertoire drew on the same dances as adult performers.
Apart from the frustration of not really knowing what any of the dances performed on the London stage at this period were like, there is also the disappointment of having no portraits of all but a very few of the dancers. Even leading dancers could rarely afford the services of a portrait painter. Among the dancers at Drury Lane in 1725-1726 we have portraits of only one – Hester Booth, the company’s star ballerina and leading actress. Here she is in the familiar Harlequin portrait and portrayed in more classical guise.
In my next post, I will look more closely at the dancers who appeared in the entr’actes and afterpieces at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726.
For those who might be interested, the full references for The London Stage (the volume that I used for this post) and the Biographical Dictionary of Actors are as follows:
The London Stage, 1660-1800. Part 2: 1700-1729, ed. Emmett L. Avery (Carbondale, Ill., 1960)
A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers & Other Stage Personnel, 1660-1800, ed. Philip H. Highfill Jr, Kalman A. Burnim and Edward A. Langhans. 16 vols (Carbondale, Ill., 1973-1993)
I have written quite a number of posts on individual dances or groups of dances performed on the London stage during the 18th century. I thought it would be interesting to look in detail at just one season, to get a more rounded view of dancing in London’s theatres. I have chosen, not quite at random, 1725-1726. London’s theatre seasons ran from September to the following June and during the earlier 1700s there were often summer seasons at one or more of the playhouses that extended into July or August. The information I will set out is mostly taken from the calendar of performances provided by The London Stage, 1660-1800.
In 1725-1726, London had four theatres offering stage performances. Chief among them were the Theatres Royal in Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Only they were allowed to present serious drama, under the patents granted by King Charles II following his restoration in 1660. Drury Lane is shown on the left and Lincoln’s Inn Fields on the right, both depictions are later than the period I am looking at.
Although there is an illustration of the Drury Lane auditorium, following the changes made for David Garrick by Robert Adam later in the 18th century, there is no such image for Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The Little Theatre in the Haymarket presented a variety of entertainments even though it was, to all intents and purposes, unlicensed. The King’s Theatre, also in the Haymarket and almost opposite the Little Theatre, was London’s opera house. The Little Theatre is on the left and the King’s Theatre is on the right. Again, both images are later.
The following images show the auditoriums of both theatres. The Little Theatre is on the left (this image is much later) and the King’s Theatre on the right (this image is dated 1724 and shows a masquerade in progress).
It is interesting to note that the present Drury Lane Theatre occupies the same site as its much smaller predecessor, while today’s Theatre Royal Haymarket is right next to the site of the Little Theatre. Her Majesty’s Theatre is where the King’s Theatre once stood. The Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre has entirely disappeared – it was finally demolished to make way for the Royal College of Surgeons of England in the early 19th century – but its successor is the Royal Opera House, on the same site as the new Covent Garden Theatre built for the Lincoln’s Inn Fields company in 1732.
The 1725-1726 season opened at Drury Lane on 4 September 1725 and closed at the King’s Theatre on 7 June 1726. There was also a summer season at Lincoln’s Inn Fields which ran from 17 June to 23 August 1726. Apart from two isolated performances in December 1725 and February 1726, the Haymarket Theatre hosted a company of French players from 24 March to 7 May 1726. In total, there were 186 performances at Drury Lane, 193 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields (including the 16 performances of the summer season), 53 at the King’s Theatre and 25 at the Haymarket Theatre.
At this period much of the dancing was given in the entr’actes and in the newly popular pantomime afterpieces. A little straightforward statistical analysis provides an indication of the amount of dancing at the various theatres. At Drury Lane, 91 performances (around 49%) included entr’acte dancing and 44 (about 24%) included afterpieces with dancing. At Lincoln’s Inn Fields there were 97 performances with entr’acte dances (around 50%, although every performance during the summer season had dancing) and 85 (around 44%) included afterpieces with dancing. At both houses far less music was advertised explicitly in the entr’actes, but there would have been a great deal of music associated with the performance in general as well as in the plays and afterpieces – this was taken for granted and not mentioned in the bills. About 13% of performances at Drury Lane and 26% at Lincoln’s Inn Fields had entr’acte music advertised. No dancing of any sort was advertised at the King’s Theatre this season. At the Haymarket, the repertoire of commedia dell’arte pieces was quite different from the fare at the other theatres. The distinction between mainpieces and afterpieces, with or without dancing, is not meaningful. Nevertheless, 16 performances (64%) were advertised with entr’acte dancing. Such analyses for individual seasons can be revealing – the patterns that might emerge over longer periods are yet to be investigated.
How many dancers did Drury Lane, Lincoln’s Inn Fields and the Haymarket Theatre employ? The short answer is, we don’t really know. It is possible to chart those dancers who performed regularly in the entr’actes, as well as those who appeared in the pantomime afterpieces, but without the company’s accounts (which rarely survive) it is difficult to be sure of their status. The leading dancers in the afterpieces were usually those who appeared most frequently in the entr’actes and may have formed ‘a company within the company’. However, some of these professional dancers (usually the women) were also actors. The afterpieces also employed minor players within the company as supporting dancers. In 1725-1726, 19 dancers (12 men and 7 women) were billed in the entr’actes at Drury Lane. At Lincoln’s Inn Fields, there were 21 entr’acte dancers (14 men and 7 women). At the Haymarket Theatre, 11 dancers (7 men and 4 women) were billed in the entr’actes during the short season given by the French comedians. I will come back to all of these dancers in a later post.
Then, there is the repertoire performed in the entr’actes by these dancers. How many and what sort of dances were performed each season in London’s theatres? This is another question which cannot be answered definitively. Dances with similar titles may or may not be the same (a clue sometimes lies in their performers). Dances with the same title but billed as solos or duets may be the same dance (if the billing is obviously inaccurate), or related versions of a dance, or different dances altogether (again a clue might be in the performers). Very occasionally, a dance with a common title might be attributed to a particular dancer, pointing to a specific choreography – although we do not know how much such choreographies made use of conventional elements. With these caveats in mind, I have interpreted the titles of the dances billed in the entr’actes, dividing them into solos, duets, trios and group dances.
At Drury Lane, 28 dances were billed in the entr’actes: 10 solos, 13 duets, one trio and 4 group dances. Only one dance, the Dutch Skipper, was billed as both a duet and a solo. Lincoln’s Inn Fields advertised 43 entr’acte dances: 12 solos, 22 duets, two trios and 7 group dances. At the Little Theatre in the Haymarket there were only 13 entr’acte dances: 2 solos, 3 duets, one trio and 7 group dances. There was, of course, an overlap in titles (and perhaps choreographies, too) between the three theatres. I will return to these dances in a later post.
In 1725-1726, the most significant dancing beyond the entr’actes came in the pantomime afterpieces. There were three pantomimes in repertoire at Drury Lane: The Escapes of Harlequin, Harlequin Doctor Faustus and Apollo and Daphne. All were by John Thurmond Jr and none were new. At Lincoln’s Inn Fields, seven afterpieces included dancing – one of these, St. Ceciliae; or The Union of the Three Sister Arts, was a masque and not a pantomime. The Lincoln’s Inn Fields pantomimes were Jupiter and Europa, The Necromancer, Harlequin a Sorcerer, Apollo and Daphne, The Cheats; or, The Tavern Bilkers and The Jealous Doctor. Only Lewis Theobald’s Apollo and Daphne was new. I will return to all these pantomimes in a later post.
There is one final element in this survey of dancing in London’s theatres in 1725-1726. Some 50 to 60 mainpiece plays, or more, were given each season at the two patent theatres. A small number of these included a significant amount of dancing (enough to be mentioned in the bills with the dancers listed) and were performed season after season over many decades. At Drury Lane, Macbeth (Shakespeare’s play, but with significant revisions and additions by Sir William Davenant) and The Tempest (an adaptation of Shakespeare’s play by Davenant, Dryden and Thomas Shadwell) were part of the repertoire. At Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Macbeth (but not The Tempest), The Prophetess, The Island Princess and The Emperor of the Moon were given. In 1725-1726 there was also The Pilgrim, with the group dance The Humours of Bedlam (which I have written about elsewhere). The Capricious Lovers by Gabriel Odingsells was given with ‘proper Dances’ (that is dances within the play) but it did not last beyond three performances. I will continue to look at these mainpieces with dancing in separate blog posts.
As you can see from this brief analysis, dancing formed a significant part of the entertainments given each evening in London’s theatres but it is not straightforward to chart what was danced, when and by whom. It is safe to say, however, that although much of that dancing was very different to what we see today, it influenced many aspects of the enormous range of dance styles we have in the twenty-first century.
For many years, I have been bringing together what information I can find about the entr’acte dances given in London’s theatres between 1700 and 1760, although I have recently been extending my attention backwards to the Restoration and forwards as far as 1800 (occasionally even beyond that). My work is based on the calendar of performances in The London Stage, 1660-1800, but I am trying to add details of music, dancers, notated dances and other sources where and when I can. So far as I can tell, there is no detailed study of dancing on the London stage from the late 17th to the early 19th century and I need to try to fill this gap for my work as a dance historian of the period.
I thought I would look through my several files to find the dances that were most popular during the first six decades of the 18th century. What follows is necessarily incomplete and subjective. I have written posts on some of the dances mentioned, which I will refer to as I go. I have grouped together those dances which plausibly have a common theme and I hope to return to some of them in more detail with later posts.
This advertisement in the Daily Post for 30 April 1726 shows the bill offered at Lincoln’s Inn Fields that evening, with dances at the end of each act of the tragedy.
Comic Dances and Serious Dances
Comic Dances and Serious Dances seem, at first sight, to represent the opposite extremes of the entr’acte repertoire. In some ways they do, and they are sometimes billed together in ways that suggest that they were seen that way by 18th-century audiences. The title Serious Dance is perhaps easier to interpret. These were less often advertised than Comic Dances and many can plausibly be linked to belle danse style and technique. My post Serious Dancing looks at John Weaver’s discussion of the genre.
Comic Dances were among the most popular of the entr’acte entertainments in London’s theatres throughout the 18th century, although it is next to impossible to define exactly what was meant by a ‘comic’ dance. Few clues are provided in the advertisements, although there are hints that ‘comic’ quite often indicates an element of pantomime or points to a speciality act with dancing but performed by a player who was not, first and foremost, a dancer.
Grand Dances and Ballets
The Grand Dance emerges during the Restoration period. Most such dances billed in the 18th century are advertised with no details other than a list of performers, although some add ‘Grand Dance’ to a more specific title which takes them into another genre. For example, the Grand Dance of Momus originated in Momus Turn’d Fabulist; or, Vulcan’s Wedding by Ebenezer Forrest, first given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1729-1730. It continued as an entr’acte dance until 1745-1746. The cast lists in later bills suggest that it was a mini-ballet (in the modern sense of the term).
The Ballet first appears in London at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1726-1727, when ‘A Grand Ballet by ten Persons of different Characters’ was given for the benefit of Michael Poitier. Like the Grand Dances, the advertisements rarely give any clues to the nature of Ballets other than a list of dancers. The title Grand Dance seems, over time, to have given way to Ballet or Grand Ballet. The last two continued to be advertised into the 1780s.
My posts on this topic include Grand Ballet, Grand Dance and Serious Dance and The Rise and Fall of the Grand Dance on the London Stage.
Dance Types: Chacone, Hornpipe, Loure, Minuet and Tambourin
This heterogeneous list indicates part of the range of dance types to be seen on the London stage. The Chacone, Loure and Minuet may, of course, be classed as belonging to the genre of French belle danse. The Loure is actually the Louvre – Pecour’s famous duet Aimable Vainqueur – see my post Aimable Vainqueur on the London Stage. Like the Louvre, the Minuet was a staple of the benefit repertoire. I have also written about Minuets on the London Stage and Minuets Mocked.
The Chacone makes its first recorded entr’acte appearance in 1702-1703, when Mrs Elford (who was regularly partnered by Anthony L’Abbé) danced one as a solo at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. It was later taken up by Ann Bullock, who performed a solo Chacone regularly from 1714-1715 to 1734-1735. There were also Chacones given as duets and group dances – the latter often including commedia dell’arte characters, underlining the diverse nature of the musical form. The group Chacones given in the 1770s and 1780s were probably rather different choreographically from the earlier dances.
The Hornpipe is unlikely to have been the pastoral dance in 3/2 known from the notations published in London in the early 1700s, with one possible exception in the form of a solo choreographed by L’Abbé for a ‘Gentleman’ which may have been related to the dance performed at Drury Lane in 1713 ‘by a Gentleman for his Diversion’. The notation published in the mid-1720s reveals a lively and demanding dance with pas battus and a cabriole in the opening sequence.
The Hornpipe advertised regularly from the 1720s to the 1750s and added to The Beggar’s Opera, as well as being given at benefits to the end of the 18th century, was a duple-time dance with nautical associations. It was really a speciality dance performed by dancing actors.
The Tambourin or Tambourine (as it was often billed) made its debut on the London stage as a solo performed by Marie Sallé at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1730-1731. Its alternative title French Tambourin suggests links with the Paris Opéra. It was subsequently danced as a solo or a duet, sometimes as a group dance, into the 1750s. The Tambourine dances performed in London’s theatres into the 1780s seem to have taken the dance in a new direction by making it closer to a speciality dance.
National Dances: Dutch, Irish and Scotch
Many entr’acte dances linked to different nations were given in London’s theatres from the early 1700s into the 1760s and beyond. Among the Dutch Dances the most popular seems to have been the Dutch Skipper for which the earliest known billing was in 1703-1704 when it was danced by Mr and Mrs du Ruel (he was French and she was English). There were also Dutch Clown, Dutch Sailor and Dutchman and Wife, among others. The Dutch Skipper as well as the Dutch Sailor call to mind the illustrations in Lambranzi’s Neue und curieuse theatrialische Tantz-Schul of 1716. Here is a ‘Dutch Sailor’ duet from part two.
Irish dances appear in the bills as early as 1700, although the most popular became the Fingalian which began its stage career in 1724-1725 and survived (doubtless in a succession of choreographies) into the early 1780s.
Neither Dutch Dances nor Irish Dances were anywhere near as popular as Scotch Dances. In the entr’actes these were initially associated with solo female dancers – Mrs Bicknell (who was from Scotland) in the first decade of the 18th century and Ann Bullock from 1719-1720 to 1740-1741. There were duets as well as solos and group dances as well, notably the Scotch Dance choreographed by Leach Glover for three couples which held the stage from the early 1730s for around ten years. Dances like these were performed into the 1760s and I suggest that they drew their identity primarily from their music. The ‘Scotch’ dances that claimed the stage from the 1780s seem to have emerged from a changed cultural milieu, in which costume as well as music may have proclaimed their nationality.
Commedia dell’arte Characters: Harlequin, Scaramouch and Pierrot
Three commedia dell’arte characters made their mark on the entr’actes. Harlequin and Scaramouch arrived before 1700, as characters in plays rather than dancing masks. Both had migrated to the entr’actes by 1700 and continued into the 1730s. Harlequin often appeared solo, or in scenes with other commedia dell’arte characters. Female Harlequins, Harlequines, were popular too. Although Scaramouch also appeared solo, one of the most popular entr’acte offerings in the early decades of the 18th century was Four Scaramouches. When pantomime afterpieces became the rage in the 1720s, they were centred around Harlequin and Scaramouch who were thereafter seen less often in the entr’actes.
Pierrot seems to have been introduced in 1723-1724 by Francis and Louis Nivelon as Two Pierrots. There was also the Pieraite, a duet for a man and a woman billed from the mid-1720s to the later 1730s. Pierrot Dances continued into the mid-1750s and were occasionally revived until 1770-1771.
This painting, ascribed to Philippe Mercier (1689-1760), perhaps gives an idea of Harlequin, Harlequine and Pierrot as they appeared on the London stage.
Scaramouch was depicted several times by Lambranzi, in this plate he performs his characteristic long step.
Punch made a number of entr’acte appearances over the years, but he was never as popular as his fellow masks.
Peasants, Sailors and Shepherds
Peasant Dances were by far the most popular in London’s theatres. Leaving aside the Drunken Peasant, which became a speciality turn by dancing actors, there were dancing Peasants of nationalities ranging from Bohemia to Venice. French Peasants were the most popular, although there were many Peasant Dances with no national connotations. These various dances were seen from the 1710s to the 1760s. Did the male French Peasants perhaps look like this early 18th-century depiction of Henri Dumoulin?
Dancing Sailors go back to the Restoration and before. Sailor Dances remained popular into the 1750s and were quite frequently revived into the 1790s. Some of these choreographies had national overtones – there were French Sailors (and Matelots), Grecian Sailors (from an opera with a plot from classical antiquity) and even a Russian Sailor. Such dances were likely to have been closer to French belle danse than the speciality hornpipes mentioned above.
Shepherds had featured as dancing characters for many decades before they reached the London stage, although Shepherd Dances only really began to be billed in the entr’actes during the 1720s. There were, of course, also Bergers and Bergeries as well as a number of Pastoral Dances. Did Shepherds and Shepherdesses on the London stage emulate their French counterparts, as in this depiction by Watteau?
Entr’acte Dances on the London Stage
The challenge with all of the entr’acte dances given in London’s theatres is to uncover the steps, figures, style and technique they may have used and to get an idea of the choreographies that depicted them. Some have links to the notated dances, while many relate to music popular at the time (what we would now regard as classical music, as well as popular and traditional tunes). All the dances I have mentioned were affected by their political as well as their cultural context. Hopefully, further research will not only reveal more about the dances but also show more clearly their influence on the other dancing to be seen in London’s theatres.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.