Category Archives: Steps & Figures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ‘Z’ Figure of the Minuet: Pierre Rameau

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Brisé in the Ballroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Steps for Cotillons

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cotillon Steps and Quadrille Steps

The Cotillon

Cotillion Dance 1771 (2)

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

The Quadrille

Quadrilles - Practising at Home

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

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

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

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

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

Table of Cotillon and Quadrille Steps

 

Mlle Théodore and the Pas de Basque

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

Mason Pas de Basque (2)

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

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

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

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

Mlle Theodore

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Easy Are Regency Quadrille Steps?

In an earlier post, Jumping or Rising? Regency Quadrille Steps, I admitted that I had found it difficult to learn the step sequences used for the various quadrille figures in Strathy’s Elements of the art of dancing (1822) and Gourdoux-Daux’s Elements and principles of the art of dancing (translation, 1817). I’m still puzzling over the reasons for this. I’ve been dancing quadrilles for a good few years, admittedly using only a small range of steps, and my background in ballet (as well as my work on baroque dance) means that I can usually pick up step sequences quite quickly. So, in this post, I thought I would take a closer look at what made the new quadrille sequences so challenging.

I’ll begin with the upper body and the arms. Strathy advises:

‘The graceful display of the arms depends greatly on the manner in which the elbows and wrists are turned. The arms should be held in a rounded form, so that the elbows and wrists make the least appearance possible; the elbows turned forward in a small degree, and the wrists held in contrast with them; the hands gently rounded, and the thumbs placed on the joint, or rather over the first joint of the fore-finger, and turned towards the sides. In this position, the arms have a much more delicate appearance, than when the back of the hands are held foremost’.

The lady, of course, holds her skirt, and Strathy helpfully provides illustrations.

The arms are in what is nowadays called a bras bas position and this is where they stay, except when taking hands with another dancer in the quadrille set. Strathy places a lot of emphasis on the ‘proper deportment of the body’ and the ‘proper disposition of the waist’. It takes quite a lot of practice to control the upper body (including the head and the shoulders) and keep the arms still without becoming tense and looking stiff.

In my earlier post, I looked at whether regency dancers jumped or merely rose for their springing steps. With further experimentation, and advice from the dancing master who began this enquiry, I came to the conclusion that the answer was somewhere between the two and that some steps, for example the jeté, travel relatively little. This style of dancing is far more contained than modern ballet. Just as much as its baroque predecessor, it requires what Strathy calls ‘à-plomb,- that steadiness and facility of execution’ achieved by keeping the weight well over the feet.  At the end of each step, you must be ready to go in any direction (or none) – just as in baroque dance. I am beginning to master this, but it has taken quite a while.

My main struggles have been with the sequences used in regency quadrilles. As I tried, and failed, to learn these well enough to do them without repeatedly checking the notes, I attempted to analyse what was going on. I came to the conclusion that I was actually trying to replicate what was expected in modern ballet. I was just too used to sequences that were fully symmetrical as well balletic conventions for closing the working foot either ‘under’ or ‘over’. Baroque dance, of course, works differently but I’ve almost always been learning notated dances and not short step sequences.

I’ll give, as an example of how regency quadrille sequences work, one of Gourdoux-Daux’s alternatives for traverser – in which the dancer crosses the set to the other side. Most of us (myself included) generally use the sequence of three temps levé-chassé ending with a jeté and assemblé.  Here is what Gourdoux-Daux suggests (and this is only one of several alternatives offered by him and Strathy):

‘Presenting the right shoulder to your opposite dancer, perform the glissade above with the right foot, glissade under, jeté in the third position under the left foot, turning round on that side at the same time. Then do the assemblé with the left foot under the right. To complete this trait, rise sisone under with the left foot, glissade above with it, glissade under and assemblé with it under the right foot.’

The description does need a bit of interpretation, but it is an asymmetric sequence and you have to get the correct foot in front at the end of each glissade as well as finishing your jeté and assemblés ‘under’. You also have to be ready to change orientation, as well as direction, immediately after dancing to the right side and the left. It has taken me a while to get it right.

Perhaps my problems also related to the fact that I was trying to learn several different sequences (for dos-à-dos, traverser, chassé croisé and dancing right and left) all at the same time, as well as having very little time for practice each week. I’m sure that it would have taken regency dancers some weeks of careful tuition by an expert dancing master before they became proficient. Still, never underestimate the skills of even amateur dancers in history!

 

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

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

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

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

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

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 46 (2)

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

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 48 (2)

In the Bodleian Library copy, it looks like this.

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 48 Bodley (3)

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

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

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 51 (2)

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

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 52 (3)

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 52 (4)

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

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 55 (2)

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

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 56 (2)

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

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

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 49 (2)

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

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 52 (5)

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

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

Pas Battus in L’Abbé’s Stage Duets for a Man and a Woman

My investigation of the choreographies for men in the three published collections of stage dances has shown that Anthony L’Abbé made much greater use of pas battus than Guillaume-Louis Pecour. The three collections have, between them, 31 duets for a man and a woman (around 40% of the total), but I am going to look only at the male-female duets in L’Abbé’s New Collection of Dances (c1725). I won’t attempt a full analysis of each, I’ll simply focus on specific pas battus in each choreography. L’Abbé’s four dances are the ‘Chacone of Galathee performd’ by Mr La Garde and Mrs Santlow’ (plates 22-30), the ‘Saraband of Issee performd’ by Mr Düpré & Mrs Bullock’ (plates 31-36), which is followed by a ‘Jigg’ performed by them (plates 37-39), and the ‘Türkish Dance performd’ by Mr Desnoyer & Mrs Younger’ (plates 84-96). All of the performers were leading dancers in London’s theatres. One of the dances, the ‘Jigg’, has little in the way of pas battus of the sort I am exploring, so I will not include it in this post.

The ‘Chacone of Galathee’ is to music from Lully’s Acis et Galatée of 1686, which was regularly revived after its first performances. It is possible that L’Abbé performed in it at the Paris Opéra. His choreography for Delagarde and Mrs Santlow probably dates to the period 1708-1712, when the two could have danced together, and the duet was evidently meant to be a virtuoso showpiece. The chacone has five 8-bar variations and is played through twice, so the dance has 80 bars of music. It begins with a coupé preparation and a single pirouette en dedans, which sets the tone for what is to follow. The dancers perform in mirror symmetry and do the same steps (on opposite feet) for much of the duet. However, in bar 38 (plate 25), Mrs Santlow begins a pas composé with a jetté emboîté, which is followed by a pas, a pas battu derrière into plié and a demi entre-chat. Delagarde does the same, except that he begins with a demie cabriole or jetté battu, beating his legs together in the air. I wrote about the jetté emboîté in my post Stage Dances for Women and the Demie Cabriole back in April 2019 and concluded that (despite the notation – which may owe as much to social convention as to stage practice) women may well have performed the step as a demie cabriole. I should add that Le Roussau’s notation for this dance has a number of (usually minor) errors.

The differences become more obvious, and more interesting, with the repeat of the music. In bar 43 (plate 26), both dancers perform a full-turn pirouette en dehors on both feet. This is the preparation for their next step – Mrs Santlow performs a tour en l’air with a changement, while Delagarde does an entre-chat droit à 6 without a tour.

Chacone of Galathee 1725 26 (2)

The couple then dance the same steps as each other until bar 72 (plate 29), when Mrs Santlow simply does a changement while Delagarde performs another entre-chat droit à 6.

Chacone of Galathee 1725 29 (2)

They have exactly the same steps, in mirror symmetry, until the end of the choreography. It is obvious that the notation is wrong in one or other (or both) of these places, but how? Is Mrs Santlow’s tour en l’air in bar 44 a mistake, or should Delagarde have had one too? Should the repetition of the changement and the entre-chat in bar 72 have tours as well? Can we really be sure that Mrs Santlow, shown in other dances to have had a virtuoso technique, could not have performed an entre-chat droit à 6?

The ‘Sarabande of Issee’ is to music from Destouches’s opera Issé, first performed in 1697 and given its first revival in 1708. Dupré is, of course, London’s Louis Dupré. Ann Bullock, a pupil of Delagarde, began her career (as Miss Russell) at the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre in 1714. Their duet probably dates to around 1715. It begins with a preparatory ouverture de jambe, followed by a pas battu (notated as a spring but possibly performed with a relevé sauté) in which each dancer’s inside leg beats front, back, front around their supporting leg. Throughout the dance, except for the steps I will be singling out, Mrs Bullock dances the same vocabulary as Dupré.

In bars 11 and 19 (plate 32), she and Dupré do something different.

Sarabande of Issee 1725 32

At the bottom of the page, Dupré performs an entre-chat droit à 6 while Mrs Bullock does a changement. In the middle of the page (the tracts running left to right), he does an entre-chat à 5 followed by two demi-contretemps, but she does only a contretemps battu before the two demi-contretemps. In bar 42 (plate 34), Dupré does another entre-chat droit à 6 to Mrs Bullock’s changement. They do the same for a third, and final, time in bar 60 (plate 36). The preceding pas composé for Dupré joins two entre-chats à 5 with an assemblé battu, while Mrs Bullock has a coupé to point, a coupé avec ouverture de jambe and a pas emboîté. The last of these is odd, as the notation for bar 37 (plate 34) shows her matching Dupré with an assemblé battu which has a half-turn in the air. Here is the whole of the final plate for this saraband. You can see the sequence culminating in the entre-chat droit à 6 / changement in the tracts running bottom to top nearest the centre of the page.

Sarabande of Issee 1725 36

Surely Mrs Bullock was capable of performing an entre-chat droit à 6, given her other technical feats in this dance. Does the notation really tell us the steps she did, or were some deliberately simplified for the purposes of publishing the notation?

In the ‘Türkish Dance’ I want to draw attention to three steps in the duet. This choreography uses music from the Entrée ‘La Turquie’ in Campra’s L’Europe galante of 1697. L’Abbé’s dance must date to 1721 or 1722, when George Desnoyer made his first visit to London and apparently enjoyed a dance partnership with the dancer-actress Elizabeth Younger. In bars 17-18 (plate 94, I have numbered the bars from the beginning of the last piece of music in this duet), Desnoyer and Mrs Younger each perform a cabriole one after the other. They repeat this feat in bars 37-38 (plate 96) and, as they move away from each other a few steps later, they do another cabriole in bar 44. The notated cabrioles appear just above the centre of the page and then to right and left as the tract begins to straighten.

Turkish Dance 1725 96

What is going on here? Does the nature of these steps permit a woman to do a cabriole? Did Le Roussau fail to edit out the cabrioles (which are indicated by a single additional short stroke at right-angles to the step) from his notation? Or, were women routinely performing pas cabriolés all along?

My last post on this topic will look at the ‘Passagalia of Venüs & Adonis’ created by L’Abbé for Hester Santlow, a solo which further calls into question the supposed limitations on the technique of female professional dancers.

Entre-Chats in Male Solos and Duets

My last post on the topic of pas battus in stage dances for men and women (back in November 2019) looked at Feuillet’s ‘Table des Entre-Chats’ in Choregraphie. Here, I will investigate the entre-chats notated in the male solos and duets within Pecour’s collections of 1704 and c1713, as well as L’Abbé’s of c1725. Once again, there are some interesting differences between their use in the three collections and by the two choreographers.

In Pecour’s 1704 collection, four of the thirteen choreographies for men have no entre-chats – the ‘Sarabande pour un homme non dancée a l’Opera’ (plates 210-215), the ‘Folies d’Espagne pour un homme’ (plates 221-224, this is also a sarabande), the ‘Sarabande pour deux hommes’ (Piffetot and Cherrier, plates 154-157) and the ‘Entrée pour deux hommes’ (Piffetot and Cherrier, plates 164-168). The absence of this step from the sarabandes may reflect a convention particular to that dance type, but loures present a more complex picture.

In the 1704 collection, Pecour’s preference seems to be for the entre-chat à 3 which is used in seven of the dances. There are four in the ‘Canary pour deux hommes’ (Piffetot and Cherrier, plates 158-163). The entre-chat à 5 is used in four of the dances, although none has more than two. The entre-chat à 6 is used in six of the dances, but never more than once. Pecour’s ‘Entrée d’Appolon’ which was also ‘non dancée à l’Opera’ has no entre-chat à 6, but there are entre-chats à 5, entre-chats à 4 and entre-chats à 3. Pecour joins one entre-chat à 4 with an entre-chat à 5 to form a new pas composé (bar 12, plate 196, the sequence can be seen on the right-hand side).

Entree Appolon 1704 196

Pecour’s use of entre-chats in his c1713 collection is different. Only one of the seven choreographies for men has no entre-chats – the ‘Entrée de deux homme’ (Marcel and Gaudrau, plates 91-94, to the ‘Entrée des divinitez infernales’ from Lully’s Persée). Of the other six, only one does not have an entre-chat à 6 – the ‘Entrée seul pour un homme’ (danced by ‘Klin’, plates 102-103) – although it does have what seems to be an entre-chat à 5 with a full turn in the air (bar 32, plate 103). The ‘Entrée seul pour un homme’ (plates 107-108, to a loure from Campra’s Les Fêtes vénitiennes) has three entre-chats droit à 6. Two are danced together (bars 15-16, plate 107), while the third comes within a sequence of jumped steps (bar 38, plate 108).

Anthony L’Abbé, in his collection of c1725, is far more lavish in his use of the entre-chat within his six dances for men. He likes to combine the entre-chat with a tour en l’air, as in the ‘Loure or Faune’ (danced by himself and Claude Balon, plates 1-6) which has both an entre-chat à 6 and an entre-chat à 5 with a tour (bar 7, plate 1; bar 22, plate 4) and the ‘Spanish Entrée’ (George Desnoyer, plates 72-75) which has two consecutive entre-chats à 5  (bar 11, plate 73) as well as an entre-chat à 6  (bar 24, plate 75) each with a tour.

The most demanding dance in L’Abbé’s collection is the ‘Chacone of Amadis’ (plates 57-64), danced by London’s Louis Dupré, well-known for its three entre-chats droit à 6 to be performed within a single bar of music (bar 10, plate 57).  L’Abbé also gives Dupré an more extended sequence based on the entre-chat à 5 which is worth closer analysis (bars 41-44, plate 60).

Chacone of Amadis L'Abbe 1725 60

I admit that I am not sure whether these steps are entre-chats à 5 as Feuillet understood them (the ‘Chacone of Amadis’ probably dates to 1717 or 1718, nearly twenty years after the publication of Choregraphie). They can plausibly be seen as variants on that step, but the notation suggests that they were similar to the modern brisé volé. The first of these entre-chats (bar 41) takes one beat and ends with the left leg extended forward in the air – the position is held for two beats. The second (bar 42) is the same, but without an extension of the free right leg (the foot comes to third position behind). The third (bar 43) begins with a repeat of these two steps, each with the same timing but no pauses, and ends with an assemblé battu. The sequence ends with an entre-chat droit à 6 (bar 44) also completed on the first beat and followed by a two-beat pause. The four bars show not only speed and dexterity but also formidable control. The use of dynamic pauses is a feature of baroque choreographies all too often overlooked.

In my next post, I will look at a couple of L’Abbé’s stage duets for a man and a woman in which the pas battus are definitely notated differently – but were they necessarily performed that way?