Category Archives: Steps & Figures

Mr. Isaac’s Choreography: The Six Dances – Motifs and Steps

In my previous post, I looked at the opening and closing sections in each of Mr Isaac’s six dances published in 1706. Here, I turn my attention to some of his choreographic motifs and his versions of some of the basic steps of baroque dance.

Choreographic Motifs: The Right Line

As I work on each of these six dances (a project which is still in progress), I am taking note of one of Isaac’s choreographic motifs in particular. In all of the six dances, except for The Rigadoon, there is at least one sequence danced on a right line. In Orchesography, Weaver describes a ‘Right Line’ as ‘that which extends itself in Length, from one end of the Room to the other’ and illustrates it as running from the presence to the far end of the room in the centre of the dancing space. He is, of course, simply translating what Feuillet says (and illustrates) as his ‘ligne droite’. The feature which makes Isaac’s motif surprising is that the couple face one another and dance along this ‘Right Line’, so one of them has their back to the presence and screens the other from view. (I am assuming, perhaps wrongly, that the presence is on the same level as the dancers and not above them).

The Richmond

The Richmond has one sequence on a right line, roughly half way through the choreography, which begins on plate 3 and finishes on plate 4.

Plate 3
Plate 4 (sequences at top and bottom)

With the woman backing the presence, they approach one another and then retreat.  Each then travels to the right for another sequence in which they move towards one another again on a right line, although they are now offset so both dancers can be seen from the front. The sequence of steps is complex, in keeping with this English hornpipe.

The Rondeau

The Rondeau also has a single sequence on a right line, this time around halfway through the minuet section with which the dance ends.

Plate 6 (the sequence begins on the central vertical line)

The man has his back to the presence. The pair approach one another and then retreat to begin a circular line (on the next plate) which will bring them face to face again, this time on a diametrical line.

The Favorite

The Favorite has two sequences on a right line. The first occurs in the chaconne with the lady backing the presence (plate 2). The second is in the first part of the bourrée with the man backing the presence (plate 5)

Plate 2
Plate 5

This was the dance that drew my attention to the motif, simply because in the chaconne the woman performs a coupé battu to the presence before she turns her back to face her partner (at the top of the detail from plate 2) and this includes a plié on the pas battu which makes it seem like a courtesy. (The man does the same step facing upstage). This figure is followed by another on a diametrical line. The second of these motifs, in the bourrée, has the man with his back to the presence and brings the two dancers together to take right hands for a circular figure.

The Spanheim

The Spanheim also has two figures on a right line. The first comes about a quarter of the way through the dance and the second just over half-way, within the full repeat of the music.

Plate 1
Plate 3

The first of these figures takes only three bars, while the second lasts for five bars. The first time, the woman has her back to the presence and the second time she faces it. The notation for the second right line shows the dancers as slightly offset, although their preceding steps and figure indicate that they are indeed face to face.

The Britannia

The last of the six dances, The Britannia, has three sequences on a right line. The first comes within the first half of the bourrée, with the woman backing the presence, and has the couple approaching one another, turning their backs and turning to face each other again.

Plate 4

The second and third right line figures are within the early sections of the minuet. Both are fleeting and the dancers face the sides of the dancing space (or even the presence and end of the room) as much as each other. In the second, the man is closest to the presence and in the third it is the woman.

Plate 7
Plate 8

There is even the hint of yet another figure on a right line, in the form of a single step just a little further on in the minuet, with the man closest to the presence.

Plate 9

Isaac reveals some preferences in his choice of steps for these right line figures. He uses paired jettés-chassés in The Richmond, The Rondeau and The Britannia, and he also turns to pas de bourrée incorporating an emboîté and a plié. Similarly, he likes to use a coupé with an emboîté and an ouverture de jambe leading to a pas sauté – either a jetté, a jetté-chassé or a sissonne (the vertical jump from two feet to one that completes the pas de sissonne).

Isaac’s Steps

For Orchesography, Weaver evidently used the 1701 second edition of Feuillet’s Choregraphie with its ‘Supplement de pas’ (Feuillet had neglected to include the pas de menuet and contretemps du menuet, alongside a variety of other steps in the notation tables of his first edition). Weaver’s ‘Suplement’ is limited to minuet steps, including some of the ‘grace’ steps, but he also includes four pas composés which he attributes to Mr. Isaac.

Weaver’s claim that these steps are ‘seldom, or ever found in any other Dances whatsoever’ needs to be explored in detail. They aren’t in Feuillet’s step tables but it would be worth checking where and when they occur in dances other than those by Isaac.

Looking through the six dances, some other individual steps stand out. Here are some examples.

The Richmond

Plate 3 (an extension with variation of the jetté-chassé).

Plate 5 (the first pas simple continues that of the preceding pas composé, note the additional ornamentation on the right, the man’s side).

The Rondeau

Plate 1 (this can be described as a coupé battu with an added temps and is a step used in other dances. It comes from the opening triple time section).

Plate 3 (a jetté followed by a coupé soutenue, but perhaps also related to Isaac’s fondness for the sort of variations shown in Weaver’s examples of his steps. This is from the second duple time section).

The Favorite

Plate 3 (two pas de bourrée with variations, from the chaconne).

The notation suggests subtle adjustments to the step as the foot moves, as well as directional changes in relation to the partner – assuming that it represents Weaver’s notation rather than the engraver’s interpretation of it.

Plate 5 (a coupé simple emboîté paired with a variant on the coupé avec ouverture de jambe, from the bourrée).

The Rigadoon

In The Rigadoon it is the sequences of steps that are unusual, rather than the individual pas composés. The most famous sequence is that of plate 2, with its glissades and pas de bourrée tracing a square or rectangular figure.

The glissades (paired coupés soutenues travelling sideways) are a feature of the step vocabulary of The Rigadoon and can be found in other dances as well, notably The Favorite.

There is also the rhythmic challenge posed by a sequence on plate 4. Three successive steps, each of which has a different number and placing of demi-coupés.

The couple travel sideways towards each other and are, at this point in the figure, quite close to the presence.

The Spanheim

Plate 3 (the two steps on the left can each be described as a pas de bourrée with a beat as well as the concluding jetté – here an assemblé – with added changes of direction).

The Britannia

Plate 1 (two jettés-chassés followed by a jetté, from the opening triple time section).

Plate 2 (a hop ornamented with a rond de jambe followed by a demi-coupé. The next step is two demi-coupés in succession. These are from the triple time section).

Plate 4 (two pas de bourrée with emboîté, ending in a plié leading to a sissonne, from the bourrée).

I hope to look at Isaac’s minuets in The Rondeau and The Britannia separately as both use a vocabulary of steps which go beyond the usual variations on and around the pas de menuet, contretemps du menuet and grace steps.

In all these steps, we can see Isaac not only constructing new pas composés from otherwise familiar elements, combining these in new ways, but also ornamenting these compound steps spatially as well as dynamically. It takes time and practice to master Isaac’s steps and sequences, which are an integral part of his idiosyncratic approach to the choreography of ballroom danses à deux.

Mr Isaac’s Choreography: The Six Dances – Opening and Closing Figures

Apart from a solo Chacone and Minuet for a girl (perhaps two separate solos), Mr Isaac’s choreography survives in twenty-one ballroom duets published between 1706 and 1716. Of these, eleven were said to have been ‘Perform’d at Court’ (another, The Northumberland, may also have been danced at court), while another seven were advertised as ‘Made for Her Majesty’s Birth Day’. Two were called a ‘new Dance for the Year’ – they were danced on stage and may have been originally intended for that purpose.

In her 1985 thesis (p. 229), French Court Dance in England: A Study of the Sources, Carol Marsh identified nine country dances that used music from Isaac’s ballroom dances (some used only one section from the music for a multi-partite dance). There appears to be no suggestion that these were created by Mr Isaac himself, although most were published close in date to his ballroom duets. There is also Isaac’s Maggot, in the ninth edition of The Dancing-Master published in 1695, which might be by him. I don’t intend to pursue any of these here or in future posts, although they may well be worth further research by those well-versed in country dances and their history.

In this post, I will look at two of the choreographic conventions demonstrated, or disregarded, in the six of Isaac’s dances published together in 1706. I will investigate some of his more idiosyncratic figures and steps in my next post. Behind this line of enquiry lies the issue of the notation, what it can (and can’t) notate, notational errors and (with Isaac’s other dances) the different approaches of individual notators and engravers. John Weaver was the notator of the six Isaac dances (which were published the same year as Orchesography, Weaver’s translation of Feuillet’s Choregraphie), but at least two engravers prepared the plates from which they were printed. I will touch on these issues in my analyses, although work on the styles and practices of engravers, and notators, really needs to be done through close examination of the originals.

Early in my involvement in baroque dance, I encountered what were identified as choreographic conventions within the genre. There were two in particular: dances opened with a passage travelling downstage towards the audience, or for ballroom dances – the presence; they ended with another passage travelling upstage so that the dancers returned to their starting point. These conventions provide a useful starting point for a brief analysis of Isaac’s six dances.

Here are the opening and closing figures for each of the six dances.

The Richmond:

In the opening A section of the music for The Richmond (4 bars), the two dancers move downstage on a diagonal but quickly turn to face each other. They move sideways for one step, then turn to face the presence for two steps. Isaac divides the focus of the dancers between each other and the presence. They are closer together than appears on the notation.

The closing sequence (the final 4 bars, a petite reprise to the last section of the music) has the couple (who are improper) take inside hands as the man moves upstage and lady downstage. They then turn and repeat their pas composé taking other hands. On the next, penultimate, step they let go hands and change sides for their final step in which the man dances backwards and the lady dances forwards. She makes a half turn on the coupé soutenu into fourth position, with which they both finish.

The Rondeau:

Apart from one step, in bar 3, in which the couple face each other for a brief acknowledgement, the convention of facing and travelling downstage towards the presence is observed throughout the first 8-bar musical section. The two coupés sans poser sideways (in bars 4 and 5) would have travelled less than the notation suggests.

The Rondeau ends with a minuet and the closing figure uses the convention of the man travelling backwards, while his lady travels forwards – as if they had taken both hands, although no hand holds are shown on the notation. His final coupé soutenu ends in fourth position, while hers ends in first position implying that they immediately perform an honour.

The Rigadoon:

Isaac gives The Rigadoon, his most famous dance, an entirely conventional opening sequence, with the two dancers travelling downstage side-by-side towards the presence throughout the first A section (before turning their backs as they begin the second A).

The closing sequence is actually a repeat, with variations, of the steps from the opening of The Rigadoon. The man moves backwards as the woman dances forwards and she turns to face the presence only on her final step – both ending with a coupé soutenu into fourth position.

The Favorite:

Apart from their initial steps in The Favorite, which include coupés sideways towards and away from each other, the couple travel directly downstage side-by-side towards the presence, making this a conventional opening.

The Favorite is another dance for which the music ends with a petite reprise. In these final four bars, the two dancers face each other or upstage, travelling upstage on a diagonal before ending with a quarter-turn (not indicated on the notation) into a coupé soutenu into fourth position.

The Spanheim:

In The Spanheim the dancers face one another on their first step and travel sideways downstage on the next, before turning to face the presence to continue travelling downstage with their next two steps to complete the first A section of the music.

The final musical section of The Spanheim has six bars. For the first three the couple travel upstage together, turning to face the presence at the end of their second step. The floor pattern for the last three bars is more complex, using diagonals and a curving track before they make a quarter turn to face the presence at the very end. The man does a coupé soutenu into fourth position and the woman into first, so this dance also seems to end with an immediate honour.

The Britannia:

The A section in The Britannia is longer than usual, with 10 bars, and begins unconventionally with the dancers facing one another for the first 5 bars, before turning to face the presence for a sequence which travels sideways moving away, towards and away from each other.

The Britannia ends with a minuet, like The Rondeau, and Isaac also uses a variation on the taking of both hands (in this dance the notation indicates that the couple do take hands). Their final retreat is shorter (three bars of music – equivalent to one and a half minuet steps) and ends with coupés soutenus into fourth and first respectively, so presumably straight into an honour.

Although each of these dances keep to the general conventions in their opening and closing passages, Isaac is inventive in his variations of these. In all but The Rigadoon, his dancers acknowledge each other in some way. In The Richmond, The Spanheim and The Britannia their opening steps and figures are directed to each other and they only turn to the presence some way into the opening section. I am wondering whether these differences, subtle as they may seem, point to different contexts for their performance or perhaps to Isaac interpretating a theme within his music or the dance’s title. As I work on these choreographies, I question how formal were the balls at which they were performed. Were some of them danced at private or semi-private events before a small royal and aristocratic group, rather than at royal balls given before a wider audience?

The variations in the closing steps are interesting. In Le Maître à danser, published some twenty and more years later than the creation of Isaac’s six dances, Rameau specifies that at the ‘grand Bal du Roy’ and ‘Bals reglez’ honours must be made at both the beginning and end of each couple dance (pages 54, 56-57). These honours are rarely notated in the surviving dances and Weaver’s notations for Isaac seem to hint at differences in practice, signalled by the finishing position of the woman. Do these, too, point to a less formal context for the performance of some of the dances?

Monsieur Gherardi and the Couple Allemande

Looking back over my various Dance in History posts, I can see that I have written next to nothing about the couple allemande which became popular in the ballroom (and on the stage) in the late 1760s. This is probably because I have had very few opportunities either to learn or dance it, although quite some time ago I did bring together a folder of research notes about this duet. I am currently involved in some research which is concerned with ballroom dancing in the late 1700s and early 1800s and my attention was caught by what Monsieur Gherardi had to say in his Twelve new allemandes and twelve new minuets, published in London in 1770. This is actually a collection of pieces of dance music, to which Gherardi prefixes some quite lengthy remarks on the couple allemande, which I here transcribe in full.

“To the Lovers of the Allemande Dances.

The satisfaction, which every one expressed, who saw the Allemande Dances two Years ago, gave me room to hope a diversion, so much in fashion throughout the major part of Europe, would, at last, take place in the public, and private Balls of this kingdom also: I had the greater reason for this agreable supposition, on account of the repeated and continual encomiums they met with from almost – and, indeed, I might say, entirely – all whom I then had the honour of instructing.

Consequences however have deceived me; I am in hopes therefore it will not be unacceptable if I endeavour to point out the cause of this disappointment; especially as my principal motive is to remove those Impediments which obstruct the enjoyment of one of the most elegant and innocent amusements of the polite world.

As a Professor of dancing, I could impute it to several circumstances, of which I have had ocular experience during the course of my Instructions; the principal of which is, a fundamental error in the generality of Masters, which, perhaps, operating with the too common negligence in Pupils of attending even to the best directions, has chiefly contributed to the disparagement both of the Art in question, and of its Instructor likewise.

As I address myself to the lovers of the Allemande Dances, I do not apprehend the censure of obtruding the following Reflections and Advice; my earnest and only desire being, to furnish them with the most certain and effectual methods, of arriving at a masterly execution in this elegant diversion: a Point which, when obtained, cannot fail of adding to their pleasure, and of removing, or, at least diminishing, their fatigue.

The Allemande comprehends a number of minutiæ, in which, all, who pretend to any knowledge of it, should be instructed, which must necessarily concur to its perfection.

In the first Place; the Gentleman and his Partner must never close their hands, or fingers: they must, on the contrary, keep them almost disengaged, so as to turn easily within each other: & above all, take care not to loose their hold during the passes unless the necessity of the case requires it.

They must also be match’d as much as possible in point of height; by which means the passes will be render’d more facile, and consequently less fatiguing; or if there must be a difference in their size, the Man’s being a little taller than his Partner will occasion no material inconvenience, provided he shews his Judgment (which if he is adroit he may) by making use of his advantage, in point of height, in favouring the steps of the Lady, who may not be so skilfull as himself.

In order to dance the Allemande well, a nice knowledge of the different steps is also necessary: it has but few for such as make it only the amusement of the Evening; but for those who aspire after excellence, there are a sufficient number to be employed at quitting and joining hands, & also during the momentary interval of separation; which are properly the critical times for displaying the address and ingenuity of the Artist.

But what astonishes me is, that in a Country where the National dance is so extreamly lively and animated, a kind of Allemande, which being much more so, seems better suited to the taste and genius of the People, should have been wholly omitted: the kind I am speaking of, is called Boiteuse; it is in great esteem at Strasburgh, where they dance it to perfection: the Air of it is brisk and sudden, and has its particular steps and passes: to dwell upon its beauties would be unnecessary; they may be discovered by looking over the Airs themselves, for which purpose I have inserted several of them in my collection.

There are still two other kinds of Allemandes called Troteuse and Sauteuse, or the Trotting and Leaping kinds; but as each of these includes several subdivisions also, I shall defer any consideration of them to another opportunity.

Notwithstanding several Masters of this Metropolis (in order to distinguish their Scholars) have endeavour’d to mix the natural steps of the Hornpipe, with those of the Allemande, and which they have effected in the Contre dances Francioises [sic], or Cotillons, I will venture, without design of prejudicing their reputation or their interest, to warn such as desire really to distinguish themselves, from following this method; it being entirely repugnant to the true Allemande; in which nothing but an uniformity in the Steps, and an easy performance of the Passes, can procure perfection or applause: in fact, is it not ridiculous to see a Dance between two Persons, executed in one way by the Gentleman, and in another by the Lady? and which must very frequently be the unavoidable Consequence in the present Case.

It is upon long experience that all my remarks are founded. In Germany, where I resided at the Margrave of Baireith’s, in quality of Ballet-Master, principal Dancer, and dancing master to the Court, and to the reigning Dutchess of Wirtemburg, the Margrave’s Daughter, I never observed, either among the Saxons, Suabians, or Strasburghers, other than a perfect correspondence between the steps of the Gentleman and his fair Partner; and if these People, the first in the World for Allemande Dances, did not put a proper Value upon this correspondence, may we not suppose their Masters would be directed to furnish them with the requisite varieties; for which Task they are certainly as capable as those of this Nation!

The following are therefore the directions I would recommend to be observ’d in the Allemande. The Gentleman must, in the first place, take care not to make his Allemande too long, and 2dly. to avoid every pass which being in the least difficult to him, must be so likewise to the Lady; and the passes to be rejected, are such as, where the body being half bent, the Man turns three or four times round, under his own and the Lady’s Arms; a Position which, besides the indelicacy of it, subjects her to the almost inevitable necessity of spoiling her cloathes by the Powder and Pomatum in his Hair; not to mention the consequent disagreable discomposure of that material part of the dress of the Gentleman; giving his Head the same elegant appearance as if he had just popped it out of a Sack.

We must therefore endeavour to conform to the present prevailing taste amongst those who Pique themselves on dancing the Allemande well; which is, to make but few passes, and even those very easy too: such as we call Mirroirs, or Regards, are, for their great facility, extreamly in use, and, on that account, very proper for the Ladies.

In a tour which I made last Year to Paris, I was present at an Assembly, and saw a tall Gentleman dance the Allemande with a Lady only ten years of age, for at least a quarter of an Hour, without once passing under her Arms; every figure was in Mirroir, the execution was elegant and pleased me infinitely! I must likewise observe the advantage there is of previously practising every dance at home, under the inspection of a Master; by this means each party, being more thoroughly acquainted with the necessary passes, is more certain and easy in the execution of what they so well know; and every thing becomes , of course, greatly more agreable.

To evince what I assert, we need only reflect on the Allemandes of the Stage Dancers, who acquire the Judgment, and Agility, they display, in the execution of their art, by nothing so much as by the mere dint of frequent repetitions of the same Dance; and as a proof still more convincing, it will not be improper to instance the astonishing approbation and success which the Allemande has met with during the space of two Years it has been danced in London at the Public Theatres; and are still, and deservedly, seen with new delight.

I recommend to the Admirers and Learners of the Allemandes, to weigh the few foregoing Observations, and if they find the Theory (as I flatter myself they will) founded on Reason and Judgment, to avail themselves of it in the Practice: for in what-ever situation of Life a Person may be, if he attempts a Science, and does not study it with assiduity and precision, so as to attain to some degree of perfection, he certainly throws a damp on Emulation in others; and thereby injures that very Science, which as a Student therein, it should be his warmest Endeavour to advance.

Persuaded of this truth from the earliest part of Life; I have, for many Years past, devoted my whole time and study to the Profession in which I am engaged, with a view of rendering myself, in my little Province, useful to, and deserving the countenance and approbation of, the Public in general; but more particularly of those who have already honoured, or do at present honour me, with their commands, and presence at my Academy, held twice a Week at my own House.”

Who was Gherardi? He provides some information about his career in his remarks, describing himself as ‘Ballet-Master, principal Dancer, and dancing master’ to the Margrave of Bayreuth and his daughter the Duchess of Württemburg, although he does not tell us when or how long he worked for them. His patrons were evidently Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth (1711-1763) and Elisabeth Fredericke Sophie of Brandenburg-Bayreuth (1732-1780) who married Charles Eugene, Duke of Württemburg in 1748. Her mother was Princess Wilhelmine of Prussia, sister of Frederick the Great.

On the title pages of his various collections, Gherardi also describes himself as ‘One of the Principal Dancers of ye Opera at Paris’ and ‘Ballet Master and principal Dancer of the Opera in London’. The Biographical Dictionary of Actors describes Gherardi as dancing and then becoming ballet master at London’s opera house, the King’s Theatre, between 1760 and 1765. The same source suggests that he was the son of Jean-Baptiste Gherardi (b.1696) of the Comédie Italienne in Paris and the grandson of Evariste Gherardi (1663-1700), who had been Harlequin and the author of numerous comedies for the famous commedia dell’arte troupe based in Paris until its expulsion by Louis XIV in 1697. Gherardi himself seems to have been a Harlequin, as well as a dancer, at the Paris Opéra between 1740 and 1746 and subsequently to have danced at various other European theatres. In her book The Pre-Romantic Ballet, Marian Hannah Winter records that Gherardi’s father had sent him for training to Louis ‘le grand’ Dupré before entering the Paris Opéra (although she does not cite her source). Gherardi was still teaching in London in 1774, for the Public Advertiser for 3 March 1774 carried a notice for his ball at Carlisle House, Soho Square – he was presumably still at Rathbone Place in Soho, as shown in his earlier publications. He is certainly worth further research to document more fully his career in Paris and Europe as well as in London.

Gherardi’s remarks on the couple allemande are of particular interest because they go beyond the information to be found in the various contemporary French treatises on this dance. He mentions that the allemande has a number of steps, associated particularly with the ‘Boiteuse’ allemande as danced in Strasbourg. He refers to ‘Troteuse’ and ‘Sauteuse’ allemandes not mentioned in the French treatises. In his Almanach dansant ou positions et attitudes de l’allemande of 1770, Guillaume says ‘Il y a plusieurs sortes de Pas qui servent à danser l’allemande’ but does not describe them, restricting his explanation to the steps ‘plus usités & analogues à cette danse’. I can’t help wondering whether both Gherardi and Guillaume might be thinking of some of the steps included within Clement’s Passepied et Allemande à Quatre published in notation in 1771. Do any German sources survive to tell us more about the couple allemande?

Here is an English illustration of the allemande in full flow:

References:

Philip Highfill Jr at al. Biographical dictionary of actors, actresses, musicians, dancers, managers & other stage personnel in London, 1660-1800. 16 vols. (Carbondale, 1973-1993)

Marian Hannah Winter. The pre-romantic ballet (London, 1974)

The Dancer in the Dancing Space: The ‘Chacone de Phaëton’

There are three choreographies to the chaconne from act two of Lully’s 1683 opera Phaëton:

  • Guillaume-Louis Pecour, ‘Chacone pour une femme’, Recüeil de dances (Paris, 1704). LMC 2020, FL/1704.1/03.
  • Guillaume-Louis Pecour, ‘Chacone de Phaëton pour un homme non Dancée a l’Opera’, also in the Recueil de dances (Paris, 1704). LMC 1960, FL/1704.1/29.
  • Anonymous, ‘La chaconne de phaestons’ a solo for a man surviving in the manuscript source held by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 14884. LMC 1940, FL/Ms17.1/10.

All use a single iteration of the music, which in the opera is played through twice. Each of the choreographies thus has 152 bars of music with which to create a series of dance variations.

I have recently been working on the solo for a woman and become interested in the dancer’s relationship to the space within which she is dancing – or, perhaps more accurately, the space which surrounds her. We do not know when or where this solo was performed – it may or may not have been given within the opera. The step vocabulary is straightforward, with little in the way of embellishment, but its use of space and the changing orientation of the dancer as she traces her figures is worth some analysis.

A quick look at the notations for the two male solos indicates that both are very focussed on downstage centre (often referred to, particularly in ballroom contexts, as the ‘presence’), whether they are facing it or have their backs turned. These male dancers rarely turn to either stage right or stage left, or their ballroom equivalents. The use of space is quite different to that in the female solo.

Here, I would like to look at just three sequences from Pecour’s ‘Chacone pour une femme’ of 1704.

  • Plate 10, bars 1 – 16 (the first two musical variations), the beginning of this dance
  • Plate 17, bars 117 – 124, towards the end of the solo
  • Plate 19, bars 137 – 144, the penultimate variation of the dance.

I won’t say anything about the music, except that the notator of the dance respects the musical variations as he divides the choreography between plates – each plate has 16 bars of dance / music (two variations, each of 4 + 4 bars), except for plates 14 and 18 which each have 12 bars of dance / music to reflect changes in the structure of the music.

This chaconne begins with the dancer moving to right and left, before making a conventional passage downstage. According to the notation, she faces the presence as she waits to begin. She starts with a quarter-turn to the right for a coupé à deux mouvements, and then makes a quarter-turn to the left for a coupé battu avec ouverture de jambe. She repeats these two steps on the other foot, turning first to the left and then back to the right. So, she addresses each side of her dancing space before turning to the presence. I haven’t done any research to see if this is unusual among the notated dances, but in terms of the dancer’s successive orientations within her dancing space it is interesting. Here is the first plate of the ‘Chacone pour une femme’, with the first two dance / music variations, together with a detail of the passage I have described:

By plate 17, the dancer is within reach of the end of the choreography after a variety of steps and figures. Here, I want to look particularly at the second 8-bar variation – my focus is on the figure to the right of the plate.

This is not the first rectilinear figure in the chaconne. There is another in plate 12, in which the dancer performs seven coupés à deux mouvements with a final coupé simple. All travel sideways to the left and there is a quarter-turn to the left at the beginning of every other step, from the first to the seventh and then on the eighth as well. So, the dancer performs two coupés à deux mouvements facing downstage, two facing stage left, two facing upstage, one facing stage right and the final coupé simple facing downstage again. The turns in the figure on plate 17 are more subtle and varied and follow each other in quick succession. This was the sequence which set me thinking about the dancer’s use of space and orientation as I struggled to get it right. I also couldn’t help wondering how it might relate to later codifications of the directions of the body in ballet and in modern ballroom (two styles I am acquainted with).

This variation has eight pas de bourrée. The dancer begins facing the presence, having just done a pas de bourrée sideways. Her first step has a quarter-turn to the right and then a half-turn to the right on the demi-coupé and ensuing step of the pas de bourrée, so she faces stage right then stage left and has a final step backwards with no turn. The next pas de bourrée has a quarter-turn to the right at the beginning and she stays facing downstage for the rest of the step. The third and fourth pas de bourrée each have quarter-turns to the right on their first two steps, followed by no turn. The dancer faces stage right, upstage, stage left, downstage as she moves. Although she ends facing the presence, her fifth step has a quarter turn on its second step so, she turns away to face stage right. The sixth pas de bourrée has a quarter-turn to the right on the first step, so she faces upstage immediately (at the point when she must be directly in front of the presence). Her seventh step has quarter-turns to the right on the first and second steps, turning her back to face downstage, a direction she maintains for the eighth pas de bourrée (which moves sideways to the right, reflecting the step which preceded this sequence). I have said little about changes in the direction of the steps themselves (the second to the sixth pas de bourrée each begin with a sideways step), but they play a part in the surprising complexities of this variation.

As I worked on it, I began to wonder how important these degrees of turn were. They reminded me of the precise degrees of turn required in modern ballroom steps, in which the directions of the body relate to the centre lines, the outer lines (the walls) of the dancing space and the ‘line of dance’ (a concept that needs further analysis) itself. Both these rectilinear figures within the chaconne move anti-clockwise around the space, as do modern ballroom dancers, with the dancer herself turning clockwise as she moves. I understand that directions of the body and directions of travel were not codified, in either ballet or ballroom dancing, before the early 20th century, but here are the rudiments of them within baroque dance some 200 years earlier. Of course, this focus on the perimeter of the dancing space raises a question – was the ‘Chacone pour une femme’ created for the court ballroom rather than the stage?

The last sequence I want to look at comes close to the end of the dance, on the very last plate of the notation.

It is both an extension and a variation of the sequence with which this chaconne began, and also draws on another earlier version of that opening sequence in which the coupé à deux mouvements was replaced by a contretemps. This latest variation begins with a contretemps, followed by a coupé battu avec ouverture de jambe, but the dancer turns to the left first and does not turn back to the presence on her second step. Instead, she continues to face stage left and then does a half-turn pirouette to face stage right, followed by a coupé soutenu in the same direction. She then repeats the whole sequence on the other foot in the opposite direction, not really addressing the presence at all. She only turns to face downstage when she begins the final variation of the choreography directly before the presence, and then faces it until the very end of the dance.

I can’t guess at the significance of these changes of direction within this particular female solo, although I do feel that it is important to dance them accurately. I couldn’t readily find anything on the topic of body directions among the sources accessible to me, but I need to take another look. The concept of the presence needs revisiting, too. So, perhaps, there will be a follow-up to this post in due course.

Reading List:

Régine Astier, ‘Chaconne pour une femme: Chaconne de Phaëton. A performance Study’, Dance Research, XV.2 (Winter 1997), 150-169. (Papers from the 1996 conference Dance to Honour Kings)

Francine Lancelot. La Belle Dance: Catalogue Raisonnée (Paris, 1996) [FL]

Meredith Ellis Little and Carol G. Marsh. La Danse Noble: an Inventory of Dances and Sources (Williamstown, 1992) [LMC]

The Entrée Grave: A Touchstone of Male Virtuosity?

I am pursuing a line of research that has led me to the entrée grave and its use in musical works on the London stage in the late 17th century, so I thought I would take a closer look at this dance type through the choreographies surviving in notation. I have, of course, written about male dancing in other posts and I list these below for anyone who might be interested.

In her 2016 book Dance and Drama in French Baroque Opera (p. 56), Rebecca Harris-Warrick describes the entrée grave as ‘a slow dance in duple meter characterized by dotted quarter note /eighth-note patterns, rather like the opening portion of an overture’, cautioning that ‘“grave” is found in the headings for choreographies … in scores such a piece is generally identified simply as an entrée or an air’. She also tells us that ‘in choreographic sources entrées graves are always danced by men’ (although she does cite an opera in which one may have been danced by women, p. 332).

Here, I am concerned only with the ‘choreographic sources’, as I want mainly to look at the vocabulary and technique associated with the entrée grave. The most comprehensive listing of notated dances is provided by La Danse Noble by Meredith Little and Carol Marsh, published in 1992, which includes an ‘Index to Dance Types and Styles’. The authors point out that ‘classification by type and style is often a problematic matter’ and this is certainly the case with the entrée grave. They list eight notated choreographies as entrées graves, but Francine Lancelot in La Belle Dance identifies only two in her ‘Index of Dances according to the Number of Performers’ – adding another six through her detailed descriptions of individual notations. I include references to entries in both of these catalogues in my list of choreographies below – prefaced LMC for Little and Marsh and FL for Lancelot.

The dances they identify as entrées graves are not quite the same. Little and Marsh include two solo versions of the ‘Entrée de Saturne’ from the Prologue to Lully’s Phaëton which are not this dance type (LMC4000 and LMC4260) and are not so identified by Lancelot (FL/1700.1/11 and FL/MS05.1/13). These are omitted from the list below. However, Lancelot identifies two male duets which are not classified as entrées graves by Little and Marsh (LMC4220, FL/1704.1/23 and LMC2780, FL/1713.2/36) which have been added to the list. So, between them, these two catalogues identify eight notated choreographies which may be classed as entrées graves. The dancing characters are identified by Lancelot from the livrets for the individual operas from which the music for the dance is taken.

Feuillet, Recüeil de dances (Paris, 1700)

  • ‘Entrée grave pour homme’, music anonymous (AABBB’ A=8 B=9 B’=4 38 bars). No dancing character indicated. (LMC4140, FL/1700.1/13)
  • ‘Entrée d’Apolon’, music from Lully Le Triomphe de l’Amour (1681), entrée XV (AABBB’ A=9 B=19 B’=7 63 bars). Dancing character Apollo. (LMC2720, FL/1700.1/14)
  • ‘Balet de neuf danseurs’, opening section, music from Lully Bellérophon (1679), act V scene 3 (AABB A=B=11 44 bars). Dancing characters Lyciens. (LMC1320, FL/1700.1/15)

Pecour, Recüeil de dances (Paris, 1704)

  • ‘Entrée pour deux hommes’, music from Lully Cadmus et Hermione (1674), V, 3 (AABB A=4 B=9 26 bars). Lancelot notes that the music is a gavotte but implies that the choreography is actually an entrée grave (as indicated by the notation). Dancing characters Suivants de Comus. (LMC4220, FL/1704.1/23)
  • ‘Entrée d’Appolon pour homme’, music from Lully Le Triomphe de l’Amour (1681), entrée XV (AABBB’ A=9 B=19 B’=7 63 bars). Dancing character Apollo. (LMC2740, FL/1704.1/30)

Pecour, Nouveau Recüeil de dances (Paris, c1713)

  • ‘Entrée de Cithe’ (a male duet), music from Bourgeois, Les Amours déguiséz (1713), 3e Entrée (AAB A=10 B=16 36 bars). Dancing characters Scithes (Scythians). (LMC2780, FL/1713.2/36)
  • ‘Entré seul pour un homme’, music from Stuck Méléagre (1709), act II scene 7 (AABB A=8 B=13 42 bars). Dancing characters Guerriers. (LMC4580, FL/1713.2/38)

L’Abbé, A New Collection of Dances (London, c1725)

  • ‘Entrée’, music from Lully, Acis et Galatée (1686), Prologue (AABB A-10 B=13 46 bars). Dancing characters in the opera Suite de l’Abondance, Suite de Comus. (LMC4180, FL/1725.1/12)

So, we have in all six male solos and two male duets published over the first quarter of the 18th century that might tell us something about the step vocabulary and the dance style of the entrée grave. The details given above provide quite a lot of information, before we turn to the notations themselves. All the choreographies are quite short. The longest are the two versions, by Feuillet and Pecour respectively, of the ‘Entrée’ for Apollo to music from Lully’s Le Triomphe de l’Amour of 1681, with 63 bars of music. The shortest is Pecour’s ‘Entrée pour deux hommes’ from Lully’s Cadmus et Hermione of 1674, with only 26 bars of music (and a question mark over the dance type it represents). It is worth remembering that, with the entrée grave, each bar of music has two pas composés of dancing many of which are complex or virtuosic. The music has to be slow to allow the dancers time to execute the steps.

None of Feuillet’s choreographies and none of Pecour’s solos are directly linked with performances at the Paris Opéra. Indeed, Pecour’s version of the ‘Entrée d’Appolon’ states that it was ‘non dancée à l’Opera’.  Only Pecour’s two duets record dances performed there – the dancers are named in the livrets for each opera as well as on the head-title for each notation. L’Abbé’s solo for Desnoyer was created for performance in London, as an entr’acte entertainment at the Drury Lane Theatre. Nevertheless, given that L’Abbé as well as Pecour had danced at the Paris Opéra and that Feuillet must also have been familiar with its repertoire as well as its dance conventions, it is worth considering the dancing characters for which the music was originally written as part of any choreographic analysis.

Apollo was, of course, the Olympian god identified with the sun (and with whom Louis XIV identified himself). The Lyciens were simply men of Lycia, celebrating the marriage of the Lycian princess Philonoé to the hero Bellérophon. The Suite (Followers) of Comus were the dancing characters in both Cadmus et Hermione and, probably, Acis et Galatée. The Cithes (Scythians), in other contexts known as warlike nomads from southern Russia, take part in celebrations in Les Amours déguiséz, but they also link to the Guerriers who dance an entrée grave in Méléagre. Between them, these characters carry three separate associations which might also overlap. Apollo represents power and control, yet there is an underlying hint of excess given the god’s many love affairs. The theme of revelry links the Followers of Comus with the Lyciens and the Cithes. The Guerriers, and perhaps the Cithes, suggest the portrayal of power and control. The messages conveyed by the entrée grave may be less clear and fixed than has been supposed.

An analysis of the notated dances reveals shared features. They routinely include some of the most virtuosic male steps – multiple pirouettes (with and without pas battus by the working leg), entre-chats à six and a variety of cabrioles, in particular the demie cabriole en tournant un tour en saut de basque. The first plate of Pecour’s ‘Entrée d’Appolon’, published in 1704, shows both an entre-chat and the demie cabriole en tournant, while the third plate shows two pirouettes, one without and one with pas battus.

All of these entrée grave choreographies include a number of basic steps, between a quarter and a third of the total in the surviving notations. They also routinely ornament such steps with beats and turns, making them far more complex. Examples of both (with some unadorned basic steps) can be seen in the second plate of Feuillet’s ‘Entrée grave pour homme’ from his collection of 1700.

The figures (floor patterns) traced by these male dancers are not easy to interpret. They seem mainly to move downstage and upstage on a central line, with occasional steps to right or left which quickly bring them back centre stage. Many of their steps, particularly those classed as virtuosic, are performed in place, so the dancer does not travel nearly as much as the notations imply. (Steps are, of course, written along the dance tracts, whether or not the dancer travels along these). The few circular figures are usually associated with the demie cabriole en tournant un tour en saut de basque, which makes a turn in the air so that the dancer lands close to where he began his jump. There are a few video recordings of some of the notated entrées graves which show the dancers traversing the stage quite freely, but I am not sure how much these owe to the demands of the dancing space rather than the notation. These male solos are certainly more compact and less varied in their figures than the corresponding female theatrical solos.

The only entrée grave for more than one or two male dancers is the ‘Balet de neuf Danseurs’ by Feuillet, again from his 1700 collection. It is danced by a leading man with eight ‘Followers’ who stand behind and to each side of him as he begins the choreography. Only the first section is an entrée grave, which is followed by two canaries. The soloist dances the first A section and then stands centre back while four of the eight Followers (those who were standing behind him) perform two parallel duets to the second A section. The soloist then dances to the first B section and is followed by the same four men, who resume their duets for the second B section. The dance continues with the soloist, who dances the first and second canary, and it finishes with all eight Followers dancing the repeat of the two canary tunes while the soloist again stands centre back. This choreography may reveal one way in which dancing masters could deploy a group of male dancers onstage for an entrée grave. Here are the first two plates of this choreography.

There is one other entrée grave choreography that I have not so far mentioned, but which is equally relevant to the research project that brought me to this topic. This is the ‘Air des Ivrognes’ in Le Mariage de la Grosse Cathos, a ballet performed at the court of Louis XIV in 1688. The ballet was recorded by its choreographer Jean Favier in a dance notation of his own invention, which was published in facsimile, decoded, set in context and analysed by Rebecca Harris-Warrick and Carol G. Marsh in 1994 in Musical Theatre at the Court of Louis XIV. They suggest that this duet, performed by two male dancers from the Paris Opéra in the guise of Peasants, ‘would have been immediately recognised as a burlesque of the entrée grave, the noblest and most difficult of the theatrical dances of the time’ (p. 55). As their analysis reveals, it is indisputably a comic number even as the dancers attempt some of the virtuosic feats associated with this dance type.

My research into the entrée grave has, necessarily, been limited. It would be useful to know how many more entrées graves there are in the operas of Lully and his immediate successors and which characters performed them, even though the choreographies are lost, but this is a task for musicologists. Although much of my work on baroque dance is practical, the demands of the entrée grave are well beyond my dancing skills – it is a shame that conference papers by those who have danced these difficult choreographies should remain unpublished and thus inaccessible. I have been able to answer some of my own immediate research questions, but my work has uncovered others. Was the entrée grave simply an expression of power and nobility or did it have other contexts with different meanings? How well was this dance known beyond France and how was it seen and understood elsewhere, for example in London? What was it really like in performance?

Reading list:

Rebecca Harris-Warrick. Dance and Drama in French Baroque Opera (Cambridge, 2016)

Rebecca Harris-Warrick and Carol G. Marsh, Musical Theatre at the Court of Louis XIV: Le Mariage de la Grosse Cathos (Cambridge, 1994)

Francine Lancelot. La Belle Dance: Catalogue Raisonnée (Paris, 1996)

Meredith Ellis Little and Carol G. Marsh. La Danse Noble: an Inventory of Dances and Sources (Williamstown, 1992)

Previous Dance in History Posts about Male Dancing:

Money for Entrechats: Valuing the Virtuosic Male Dancer – L’Abbé and Ballon

Money for Entrechats: Valuing the Virtuosic Male Dancer – Delagarde and Dupré

Demie Cabriole en Tournant un Tour en Saut de Basque – a Step Solely for a Man?

Demies Cabrioles in Male Solos and Duets

Pas de Sissonne Battu in Stage Dances for Men

Entre-Chats in Male Solos and Duets

Reconstructing The Louvre (Aimable Vainqueur)

I have written about Pecour’s 1701 duet Aimable Vainqueur in at least three posts. This popular dance was mentioned in Favourite Ballroom Duets and Famous French Ballroom Dances. In Aimable Vainqueur on the London Stage, I looked at one strand of the performance history of The Louvre – the title by which Aimable Vainqueur was known in London’s theatres. In this post, I will look at the process of reconstructing the dance, as I have been doing just that using John Weaver’s version of the notation (titled The Louvre), which he included in the second edition of Orchesography in 1722. This is the version I will use for my exploration here.

The Louvre (Aimable Vainqueur) is a loure to music from André Campra’s 1700 opera Hésione. I don’t know whether London audiences knew that, possibly not as they were unlikely to have heard of the opera, but they must have appreciated the tune or the dance would not have survived in the entr’acte repertoire as long as it did. The music in Weaver’s version, as in Feuillet’s original of 1701, has the time signature 3 and the dance notation has one pas composé to each bar of music. Other loures, including the first part of Mr Isaac’s ball dance The Pastorall of 1713, have music in 6/4 with two pas composés to each bar of music on the dance notation. I will return to the relationship between the dance and the music later.

Weaver’s notation has some minor differences from Feuillet’s original, which suggest that he derived his version from Richard Shirley’s notation of the dance, published in London in 1715. Weaver copied Shirley’s floor patterns on the second plate as well as some of Shirley’s notations of individual steps – and he repeated some of Shirley’s mistakes. I assume that Shirley had access to Feuillet’s notation and either he, or possibly his engraver, made the changes. The Louvre has six plates of notation, with the dance divided between them in a way which reflects the music’s structure and phrasing. The music is AABB (A=14 B=24) and plate 1 has the first A, plate 2 has the second A, plate 3 has bars 1-8 of the first B, plate 4 has bars 9-24 of the first B and the second B section is similarly divided between plates 5 and 6.

The notation is clearly set out, although it is not without mistakes and the floor patterns do not always accurately reflect the spatial relationships between the two dancers. Regular users of such notated choreographies will know that it is not possible to entirely reconcile the patterns on the page with those to be performed within the dancing space. Here is the first plate of Weaver’s notation.

All the steps of The Louvre are from the basic vocabulary of baroque dance. The pas de bourée is most often used and the coupé appears in a number of different versions, including coupé simple, coupé à deux mouvements, coupé avec ouverture de jambe and coupé sans poser le corps. Pecour’s figures and step sequences have a classical simplicity (a feature of much of his choreography), although I can’t help feeling that Aimable Vainqueur may have been expressive rather than abstract in performance. The dance takes its title from the first words of an air sung by Venus in act 3 scene 5 of Hésione. The tune was used in the opera for a dance by ‘Ombres de Amans fortunéz’, the shades of happy lovers. At the Paris Opéra, the leading dancers were Claude Ballon and Marie-Thérèse Subligny and it seems unlikely that the choreography they performed closely resembled the ballroom duet created by Pecour for performance before Louis XIV at Marly by several pairs of courtiers – although the two may well have shared some passages. I have to admit that, when I am trying to reconstruct notated dances, it is important that I know about the context for both the music and the dance to help with my interpretation.

The Louvre is in mirror symmetry, except for the last 16 bars of the first B section and bars 9 to 18 of the second B in which the dancers are on the same foot and so in axial symmetry. The sequence within the first B section is of particular choreographic interest and I will analyse it in some detail.

The duet begins conventionally, with the couple side by side and the woman on the man’s right for a passage which travels directly towards the presence. I will use some stage terms to delineate the dancing space, although these are not really appropriate for the ballroom. The dance begins with two coupés à deux mouvements, followed by a pas de bourée and a tems de courante. The sequence is simple but nicely varied rhythmically and calls for a pleasing succession of arm movements. Fewer than a third of the steps in The Louvre are directed towards the presence, although it is apparent that the dancers remain mindful of it throughout – as they would have needed to be both at the court of Louis XIV and on the London stage. The next figure begins with a variant of the pas de bourée en presence, which allows the couple to acknowledge each other for the first time. Then, after another variant of the en presence, they curve away with a contretemps which moves first sideways and then forwards. I am beginning to wonder if such steps, so early in a duet, were a commonplace intended to allow the dancers to address those who surrounded the dancing space, whether in the ballroom or on stage. In The Louvre, the dancers turn back to face the presence, cross (with the woman upstage of the man) and then travel towards the presence again to complete the section with a pas de bourée and a tems de courante.

The second plate (the A repeat) uses much the same vocabulary of steps, although the dancers begin by turning to face one another and travelling sideways rather than forwards. They turn to face the presence for a few steps and then curve away from each other, turn to face and then curve away again before turning to face on the last bar.

Plate 3 begins the B section with the dancers again travelling sideways upstage. Pecour then gives them each a double loop figure, in opposite directions but still in mirror symmetry. They pass one another across the stage, the woman upstage of the man, and end their second loop facing each other up and down the dancing area. The man has his back to the presence. This sequence of 8 bars (five of which are pas de bourée) raises some questions about which way the dancers’ heads turn and where they direct their gaze as they move through the figure.  As they approach each other in the fourth bar, before they cross, do they look at each other rather than over their raised opposition arm (which would result in the man looking at the woman and the woman looking away from him)? In the fifth bar, in which they meet and then pass, do they both look over the raised arm towards the presence? Here is plate three of the dance, to give an idea of what might be happening.

In many ballroom choreographies there must surely have been a continual interplay between the dancers and their spectators, as they regarded each other, looked towards the presence or acknowledged members of the surrounding audience.

The last 16 bars of this first B section are on plate 4. They are surely the heart of this choreography, so I will explore the steps and figures in some detail. Here is the notation.

The dancers begin facing one another up and down the room and the man has his back to the presence. The couple keep to their own areas of the dancing space throughout. The step vocabulary is more varied than it has been, with the addition of half-turn pirouettes and balancé. I am not a musician, but much of the music for The Louvre seems to fall into 2-bar phrases, perhaps reproducing the 6/4 time signature found in other loures, which can seem like a call and response. This idea is clearly evident in this section of the choreography. First, the woman dances away from the man on a diagonal, with a contretemps and a coupé avec ouverture de jambe, turning her back and then turning again to face downstage (she could be looking towards him over her raised arm). She changes feet as she begins the contretemps, so that the symmetry becomes axial. The man waits as she does her steps and then responds by doing the same, ending facing upstage again. They then dance together for 4 bars, but the woman does two half-turn pirouettes followed by balancé, while the man does the balancé first and then the pirouettes. This little 8-bar sequence can surely be made expressive, in harmony with the dance’s original title Aimable Vainqueur. Was it part of Pecour’s choreography for the stage? The couple then travel towards one another on the diagonal with a pas de bourée and a tems de courante (echoing earlier pairings of these steps) before circling away and then coming to face one another across the dancing space. They do another balancé, but the man adds an extra step forward, returning to mirror symmetry.

The next figure, using the first 8 bars of the second B section, has the dancers tracing mirror-image figures of eight (although the notation blurs the pattern). They begin with jetté-chassés, followed by two pas de bourée, then jetté-chassés again and a pas de bourée followed by a coupé to first position facing one another.

In the last 16 bars of the dance, Pecour introduces some fresh choreographic devices. Here is the final plate of The Louvre.

The dancers turn away from each other, the man facing the presence and the woman with her back to it, with a quarter-turn pirouette followed by a demi-coupé sans poser le corps. They have returned to axial symmetry with their pirouettes. They travel sideways towards each other and away again, with a varied series of coupés.  Throughout this sequence the man faces the presence while the woman faces upstage. They curve away from each other, the woman passing directly in front of the presence while the man is further upstage, and come to face one another again, having changed sides. This sequence also poses challenges on where to look and the notation does not agree exactly on the steps of the two dancers (which may or may not be a mistake). This time, they could be looking towards each other as they approach with a pas de bourée – even though this means that the woman is ignoring the presence as she dances past. The sequence finishes with a coupé to first position, preparing a return to mirror symmetry.

The last six bars of The Louvre seem to be grouped in twos: half-turn pirouette, coupé avec ouverture de jambe, in which the couple turn away from each other and perhaps look towards the presence as they each extend their downstage leg; half-turn pirouette and a quarter-turn into a tems de courante travelling upstage, during which they might look at each other; finally a pas de bourée and a half-turn into the coupé which brings them side by side ready to bow to the presence.

The Louvre is certainly susceptible to interpretative choices which can change the focus of the dance and the interplay between the dancers. There is a great deal of information within the notation, although this is not always clear. There is much that is missing, too – not only the obvious, like arm movements, and the less obvious, like épaulement and the placing of the head, but also pointers to the meaning of the choreography. Is it abstract or is it expressive? We can make choices as we both reconstruct and recreate this delightful dance and try to understand what made it so popular for so long.

Money for Entrechats: Valuing the Virtuosic Male Dancer – Delagarde and Dupré

The second male duet in L’Abbé’s New Collection of Dances is the ‘Canaries performd’ by Mr La Garde & Mr Düpré’. Here is the first plate of the notation.

The dance probably dates to the 1714-1715 London theatre season, the only period when the two dancers were in the same company and are known to have danced together. This duet was performed during a period of peace with France following a long and debilitating war, as the War of the Spanish Succession had finally ended in the spring of 1713 with the Treaty of Utrecht. More significant, in 1714 Queen Anne died and was succeeded by the Elector of Hanover as George I. The new King arrived in England on 18 September and was crowned on 20 October 1714. One outcome of the change of dynasty was the renewal of theatre rivalries, when the King allowed John Rich to open a playhouse in Lincoln’s Inn Fields and provide fresh competition for Drury Lane. Rich very quickly revealed his entrepreneurial flair and a predilection for singing and dancing alongside the usual fare of comedies and tragedies. ‘Entertainments’ were a feature of his opening bill on 18 December 1714, and several dancers were billed by name for the performance on 22 December. Like Thomas Betterton (with whom he otherwise had little in common), Rich was interested in French opera and French dancers. Over his years as a playhouse manager he would engage a series of French dancers as a draw for audiences.

Charles Delagarde was born in 1687 or 1688 and first appears in a bill for the Queen’s Theatre on 12 December 1705, performing in a Grand Dance led by Anthony L’Abbé. This was probably not his first performance on the London stage. John Essex tells us:

‘Mr. L’Abbe bred up Mr D’ la Garde, who maintained the genteel Part of Dancing upon the Stage many years after his Master, and with great Honour supported the Character the World had long before entertained of Mr. L’Abbe

Mr. D’ la Garde was happy enough in his Comic Performances, but more graceful and pleasing in the Serious.’

His career is hard to trace in detail, but Delagarde spent some years at the Queen’s Theatre as a dancer and dancing master for the opera there. The bill for Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 1 January 1715 offered dancing ‘By de la Garde, who has not appear’d these six years’, which was not true as he had appeared at Drury Lane as recently as 2 May 1712. His repertoire in his first season with the new company ranged from a Spanish Entry to a Dutch Skipper. Delagarde remained at Lincoln’s Inn Fields until 1718-19, after which he retired from the stage. His value to the company and appeal to audiences is shown by the receipts at his benefit performance on 2 April 1715. His was the sixth performer’s benefit of the season and the first given to a dancer and pulled in £119. 8s. (equivalent to around £13000 today).

Louis Dupré’s origins and background are still to be discovered, although it has long been known that he was not ‘le grand’ Dupré who enjoyed an exceptionally long and successful career at the Paris Opéra. Dupré was apparently first engaged by Rich, for the 1714-1715 season marks the beginning of his career in London. Essex does not mention him, but he seems to have been a versatile dancer with a repertoire that ranged from a solo Harlequin dance to the exceptional technical demands of the solo ‘Chacone of Amadis’ which also appears in L’Abbé’s New Collection of Dances. He danced at Lincoln’s Inn Fields for most of his career, and died around 1735. Dupré’s benefit on 7 April (the eighth performer’s and second dancer’s benefit) brought in £121.5s (equivalent to around £13500 today) making it just a little more successful than Delagarde’s. Sadly, there are no known portraits of either Dupré or Delagarde.

It is worth trying to put these benefit earnings into a wider context. For both Delagarde and Dupré, these are the highest benefit receipts recorded for them (although there are a number of their benefit performances for which we do not have such figures). From this period, we only have accounts for Rich’s Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre – there is nothing comparable for Drury Lane, so we cannot compare the dancers at the two theatres. At Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the highest benefit earnings in 1714-1715 were for the actor Theophilus Keene, whose receipts amounted to £170.1s (around £18000 today) while the actress Frances Maria Knight gained £141.1s (around £15500) and the singer Richard Leveridge received £133.14s (around £14800). It is worth looking more closely at the benefit earnings of dancers around this time – I hope to do this in a later post. Ballon’s 500 guineas were for a five-week engagement (although we do not know how often he performed) and these benefit figures of some fifteen years later provide another perspective on his earnings.

Returning to the ‘Canaries’ duet, this is a dance in 6/8 similar to a gigue but faster. As a fast dance, it was quite popular as a showcase for male dancers. Three ‘canary’ male duets were published in notation. The other two were Feuillet’s ‘Canary à deux’ for two unnamed men to music from an unknown source, published in 1700, and Pecour’s ‘Canary pour deux hommes’ for Piffetot and ‘Chevrier’ (probably the dancer René Cherrier) to music from Desmarest’s opera Didon, published in 1704. L’Abbé’s choreography has 48 bars of music, taken from act five scene three of Lully’s 1677 opera Isis, and a musical structure AABBAABB (A=4 B=8).

The duet opens conventionally with the two men side by side upstage, standing in third position ready to step forward on the outside foot. As with the ‘Loure or Faune’ the choreography uses mirror symmetry throughout. The speed of the dance allows for less ornamentation, but even so around 40% of the steps have turns, some 30% incorporate beats and about 10% have other embellishments like pas glissés or ronds de jambe. Unlike the earlier dance, the ‘Canaries’ has some repetition of steps or phrases, particularly at the beginning and near the end. There are the usual virtuosic steps, such as assemblé battu en tournant, with a full turn in the air and an entrechat-six, and pirouettes, one of which has a full turn with beats while the other has one-and-a-half turns without embellishment. Other steps are featured, for example the pas tortillé or ‘waving step’ in which the dancer uses toe and heel swivels to move from turned-out to parallel positions and back again. Parallel positions of the feet were described as ‘Spanish’ so their inclusion here is perhaps a nod to the earlier history of the canaries. There are several cabrioles, including a soubresaut (a vertical jump in fifth position) with a cabriole followed immediately by an assemblé battu. Here is the third plate of the duet, with pas tortillés as well as the assemblé battu en tournant with its additions. These virtuoso steps are interspersed with plain pas de bourée and a demi-contretemps.

The dance ends with a demie cabriole en tournant un tour en saut de basque – a jump with a turn, a beat in the air and a final step forward. The men end on the same side as they began the dance.

We do not know when or where this choreography was performed, although there was a performance at Lincoln’s Inn Fields which seems particularly appropriate. On 10 March 1715, the King ‘honour’d that House [Lincoln’s Inn Fields] with his presence the first Time since they open’d’. Delagarde and Dupré were both billed to appear. Could they have performed the ‘Canaries’ for Britain’s new monarch?

The ‘Loure or Faune’ and ‘Canaries’ duets in L’Abbé’s New Collection of Dances highlight the virtuosity attained by male professional dancers in the years around 1700. They provide an insight into their power, speed and dexterity and show the intricacy of the ornamentations they were expected to master. The male repertoire of the early 1700s, which has so far been little studied by dance historians, makes demands that go well beyond the technique expected of professional female dancers at the time (at least that is what the notated dances suggest). The vocabulary of steps depends on male strength, of course, but much of the embellishment is located in the lower leg and male legs were clearly visible (as the portraits of Ballon demonstrate). Alongside the sheer physical display of such dancing, ‘Frenchness’ was obviously a key component of its appeal. France led Europe in dancing, whether in the ballroom or on stage, as the notated dances testify, and French ballet and opéra-ballet were widely influential, even in London where French opera never found favour. Despite the late 20th-century focus on the leading female dancers at the Paris Opéra and elsewhere, the men were the real stars at this period.

Does the difference in the monetary values set on the individual male dancers discussed in these two posts reveal something other than the initial shock of the new and its waning with the passage of time? L’Abbé obviously benefitted from being the first leading French dancer of his generation to visit London. He went on to a successful career there and became a widely admired and respected royal dancing master. Ballon made a far greater and longer-lasting impact in one short visit. He seems to have had something extra, which justified the extravagance lavished upon him. He undoubtedly had the style and technique to amaze audiences, but he surely had more – a glamour and sheer physical allure that bewitched those who saw him and persuaded those who hadn’t that no price was too high for the privilege.

This post was originally the second section of a conference paper, given several years ago but never published, which I have revised.

Reading List:

Moira Goff, ‘John Rich, French Dancing, and English Pantomimes’ in Berta Joncus and Jeremy Barlow (eds) “The Stage’s Glory” John Rich, 1692-1761 (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2011), 85-98.

Moira Goff, The Incomparable Hester Santlow (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007).

Moira Goff, ‘The “London” Dupré’, Historical Dance, 3.6 (1999), 23-6.

Anthony L’Abbé, A New Collection of Dances. Originally published by F. Le Roussau London c.1725 (London, 1991).

F. Le Roussau, Chacoon for a Harlequin (London: Le Roussau, [1729?]).

Pierre Rameau, trans. John Essex, The Dancing-Master (London, 1728), The Preface.

Money for Entrechats: Valuing the Virtuosic Male Dancer – L’Abbé and Ballon

Anthony L’Abbé’s A New Collection of Dances Containing a Great Number of the Best Ball and Stage Dances, published around 1725, was dedicated to George I. It brought together in Beauchamp-Feuillet notation thirteen choreographies, almost all of which were described as having been performed by London’s leading professional dancers. At the time of publication, L’Abbé was dancing master to the King’s granddaughters. He had been a dancer as well as a choreographer, working both at the Paris Opéra (where he began his career) and in London’s theatres. The first dance in the New Collection was a ‘Loure or Faune performd’ before his Majesty King William ye 3d bÿ Monsr Balon and Mr L’abbé’. The details in the head-title suggest that the dance had been performed in 1699, the year that Claude Ballon (a leading male dancer at the Paris Opéra) had come to London for the first and last time. Ballon had apparently been able to command a fabulously high fee for his London appearances. The writer and collector Narcissus Luttrell recorded that ‘Monsieur Ballon, the famous French dancing master, … having leave to come hither for 5 weeks, is allowed by the playhouse 400 guineas for that time, besides which the Lord Cholmley has sent him a present of 100 more’. Ballon was obviously exceptionally highly valued as a performer (500 guineas is the equivalent of around £60,000 now), but what was the playhouse management and the audience paying to see? The all-male duets and male solos in L’Abbé’s New Collection of Dances (six choreographies in all) provide evidence of the spectacular virtuosity of leading male dancers in the early eighteenth century, which was obviously part of their appeal. Here I will look at the skills and rewards of Ballon and L’Abbé. In a second post, I will look at Delagarde and Dupré who were dancing in London’s theatres a few years later and fared somewhat differently.

The ‘Loure or Faune’ was performed against a complex background of international and cultural politics, extending from Anglo-French diplomacy surrounding the succession to the Spanish crown to rivalries between London’s theatre companies. Anthony L’Abbé first came to dance in London in May 1698 at the invitation of Thomas Betterton, the leading actor of the recently formed company at Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre which was in fierce competition with the rival company at Drury Lane. Only one of L’Abbé’s London performances was recorded, in the Post Boy for 14-17 May 1698:

‘On Friday night last [13 May] there was fine Dancing at Kensington, where his Majesty was present,  as also his Excellency the French Ambassador: The Frenchman, who is lately come over and Dances now at the Play-house, was sent for to dance there, and performed his part very dexterously.’

‘Kensington’ was, of course, Kensington Palace, where the performance took place before King William III and the Comte de Tallard, who had been sent to London by Louis XIV for negotiations to agree a successor to the Spanish King Carlos II whose death without issue was expected imminently. Both England and France were war-weary following the conclusion of the Nine Years War with the Treaty of Ryswick in September 1697. The visits of both L’Abbé and Ballon occurred during the few years of peace when French cultural leadership in Europe could be readily acknowledged and enjoyed, before hostilities between the two countries resumed in May 1702 with the War of the Spanish Succession.

Anthony L’Abbé was born in 1666 or 1667 and made his debut at the Paris Opéra in 1688. It is difficult to trace his repertoire there over the next ten years, in the absence of complete cast lists for many productions, but he is recorded as dancing in Lully’s Cadmus et Hérmione in 1690 and in Lully and Molière’s Le Bourgeois gentilhomme in 1691. He undoubtedly danced in several other productions as well during that period, and his appearance at Kensington Palace was in a divertissement entitled Le Palais des Plaisirs which was essentially a pastiche of scenes from Lully’s operas. According to an analysis of a rare surviving copy of the livret, the entertainment included scenes from Lully’s Le Carnaval Mascarade (1675), Armide (1686) and Roland (1685) with a cast of both English and French singers and dancers. L’Abbé pleased spectators in two dances from Le Carnaval Mascarade, first as a Spaniard in an Italian Night Scene alongside characters from the commedia dell’arte and then (in the final scene of the entertainment) as the leader of six Matassins. These roles suggest that L’Abbé’s technical virtuosity was to the fore. The dancing master John Essex (who may well have seen L’Abbé on the London stage at this time) later wrote that ‘His Talent chiefly lay in the grave Movement, and he excelled all that ever appeared on the English Stage in that Character’, again alluding to L’Abbé’s virtuosity. There is no way of knowing what L’Abbé danced at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1698, but according to the theatre’s prompter John Downes his first London engagement placed him among the ‘exorbitantly expensive’ foreign performers engaged by Betterton. L’Abbé continued to work in London as a dancer and a choreographer, and then a dancing master, for another forty years.

Claude Ballon arrived in London in April 1699. His date of birth has been variously given as 1671 and 1676 and he made his debut at the Paris Opéra in 1690 in Cadmus et Hérmione. Like L’Abbé, his early repertoire is difficult to trace. He also danced in Le Bourgeois gentilhomme in 1691, and in 1697 he appeared in Destouches’s opera Issé as a Faune and Campra’s extremely successful opéra-ballet L’Europe galante as a Spaniard and as a Moor. Ballon seems to have arrived around Easter and was advertised in the Post-Man of 4-6 April 1699 for a performance on 10 April:

‘On Easter Monday, at the New Theatre in Little Lincoln’s Inn Fields, will be an entertainment of Dancing, performed by Monsieur Balon newly arrived from Paris.’

Ballon’s monetary rewards come into sharper focus in relation to an advertisement in the Post Boy of 13-15 April 1699, which announced the forthcoming appearance at Drury Lane of ‘Signior Clementine’ a castrato of such ‘extraordinary Desert in Singing’ that he was to be given a yearly salary of £500.

Ballon’s success is attested by a later source, the anonymous A Comparison Between the Two Stages published in 1702:

‘… with Balon; the Town ran mad to see him, and the prizes were rais’d to an extravagant degree to bear the extravagant rate they allow’d him.’

Unfortunately, apart from the ‘Loure or Faune’ we have no idea what he danced. Nor have the date and occasion of his appearance with L’Abbé before William III been identified. The performance was presumably also at Kensington Palace and must have taken place either before or after the King’s visit to Newmarket for the racing from 11 to 19 April. Ballon was later described by the dancing master John Weaver, who may have seen him in London, as the best of the ‘French Dancers, who have been seen with so much Applause, and follow’d with so great an Infatuation’ although he offered ‘nothing more than a graceful Motion, with strong and nimble Risings, and the casting of his Body into several (perhaps) agreeable Postures’. Weaver found Ballon’s dancing technically impressive but lacking in expression and meaning. Ballon never returned to London after his 1699 visit. He pursued his career at the Paris Opéra and later became dancing master to the young Louis XV and, in turn, that monarch’s family.

The ‘Loure or Faune’ danced by Ballon and L’Abbé is a loure or gigue lente in 6/4 time. Its music is the ‘Entrée des cyclopes’ from act two scene six of Lully’s 1686 pastorale héroïque Acis et Galatée. Here is the first plate of the notation.

The dance has only 36 bars of music, lasting for little more than a minute, but there are two complex and demanding steps to each bar which make it a showpiece despite its brevity. The loure, taken at a slow tempo, was a favoured dance type for male duets and was often used for male solos. Music treatises of the period characterise the loure as slow or grave, and also as strong and noble, making it particularly suitable for choreographies danced by men.

Ballon and L’Abbé begin conventionally, side by side upstage facing the King (I will use the stage terms, although the two men probably danced in a space similar to a ballroom, with the King as the ‘presence’). Each dancer stands on his inside foot, with the outside foot free to begin the first step. This mirror symmetry is maintained throughout the dance. In the first bar they perform two balonnés, springing steps which bring them downstage towards William III. The choreography is highly ornamented throughout: around 75% of the bars have steps which incorporate turns; more than 50% of bars have steps with beats (which vary in nature and complexity); more than 33% have another form of decoration, for example an added slide or a rond de jambe. There are only six bars with steps which have no beats, turns or other embellishments to enrich the vocabulary.

There are several technically very difficult and spectacular steps in this duet. In bar 7, when the two dancers have completed their opening passage downstage (another convention in choreographies of the period) and are side by side in front of the King, they perform an entrechat-six with a simultaneous full turn in the air. In Bar 22, when the men are centre stage, they perform a contretemps followed by an assemblé battu en tournant. The latter begins with a powerful swing of the working leg which provides the impetus for a full turn in the air and initiates the beaten element of the step, another entrechat-six. The final section of the dance begins (in bar 32) with a triple pirouette over 2 bars of music, with the two men (who turn in mirror image directions away from one another) again downstage in front of the King. This adagio turn, which requires powerful control, would have been taken with the working leg open in a second position and is more demanding in performance than the modern pirouette (which has the working leg bent at the knee and the foot in front of the upper calf or knee of the supporting leg). The triple pirouette in the ‘Loure or Faune’ is extended by another quarter-turn and completed with a sliding and beaten jetté which adds yet another quarter turn. The duet ends with the conventional retreat upstage, but unconventionally the men end facing one another, each standing on his upstage leg with the other leg in front of him, perhaps in a low attitude. Equally unconventionally, they have changed sides.

Acis et Galatée had been revived at the Paris Opéra as recently as 1695 and it is possible that both Ballon and L’Abbé had danced in the production, although not necessarily together. It is unlikely that L’Abbé’s choreography was performed then, for the dances would have been created by the maître de ballet at the Opéra Guillaume-Louis Pecour. There are few depictions of dancers at this period, although Ballon is represented in a number of engravings – one of which is below – there seems to be no image of L’Abbé dancing.

If the surviving portraits of Ballon represent the style of costumes worn by him and L’Abbé for their ‘Loure or Faune’ the effect must have been stunning in performance, heightening the power and refinement of their steps, displaying the grandeur as well as the sophistication of the French ballet and evoking the glamour of the court of Louis XIV as well as the Paris Opéra.

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

Reading List

Julie Andrijeski, ‘A Survey of the Loure through Definitions, Music, and Choreographies’ (Unpublished doctoral thesis, Case Western Reserve University, 2006).

A Comparison Between the Two Stages (London, 1702).

John Downes, Roscius Anglicanus, ed. Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume (London, 1987).

Kenneth H. D. Haley, ‘International Affairs’ in Robert P. Maccubbin and Martha Hamilton-Phillips (eds), The Age of William III and Mary II: Power, Politics, and Patronage  1688-1702 (Williamsburg, 1989).

Anthony L’Abbé, A New Collection of Dances. Originally published by F. Le Roussau London c.1725 (London, 1991).

Narcissus Luttrell, A Brief Historical Relation of State Affairs from September, 1678 to April 1714. 6 vols. (Oxford, 1857), Vol. 4.

Claude and François Parfaict, Dictionnaire des théâtres de Paris. 7 vols. (Paris, 1767), Vols. 1, 2.

Pierre Rameau, trans. John Essex, The Dancing-Master (London, 1728).

Jennifer Thorp, ‘Monsieur L’Abbé and Le Palais des Plaisirs: a New Source for a London Spectacle’ in Society of Dance History Scholars [Conference July 9-11, 2010 held at the University of Surrey, Guildford] (SDHS, 2010).

John Weaver, An Essay Towards an History of Dancing (London, 1712).

Mr Isaac’s ‘The Favorite A Chaconne Danc’d by her Majesty’

I have been learning Mr Isaac’s The Favorite, described on its first plate as ‘A Chaconne Danc’d by her Majesty’. This duet was one of the six notated choreographies included in A Collection of Ball-Dances perform’d at Court published in 1706 by John Weaver and perhaps intended to accompany Orchesography, Weaver’s translation of Feuillet’s Choregraphie. ‘Her Majesty’ was, of course, Queen Anne, although by the time of the dance’s appearance in notation poor health had forced her to give up dancing. Mr Isaac has an idiosyncratic choreographic style and his ballroom duets shed important light on court culture under the late Stuart monarchs, so I thought it would be worth looking more closely at this dance.

The Favorite is actually in two parts, for it is a chaconne followed by a bourée. The music was first published in Amsterdam in 1688 and it appeared as ‘the new French Dance’ in 1690 in the sixth edition of Apollo’s Banquet. When it was reissued by John Walsh around 1712, the title page named the composer as ‘Mr. Paisible’. The chaconne has three variations, which are then repeated, giving 64 bars in all. The bourée has the structure AAAABB and a petite reprise of four bars to give 36 bars. At 80 bars, the dance seems long for a ballroom choreography intended for performance at court but Isaac’s other dances in A Collection of Ball-Dances are mostly the same or even longer (the exception is The Richmond at only 52 bars).

This dance probably dates to the years around 1690, when the music was first published. Princess Anne (as she then was) hosted a ball for William III’s birthday in November 1688, while her sister Queen Mary II gave a dance for the Princess’s own birthday in February 1691. Both were occasions when Anne (then between pregnancies) might have performed before the assembled court a duet specially created by her dancing master.

Can this notated choreography tell us anything about Isaac’s approach to choreographing these dances of display or Princess Anne’s dancing skills? The notation shows that Isaac used a basic vocabulary of steps throughout the two parts of the dance, although he sometimes combined them in ways that required particular skill from his dancers. For example, the first plate includes two balancés. The first ends in first position on beat two, with a pause on beat three, while the second has a battu on the second beat with an extension of the working leg in the air on beat three (as a preparation for the pas tombé and jetté in the next bar). It is a point for debate whether the Princess would have balanced on the ball of each foot in turn or performed these balancés on a flat foot. The fifth plate, with notation for the bourée, includes several bars which have two coupés travelling sideways. Much practice is needed to execute these fast-moving steps clearly and correctly.

Isaac ornaments only one of Princess Anne’s steps, the coupé avec ouverture de jambe in bar 22 of the chaconne, which has a pas battu around the ankle before the working leg opens towards the fourth position. There are five bars within the chaconne in which the man’s steps have either a pas battu or a rond de jambe. Such explicit ornamentation of the man’s steps, but not the woman’s, occurs in other notated dances by Isaac.

The chaconne has some 17% of steps with small jumps within them, whereas the bourée has around 44%. The steps most often used throughout the two parts of The Favorite are the pas de bourée, with its final jetté, the contretemps and (in the bourée section) the pas de sissonne. Isaac also repeats sequences in both the chaconne and the bourée.

The figures in The Favorite hint that this dance is not simply an abstract display. One of Isaac’s repeated motifs has the dancers coming together and then parting (or vice-versa) across the dancing space. They first do this at the very beginning, with a coupé sideways and a tems de courante forwards, before travelling towards the presence according to convention. The following figure has the dancers travelling sideways away from the presence – the only extended sequence of sideways movement in the dance – which allowed them to face the spectators who would have surrounded them as they moved. These figures can clearly be seen in the first plate, even if you don’t read Beauchamp-Feuillet notation.

They begin the third variation of the chaconne back-to-back, with the woman (Princess Anne) facing the presence – her previous step (a contretemps forwards) can be seen just beneath the word ‘Majesty’ on the notation above. Both perform a coupé battu with a plié on the beat. This has the effect of a bow or curtsey towards those watching at each end of the room, before the dancers turn to face one another and come together. They then turn to their right for a more extended sequence in which they travel apart before turning to come together again.

Apart from the occasional mistakes in the notation, the practice of crowding several figures onto a single page can make it difficult to read. The Favorite has five plates of notation, with plates three and five being the busiest (with 32 bars and 28 bars of music and dance respectively). The second half of the chaconne (notated in full on plate three) begins with a double version of the approach and retreat motif. The dancers first turn towards each other and then away before continuing to travel apart and then return, moving on shallow diagonals. Isaac repeats this theme of retreat and approach twice more with another variation, as he places the dancers side-by-side to face the presence. The chaconne ends with the couple turning to face one another across the dancing space. They have been in mirror symmetry (dancing on opposite feet) for most of it, but the woman does a tems de courante and the man a coupé to begin the bourée in axial symmetry.

I don’t want to go into too much detail, so I will skip to the second plate of the bourée which contains three-quarters of its notated steps.

After two circular figures, the dancers can be seen facing one another up and down the dancing space – the man is nearest the presence with his back to it, while the woman faces him. There must be some distance between them as they have two travelling steps to come together (Beauchamp-Feuillet notation does not show figures with spatial accuracy). They dance in a circle, taking right hands, and then travel away from each other and back again in another instance of the retreat and return motif. Isaac’s repeated use of two coupés in a bar (mentioned earlier) can be seen to either side of the page, about two-thirds from the bottom, then to either side of the centre and finally about a third from the bottom of the page – just before the dancers begin their final sequence of steps to the petite reprise which take them to the back of the dancing space before they turn to face the presence with a coupé soutenu, which presumably precedes their final bow (not included on the notation).

I have enjoyed working on Isaac’s The Favorite. It isn’t a difficult dance technically but it certainly isn’t easy either. It would be rewarding to be able to work on it with a partner and a musician or two, to explore the interpretative possibilities of both music and dance and see how the choreography might work in performance. The steps and figures in these five plates of notation suggest that Isaac’s choreography had wit as well as elegance and liveliness.

Thomas Caverley’s Slow Minuet

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

The Sources

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

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

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

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

The Dances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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