Category Archives: Steps & Figures

How Easy Are Regency Quadrille Steps?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 46 (2)

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

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 48 (2)

In the Bodleian Library copy, it looks like this.

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 48 Bodley (3)

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

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

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 51 (2)

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

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 52 (3)

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 52 (4)

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

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 55 (2)

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

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 56 (2)

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

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

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 49 (2)

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

Passagalia of Venus & Adonis 52 (5)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chacone of Galathee 1725 26 (2)

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

Chacone of Galathee 1725 29 (2)

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

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

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

Sarabande of Issee 1725 32

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

Sarabande of Issee 1725 36

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

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

Turkish Dance 1725 96

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

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

Entre-Chats in Male Solos and Duets

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

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

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

Entree Appolon 1704 196

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

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

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

Chacone of Amadis L'Abbe 1725 60

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

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

Jumping or Rising? Regency Quadrille Steps

I have been trying to get my feet around the steps and sequences used in regency quadrilles and finding it a bit of a struggle. I think there are two main reasons for this. One is that the ‘grammar’ of the sequences, the way in which the steps are put together, contradicts what I am used to in modern ballet’s petit allegro. The other is that the individual steps, which seem very similar to those of petit allegro, in fact need a different style and technique which I am still trying to work out.

I started to learn this material (in which I claim no expertise) for a project devised by a young teacher of historical dance with whom I have been lucky enough to work over several years. The source texts we are using are Strathy’s treatise of 1822 and the 1817 American translation of Gourdoux-Daux’s manual.

These provide descriptions of the temps levé, chassé, jeté, assemblé, échappé, glissade, sissonne, changement and grand coupé, which feature in the various quadrille figures and balances we have been exploring.

Looking through the two treatises, I was surprised to see that both use the word ‘rise’ where I expected to see ‘spring’ or ‘jump’. Gourdoux-Daux’s translator does use the word ‘jump’ occasionally and Strathy says ‘spring’ once, but the descriptions suggest that neither word really represents what they intended their dancers to do. When describing the landing from a step which I would assume (from my experience with ballet) leaves the floor, Strathy uses the word ‘fall’ while ‘V.G.’ says ‘alight’. I won’t go through all of the steps I have listed, but here are their descriptions of the changement, which I think illustrate the point I am grappling with.

Strathy says:

‘Of the step named Changement de Jambe.

Place the body as directed for the deportment, the feet in the fifth position; balance the body equally on both legs, bend low by folding the knees outward, rise without jerking, and make the feet pass by the first position, the one to the place of the other, the knees extended, and the points or toes turned down, so as the feet may be in a line with the legs, the points near the floor, where they will fall by the weight of the body: place the heels gently, the feet in the fifth position; keep the knees straight.’

While Gourdoux-Daux says:

‘On the motion called Change of Foot, in the third position.

To perform this step, place yourself in the third position, firm on the hips and knees, with the toes properly turned out. Bend down equally upon both knees and insteps, (without raising the heels from the floor) rise up gradually, just high enough to enable you to bend the instep so as to cause the toes to be in a perpendicular line with the leg, as much as possible. Cross your feet as in the first position, viz. the heels close together, and alighting on the floor on the toes, bring the heels gradually down in the third position and straighten up your knees.’

Both descriptions suggest a jump that isn’t quite a jump, since the dancer rises only high enough to fully point the feet. The motive force for the step seems to come from the feet as much as the plié, making it closer to the modern rélevé than a jump. So, in regency dancing, are jumps closer to the demi-jeté or perhaps the ‘relever en sautant dessus’ of the contretemps in baroque dance?

Another word that turns up regularly in these treatises is ‘slide’, used in the description of the assemblé (for the initial movement of the working foot) as well as in the glissade (which is obviously linked to the baroque step with its pas glissés). A sliding step does not, of course, leave the floor.

For another project, I have been re-reading a study of balls and assemblies 1660-1840 where I came across a short discussion of changes to the dancing floors around the regency period. The evidence was somewhat contradictory. Apparently sprung floors were being introduced at much the same time as floors became highly polished – the one facilitating springing steps while the other encouraged sliding steps. Did they indeed affect the dancing style and technique of the time – perhaps further research is needed?

So, to return to my original problem, was regency dancing full of small jumps similar to those taught in a modern ballet class? Or was it based on jumps that weren’t quite jumps, making it lively and bouncy but with the emphasis on controlled vivacity rather than aerial feats?

 

 

Feuillet and the Entrechat

Earlier this year, I wrote a series of posts on pas battus in stage dances for men and women. My starting point was the oft-repeated but questionable statement that Marie Anne Camargo was the first woman to perform an entrechat-quatre on stage (see my post ‘La Camargo and the Entrecht-Quatre’) and my original focus was the use of jumped pas battus in the notated dances of earlier female professional dancers. I also looked at the use of such pas pattus in the stage dances for men, with some interesting results in terms of the choreographic preferences of individual dancing masters. My last such post was a while ago, so here is a reminder of what I have written so far in chronological order of their publication:

‘Stage Dances for Women and Feuillet’s Pas Battus

Pas de Sissonne Battu in Stage Dances for Women’

‘Stage Dances for Women and the Demie Cabriole

‘When is a Changement not a Changement?’

Pas de Sissone Battu in Stage Dances for Men’

Demies Cabrioles in Male Solos and Duets’

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

I have a few more topics to explore before I leave this complex area and I’ll pick up the thread with Feuillet’s ‘Table des Entre-Chats’ (Choregraphie, p. 86).

Choregraphie Entrechats

Feuillet notates five different entre-chats (I’ll use his spelling here to differentiate them from the modern steps) together with some variants. Only some of them correspond directly with the entrechats to be found in modern ballet technique.

The Demi Entre-Chat is similar to a modern brisé. Feuillet shows the step both to the front and the back.

Choregraphie Demi Entre-Chat

The Entre-Chat à 3 is much the same as its modern equivalent, although the notation does not show the legs beating together in the air (Feuillet could have used a cabriole sign, but its omission suggests that this wasn’t a feature of the earlier step). He adds a step by the free foot after the jump.

Choregraphie Entre-Chat a 3

The Entre-Chat à 4 begins and ends in second position, as an échappé battu would today. Feuillet also shows it travelling sideways and with a tour en l’air.

Choregraphie Entre-Chat a 4

The Entre-Chat à 5 seems to have no modern equivalent. It begins with a spring and the back leg moving forward to initiate the beat, which closes front and back before finishing front giving it the feel of an entrechat-six. Feuillet also shows it with a half turn in the air.

Choregraphie Entre-Chat a 5

The Entre-Chat Droit à 6 is the same as the modern step.

Choregraphie Entre-Chat a 6

Feuillet seems to be presenting a selection of entre-chats, and it is not clear how these might relate to the range of such steps in use at the time he was compiling his treatise. The term ‘droit’ seems to refer to a vertical jump from two feet to two feet while the use of the term ‘en avant’, as well the specific reference to beginning and ending in the second position, suggest that there may have been other versions of these entre-chats. All surely belong to the stage and not to the ballroom, so I will turn next to the notated theatre dances for men to see what additional information they might provide.

La Camargo and the Entrechat-Quatre

Popular histories of ballet often tell us that Marie Anne Camargo was the first female dancer to perform the entrechat-quatre. Where does the story come from? Is it true?

I have been looking at pas battus in the notated stage dances for women in a series of other posts. These choreographies record them regularly performing assemblés battus as well as demi entre-chats and even demie cabrioles. There are hints, if no clear evidence in the notations, that female professional dancers performed entrechats-quatre long before Mlle Camargo made her debut at the Paris Opéra.

The story was examined by the publisher, bookseller and dance historian Cyril Beaumont in his Three French Dancers of the 18th Century: Camargo, Sallé and Guimard, published in 1954. He identified the originator of the story as Louis de Cahusac, citing his ‘La Danse et les Ballets’. I thought at first that Beaumont meant Cahusac’s La Danse ancienne et moderne of 1754, but I didn’t find it in the modern edition I have of that text and I couldn’t track down another work by Cahusac with the title Beaumont cites. Cahusac contributed many articles on dance topics to the famous Encyclopédie edited by Diderot and d’Alembert and published in the mid-18th century. Volume 5 of this great work has an entry for ‘Entrechat’, written by Cahusac, which includes the following paragraph:

‘J’ai vû naître les entrechats des danseuses; mademoiselle Salley ne l’a jamais fait sur le théatre; mademoiselle Camargo le faisoit d’une maniere fort brillante à quatre; mademoiselle Lany est la premiere danseuse en France qui l’ait passé au théatre à six.’

This could form the basis of another whole blog post on the topic of female batterie, but is it the source of the story of La Camargo and her ‘first’ entrechat-quatre? Note that Cahusac does not actually say she was the first, although this may perhaps be inferred from his words.

La Camargo’s virtuoso technique was certainly immediately recognised. Her debut at the Paris Opéra on 5 May 1726, was reviewed thus in the Mercure de France:

‘ … la Dlle Camargo, Danseuse de l’Opera de Bruxelles, qui n’avoit jamais paru ici, dansa les Caracteres de la Danse, avec toute la vivacité & l’intelligence qu’on peut attendre d’une jeune personne de quinze à seize ans. Elle est Eleve de l’illustre Mlle Prevost, qui la presenta au Public. Les Cabrioles & les Entrechats ne lui coûtent rien; & quoiqu’elle ait encore bien des perfections à acquerir pour approcher de son inimitable Maîtresse, le Public la regarde comme une des plus brillantes Danseuses qu’on sçauroit voir, surtout pour la justesse de l’oreille, la legereté & la force.’

There is no suggestion here that cabrioles and entrechats were new to female dancers, Camargo’s ease and brilliance of execution are noted but her vocabulary excites no comment.

In 1733, in Le Temple du Goût, Voltaire included the lines:

Legere & forte en sa souplesse,

La vive Camargo sautoit,

A ces sons brillans d’allegresse,

Et de Rebel et de Mouret.

Voltaire placed Camargo between Marie sallé ‘D’un pas guidé par la justesse’ and the actress Adrienne Lecouvreur ‘avec cette grace divine’. A footnote to the lines declares ‘Mademoiselle Camargo, la première qui ait dansé comme un homme’ without further elaboration. It seems to refer to the ‘attack’ in her dancing and not to her actual steps, contrasting her with the performers either side in the verses.

Marie Anne Camargo retired from the Paris Opéra twice, first in 1734 or 1735 (both dates are given in different sources and I haven’t yet found a contemporary reference) only to return in 1740 and then retire, finally, in 1751.

When she died in 1770, obituaries recalled Camargo at the height of her powers. Les Spectacles de Paris pour l’année 1771 included a biography of her with an appraisal of her dancing:

‘ … exécuta-t-elle tous les genres possibles de la dame noble, les menuets, les passe-pieds d’une manière bien supérieure à Mlle Prévost, et elle y conserva ce je ne sais quoi de piquant qu’elle avoit pris de sa maîtresse, ainsi que dans les entrées de pures grâces. Les gavottes, les rigaudons, les tambourins, les loures, tout ce qu’on appelle les grands airs étoit rendus dans leurs caractères, par la variété des pas qui y étoient propres, car elle les avoit tous dans la jambe et si elle n’a pas fait usage de la gargouillade, c’est qu’elle la croyait peu convenable aux femmes. Elle y substitua le pas de Basque dont elle seule et Dumoulin ont fait usage. Jamais personne qu’elle n’a fait ces beaux pas de menuet sur le bord des lampes, d’un côté du théâtre à l’autre, d’abord de gauche à droite et ensuite en revenant de droite à gauche.’

This text was transcribed by Émile Campardon in his L’Académie Royale de Musique au xviiie siècle, published in Paris, 1884 (pp. 88-89). It provides a more nuanced view of La Camargo’s dancing than is usually given, although allowance must be made for the developments in style and technique  since her retirement which may well have influenced the writer.

As late as 1804, in the last edition of his works, Jean-Georges Noverre wrote of having seen Camargo dance:

‘J’ai vu danser la Dlle. Camargo. C’est à tort que quelques auteurs lui ont prêté des graces. La nature lui avoit refusé tout ce qu’il faut pour en avoit; elle n’étoit ni jolie ni grande ni bienfaite; mai sa danse étoit vive, légère et pleine de gaieté et de brillant. Les jettés battus, la royale, l’entrechat coupé sans frottement, tous ces tems aujourd’hui rayés du catalogue de la danse et qui avoient un éclat séduisant, la Dlle. Camargo les exécutoit avec une extrême facilité, elle ne dansoit que des airs vifs, et ce n’est pas sur ces mouvemens rapides que l’on peut déployer de la grace: mais l’aisance, la prestesse et la gaieté la remplacoient; …’

The steps he mentions are those we today associate with the male dancers of the period, but Noverre talks only of her facility, thereby suggesting that they were routinely performed by women.

The various accounts of La Camargo’s dancing need more detailed analysis, as they surely provide us with important information about the style and technique open to some (if not all) female professional dancers of her time. The story of the entrechat-quatre masks a far more compelling picture of the dancer Marie Anne Camargo, whose brilliance of technique convinced audiences that she danced with the virtuosity of a man.

Camargo Wallace Collection

Nicolas Lancret, Mlle Camargo Dancing, 1730