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A Year of Dance: 1660

For England, the most significant event by far of 1660 was the Restoration of Charles II. At the beginning of the year there was no indication that the monarchy might return, but following the arrival of General George Monck in London during February 1660 thinking began to change. On 25 April Parliament voted to restore the monarchy. On 8 May Charles was declared King. On 25 May he landed at Dover to be welcomed by Monck and on 29 May (his thirtieth birthday) he entered London to popular rejoicing. The King soon began to rebuild his household and to revive court life. The theatres had started to reopen, albeit quietly, in anticipation of the King’s arrival and only a few months after his return Charles II granted two courtiers – Sir Thomas Killigrew and Sir William Davenant – permission to form theatre companies for public performances. In October 1660 a united company of players, under the direction of both men, played briefly at the Cockpit playhouse in Drury Lane (an indoor theatre dating back to the Jacobean period). By November the two companies were playing separately, establishing a duopoly that would survive well into the 18th century. Killigrew’s King’s Company was in the converted Gibbons’s Tennis Court in Vere Street, while Davenant’s Duke’s Company apparently began playing at the Salisbury Court playhouse, which also dated back before 1642.

Another noteworthy, but very private, development was the beginning of Samuel Pepys’s diary on 1 January 1660. Thanks to his testimony, far more is known about the plays and other entertainments given in London’s playhouses during the first decade after the Restoration than would otherwise have been the case. Pepys’s entries on his theatre-going quite often make references to the dancing he saw.

So far as theatrical dancing is concerned, the only indication we have for 1660 is an undated performance of Le Ballet de la Paix before the French ambassador. We do not know when, or even if, the performance actually took place, since the ambassador concerned was accredited to the Protectorate and left London in June 1660. If it did happen, who were the dancers? We don’t know. There must surely have been dancing in London’s playhouses too, but there is no known evidence to prove this.

In France, the year was marked by the marriage of Louis XIV to the Spanish Infanta Maria Theresa on 9 June 1660 (New Style). This event was celebrated with Lully’s Ballet de Xerxes, six entrées added to a performance of Cavalli’s opera Xerxes. The whole entertainment was given at the Louvre on 22 November 1660 (New Style). The dancers were all men and all professionals, including Lully himself and Pierre Beauchamps. Neither Louis XIV nor his new Queen took part. Another event of note at the French court was the death of the King’s uncle Gaston duc d’Orléans on 2 February 1660 (New Style). His title was assumed a few months later by Louis XIV’s brother Philippe, also known simply as Monsieur.


A Year of Dance: 1816

1816 is sometimes cited as the year the waltz scandalised London society and thereby became fashionable. That actually happened a few years earlier, but this new couple dance was still attracting a lot of attention. There was other dancing in 1816, too, as advertisements and other contemporary sources reveal.

In France, Louis XVIII was on the throne. At the Paris Opéra, the ballet Le Carnaval de Venise choreographed by Louis-Jacques Milon received its first performance on 22 February 1816. It would stay in the repertory for over 20 years. Other ballets proved less popular. Louis Henry’s Hamlet, given at the Théâtre de la Porte-Saint-Martin on 28 February 1816, enjoyed 47 performances but did not outlast the year. Apart from the libretti for these and other ballets, there seem to have been no dance publications in France during 1816.

In Great Britain, the Prince Regent governed for his incapacitated father King George III. The most notable event of the year was the marriage of his daughter Princess Charlotte to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, on 2 May 1816. The principal theatres staged comedies and tragedies (many were longstanding staples of the repertoire) as well as the annual Christmas pantomimes – Drury Lane offered Harlequin Horner, or the Christmas Pie, while Covent Garden staged Harlequin and the Sylph of the Oak; or, The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green. Pantomimes were already starting to look very similar to their counterparts today. Covent Garden also offered a ballet divertissement entitled The Seraglio, with ‘the Spanish Dancers’ who were advertised in playbills as ‘La Senora Ramos, y el Senor Luengo, (Principal Dancers at the Court of Madrid) – who will introduce their National Dance’. A French ballet company, led by Armand Vestris (son of Auguste Vestris, who had dazzled audiences when he first danced in London in 1781), appeared at the King’s Theatre.

By contrast with Paris, several dance publications appeared in London during 1816. Apart from second editions of Payne’s second, third and fourth sets of quadrilles, there were a number of titles from the dancing master Thomas Wilson. A Companion to the Ball Room appeared for the first time. There was a second edition of The Treasures of Terpsichore, first published in 1809. This collection of country dances confusingly has the alternative title A Companion for the Ball-Room. Wilson also published his own The Quadrille Instructor, as well as a new edition of Le Sylphe. An Elegant Collection of Twenty Four Country Dances for the Year 1816. Le Sylphe appeared annually between 1813 and 1818. Of particular interest in the context of this post is Wilson’s A Description of the Correct Method of Waltzing which explained how to dance the French Slow Waltz, Sauteuse Waltz and Jetté or Quick Sauteuse Waltz as well as the German Waltz.  The publication of Wilson’s Description preceded the appearance of the new dance at the Prince Regent’s ball on 13 July 1816.

Wilson Waltzing Title Page

Thomas Wilson. A Description of the Correct Method of Waltzing (1816). Title page


‘Spanish’ dancing and the dance treatises

Spanish dancing features very little in the early 18th-century dance treatises. Feuillet makes no reference to Spanish styles and techniques of dancing in Choregraphie, except for a section ‘De la batterie des Castagnettes’ towards the end of the manual. He provides notation for the arm movements as well as castanet beats to accompany steps danced to the Folie d’Espagne melody. His little 16-bar choreography does not correspond to any of the four Folie d’Espagne dances that survive in notation. In particular, it does not have the 8-bar repeat structure found in those but is through-composed. Feuillet says nothing about castanets being Spanish, but his choice of the Folie d’Espagne music for his example suggests the link. In his translation Orchesography, John Weaver omits Feuillet’s section on castanets altogether.

In his Neue und Curieuse Theatrialische Tantz-Schul of 1716, Lambranzi includes a plate showing a solo male dancer performing to the Folie d’Espagne tune. He says only:

‘In this dance pas de courante, pas graves, ballonnés, pas de sissonne and pas de chaconne must be employed, together with such other pas as the dancer may select.’

There is nothing inherently Spanish about the steps listed (except that the chaconne has a Spanish origin) and the dancer is not shown holding castanets. So is the dance ‘Spanish’ at all, apart from its music?

Lambranzi Folie 1-3

Lambranzi, Neue und Curieuse Theatrialische Tantz-Schul (1716), Part 1, plate 3

In his 1717 treatise Rechtschaffener Tantz-Meister, Taubert includes notation for five Folie d’Espagne variations for a solo woman. These were presumably taken directly from Feuillet’s choreography in his 1700 Recueil de dances. Taubert includes it as an example of ‘high theatrical’ dance. He says nothing about it being Spanish, but he probably assumed that the title of the music would speak for itself.

Pierre Rameau makes no mention of Spanish steps or dances in either of the treatises he published in 1725, Le Maître a danser and Abbrégé de la nouvelle méthode. This is possibly because his focus was solely on ballroom dancing. At that period, ‘Spanish’ dances were almost all intended for the stage.

By contrast, in The Art of Dancing Kellom Tomlinson refers several times to ‘Spanish’ dances, all of them stage choreographies. In his explanation of ‘the Close beating before and falling behind in the third Position, upright Spring changing to the same before, and Coupee to a Measure’ he cites Pecour’s ‘Spanish Entree for two Men’ and ‘Entree Espagnole for a Man and a Woman’ as dances within which this pas composé was used. Was there anything particularly ‘Spanish’ about this combination, or were the two dances merely ones with which Tomlinson was familiar as sources for a step sequence he liked? I will come back to this sequence in a later post.

In his 1762 A Treatise on the Art of Dancing, Giovanni-Andrea Gallini comments:

‘In Spain, they have a dance, called, Les Folies d’Espagne, which is performed either by one or by two, with castanets. There is a dress peculiarly adapted to it, which has a very pleasing effect, as well as the dance itself.’

His remarks are picturesque but, apart from the linking of castanets with ‘Spanish’ dancing and the tantalising reference to the dress ‘peculiarly adapted to it’, they are not particularly informative.

Far more helpful is Gennaro Magri in his Trattato Teorico-Prattico di Ballo published in Naples in 1779. Magri discusses ‘Spanish’ positions alongside the long-established true and false positions (which feature in Feuillet’s Choregraphie). They correspond to the five true positions, except that the feet are in parallel and not turned out. Magri also points out that both false and Spanish positions occur in pas tortillés, which are recorded in early 18th-century treatises and notations. This suggest another possible line of enquiry.

So, there are some pointers to the style and technique of ‘Spanish’ dancing in the 18th century. I should make it clear that my interest here is in ‘Spanish’ dancing as it might have been performed on the London stage in the early 1700s, where it was most likely filtered through ‘French’ dancing.