I recently saw a demonstration of the ‘Z’ figure of the minuet that gave me pause for thought. Citing Pierre Rameau and the diagram in Le Maître a danser, the figure was danced with two pas de menuet sideways to the left, two forwards on the diagonal and one backwards to the right. So far as I can remember, I have never been taught the ‘Z’ figure in this way, but instead of rushing to the conclusion that the interpretation must be wrong, I decided to do some research. A quick look on YouTube revealed very few videos of the ballroom minuet, let alone Rameau’s version of this dance. Of the two videos I found, the couple in one danced the final section of the ‘Z’ figure with two pas de menuet sideways to the right (turning around the right shoulder for the necessary quarter-turn), while the other couple did indeed do a single pas de menuet backwards. It was interesting that the latter video was far more recent than the former, so was I looking at a fresh interpretation of Rameau’s instructions?
Rameau deals with the figures of the ballroom minuet in his chapter XXII, ‘Du Menuet, & de la maniere de le danser régulierement’. Here is Rameau’s illustration of the ‘Z’ figure – ‘Figure Principal du Menuet’ – from this chapter.
As you can see, it says that both dancers perform two pas de menuet sideways to the left, two more forwards to pass one another by the right shoulder ‘en effaçant l’épaule’ and one backwards to the right (‘un en arriere du coté droit’).
When we turn to Rameau’s text, his written instructions are less clear.
Although he includes the numbers 1, 2 and 3 on his diagram, Rameau refers only to 2 and 3 in his text. In fact, he says nothing at all about the final step of the ‘Z’ figure. Is it possible that a part of Rameau’s instructions was omitted when the book was printed? So far as I am aware, there has been no detailed bibliographical study of this text that might address such issues.
I turned to John Essex’s 1728 translation of Rameau’s treatise, The Dancing-Master, to see whether he might have made good the omission in the original. Essex reproduces Rameau’s diagram, titling it ‘The fourth & Principal Figure of the Menuet’ and he too shows ‘two menuet Steps to ye left’ followed by ‘two forward, shading the shoulder’, but he has ‘two backwards to the right’.
Essex has made a change to Rameau’s illustration, but he merely translates the associated text without alteration.
Although Rameau’s treatise was published in 1725, was he perhaps reflecting an earlier French convention for the performance of the ‘Z’ figure? Was Essex merely making a faithful translation, or was he referring to a convention still current in English performances of the minuet?
Why was I taught a ‘Z’ figure with two pas de menuet sideways to the left, two forwards on the diagonal and two sideways to the right? Does the answer lie in other dance manuals of the early 18th century rather than in an idiosyncratic approach to dance reconstruction? I will turn to the other sources for the ‘Z’ figure in a new post.
For many years, I have been bringing together what information I can find about the entr’acte dances given in London’s theatres between 1700 and 1760, although I have recently been extending my attention backwards to the Restoration and forwards as far as 1800 (occasionally even beyond that). My work is based on the calendar of performances in The London Stage, 1660-1800, but I am trying to add details of music, dancers, notated dances and other sources where and when I can. So far as I can tell, there is no detailed study of dancing on the London stage from the late 17th to the early 19th century and I need to try to fill this gap for my work as a dance historian of the period.
I thought I would look through my several files to find the dances that were most popular during the first six decades of the 18th century. What follows is necessarily incomplete and subjective. I have written posts on some of the dances mentioned, which I will refer to as I go. I have grouped together those dances which plausibly have a common theme and I hope to return to some of them in more detail with later posts.
This advertisement in the Daily Post for 30 April 1726 shows the bill offered at Lincoln’s Inn Fields that evening, with dances at the end of each act of the tragedy.
Comic Dances and Serious Dances
Comic Dances and Serious Dances seem, at first sight, to represent the opposite extremes of the entr’acte repertoire. In some ways they do, and they are sometimes billed together in ways that suggest that they were seen that way by 18th-century audiences. The title Serious Dance is perhaps easier to interpret. These were less often advertised than Comic Dances and many can plausibly be linked to belle danse style and technique. My post Serious Dancing looks at John Weaver’s discussion of the genre.
Comic Dances were among the most popular of the entr’acte entertainments in London’s theatres throughout the 18th century, although it is next to impossible to define exactly what was meant by a ‘comic’ dance. Few clues are provided in the advertisements, although there are hints that ‘comic’ quite often indicates an element of pantomime or points to a speciality act with dancing but performed by a player who was not, first and foremost, a dancer.
Grand Dances and Ballets
The Grand Dance emerges during the Restoration period. Most such dances billed in the 18th century are advertised with no details other than a list of performers, although some add ‘Grand Dance’ to a more specific title which takes them into another genre. For example, the Grand Dance of Momus originated in Momus Turn’d Fabulist; or, Vulcan’s Wedding by Ebenezer Forrest, first given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1729-1730. It continued as an entr’acte dance until 1745-1746. The cast lists in later bills suggest that it was a mini-ballet (in the modern sense of the term).
The Ballet first appears in London at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1726-1727, when ‘A Grand Ballet by ten Persons of different Characters’ was given for the benefit of Michael Poitier. Like the Grand Dances, the advertisements rarely give any clues to the nature of Ballets other than a list of dancers. The title Grand Dance seems, over time, to have given way to Ballet or Grand Ballet. The last two continued to be advertised into the 1780s.
My posts on this topic include Grand Ballet, Grand Dance and Serious Dance and The Rise and Fall of the Grand Dance on the London Stage.
Dance Types: Chacone, Hornpipe, Loure, Minuet and Tambourin
This heterogeneous list indicates part of the range of dance types to be seen on the London stage. The Chacone, Loure and Minuet may, of course, be classed as belonging to the genre of French belle danse. The Loure is actually the Louvre – Pecour’s famous duet Aimable Vainqueur – see my post Aimable Vainqueur on the London Stage. Like the Louvre, the Minuet was a staple of the benefit repertoire. I have also written about Minuets on the London Stage and Minuets Mocked.
The Chacone makes its first recorded entr’acte appearance in 1702-1703, when Mrs Elford (who was regularly partnered by Anthony L’Abbé) danced one as a solo at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. It was later taken up by Ann Bullock, who performed a solo Chacone regularly from 1714-1715 to 1734-1735. There were also Chacones given as duets and group dances – the latter often including commedia dell’arte characters, underlining the diverse nature of the musical form. The group Chacones given in the 1770s and 1780s were probably rather different choreographically from the earlier dances.
The Hornpipe is unlikely to have been the pastoral dance in 3/2 known from the notations published in London in the early 1700s, with one possible exception in the form of a solo choreographed by L’Abbé for a ‘Gentleman’ which may have been related to the dance performed at Drury Lane in 1713 ‘by a Gentleman for his Diversion’. The notation published in the mid-1720s reveals a lively and demanding dance with pas battus and a cabriole in the opening sequence.
The Hornpipe advertised regularly from the 1720s to the 1750s and added to The Beggar’s Opera, as well as being given at benefits to the end of the 18th century, was a duple-time dance with nautical associations. It was really a speciality dance performed by dancing actors.
The Tambourin or Tambourine (as it was often billed) made its debut on the London stage as a solo performed by Marie Sallé at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1730-1731. Its alternative title French Tambourin suggests links with the Paris Opéra. It was subsequently danced as a solo or a duet, sometimes as a group dance, into the 1750s. The Tambourine dances performed in London’s theatres into the 1780s seem to have taken the dance in a new direction by making it closer to a speciality dance.
National Dances: Dutch, Irish and Scotch
Many entr’acte dances linked to different nations were given in London’s theatres from the early 1700s into the 1760s and beyond. Among the Dutch Dances the most popular seems to have been the Dutch Skipper for which the earliest known billing was in 1703-1704 when it was danced by Mr and Mrs du Ruel (he was French and she was English). There were also Dutch Clown, Dutch Sailor and Dutchman and Wife, among others. The Dutch Skipper as well as the Dutch Sailor call to mind the illustrations in Lambranzi’s Neue und curieuse theatrialische Tantz-Schul of 1716. Here is a ‘Dutch Sailor’ duet from part two.
Irish dances appear in the bills as early as 1700, although the most popular became the Fingalian which began its stage career in 1724-1725 and survived (doubtless in a succession of choreographies) into the early 1780s.
Neither Dutch Dances nor Irish Dances were anywhere near as popular as Scotch Dances. In the entr’actes these were initially associated with solo female dancers – Mrs Bicknell (who was from Scotland) in the first decade of the 18th century and Ann Bullock from 1719-1720 to 1740-1741. There were duets as well as solos and group dances as well, notably the Scotch Dance choreographed by Leach Glover for three couples which held the stage from the early 1730s for around ten years. Dances like these were performed into the 1760s and I suggest that they drew their identity primarily from their music. The ‘Scotch’ dances that claimed the stage from the 1780s seem to have emerged from a changed cultural milieu, in which costume as well as music may have proclaimed their nationality.
Commedia dell’arte Characters: Harlequin, Scaramouch and Pierrot
Three commedia dell’arte characters made their mark on the entr’actes. Harlequin and Scaramouch arrived before 1700, as characters in plays rather than dancing masks. Both had migrated to the entr’actes by 1700 and continued into the 1730s. Harlequin often appeared solo, or in scenes with other commedia dell’arte characters. Female Harlequins, Harlequines, were popular too. Although Scaramouch also appeared solo, one of the most popular entr’acte offerings in the early decades of the 18th century was Four Scaramouches. When pantomime afterpieces became the rage in the 1720s, they were centred around Harlequin and Scaramouch who were thereafter seen less often in the entr’actes.
Pierrot seems to have been introduced in 1723-1724 by Francis and Louis Nivelon as Two Pierrots. There was also the Pieraite, a duet for a man and a woman billed from the mid-1720s to the later 1730s. Pierrot Dances continued into the mid-1750s and were occasionally revived until 1770-1771.
This painting, ascribed to Philippe Mercier (1689-1760), perhaps gives an idea of Harlequin, Harlequine and Pierrot as they appeared on the London stage.
Scaramouch was depicted several times by Lambranzi, in this plate he performs his characteristic long step.
Punch made a number of entr’acte appearances over the years, but he was never as popular as his fellow masks.
Peasants, Sailors and Shepherds
Peasant Dances were by far the most popular in London’s theatres. Leaving aside the Drunken Peasant, which became a speciality turn by dancing actors, there were dancing Peasants of nationalities ranging from Bohemia to Venice. French Peasants were the most popular, although there were many Peasant Dances with no national connotations. These various dances were seen from the 1710s to the 1760s. Did the male French Peasants perhaps look like this early 18th-century depiction of Henri Dumoulin?
Dancing Sailors go back to the Restoration and before. Sailor Dances remained popular into the 1750s and were quite frequently revived into the 1790s. Some of these choreographies had national overtones – there were French Sailors (and Matelots), Grecian Sailors (from an opera with a plot from classical antiquity) and even a Russian Sailor. Such dances were likely to have been closer to French belle danse than the speciality hornpipes mentioned above.
Shepherds had featured as dancing characters for many decades before they reached the London stage, although Shepherd Dances only really began to be billed in the entr’actes during the 1720s. There were, of course, also Bergers and Bergeries as well as a number of Pastoral Dances. Did Shepherds and Shepherdesses on the London stage emulate their French counterparts, as in this depiction by Watteau?
Entr’acte Dances on the London Stage
The challenge with all of the entr’acte dances given in London’s theatres is to uncover the steps, figures, style and technique they may have used and to get an idea of the choreographies that depicted them. Some have links to the notated dances, while many relate to music popular at the time (what we would now regard as classical music, as well as popular and traditional tunes). All the dances I have mentioned were affected by their political as well as their cultural context. Hopefully, further research will not only reveal more about the dances but also show more clearly their influence on the other dancing to be seen in London’s theatres.
Among the steps listed for use in the cotillon, when the dance became popular in the 1760s, were a sissonne brisé (Josson, 1763) and brizé à trois pas (Gherardi, 1769?). Neither source describes how these steps should be performed, nor does the brisé turn up in earlier dance manuals (at least not under that name). It does appear later among the steps recommended for quadrilles (where it is described) and it does, of course, also form part of the vocabulary of modern classical ballet. What was a brisé in late 18th and early 19th century social dancing?
The earliest description of a brisé that I know comes from Gennaro Magri’s Trattato teorico-prattico di ballo of 1779. Apart from appearing some ten to fifteen years later than Josson and Gherardi, Magri deals principally with stage dancing. Here is what he has to say about the brisé:
‘The brisé done in its true form has nothing in common with the capriole; indeed an assemblé to the side is more like a capriole than a brisé. This step is greatly used by the French, and although it might be a little thing in itself, none the less it appears to have more value by being a brilliant step, as it makes more effect done by those ballanti with supremely lively footwork than a capriole done by another. In truth then, referring to the subject of the capriole, it is executed as though it were a fourth capriolata to the side, but since it is done on the ground it becomes a step and not a capriole, whence in calling it a capriole the teachers of the art commit an error, showing that they cannot distinguish this from the step. It may be done forwards, backwards, sideways, turning, repeated, or doublé.
To do it forwards, if you wish to take it with the right leg, place yourself in any position except the first and the second, but the best is always the fourth; placed then in this with the right behind, bending, extend the foot to second in the air from where, with the calf of the same leg, beat in front of the instep of the other, which by the same strike is chased to fourth in front.’
(Magri, Theoretical and practical treatise on dancing, translated by Mary Skeaping, 1988, p. 138)
A footnote explains that ‘The right foot cuts in front of the left, which is simultaneously snatched up to touch the calf of the right’. Magri’s remark that ‘it is done on the ground’, without a jump, is particularly interesting in the context of cotillons and quadrilles. Steps that we would today associate with jumps seem to have been done simply with a rise in the ballroom. Magri’s caprioles include the entre-chat and cabriole, i.e. they are steps with both jumps and beats.
Magri also has a step called the demi-sissonne, described thus:
‘The sissonne, whether it be simple or with a rise and of whatever other category except the repeated, may be halved by ending it with a bend of both knees, without rising after the landing.’ (Skeaping translation, p. 106)
He adds that ‘This demi will have its place whenever another different step which begins with a plié has to be attached, either a jump or a capriole’ and tells us that serious dancers ‘add a pas brisé to it’. Might this shed some light on Josson’s sissonne-brisé?
The sources for quadrilles do explain how to perform the steps they mention. Here is what Gourdoux-Daux has to say in his De l’art de la danse of 1823 about the ‘pas ou tems qu’on nomme brisé dessus et à trois tems’. He begins ‘Pour faire ce pas, les pieds étant à la troisième’ and continues:
Gourdoux-Daux seems to be suggesting that the brisé is followed by a sissonne (the early 19th-century version) and then a close in third position. Was this, in fact, Gherardi’s brizé à trois pas?
Mason describes a jeté brisé dessous in his A Short Essay on the French Danse de Société of 1827 as follows:
‘Jeté devant upon the right foot, passing the left to fourth position behind; make a little battement forward and back; jeté devant upon the left, and continue.’
The pas battu seems to have no jump, in keeping with the conventions of social dancing.
Modern dictionaries of ballet describe the brisé as a small travelling assemblé with a beat. The earlier versions I have been discussing here seem not to travel and to have been executed with a rise and not a jump. Otherwise, the 18th and 19th-century brisé is clearly the ancestor of the modern step. Reading the various early descriptions, I can begin to see how the brisé could be incorporated into the perpetuum mobile of the cotillon and be performed within an early 19th-century quadrille.
The bill at the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre for 16 November 1723 included, among the entr’acte dances, a Running Footman’s Dance by Nivelon and Mrs Rogier. It was evidently quite popular, for it was given ten times that season (two of the performances were billed as a solo by Nivelon). It was copied at the Richmond Theatre the following summer, where it was danced as a solo by Haughton.
The running footman must have cut a conspicuous figure on the streets of London and elsewhere. Footmen were part of aristocratic and wealthy entourages and running footmen were highly prized. All footmen were young men with good carriage and good physiques, but running footmen were particularly fit and strong as they were employed to run just ahead of their master’s coach on a journey, in a livery designed to attract attention. A satirical piece in the Universal Spectator describes them as wearing ‘fine Holland Drawers and Waistcoats, Thread Stockings, a blue silk Sash fringed with Silver, a Velvet Cap with a great Tassel’ and carrying ‘a Porter’s Staff with a large Silver Handle’. The details of their livery obviously varied according to their employer, but such features as the cap and the staff made them instantly recognisable, as in this undated image.
The running footman also ran errands in town and was entered into competitive foot races by his employer. These events included wagers and could be elaborate. They were regularly reported in the newspapers during much of the 18th century, as in Applebee’s Original Weekly Journal for 24 September 1720.
It was surely such exploits that gave Nivelon the idea for the dance – it seems likely that he was the original choreographer.
Nivelon and Mrs Laguerre (as Mrs Rogier became following her remarriage in 1724) performed the Running Footman from 1723-1724 until 1727-1728, with a brief revival in 1732-1733. The fact that it was a duet, when put together with the duties of real running footmen, suggests that the dance had a narrative element and was not simply a display of dancing skills. The Running Footman would feature among entr’acte dances in London’s theatres until the 1763-1764 season. Many of these dances were solos, which does suggest virtuosic display, and in 1750-1751 the Running Footman was given as a male duet which may well have mimicked the races mentioned above. The last mention of the Running Footman as an entr’acte dance was on 4 May 1764, when Robert Aldridge danced with Miss Baker and supporting dancers (indicated, as usual, only by ‘&c.’). Did this choreography make use of a narrative? Could it have looked back to Nivelon’s original dance?
Music for a Running Footman country dance can be found in several sources of the mid-18th century. The earliest to bear the title seems to be that in The Compleat Country Dancing-Master published by John Walsh in 1731, where it has the title Running Footman’s Jigg. Could this be the tune used by Nivelon? All these country dances have a time signature of 6/8.
The Running Footman also seems to have been absorbed into an entr’acte dance named The Medley. There were a couple of early entr’acte dances with that title, performed in 1702-1703 and 1734-1735 respectively, but the one that is relevant to this post must be the ‘New Entertainment call’d The Medley, by Slingsby, Miss Baker, &c.’ given at Drury Lane on 20 November 1764. This was performed more than forty times that season although oddly, given its popularity, it wasn’t revived until 1767-1768 (with different performers). It was subsequently given in 1770-1771, when it was performed by ‘Scholars of Giorgi’ (he was a leading dancer at Drury Lane). That version of The Medley continued in repertoire into the 1772-1773 season. All of these performances were at Drury Lane. The Medley moved to the Theatre Royal, Haymarket for 1774-1775 and 1775-1776 and took a last bow there in 1783-1784 when it was danced by ‘Master Giorgi, Miss Byrne and others’. There are no hints in the surviving advertisements about the theme of the dance, although the title suggests that it included several different choreographies.
At least one version of The Medley was performed in the provinces, where it was advertised with full details. Here is the relevant section from the advertisement in the Derby Mercury for 28 February 1782. My thanks to Keith Cavers for providing both the information and the reference.
The list of characters in The Medley suggests that it was drawn not only from entr’acte dances popular on the London stage, but also from well-known dances within afterpieces. Were these linked together by a narrative thread spun by the Running Footman himself? Mr West was the dancer and choreographer William West (born circa 1757). As I write, I haven’t been able to find evidence that he did succeed Slingsby in The Medley at Drury Lane – unless he was one of the unnamed ‘Scholars of Giorgi’ who performed it there in the early 1770s (when West would have been in his mid-teens).
The Running Footman made two other stage appearances in the late 18th century. One was at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket on 8 August 1781 in an afterpiece titled Medea and Jason. This was a parody of Noverre’s well-known ballet, which had been given in London for the first time at the King’s Theatre earlier that season. The Haymarket cast included the ‘Prince de la Cour (as a Running Footman)’ danced by Master Byrn. This production may be worth returning to in a later post. The Running Footman’s last appearances seem to have been in another afterpiece, Here and There and Everywhere, also given at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, from 31 August 1785. The role was taken by Master Goosetree. In both cases, the Running Footman seems to have been performed by a boy rather than an adult male dancer.
There is another image of the running footman in a series of four studies by the Italian artist Giovanni Paolo Panini, possibly dating to the mid-1750s. They provide an idea of the figure represented on the London stage by Nivelon, Slingsby and some of the other dancers who performed the Running Footman.
My curiosity about the change in step vocabulary between the cotillons of the 1760s and 1770s and the quadrilles of the early 1800s has been further piqued by information from an additional source. I had heard of Josson’s Traité abrégé de la danse of 1763 – I had even seen and catalogued a copy in a private collection – but I had never really taken note of its contents. Catherine Turocy of the New York Baroque Dance Company drew my attention to the digital copy on Gallica, prompting me to take a proper look. Josson is probably best known for what he has to say about the minuet but his Traité also deals with ‘les différens pas & figures des contre-danses en usage’. At the time he was writing, I think we can assume that these contredanses were in fact cotillons.
Josson lists as the basic steps – ‘les pas dont on fait usage dans les Contre-danses’ – balancé, pas de rigaudon, pas de gavotte, chassés and pirouettes. He also describes how they should be performed and there are some interesting differences from what is said elsewhere, notably by De la Cuisse. I will not go into detail here, but I will mention the pas de gavotte. Josson’s version is not the same as that of De la Cuisse (who equates it to the demi-contretems). This is what Josson says (p. 77):
This isn’t the pas de gavotte I was taught in years past either – a contretems forwards or backwards followed by an assemblé into first position, with or without a pas marché to fill the upbeat – although it obviously relates to that pas composé.
My attention was also drawn to Josson’s supplementary list of steps (p. 81):
The entre-chat, sissonne brisé and jetté battu can claim to be steps for the stage, although there is evidence beyond Josson’s Traité they were also used in the ballroom. However, I am now wondering about the term brisé. So far as I know, it isn’t found in the early 18th-century treatises, although it certainly appears in Magri’s Trattato teorico-prattico di ballo as well as some of the various treatises on the cotillon and the quadrille. In the context of social dancing, what is a brisé? Also, why does Josson list the demi-contretems here? It presumably isn’t the step described by de La Cuisse as ‘le Pas fondamental de la Contredanse’ but something altogether more demanding.
Josson has upset my notion of the cotillon as a dance with a circumscribed step vocabulary in which the emphasis is on the figures. His Traité raises questions about the range of steps actually used in these contredanses. How could this showy vocabulary be fitted into the tight figures and relentless momentum of cotillons? We still have much to learn about these demanding little choreographies.
A few years ago, I wrote a series of posts about the cotillon steps recorded by London’s dancing masters in the 1760s. In 1762, De la Cuisse (who began the cotillon craze by publishing these dances) listed six steps in his Le Repertoire des bals ou theorie-pratique des contredanses – balancé, rigaudon, contretems, chassé, pirouette and pas de gavotte (the demi-contretems, which he described as ‘un Pas naturel; C’es le Pas fondamental de la Contredanse’). All are familiar from the dance manuals of the early 1700s. Between them, Gallini, Gherardi and Villeneuve added another six – assemblé, glissade, ‘brizè à trois pas’, ‘chassé à trois pas’, double chassé and sissonne. Three of these were also described in the earlier manuals, while three – the brizé and chassé ‘a trois pas’ and the double chassé were apparently more recent.
The step vocabulary for the early 19th-century quadrille was more extensive and some of the steps were certainly more challenging than any used in the cotillon. One of the earliest works to deal with the quadrille was Notions élémentaires sur l’art de la danse by J. H. Gourdoux-Daux, published in Paris in 1804. The second edition was titled Principes et notions élémentaires sur l’art de la danse pour la ville and appeared in 1811. It was presumably this edition that was translated into English for publication in Philadelphia in 1817 as Elements and Principles of the Art of Dancing as used in Polite and Fashionable Circles. This translation describes nine steps for use in quadrilles – the ‘change of foot’ (changement de jambe), assemblé, jeté, sissonne, échappé, temps levé, grand coupé, chassé and glissade. Only one, chassé, is among the cotillon steps prescribed by De la Cuisse, while three more appear in the collections published in London – assemblé, glissade and sissonne. The last of these occurs only in Villeneuve’s Collection of Cotillons and he does not describe it. By the time Gourdoux-Daux was writing, the sissonne had become a spring from two feet to one, beginning in third position and ending with the free foot either extended to second or fourth position or brought into the ankle. It is recognisable as the second part of the pas de sissonne recorded in the early 1700s.
Gourdoux-Daux published a third edition of his treatise titled simply De l’art de la danse in 1823, which is accessible digitally. It adds a tems du balonné, pas de bourrée, tems de cuisse, demi-contretems, brisé and entrechat. His third edition is described as ‘revue, corrigé et augmenté’, indicating that it contains new material. However, without access to Gourdoux-Daux’s earlier editions, it is not possible to know whether he included any of these steps before 1823 or whether his American translator simply omitted them as either not generally used or, perhaps, not appropriate for social dancing.
In 1822, Alexander Strathy published his Elements of the Art of Dancing in Edinburgh. His list has twelve quadrille steps – assemblé, jeté, glissade, sissonne, temps levé, chassé, échappé, pirouette, changement de jambe, pas de Zéphyre or pas battu, jeté tendu and jeté du côté. His vocabulary overlaps with that of Gourdoux-Daux, but both have steps not included by the other.
The only other treatise I will look at here is Charles Mason’s A Short Essay on the French Danse de Société published in London in 1827. His vocabulary overlaps with both Gourdoux-Daux and Strathy and also includes steps they do not list. Mason’s list has twenty of what he calls ‘Les Mouvemens’ – changement de jambes, assemblé, jeté, sissonne, tems levé, chassé, glissade, jeté ballonné, tems de Zéphyre, coupé, pas de basque, pas de bourrée, tems de ‘coudepied’, jeté brisé, pas tombé, fouetté, contretems, pirouette, emboîté and petits battemens. Some of these may have been embellishments to steps, rather than steps in their own right, and some may have been used only within the ‘Differens Enchainemens de Pas’ Mason refers to on his title page.
In the following table I have tried to set out the steps recommended for the cotillon and quadrille respectively, with the name of each dancing master to include it listed in order of the date of their first publication in which it appears. For the purposes of this investigation, I have omitted the Allemande step used in so many cotillons – it is probably worth another post of its own (although I did write about it a few years ago). There were, of course, several other works on dancing – and the quadrille – published in the early decades of the 19th century, so my list of steps is probably far from complete and it is certainly not definitive. How and why did the step vocabulary change and expand so much as the cotillon gave way to the quadrille?
I have been discussing quadrille steps with an historical dance teacher of my acquaintance and he has been wondering about the origins of the pas de basque. In 1827, Charles Mason described it thus in his A Short Essay on the French Danse de Société:
There are several versions of this step in both modern and historical genres of dance, some of which can be traced back a long way – although, so far as I know, none are given the name pas de basque before the early 19th century.
I am sure that there are various theories about the origins of the step, although from my perspective it seems likely that the versions used in early 19th-century quadrilles owe something to the vocabulary of early 18th-century ballroom dancing. Recognisably related steps can certainly be found in the notated dances of the early 1700s. Where did the name come from and when did it start to be used?
In the course of another piece of research, I came across an advertisement for a performance at the King’s Theatre on 11 January 1783 which might provide a clue. The bill that evening declared that the ballet to accompany the evening’s opera (the King’s Theatre was London’s opera house) would include ‘two Pas de Basque by Mlle Theodore’. In this case, the ‘Pas de Basque’ were evidently solo dances given by the French ballerina. She repeated her Pas de Basque several times that season. The following season, the bill for Mlle Théodore’s benefit at the King’s Theatre on 13 May 1784 announced that she ‘will also dance the favourite Pas de Basque’.
Mlle Théodore had begun her career at the Paris Opéra, where she made her debut in 1777. She had first come to London, and the King’s Theatre, for the 1781-1782 season where she had quickly become popular with critics and audiences alike.
In 1783, she married the dancer and choreographer Jean Bercher, known as Jean D’Auberval, who would later create La Fille mal gardée with his wife in the title role.
Is it possible that these dances performed in 1783 and 1784 could have given a name to a step that would become part of the quadrille vocabulary? She seems to have made a mark with these solos. A critic in the Public Advertiser for 18 January 1783 wrote ‘The Theodore, in her two Pas de Basque, especially the latter, is every Thing that is meant by the Words Liveliness, Vigour, and Agility’. Another critic, in the Morning Herald a few days earlier on 13 January, gave additional details of the performance:
‘As long as the Theodore confines herself to those light and skipping motions in dancing, which have so powerfully recommended her to public notice, she will ever remain unrivaled. She was greatly and deservedly applauded in her two Pas de Basque; but especially in the last; when there happening a little accident of her shoe slipping off, she went on with her dance, and convinced the spectators, that shod or unshod, she is the liveliest of the lively train.’
Apart from the evident vivacity of her dancing, the mishap may well have drawn extra attention to her steps and ignited a desire to imitate them.
These Pas de Basque were performed in ‘an entirely new Ballet’ Le Tuteur trompé; or, the Guardian outwitted by Charles Le Picq, being performed for the first time on 11 January 1783. It was taken, in part, from Beaumarchais’s Le Barbier de Séville and according to the Morning Herald had dancing ‘which was mostly in the Spanish stile, and of course a novelty on this theatre’. The early 1780s were also a period when quadrilles were being danced both on stage and in the ballroom in London. Quadrilles were still quite new and may well have been establishing and extending both their steps and figures.
I don’t actually believe that Mlle Théodore and her dances introduced this step and gave it the name pas de basque. However, could they have played a part in its adoption into the ballroom and addition to the vocabulary of the newly emerging quadrille and even influenced its naming?
A dance titled The Bretagne turns up very occasionally in the bills for London’s theatres during the first half of the 18th century. Its earliest appearance was at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 5 April 1731, when Francis and Marie Sallé danced the ‘Louvre and Bretagne’ at his benefit performance. The Louvre is, of course, Pecour’s Aimable Vainqueur which was a favourite dance of the period. From this performance, it seems clear that the second dance must have been Pecour’s La Bretagne, created in honour of the duchesse de Bourgogne following the birth of her son the duc de Bretagne in 1704. This ballroom choreography was published in notation the same year, in Feuillet’s IIIme. Recüeil de danses de bal. Here is the title page for the dance (which was evidently also sold separately) and the first plate.
In 1706, P. Siris included La Bretagne in his translation of Feuillet’s Choregraphie, published in London as The Art of Dancing by Characters and Figures. Here is the first plate.
His version differs from Feuillet’s in some of the steps and the figures. It must have served to make the dance known in London, for John Weaver included it in the second edition of his translation of Choregraphie, Orchesography, published around 1722. Siris’s version also attracted the attention of Sir Richard Steele, who referred to the dance in his periodical The Lover on 4 March 1714. Steele mentions a separate edition of Siris’s notation of The Bretagne which had been published in London the same week (no copy is known to survive). The short essay that Steele weaves around it (with references to the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht that ended the War of Spanish Succession and made peace between Britain and France) needs detailed analysis that I cannot undertake here.
By the time that the Sallés performed it on stage in 1731, La Bretagne must have been known in London – at least to the capital’s dancing masters and perhaps to some of their pupils as well. Its next known performance on the London stage was not until 25 May 1738, when it was given (again at a benefit performance) alongside a Minuet by Miss Wright and Miss Morrison. The advertisement makes no mention of cross-dressing by one of the young women, although the practice was not unusual on the London stage. The next performance was on 5 May 1740 at Covent Garden, when James Dupré and Mrs Ozanne danced ‘The Britain (Ball Dance) and Minuet’ for his benefit. The last recorded performance was on 1 April 1742, again at Covent Garden, when Desnoyer and Sga Barberina gave ‘A Ball Dance call’d the Britannia, and a Louvre concluding with a Minuet’ for his benefit. I have wondered whether this might have been Isaac’s The Britannia, published in notation in 1706 and reissued a number of times subsequently, or perhaps a dance to music from Thomas Arne’s 1740 masque Alfred. The latter included the song ‘Rule Britannia’ and Sga Barberina had danced at the masque’s first performance before Prince Frederick at Cliveden. On reflection, I am inclined to believe that the dance at Covent Garden in 1742 was Pecour’s La Bretagne, but I cannot be sure.
La Bretagne appeared in notation many times over the years. The duet was notated afresh by Pierre Rameau and published in his Abbrégé de la nouvelle méthode, which was reissued several times after its first appearance in 1725. It also turns up in a number of manuscript sources – see the entry for the dance in Francine Lancelot’s invaluable catalogue of surviving notations La Belle Dance (1996). It is mentioned by Taubert in his Rechtschaffener Tantzmeister (1717) as well as Rameau in Le Maître a danser (1725) and Kellom Tomlinson in The Art of Dancing (1735) – in each case in relation to the performance of individual steps, indicating its use in teaching.
I haven’t diligently pursued the teaching of La Bretagne in London or elsewhere, but the dance does turn up occasionally in dancing masters’ advertisements. One, for Messrs Welch and Hart in the Public Advertiser for 14 April 1768, offers cotillons, minuets, the Louvre, Passepied, Matlotte, the ‘Almand François’ and English country dances, as well as a ‘Nouvelle Bretaigne’ listed among the duets. I haven’t been able to locate any notation for a ball dance called ‘Nouvelle Bretaigne’ but it does hint that La Bretagne was routinely offered by London’s dancing masters, so Welch and Hart were attempting to go one better.
The explicit references to the teaching of the duet in London come much later, long after it had disappeared from the theatres. An advertisement in the Morning Post for 13 September 1776 announces that ‘Mr. Ferrere’ had established himself in London.
He must surely have been the Ferrère who created some of the works preserved in the manuscript compiled in 1782 by August Ferrère, who was his son. So far as I am aware, no reference to Ferrère Senior teaching in London has previously been found. He was still successfully plying his trade some sixteen years later, as this advertisement in the Oracle from 12 April 1792 shows.
The list of dances that he was teaching includes several of Pecour’s ballroom choreographies from the beginning of the 18th century. Ferrère was surely not the only dancing master to include these in his curriculum, although I have been unable to locate other examples from the earlier 1700s.
More research is needed – into the inclusion of these early ballroom dances in performances on the London stage, as well as into London’s dancing masters and what they taught. There is more to be said, too, about Pecour’s choreography for La Bretagne, but that will have to wait for another occasion.
Between 1776 and 1787 quadrilles continued to be mentioned in London theatre bills from time to time. On 16 May 1778, the bill at Covent Garden included ‘a variety of new Quadrilles’ at the end of act four of Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer. These ‘new Quadrilles’ may well have been cotillons for four, since they were immediately preceded by ‘Le Minuet à Quatre by Dumay, Holloway, Miss Matthews, Miss Ross’ who presumably provided all the dancing in this entr’acte.
In 1782, there was another outburst of quadrilles which is worth looking at in some detail. Late in 1781, a masked ball ‘with Quadrilles’ was announced at the King’s Theatre. Subsequent newspaper reports suggest that it was deferred until 24 January 1782. The advertisement in the Morning Chronicle for that day listed an elaborate sequence of entertainments by the theatre’s leading dancers.
These quadrilles seem to have been danced by four couples and had been created by none other than Jean-Georges Noverre. The practice of holding masquerades alongside the opera performances dates back to much earlier in the history of London’s opera house, as this image of 1724 shows.
On 2 February 1782, the performance at the King’s Theatre included entr’acte dancing with ‘the Dances introduced in the Masquerade’.
On 7 February 1782, there was a cotillon ball at the Pantheon. The advertisement in that day’s Morning Chronicle helpfully explained:
‘Several Ladies having expressed a desire to dance Quadrilles, and other figure dances at the Cotillon Ball, Ladies who wish to make their party for that purpose, may be accommodated with a room to practice the same any morning from Twelve to Three, free of any expence.’
The ‘Ladies’ would of course have subscribed in advance to attend the cotillon ball. There was probably more than a little rivalry between the various venues mounting public balls.
In April and May 1782, there were a number of performances at the Covent Garden Theatre which included quadrilles in the entr’actes. On 2 April there was ‘a new Grand Divertisement’ at the end of the mainpiece play. Here is playbill for the performance.
The Gala, with its Quadrilles and Cotillons, was repeated on 16 and 27 April. The advertisement is open to interpretation – either the quadrilles and cotillons used four and eight dancers respectively, or the dances were distinguished from one another by their steps, choreographic structure and music. The wording does not suggest that the dancers were divided into groups, so it is impossible to tell what the difference was. On 25 May 1782 a ‘New Quadrille’ was given in the entr’actes at Covent Garden, but the bill says no more than that title.
There were only occasional mentions of quadrilles later in the 1780s. The last reference to quadrilles on the London stage before 1800 was in the bill for a performance at the King’s Theatre on 20 January 1787. However, it came within the description of ‘an allegorical Ballet’ at the end of the opera ‘divided into 3 Quadrilles’ which must surely mean simply that the dancers were divided into three groups for the purposes of the choreography.
I suspect that there are many more references to danced quadrilles to be uncovered in newspapers and other sources during the last decades of the eighteenth century. Paul Cooper’s ‘Cotillion Dancing in England, 1760s to 1810s’ on the Regency Dances website cites an advertisement in the Bath Chronicle of 30 October 1794 for a dancing master named Deneuville, who was teaching quadrilles in that city. I am certain that London’s dancing masters must have been doing the same, even if the dance (in any form) was not being given in London’s theatres. Further research will surely shed light on the ‘quadrilles’ danced in London and elsewhere before the 19th century.
After the burst of interest in 1773, no more quadrilles were advertised in London’s theatres until 3 May 1776 when the performance at Covent Garden included:
‘New Dance Call’d The Academy, in which will be introduced the New Court Minuet and Rigadoon (never perform’d before) by Mas. Holland and Miss Armstrong; with a Minuet and Allemande, by Mas. Daigueville, and a Girl only 5 years old; to conclude with a new Cadrille, by Sg and Sga Zuchelli, Dagueville, and Sga Vidini’.
In this case, the identification of a quadrille with a cotillon performed by only four dancers seems plausible. The performance was a benefit for ‘Dagueville’ (Peter D’Egville), described as ‘ballet master’ in the advertisement, so did he create this quadrille?
However, just a couple of years earlier, there had been a private performance of quadrilles which might have bought them back on stage, although they are not explicitly mentioned in any bills. On 9 June 1774, Lord Stanley (Edward Smith Stanley, later 12th Earl of Derby) had given a Fête Champêtre at his country seat The Oaks, near Epsom in Surrey to celebrate his forthcoming marriage to Lady Elizabeth Hamilton. The report in the General Evening Post, 9-11 June 1774, mentioned (among many other entertainments) ‘an infinite number of persons habited as peasants who attended swings and other amusements, and occasionally formed parties quarrees to dance quadrilles’. The description ‘parties quarrees’ suggests four couples dancing in a square. I couldn’t find individual portraits of the happy couple around the time of the Fête Champêtre, but here is a double portrait of them with their son painted by Angelica Kauffman in 1776.
Lord Stanley’s entertainment later became part of a play by John Burgoyne, The Maid of the Oaks, first performed at Drury Lane on 5 November 1774. A review in the Westminster Magazine for November 1774 sets out the plot and describes its divertissements:
‘After some superb exhibitions of transparent scenery, several characteristic airs, and elegant dances, Mr Oldworth … proclaims Maria his only daughter and gives her to Sir Harry. After a dance of Cupids, Hymen, &c. … offering them eternal wreaths, the Druid of the Oaks, freed by the present powers of Beauty from that sequestered habitation to which by mystic spells he had long been doomed, appears to ratify their union, and astonishes the spectators by his magic influence, in a glorious vision of that felicity the virtues of the happy pair had so justly insured. An admirable vaudeville, and a grand dance, conclude the dramatic entertainment’.
Cupid, Hymen and the Druid had all featured in Lord Stanley’s Fête Champêtre. The published text of the play makes clear that some of the scenes seen on stage represented the gardens and temporary buildings which had formed its backdrop the previous June. This print shows the ballroom designed and erected by Robert Adam for the occasion.
The advertisement for the first performance of The Maid of the Oaks told would-be audiences that the piece would include a ‘Fête Champêtre’ with singing and dancing – ‘The Dances by Slingsby … Atkins, Como, Giorgi, Sga Crespi, Mrs Sutton, &c. and Sga Hidou, … The Ballets by M. Larevier’. The distinction between ‘Dances’ and ‘Ballets’ is interesting and perhaps reflects a difference between the choreographies performed by the guests at the Fête and the divertissement dances given by the professionals. Another source tells us that the Ballets were ‘very Grand’. There is no mention of quadrilles either on the bills or in the printed text. The latter refers only to ‘a Grand Dance of Shepherds and Shepherdesses’ at the end of act two, a ‘Country Dance’ towards the end of act four, and a Minuet at the beginning of act five – which ends with the ‘Grand Dance’. Perhaps the ‘Country Dance’ was actually a quadrille.
I am inclined to believe that The Maid of the Oaks did include quadrilles, if only because on 31 August 1774 the Daily Advertiser Carried the following announcement:
The Morning Chronicle for 22 November 1774 announced that Delatre’s New Set of Cotillons was to be published that day, with its ‘first published’ quadrille. Delatre may well have been making use of the publicity surrounding Lord Stanley’s Fête Champêtre. Was he also capitalizing on the dancing in The Maid of the Oaks? He may have been the Monsieur Delaître who danced at Drury Lane in the 1750s, beginning with Jean-Georges Noverre’s The Chinese Festival in 1755. He is one of the very few dancing masters for whom trade cards have survived. This is the most elaborate of three that are known and may date to the 1780s.
I had thought that two pieces on these early stage quadrilles would have been enough, but I found quite a bit of interesting material. A third piece will take the story forward to the 1780s.