There are three choreographies to the chaconne from act two of Lully’s 1683 opera Phaëton:
Guillaume-Louis Pecour, ‘Chacone pour une femme’, Recüeil de dances (Paris, 1704). LMC 2020, FL/1704.1/03.
Guillaume-Louis Pecour, ‘Chacone de Phaëton pour un homme non Dancée a l’Opera’, also in the Recueil de dances (Paris, 1704). LMC 1960, FL/1704.1/29.
Anonymous, ‘La chaconne de phaestons’ a solo for a man surviving in the manuscript source held by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 14884. LMC 1940, FL/Ms17.1/10.
All use a single iteration of the music, which in the opera is played through twice. Each of the choreographies thus has 152 bars of music with which to create a series of dance variations.
I have recently been working on the solo for a woman and become interested in the dancer’s relationship to the space within which she is dancing – or, perhaps more accurately, the space which surrounds her. We do not know when or where this solo was performed – it may or may not have been given within the opera. The step vocabulary is straightforward, with little in the way of embellishment, but its use of space and the changing orientation of the dancer as she traces her figures is worth some analysis.
A quick look at the notations for the two male solos indicates that both are very focussed on downstage centre (often referred to, particularly in ballroom contexts, as the ‘presence’), whether they are facing it or have their backs turned. These male dancers rarely turn to either stage right or stage left, or their ballroom equivalents. The use of space is quite different to that in the female solo.
Here, I would like to look at just three sequences from Pecour’s ‘Chacone pour une femme’ of 1704.
Plate 10, bars 1 – 16 (the first two musical variations), the beginning of this dance
Plate 17, bars 117 – 124, towards the end of the solo
Plate 19, bars 137 – 144, the penultimate variation of the dance.
I won’t say anything about the music, except that the notator of the dance respects the musical variations as he divides the choreography between plates – each plate has 16 bars of dance / music (two variations, each of 4 + 4 bars), except for plates 14 and 18 which each have 12 bars of dance / music to reflect changes in the structure of the music.
This chaconne begins with the dancer moving to right and left, before making a conventional passage downstage. According to the notation, she faces the presence as she waits to begin. She starts with a quarter-turn to the right for a coupé à deux mouvements, and then makes a quarter-turn to the left for a coupé battu avec ouverture de jambe. She repeats these two steps on the other foot, turning first to the left and then back to the right. So, she addresses each side of her dancing space before turning to the presence. I haven’t done any research to see if this is unusual among the notated dances, but in terms of the dancer’s successive orientations within her dancing space it is interesting. Here is the first plate of the ‘Chacone pour une femme’, with the first two dance / music variations, together with a detail of the passage I have described:
By plate 17, the dancer is within reach of the end of the choreography after a variety of steps and figures. Here, I want to look particularly at the second 8-bar variation – my focus is on the figure to the right of the plate.
This is not the first rectilinear figure in the chaconne. There is another in plate 12, in which the dancer performs seven coupés à deux mouvements with a final coupé simple. All travel sideways to the left and there is a quarter-turn to the left at the beginning of every other step, from the first to the seventh and then on the eighth as well. So, the dancer performs two coupés à deux mouvements facing downstage, two facing stage left, two facing upstage, one facing stage right and the final coupé simple facing downstage again. The turns in the figure on plate 17 are more subtle and varied and follow each other in quick succession. This was the sequence which set me thinking about the dancer’s use of space and orientation as I struggled to get it right. I also couldn’t help wondering how it might relate to later codifications of the directions of the body in ballet and in modern ballroom (two styles I am acquainted with).
This variation has eight pas de bourrée. The dancer begins facing the presence, having just done a pas de bourrée sideways. Her first step has a quarter-turn to the right and then a half-turn to the right on the demi-coupé and ensuing step of the pas de bourrée, so she faces stage right then stage left and has a final step backwards with no turn. The next pas de bourrée has a quarter-turn to the right at the beginning and she stays facing downstage for the rest of the step. The third and fourth pas de bourrée each have quarter-turns to the right on their first two steps, followed by no turn. The dancer faces stage right, upstage, stage left, downstage as she moves. Although she ends facing the presence, her fifth step has a quarter turn on its second step so, she turns away to face stage right. The sixth pas de bourrée has a quarter-turn to the right on the first step, so she faces upstage immediately (at the point when she must be directly in front of the presence). Her seventh step has quarter-turns to the right on the first and second steps, turning her back to face downstage, a direction she maintains for the eighth pas de bourrée (which moves sideways to the right, reflecting the step which preceded this sequence). I have said little about changes in the direction of the steps themselves (the second to the sixth pas de bourrée each begin with a sideways step), but they play a part in the surprising complexities of this variation.
As I worked on it, I began to wonder how important these degrees of turn were. They reminded me of the precise degrees of turn required in modern ballroom steps, in which the directions of the body relate to the centre lines, the outer lines (the walls) of the dancing space and the ‘line of dance’ (a concept that needs further analysis) itself. Both these rectilinear figures within the chaconne move anti-clockwise around the space, as do modern ballroom dancers, with the dancer herself turning clockwise as she moves. I understand that directions of the body and directions of travel were not codified, in either ballet or ballroom dancing, before the early 20th century, but here are the rudiments of them within baroque dance some 200 years earlier. Of course, this focus on the perimeter of the dancing space raises a question – was the ‘Chacone pour une femme’ created for the court ballroom rather than the stage?
The last sequence I want to look at comes close to the end of the dance, on the very last plate of the notation.
It is both an extension and a variation of the sequence with which this chaconne began, and also draws on another earlier version of that opening sequence in which the coupé à deux mouvements was replaced by a contretemps. This latest variation begins with a contretemps, followed by a coupé battu avec ouverture de jambe, but the dancer turns to the left first and does not turn back to the presence on her second step. Instead, she continues to face stage left and then does a half-turn pirouette to face stage right, followed by a coupé soutenu in the same direction. She then repeats the whole sequence on the other foot in the opposite direction, not really addressing the presence at all. She only turns to face downstage when she begins the final variation of the choreography directly before the presence, and then faces it until the very end of the dance.
I can’t guess at the significance of these changes of direction within this particular female solo, although I do feel that it is important to dance them accurately. I couldn’t readily find anything on the topic of body directions among the sources accessible to me, but I need to take another look. The concept of the presence needs revisiting, too. So, perhaps, there will be a follow-up to this post in due course.
Régine Astier, ‘Chaconne pour une femme: Chaconne de Phaëton. A performance Study’, Dance Research, XV.2 (Winter 1997), 150-169. (Papers from the 1996 conference Dance to Honour Kings)
Francine Lancelot. La Belle Dance: Catalogue Raisonnée (Paris, 1996) [FL]
Meredith Ellis Little and Carol G. Marsh. La Danse Noble: an Inventory of Dances and Sources (Williamstown, 1992) [LMC]
I am pursuing a line of research that has led me to the entrée grave and its use in musical works on the London stage in the late 17th century, so I thought I would take a closer look at this dance type through the choreographies surviving in notation. I have, of course, written about male dancing in other posts and I list these below for anyone who might be interested.
In her 2016 book Dance and Drama in French Baroque Opera (p. 56), Rebecca Harris-Warrick describes the entrée grave as ‘a slow dance in duple meter characterized by dotted quarter note /eighth-note patterns, rather like the opening portion of an overture’, cautioning that ‘“grave” is found in the headings for choreographies … in scores such a piece is generally identified simply as an entrée or an air’. She also tells us that ‘in choreographic sources entrées graves are always danced by men’ (although she does cite an opera in which one may have been danced by women, p. 332).
Here, I am concerned only with the ‘choreographic sources’, as I want mainly to look at the vocabulary and technique associated with the entrée grave. The most comprehensive listing of notated dances is provided by La Danse Noble by Meredith Little and Carol Marsh, published in 1992, which includes an ‘Index to Dance Types and Styles’. The authors point out that ‘classification by type and style is often a problematic matter’ and this is certainly the case with the entrée grave. They list eight notated choreographies as entrées graves, but Francine Lancelot in La Belle Dance identifies only two in her ‘Index of Dances according to the Number of Performers’ – adding another six through her detailed descriptions of individual notations. I include references to entries in both of these catalogues in my list of choreographies below – prefaced LMC for Little and Marsh and FL for Lancelot.
The dances they identify as entréesgraves are not quite the same. Little and Marsh include two solo versions of the ‘Entrée de Saturne’ from the Prologue to Lully’s Phaëton which are not this dance type (LMC4000 and LMC4260) and are not so identified by Lancelot (FL/1700.1/11 and FL/MS05.1/13). These are omitted from the list below. However, Lancelot identifies two male duets which are not classified as entrées graves by Little and Marsh (LMC4220, FL/1704.1/23 and LMC2780, FL/1713.2/36) which have been added to the list. So, between them, these two catalogues identify eight notated choreographies which may be classed as entrées graves. The dancing characters are identified by Lancelot from the livrets for the individual operas from which the music for the dance is taken.
Feuillet, Recüeil de dances (Paris, 1700)
‘Entrée grave pour homme’, music anonymous (AABBB’ A=8 B=9 B’=4 38 bars). No dancing character indicated. (LMC4140, FL/1700.1/13)
‘Entrée d’Apolon’, music from Lully Le Triomphe de l’Amour (1681), entrée XV (AABBB’ A=9 B=19 B’=7 63 bars). Dancing character Apollo. (LMC2720, FL/1700.1/14)
‘Balet de neuf danseurs’, opening section, music from Lully Bellérophon (1679), act V scene 3 (AABB A=B=11 44 bars). Dancing characters Lyciens. (LMC1320, FL/1700.1/15)
Pecour, Recüeil de dances (Paris, 1704)
‘Entrée pour deux hommes’, music from Lully Cadmus et Hermione (1674), V, 3 (AABB A=4 B=9 26 bars). Lancelot notes that the music is a gavotte but implies that the choreography is actually an entrée grave (as indicated by the notation). Dancing characters Suivants de Comus. (LMC4220, FL/1704.1/23)
‘Entrée d’Appolon pour homme’, music from Lully Le Triomphe de l’Amour (1681), entrée XV (AABBB’ A=9 B=19 B’=7 63 bars). Dancing character Apollo. (LMC2740, FL/1704.1/30)
Pecour, Nouveau Recüeil de dances (Paris, c1713)
‘Entrée de Cithe’ (a male duet), music from Bourgeois, Les Amours déguiséz (1713), 3e Entrée (AAB A=10 B=16 36 bars). Dancing characters Scithes (Scythians). (LMC2780, FL/1713.2/36)
‘Entré seul pour un homme’, music from Stuck Méléagre (1709), act II scene 7 (AABB A=8 B=13 42 bars). Dancing characters Guerriers. (LMC4580, FL/1713.2/38)
L’Abbé, A New Collection of Dances (London, c1725)
‘Entrée’, music from Lully, Acis et Galatée (1686), Prologue (AABB A-10 B=13 46 bars). Dancing characters in the opera Suite de l’Abondance, Suite de Comus. (LMC4180, FL/1725.1/12)
So, we have in all six male solos and two male duets published over the first quarter of the 18th century that might tell us something about the step vocabulary and the dance style of the entrée grave. The details given above provide quite a lot of information, before we turn to the notations themselves. All the choreographies are quite short. The longest are the two versions, by Feuillet and Pecour respectively, of the ‘Entrée’ for Apollo to music from Lully’s Le Triomphe de l’Amour of 1681, with 63 bars of music. The shortest is Pecour’s ‘Entrée pour deux hommes’ from Lully’s Cadmus et Hermione of 1674, with only 26 bars of music (and a question mark over the dance type it represents). It is worth remembering that, with the entrée grave, each bar of music has two pas composés of dancing many of which are complex or virtuosic. The music has to be slow to allow the dancers time to execute the steps.
None of Feuillet’s choreographies and none of Pecour’s solos are directly linked with performances at the Paris Opéra. Indeed, Pecour’s version of the ‘Entrée d’Appolon’ states that it was ‘non dancée à l’Opera’. Only Pecour’s two duets record dances performed there – the dancers are named in the livrets for each opera as well as on the head-title for each notation. L’Abbé’s solo for Desnoyer was created for performance in London, as an entr’acte entertainment at the Drury Lane Theatre. Nevertheless, given that L’Abbé as well as Pecour had danced at the Paris Opéra and that Feuillet must also have been familiar with its repertoire as well as its dance conventions, it is worth considering the dancing characters for which the music was originally written as part of any choreographic analysis.
Apollo was, of course, the Olympian god identified with the sun (and with whom Louis XIV identified himself). The Lyciens were simply men of Lycia, celebrating the marriage of the Lycian princess Philonoé to the hero Bellérophon. The Suite (Followers) of Comus were the dancing characters in both Cadmus et Hermione and, probably, Acis et Galatée. The Cithes (Scythians), in other contexts known as warlike nomads from southern Russia, take part in celebrations in Les Amours déguiséz, but they also link to the Guerriers who dance an entrée grave in Méléagre. Between them, these characters carry three separate associations which might also overlap. Apollo represents power and control, yet there is an underlying hint of excess given the god’s many love affairs. The theme of revelry links the Followers of Comus with the Lyciens and the Cithes. The Guerriers, and perhaps the Cithes, suggest the portrayal of power and control. The messages conveyed by the entrée grave may be less clear and fixed than has been supposed.
An analysis of the notated dances reveals shared features. They routinely include some of the most virtuosic male steps – multiple pirouettes (with and without pas battus by the working leg), entre-chats à six and a variety of cabrioles, in particular the demie cabriole en tournant un tour en saut de basque. The first plate of Pecour’s ‘Entrée d’Appolon’, published in 1704, shows both an entre-chat and the demie cabriole en tournant, while the third plate shows two pirouettes, one without and one with pas battus.
All of these entrée grave choreographies include a number of basic steps, between a quarter and a third of the total in the surviving notations. They also routinely ornament such steps with beats and turns, making them far more complex. Examples of both (with some unadorned basic steps) can be seen in the second plate of Feuillet’s ‘Entrée grave pour homme’ from his collection of 1700.
The figures (floor patterns) traced by these male dancers are not easy to interpret. They seem mainly to move downstage and upstage on a central line, with occasional steps to right or left which quickly bring them back centre stage. Many of their steps, particularly those classed as virtuosic, are performed in place, so the dancer does not travel nearly as much as the notations imply. (Steps are, of course, written along the dance tracts, whether or not the dancer travels along these). The few circular figures are usually associated with the demie cabriole en tournant un tour en saut de basque, which makes a turn in the air so that the dancer lands close to where he began his jump. There are a few video recordings of some of the notated entrées graves which show the dancers traversing the stage quite freely, but I am not sure how much these owe to the demands of the dancing space rather than the notation. These male solos are certainly more compact and less varied in their figures than the corresponding female theatrical solos.
The only entrée grave for more than one or two male dancers is the ‘Balet de neuf Danseurs’ by Feuillet, again from his 1700 collection. It is danced by a leading man with eight ‘Followers’ who stand behind and to each side of him as he begins the choreography. Only the first section is an entrée grave, which is followed by two canaries. The soloist dances the first A section and then stands centre back while four of the eight Followers (those who were standing behind him) perform two parallel duets to the second A section. The soloist then dances to the first B section and is followed by the same four men, who resume their duets for the second B section. The dance continues with the soloist, who dances the first and second canary, and it finishes with all eight Followers dancing the repeat of the two canary tunes while the soloist again stands centre back. This choreography may reveal one way in which dancing masters could deploy a group of male dancers onstage for an entrée grave. Here are the first two plates of this choreography.
There is one other entrée grave choreography that I have not so far mentioned, but which is equally relevant to the research project that brought me to this topic. This is the ‘Air des Ivrognes’ in Le Mariage de la Grosse Cathos, a ballet performed at the court of Louis XIV in 1688. The ballet was recorded by its choreographer Jean Favier in a dance notation of his own invention, which was published in facsimile, decoded, set in context and analysed by Rebecca Harris-Warrick and Carol G. Marsh in 1994 in Musical Theatre at the Court of Louis XIV. They suggest that this duet, performed by two male dancers from the Paris Opéra in the guise of Peasants, ‘would have been immediately recognised as a burlesque of the entrée grave, the noblest and most difficult of the theatrical dances of the time’ (p. 55). As their analysis reveals, it is indisputably a comic number even as the dancers attempt some of the virtuosic feats associated with this dance type.
My research into the entrée grave has, necessarily, been limited. It would be useful to know how many more entrées graves there are in the operas of Lully and his immediate successors and which characters performed them, even though the choreographies are lost, but this is a task for musicologists. Although much of my work on baroque dance is practical, the demands of the entrée grave are well beyond my dancing skills – it is a shame that conference papers by those who have danced these difficult choreographies should remain unpublished and thus inaccessible. I have been able to answer some of my own immediate research questions, but my work has uncovered others. Was the entrée grave simply an expression of power and nobility or did it have other contexts with different meanings? How well was this dance known beyond France and how was it seen and understood elsewhere, for example in London? What was it really like in performance?
Rebecca Harris-Warrick. Dance and Drama in French Baroque Opera (Cambridge, 2016)
Rebecca Harris-Warrick and Carol G. Marsh, Musical Theatre at the Court of Louis XIV: Le Mariage de la Grosse Cathos (Cambridge, 1994)
Francine Lancelot. La Belle Dance: Catalogue Raisonnée (Paris, 1996)
Meredith Ellis Little and Carol G. Marsh. La Danse Noble: an Inventory of Dances and Sources (Williamstown, 1992)
Previous Dance in History Posts about Male Dancing:
Money for Entrechats: Valuing the Virtuosic Male Dancer – L’Abbé and Ballon
Money for Entrechats: Valuing the Virtuosic Male Dancer – Delagarde and Dupré
Demie Cabriole en Tournant un Tour en Saut de Basque – a Step Solely for a Man?
Politeness was an 18th-century invention by the English, so for this post I won’t need to bother about the earlier periods. 15th-century Italian ideas like ‘sprezzatura’ and ‘cortesia’ can be safely ignored. We owe the idea of politeness to two aristocrats, Lord Shaftesbury (for the theory) and Lord Chesterfield (for the practice). Politeness should not be confused with good manners. The UK early dance world has this distinction by heart – bad manners are the rule where politeness is concerned.
So, what is politeness as currently practised in the best of the UK early dance circles? It rests on the repeated use of the word ‘never’.
Never show any enjoyment of dancing;
Never walk with energy or grace;
Never do steps properly;
Never pay any attention to those you happen to be dancing with;
Ignorance of these rules puts a dancer at risk of vulgarity. Rameau warned repeatedly against affectation (implying that it lacked politeness and was therefore vulgar). Although he was handicapped by a) being French and b) writing well before the publication of Lord Chesterfield’s Letters (which showed how true politeness should be practised), we should do what Rameau says. He was surely counselling the sort of dour restraint seen at too many early dance balls in the UK.
There are other precepts for politeness that must be followed.
Never put yourself forward for anything to do with dancing;
Never agree to do any dancing without being asked repeatedly (and then decline);
Never fail to point out when others can’t dance properly;
There is, of course, one ‘always’.
Always point out when other dancers fail the test of true authenticity.
I will explore the role of authenticity in early dance next.
In some ways, the List of Subscribers to Kellom Tomlinson’s 1735 manual The Art of Dancing is the opposite to that for Anthony L’Abbé’s A New Collection of Dances. The publications are, of course, quite different from one another. Tomlinson’s manual of dancing is aimed at dancing masters and his, as well as their, pupils. L’Abbé’s collection of notated stage dances was surely intended for the far more specialised audience reflected by his subscribers, most of whom were professional dancers and dancing masters.
Kellom Tomlinson attracted 169 subscribers to L’Abbé’s 68, a third of whom were women (as I have pointed out, there were no female subscribers to L’Abbé’s collection). Tomlinson’s list ranges through dancing masters, nearly half of whom were (or had been) professional dancers on the London stage, as well as engravers, printers and booksellers, alongside members of the gentry and aristocracy. The gentry were predominant, accounting for around two-thirds of all the subscribers. Does this suggest the breadth of Tomlinson’s clientèle, or simply his ability to market his treatise (with or without actual teaching) to a significant number of pupils and their families? Here is the ‘List of the Subscribers Names’.
The publication history of The Art of Dancing is far from straightforward and despite a number of accounts of it (see the reading list below) still calls for fresh, detailed research. I looked at the rivalry between Tomlinson and John Essex, over the latter’s translation of Pierre Rameau’s Le Maître à danser, in my post The Dancing Master’s Art Explained: Pierre Rameau, John Essex and Kellom Tomlinson. Closer reading of Tomlinson’s advertisements suggests a number of issues I did not pursue there. In the context of this post, it is worth saying again that Tomlinson had first advertised for subscribers to The Art of Dancing in 1726, but publication of his treatise was deferred until 1735. Over that period of delay, twenty of his subscribers died, including Thomas Howard, 8th Duke of Norfolk (1683-1732) and the dancing master, notator and publisher Edmund Pemberton (d. 1733). In this post, I will not go through the List of Subscribers in detail but I will look at some of the identifiable groups as well as some of the individuals within it. Tomlinson dedicated most of his engraved illustrations to individual pupils and I will also look at one or two of these.
Within the context of subscribers to works by dancing masters, one group of particular interest is that comprised of other teachers of dancing. Twenty-two men in the list have the epithet ‘Dancing-Master’. Ten of them can readily be identified as professional dancers. L’Abbé is there, as is John Essex, P. Siris and John Weaver – all of whom had themselves published treatises, as well as notated dances and collections of dances. Thomas Caverley was a subscriber, too – hardly surprising since the treatise focusses on ballroom dancing and Tomlinson had been his pupil. Among those dancing masters still appearing professionally on the stage, Leach Glover stands out as one of the leading dancers at Covent Garden who would shortly succeed Anthony L’Abbé as royal dancing master. It is interesting that the other subscribers include John Rich, described as ‘Master of the Theatres Royal in Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields, and Covent-Garden’.
The female subscribers to The Art of Dancing include Mrs Booth, ‘the celebrated Dancer’. She had recently retired from the stage when the treatise was finally published, but may well have set down her name while she was still London’s leading female professional dancer. The list also has Mrs Bullock, ‘Dancer, at the Theatre in Goodman’s Fields’. Ann Bullock (née Russell) had begun her career around 1714 and by 1735 was in her final years on the stage. Like Mrs Booth, she had been among the dancers represented in L’Abbé’s choreographies in A New Collection of Dances in the mid-1720s.
Turning away from dancers and teachers of dancing, Tomlinson’s list includes five engravers. Two of them – George Bickham Junior and John Clark, are recorded as engravers who had worked on the plates added to The Art of Dancing. There were, in addition, two booksellers and a printer – Messieurs Knapton and Henry Lintot (who subscribed for three copies) were the booksellers and James Mechel was the printer. Were they involved in printing and selling Tomlinson’s manual? His title page says only ‘Printed for the Author’ and that it could be ‘had of him’ at his home address.
The feature that most clearly sets Tomlinson’s List of Subscribers apart from its predecessors is the number of individuals who may reasonably be assumed to have engaged him as a dancing master to teach them or their children. They make up around 80% of the whole list and many of them are identified with particular places, mostly in England. Tomlinson may well have taught the aristocracy in their London houses, but other evidence suggests that he travelled to their country seats and taught in the surrounding areas too.
Among his subscribers is ‘The Lady Curzon of Kedleston in Derbyshire’ and plate six in book one is dedicated to ‘my ever respected Scholars Nathaniel Curzon and Assheton Curzon Esqrs. Sons to Sir Nathaniel Curzon of Kedleston’.
Lady Curzon was Mary (née Assheton), wife of Sir Nathaniel 4th Baronet Curzon and the mother of the two boys. This portrait of her with them, by Andrea Soldi and painted around 1738 to 1740 a few years after the publication of The Art of Dancing, hangs at Kedleston.
Tomlinson’s plate was not intended to portray the two boys themselves, who in 1735 were only nine and six years old. As he declared in his Preface to The Art of Dancing:
‘The Figures in each Plate are designed only to show the Postures proper in Dancing, but not to bear the least Resemblance to any Person to whom the Plate is inscribed.’
Did Tomlinson use dancers as models for these images (which he ‘invented’ himself) and, if so, who might they have been?
A chance discovery, made a few years ago in the course of another line of research, provides additional evidence of Tomlinson’s assiduous use of advertising to further his career as a dancing master. An advertisement in the Derby Mercury for 12 December 1734, shows that he had been teaching ‘in and about’ Derby (and so in the vicinity of Kedleston).
He must also have been teaching the young Nathaniel and Assheton Curzon at Kedleston in the summer of 1734. Was that when he secured a subscription from Lady Curzon of Kedleston, or had his teaching and her patronage begun earlier in London? It is surely significant that another ten of the subscribers to The Art of Dancing describe themselves as being ‘in and about’ Derby. Tomlinson evidently established an ongoing professional relationship with the area, for he was still advertising in the Derby Mercury as late as 1756 (Tomlinson died in 1761). This advertisement is dated 11 June 1756:
Kellom Tomlinson has been the subject of research, as the reading list below shows, but I can’t help thinking that there is far more work that can be done on him, The Art of Dancing and his various circles of patrons and pupils.
Carol G. Marsh, ‘French Court Dance in England, 1706-1740: A Study of the Sources’ (unpublished PhD thesis, City University of New York, 1985), see pp. 11-121, 150-155.
A Work Book by Kellom Tomlinson, ed. Jennifer Shennan (Stuyvesant, NY, 1992)
Jennifer Thorp, ‘“Borrowed Grandeur and Affected Grace”: Perceptions of the Dancing-Master in Early Eighteenth-Century England’, Music in Art, XXXVI, no. 1-2 (Spring-Fall 2011), 9-27 (see pp. 18, 20-21)
Jennifer Thorp, ‘Picturing a Gentleman Dancing Master: A Lost Portrait of Kellom Tomlinson’, Dance Research, 30.1 (Summer 2012), 70-79 (see pp. 74-76)
If the music isn’t stiff and dull, it’s twee. Nowadays, dancing happens to modern popular music. Old dancing is to old music and some of it happens to be classical music – that’s the problem, or is it?
There are several distinct periods of early dance, dictated by the surviving sources (if you want to be serious about it).
15th-century (early Renaissance) dancing generally has tuneless and rhythmically incomprehensible music;
16th-century (late Renaissance) dancing is to music that veers between raucous and swooningly dull. Either you are a lawyer enjoying a knees-up or an aristocrat with clothes too heavy to allow you to do anything other than walk very slowly;
Early 18th-century (baroque) dancing is a bit of an exception, because some of the music is fantastic (I love a great chaconne or passacaille). It has energy and emotion – except when it is played too slow or on a scratchy fiddle by a folkie trying to be an early music virtuoso;
17th– 19th century (country) dancing could have very tuneful lively music were it not bedevilled by its ‘folk’ roots which makes it either glacially slow or eternally twee.
Actually, I think that (15th-century apart) the problem isn’t the music it’s the musicians (and perhaps some of the dancers, who think they are musicians as well).
Around 1725, Le Roussau published A New Collection of Dances – thirteen choreographies ‘That have been performed both in Druy-Lane [sic] and Lincoln’s Inn Fields, by the best Dancers’ created by Anthony L’Abbé and notated by Le Roussau himself. The dancers were named on the title page as Ballon, L’Abbé, Delagarde, Dupré and Desnoyer with Mrs Elford, Mrs Santlow, Mrs Bullock and Mrs Younger. All were leading dancers in London’s theatres. The collection provides a series of snapshots of stage dancing in London between 1698 and 1722. It also gives us an insight into the world of professional dancers and dancing masters, through the ‘List of the Masters, Subscribers’ which precedes the notated dances. They are the individuals who made publication possible by paying in advance for the printed copies.
The list of subscribers is on two preliminary pages and has 68 names.
All five of the male dancers represented among the notated choreographies subscribed, but not one of the women – there are no female subscribers to this collection. Given the popularity with audiences of the professional female dancers named on the title page, that absence is worth further investigation. Was it to do with their status within the dance worlds of Britain, France and Europe? Was it that they didn’t teach (or weren’t known as teachers, even if they did)? Were they excluded from learning and using Beauchamp-Feuillet notation? I can’t readily answer any of those questions, but this subscription list reveals the need for a great deal more research and much discussion about the 18th-century dance world.
Of the 68 male subscribers, 48 were British and apparently based in London, six were from English provincial towns and cities, seven were French and five were based elsewhere in Europe. L’Abbé himself subscribed for four copies, while Dezais (Feuillet’s successor as the publisher of notated dances in Paris) took two – the same as Edward Lally (who may have been the seasoned dancing master Edmund Lally, rather than the young Edward Lally – probably his son – just beginning to make a name for himself on the London stage), and John Shaw who was one of London’s leading professional dancers. Shaw died young in December 1725, providing an end date for the publication of L’Abbé’s Collection. It is interesting that, although he had been trained by the French dancer René Cherrier and assuredly had a mastery of French dance style and technique, Shaw was not one of the Collection’s male dancers. They were all French, by ancestry if not nationality. Even more interesting is the fact that all the female dancers were British.
The list of subscribers includes ‘Mr. Edw. Pemberton’, probably Edmund Pemberton, the notator and publisher of L’Abbé’s ballroom dances many of which were created for the Hanoverian court to which L’Abbé was dancing master. L’Abbé’s list overlaps with that of Pemberton’s 1711 An Essay for the Further Improvement of Dancing (which includes a solo version of L’Abbé’s passacaille to music from Lully’s opera Armide). Pemberton’s dedicatee Thomas Caverley did not subscribe to L’Abbé’s theatrical choreographies, perhaps because – although he was a champion of dance notation – he was dedicated to the teaching of amateurs and ballroom dancing. Among the other English dancing masters who were L’Abbé’s subscribers were Couch, Essex, Fairbank, Groscourt, Gery, two members of the Holt family, Shirley and John Weaver. All supported both Pemberton’s and L’Abbé’s collections.
A handful of London’s other male professional dancers also subscribed – Boval, Newhouse, John Thurmond and John Topham, who were to be seen dancing varied repertoires at Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields. We don’t know how much it cost to purchase L’Abbé’s A New Collection of Dances by subscription, but Le Roussau’s title page advertised copies at 25 shillings (around £145 today). Was this within the means of such dancers, some of who were definitely below the top ranks? Was their interest in the notations chiefly to aid teaching, or might they have drawn upon these when creating new choreographies for their own use?
John Weaver had been the first London dancing master to publish by subscription, with Orchesography (his translation of Feuillet’s Choregraphie) in 1706. Among the subscribers to L’Abbé’s Collection several had subscribed to one or more of the three works published in that way by Weaver (the others were A Collection of Ball-Dances by Mr Isaac, also in 1706, and Anatomical and Mechanical Lectures upon Dancing in 1721). A few – Essex, Walter Holt and Pemberton – subscribed to all five of the treatises published by subscription between 1706 and 1735. The last to appear was Kellom Tomlinson’s The Art of Dancing, which he must have been planning if not writing close to the time when L’Abbé’s Collection was published, to which he subscribed.
Apart from a few continental dancers working in London’s theatres, there were no European subscribers to any of the dance treatises published in London – except for L’Abbé’s Collection, which had seven subscribers from Paris and five from elsewhere in Europe. Among the Parisians, I have already mentioned Dezais. His name is the only one that would be unfamiliar to non-specialists with an interest in dancing during the 18th century. Claude Ballon and Michel Blondy were close contemporaries of L’Abbé, as well as being leading dancers at the Paris Opéra from the 1690s and distinguished teachers of dancing. Ballon’s ballroom dances were published by Dezais. Dumoulin may well be David Dumoulin, the most celebrated of the four brothers who all pursued dancing careers at the Paris Opéra. He was noted for his mastery of the serious style. Like François Marcel, he was from a younger generation of dancers. He made his Opéra debut in 1705 followed by Marcel in 1708. Marcel was also making a reputation as a teacher. It is very unlikely that ‘Mr. Dupre, junior, of Paris’ was Louis ‘le grand’ Dupré, in fact he may have been related to London’s Louis Dupré the dancer in four of L’Abbé’s choreographies in the Collection.
The ’Mons. Pecour’ listed must have been Guillaume-Louis Pecour, ballet master at the Paris Opéra. His dancing career reached back to the early 1670s. L’Abbé’s A New Collection of Dances emulates the Nouveau Recüeil de Dance de Bal at Celle de Ballet notated and published by Gaudrau around 1713. Gaudrau’s collection of Pecour’s ballroom and stage choreographies has nine ballroom dances and thirty theatrical dances, to Le Roussau’s thirteen stage dances by L’Abbé. Gaudrau, ‘Mr. Gaudro, of Madrid in Spain’ is among L’Abbé’s subscribers. There is also ‘Mons’ Phi. Duruel, of Dusseldorp in Germany’ – John-Philippe Du Ruel had danced in London between 1703, when he was billed as ‘from the opera at Paris’ and described as a ‘Scholar’ of Pecour, and 1707, the year he danced at court for Queen Anne’s birthday celebrations. It seems likely that he was the dancing master based in Dusseldorf by the mid-1720s.
The subscription list to A New Collection of Dances surely represents L’Abbé’s own circle of dancers and dancing masters – those he knew and who knew him and his work. There were the men L’Abbé must have danced alongside at the Paris Opéra, as well as those he had worked with both onstage and off over the twenty years and more that he had been in London. What about the English provincial dancing masters and those in Europe? Did they know L’Abbé or did he know them, by reputation at least? Were they invited to subscribe and by whom? Did some of those who were more closely associated with L’Abbé act as intermediaries in this process? As you can see, I have rather more questions than answers about this particular list of subscribers.
Quite some time ago, I got into a conversation about dancing. We chatted through a variety of dance topics before we reached early dance, at which point the person I was talking to said (in a tone which brooked no argument) ‘early dance is boring’. Now, this person is not only a good dancer and a good dancer teacher who works in a variety of styles, but has also done quite a bit of early dance. I thought I should pursue the topic, not least because here in the UK early dance of almost all periods continues to wither away for want of fresh interest.
What is so boring about early dance? Here are ten sources of boredom mentioned during our chat, in no particular order.
The music is stiff and dull (if it isn’t twee).
The dancing is stifled by politeness (despite the bad manners of too many participants).
The dancing is strangled by ‘authenticity’ (whatever that means).
Everyone is so serious (if not decidedly miserable).
Too many people can’t dance (and tell you off if you can).
There is a great deal of cultural snobbery (who is this ‘pop’ star?).
The dancing feels like walking to music (and not necessarily in time).
Nobody in early dance tries any other forms of dancing (because it is too vulgar).
People are unfriendly, if not downright anti-social (we don’t want any outsiders here!).
If people aren’t overdressed (at balls) they are dowdy (at all other events).
We talked about several more, but I’ll stop here. None are entirely or always true, of course, but I’m sad to say that I’ve experienced all of them. If it is to survive, the UK early dance world needs to be far more welcoming and a lot more open-minded. And the dancing needs to be a whole lot livelier!
As I believe in living dangerously, I will pursue the ten sources of boredom in more detail in subsequent posts.
I have written about Pecour’s 1701 duet Aimable Vainqueur in at least three posts. This popular dance was mentioned in Favourite Ballroom Duets and Famous French Ballroom Dances. In Aimable Vainqueur on the London Stage, I looked at one strand of the performance history of The Louvre – the title by which Aimable Vainqueur was known in London’s theatres. In this post, I will look at the process of reconstructing the dance, as I have been doing just that using John Weaver’s version of the notation (titled The Louvre), which he included in the second edition of Orchesography in 1722. This is the version I will use for my exploration here.
The Louvre (Aimable Vainqueur) is a loure to music from André Campra’s 1700 opera Hésione. I don’t know whether London audiences knew that, possibly not as they were unlikely to have heard of the opera, but they must have appreciated the tune or the dance would not have survived in the entr’acte repertoire as long as it did. The music in Weaver’s version, as in Feuillet’s original of 1701, has the time signature 3 and the dance notation has one pas composé to each bar of music. Other loures, including the first part of Mr Isaac’s ball dance The Pastorall of 1713, have music in 6/4 with two pas composés to each bar of music on the dance notation. I will return to the relationship between the dance and the music later.
Weaver’s notation has some minor differences from Feuillet’s original, which suggest that he derived his version from Richard Shirley’s notation of the dance, published in London in 1715. Weaver copied Shirley’s floor patterns on the second plate as well as some of Shirley’s notations of individual steps – and he repeated some of Shirley’s mistakes. I assume that Shirley had access to Feuillet’s notation and either he, or possibly his engraver, made the changes. The Louvre has six plates of notation, with the dance divided between them in a way which reflects the music’s structure and phrasing. The music is AABB (A=14 B=24) and plate 1 has the first A, plate 2 has the second A, plate 3 has bars 1-8 of the first B, plate 4 has bars 9-24 of the first B and the second B section is similarly divided between plates 5 and 6.
The notation is clearly set out, although it is not without mistakes and the floor patterns do not always accurately reflect the spatial relationships between the two dancers. Regular users of such notated choreographies will know that it is not possible to entirely reconcile the patterns on the page with those to be performed within the dancing space. Here is the first plate of Weaver’s notation.
All the steps of The Louvre are from the basic vocabulary of baroque dance. The pas de bourée is most often used and the coupé appears in a number of different versions, including coupé simple, coupé à deux mouvements, coupé avec ouverture de jambe and coupé sans poser le corps. Pecour’s figures and step sequences have a classical simplicity (a feature of much of his choreography), although I can’t help feeling that Aimable Vainqueur may have been expressive rather than abstract in performance. The dance takes its title from the first words of an air sung by Venus in act 3 scene 5 of Hésione. The tune was used in the opera for a dance by ‘Ombres de Amans fortunéz’, the shades of happy lovers. At the Paris Opéra, the leading dancers were Claude Ballon and Marie-Thérèse Subligny and it seems unlikely that the choreography they performed closely resembled the ballroom duet created by Pecour for performance before Louis XIV at Marly by several pairs of courtiers – although the two may well have shared some passages. I have to admit that, when I am trying to reconstruct notated dances, it is important that I know about the context for both the music and the dance to help with my interpretation.
The Louvre is in mirror symmetry, except for the last 16 bars of the first B section and bars 9 to 18 of the second B in which the dancers are on the same foot and so in axial symmetry. The sequence within the first B section is of particular choreographic interest and I will analyse it in some detail.
The duet begins conventionally, with the couple side by side and the woman on the man’s right for a passage which travels directly towards the presence. I will use some stage terms to delineate the dancing space, although these are not really appropriate for the ballroom. The dance begins with two coupés à deux mouvements, followed by a pas de bourée and a tems de courante. The sequence is simple but nicely varied rhythmically and calls for a pleasing succession of arm movements. Fewer than a third of the steps in The Louvre are directed towards the presence, although it is apparent that the dancers remain mindful of it throughout – as they would have needed to be both at the court of Louis XIV and on the London stage. The next figure begins with a variant of the pas de bourée en presence, which allows the couple to acknowledge each other for the first time. Then, after another variant of the en presence, they curve away with a contretemps which moves first sideways and then forwards. I am beginning to wonder if such steps, so early in a duet, were a commonplace intended to allow the dancers to address those who surrounded the dancing space, whether in the ballroom or on stage. In The Louvre, the dancers turn back to face the presence, cross (with the woman upstage of the man) and then travel towards the presence again to complete the section with a pas de bourée and a tems de courante.
The second plate (the A repeat) uses much the same vocabulary of steps, although the dancers begin by turning to face one another and travelling sideways rather than forwards. They turn to face the presence for a few steps and then curve away from each other, turn to face and then curve away again before turning to face on the last bar.
Plate 3 begins the B section with the dancers again travelling sideways upstage. Pecour then gives them each a double loop figure, in opposite directions but still in mirror symmetry. They pass one another across the stage, the woman upstage of the man, and end their second loop facing each other up and down the dancing area. The man has his back to the presence. This sequence of 8 bars (five of which are pas de bourée) raises some questions about which way the dancers’ heads turn and where they direct their gaze as they move through the figure. As they approach each other in the fourth bar, before they cross, do they look at each other rather than over their raised opposition arm (which would result in the man looking at the woman and the woman looking away from him)? In the fifth bar, in which they meet and then pass, do they both look over the raised arm towards the presence? Here is plate three of the dance, to give an idea of what might be happening.
In many ballroom choreographies there must surely have been a continual interplay between the dancers and their spectators, as they regarded each other, looked towards the presence or acknowledged members of the surrounding audience.
The last 16 bars of this first B section are on plate 4. They are surely the heart of this choreography, so I will explore the steps and figures in some detail. Here is the notation.
The dancers begin facing one another up and down the room and the man has his back to the presence. The couple keep to their own areas of the dancing space throughout. The step vocabulary is more varied than it has been, with the addition of half-turn pirouettes and balancé. I am not a musician, but much of the music for The Louvre seems to fall into 2-bar phrases, perhaps reproducing the 6/4 time signature found in other loures, which can seem like a call and response. This idea is clearly evident in this section of the choreography. First, the woman dances away from the man on a diagonal, with a contretemps and a coupé avec ouverture de jambe, turning her back and then turning again to face downstage (she could be looking towards him over her raised arm). She changes feet as she begins the contretemps, so that the symmetry becomes axial. The man waits as she does her steps and then responds by doing the same, ending facing upstage again. They then dance together for 4 bars, but the woman does two half-turn pirouettes followed by balancé, while the man does the balancé first and then the pirouettes. This little 8-bar sequence can surely be made expressive, in harmony with the dance’s original title Aimable Vainqueur. Was it part of Pecour’s choreography for the stage? The couple then travel towards one another on the diagonal with a pas de bourée and a tems de courante (echoing earlier pairings of these steps) before circling away and then coming to face one another across the dancing space. They do another balancé, but the man adds an extra step forward, returning to mirror symmetry.
The next figure, using the first 8 bars of the second B section, has the dancers tracing mirror-image figures of eight (although the notation blurs the pattern). They begin with jetté-chassés, followed by two pas de bourée, then jetté-chassés again and a pas de bourée followed by a coupé to first position facing one another.
In the last 16 bars of the dance, Pecour introduces some fresh choreographic devices. Here is the final plate of The Louvre.
The dancers turn away from each other, the man facing the presence and the woman with her back to it, with a quarter-turn pirouette followed by a demi-coupé sans poser le corps. They have returned to axial symmetry with their pirouettes. They travel sideways towards each other and away again, with a varied series of coupés. Throughout this sequence the man faces the presence while the woman faces upstage. They curve away from each other, the woman passing directly in front of the presence while the man is further upstage, and come to face one another again, having changed sides. This sequence also poses challenges on where to look and the notation does not agree exactly on the steps of the two dancers (which may or may not be a mistake). This time, they could be looking towards each other as they approach with a pas de bourée – even though this means that the woman is ignoring the presence as she dances past. The sequence finishes with a coupé to first position, preparing a return to mirror symmetry.
The last six bars of The Louvre seem to be grouped in twos: half-turn pirouette, coupé avec ouverture de jambe, in which the couple turn away from each other and perhaps look towards the presence as they each extend their downstage leg; half-turn pirouette and a quarter-turn into a tems de courante travelling upstage, during which they might look at each other; finally a pas de bourée and a half-turn into the coupé which brings them side by side ready to bow to the presence.
The Louvre is certainly susceptible to interpretative choices which can change the focus of the dance and the interplay between the dancers. There is a great deal of information within the notation, although this is not always clear. There is much that is missing, too – not only the obvious, like arm movements, and the less obvious, like épaulement and the placing of the head, but also pointers to the meaning of the choreography. Is it abstract or is it expressive? We can make choices as we both reconstruct and recreate this delightful dance and try to understand what made it so popular for so long.
The second male duet in L’Abbé’s New Collection of Dances is the ‘Canaries performd’ by Mr La Garde & Mr Düpré’. Here is the first plate of the notation.
The dance probably dates to the 1714-1715 London theatre season, the only period when the two dancers were in the same company and are known to have danced together. This duet was performed during a period of peace with France following a long and debilitating war, as the War of the Spanish Succession had finally ended in the spring of 1713 with the Treaty of Utrecht. More significant, in 1714 Queen Anne died and was succeeded by the Elector of Hanover as George I. The new King arrived in England on 18 September and was crowned on 20 October 1714. One outcome of the change of dynasty was the renewal of theatre rivalries, when the King allowed John Rich to open a playhouse in Lincoln’s Inn Fields and provide fresh competition for Drury Lane. Rich very quickly revealed his entrepreneurial flair and a predilection for singing and dancing alongside the usual fare of comedies and tragedies. ‘Entertainments’ were a feature of his opening bill on 18 December 1714, and several dancers were billed by name for the performance on 22 December. Like Thomas Betterton (with whom he otherwise had little in common), Rich was interested in French opera and French dancers. Over his years as a playhouse manager he would engage a series of French dancers as a draw for audiences.
Charles Delagarde was born in 1687 or 1688 and first appears in a bill for the Queen’s Theatre on 12 December 1705, performing in a Grand Dance led by Anthony L’Abbé. This was probably not his first performance on the London stage. John Essex tells us:
‘Mr. L’Abbe bred up Mr D’ la Garde, who maintained the genteel Part of Dancing upon the Stage many years after his Master, and with great Honour supported the Character the World had long before entertained of Mr. L’Abbe …
Mr. D’ la Garde was happy enough in his Comic Performances, but more graceful and pleasing in the Serious.’
His career is hard to trace in detail, but Delagarde spent some years at the Queen’s Theatre as a dancer and dancing master for the opera there. The bill for Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 1 January 1715 offered dancing ‘By de la Garde, who has not appear’d these six years’, which was not true as he had appeared at Drury Lane as recently as 2 May 1712. His repertoire in his first season with the new company ranged from a Spanish Entry to a Dutch Skipper. Delagarde remained at Lincoln’s Inn Fields until 1718-19, after which he retired from the stage. His value to the company and appeal to audiences is shown by the receipts at his benefit performance on 2 April 1715. His was the sixth performer’s benefit of the season and the first given to a dancer and pulled in £119. 8s. (equivalent to around £13000 today).
Louis Dupré’s origins and background are still to be discovered, although it has long been known that he was not ‘le grand’ Dupré who enjoyed an exceptionally long and successful career at the Paris Opéra. Dupré was apparently first engaged by Rich, for the 1714-1715 season marks the beginning of his career in London. Essex does not mention him, but he seems to have been a versatile dancer with a repertoire that ranged from a solo Harlequin dance to the exceptional technical demands of the solo ‘Chacone of Amadis’ which also appears in L’Abbé’s New Collection of Dances. He danced at Lincoln’s Inn Fields for most of his career, and died around 1735. Dupré’s benefit on 7 April (the eighth performer’s and second dancer’s benefit) brought in £121.5s (equivalent to around £13500 today) making it just a little more successful than Delagarde’s. Sadly, there are no known portraits of either Dupré or Delagarde.
It is worth trying to put these benefit earnings into a wider context. For both Delagarde and Dupré, these are the highest benefit receipts recorded for them (although there are a number of their benefit performances for which we do not have such figures). From this period, we only have accounts for Rich’s Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre – there is nothing comparable for Drury Lane, so we cannot compare the dancers at the two theatres. At Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the highest benefit earnings in 1714-1715 were for the actor Theophilus Keene, whose receipts amounted to £170.1s (around £18000 today) while the actress Frances Maria Knight gained £141.1s (around £15500) and the singer Richard Leveridge received £133.14s (around £14800). It is worth looking more closely at the benefit earnings of dancers around this time – I hope to do this in a later post. Ballon’s 500 guineas were for a five-week engagement (although we do not know how often he performed) and these benefit figures of some fifteen years later provide another perspective on his earnings.
Returning to the ‘Canaries’ duet, this is a dance in 6/8 similar to a gigue but faster. As a fast dance, it was quite popular as a showcase for male dancers. Three ‘canary’ male duets were published in notation. The other two were Feuillet’s ‘Canary à deux’ for two unnamed men to music from an unknown source, published in 1700, and Pecour’s ‘Canary pour deux hommes’ for Piffetot and ‘Chevrier’ (probably the dancer René Cherrier) to music from Desmarest’s opera Didon, published in 1704. L’Abbé’s choreography has 48 bars of music, taken from act five scene three of Lully’s 1677 opera Isis, and a musical structure AABBAABB (A=4 B=8).
The duet opens conventionally with the two men side by side upstage, standing in third position ready to step forward on the outside foot. As with the ‘Loure or Faune’ the choreography uses mirror symmetry throughout. The speed of the dance allows for less ornamentation, but even so around 40% of the steps have turns, some 30% incorporate beats and about 10% have other embellishments like pas glissés or ronds de jambe. Unlike the earlier dance, the ‘Canaries’ has some repetition of steps or phrases, particularly at the beginning and near the end. There are the usual virtuosic steps, such as assemblé battu en tournant, with a full turn in the air and an entrechat-six, and pirouettes, one of which has a full turn with beats while the other has one-and-a-half turns without embellishment. Other steps are featured, for example the pas tortillé or ‘waving step’ in which the dancer uses toe and heel swivels to move from turned-out to parallel positions and back again. Parallel positions of the feet were described as ‘Spanish’ so their inclusion here is perhaps a nod to the earlier history of the canaries. There are several cabrioles, including a soubresaut (a vertical jump in fifth position) with a cabriole followed immediately by an assemblé battu. Here is the third plate of the duet, with pas tortillés as well as the assemblé battu en tournant with its additions. These virtuoso steps are interspersed with plain pas de bourée and a demi-contretemps.
The dance ends with a demie cabriole en tournant un tour en saut de basque – a jump with a turn, a beat in the air and a final step forward. The men end on the same side as they began the dance.
We do not know when or where this choreography was performed, although there was a performance at Lincoln’s Inn Fields which seems particularly appropriate. On 10 March 1715, the King ‘honour’d that House [Lincoln’s Inn Fields] with his presence the first Time since they open’d’. Delagarde and Dupré were both billed to appear. Could they have performed the ‘Canaries’ for Britain’s new monarch?
The ‘Loure or Faune’ and ‘Canaries’ duets in L’Abbé’s New Collection of Dances highlight the virtuosity attained by male professional dancers in the years around 1700. They provide an insight into their power, speed and dexterity and show the intricacy of the ornamentations they were expected to master. The male repertoire of the early 1700s, which has so far been little studied by dance historians, makes demands that go well beyond the technique expected of professional female dancers at the time (at least that is what the notated dances suggest). The vocabulary of steps depends on male strength, of course, but much of the embellishment is located in the lower leg and male legs were clearly visible (as the portraits of Ballon demonstrate). Alongside the sheer physical display of such dancing, ‘Frenchness’ was obviously a key component of its appeal. France led Europe in dancing, whether in the ballroom or on stage, as the notated dances testify, and French ballet and opéra-ballet were widely influential, even in London where French opera never found favour. Despite the late 20th-century focus on the leading female dancers at the Paris Opéra and elsewhere, the men were the real stars at this period.
Does the difference in the monetary values set on the individual male dancers discussed in these two posts reveal something other than the initial shock of the new and its waning with the passage of time? L’Abbé obviously benefitted from being the first leading French dancer of his generation to visit London. He went on to a successful career there and became a widely admired and respected royal dancing master. Ballon made a far greater and longer-lasting impact in one short visit. He seems to have had something extra, which justified the extravagance lavished upon him. He undoubtedly had the style and technique to amaze audiences, but he surely had more – a glamour and sheer physical allure that bewitched those who saw him and persuaded those who hadn’t that no price was too high for the privilege.
This post was originally the second section of a conference paper, given several years ago but never published, which I have revised.
Moira Goff, ‘John Rich, French Dancing, and English Pantomimes’ in Berta Joncus and Jeremy Barlow (eds) “The Stage’s Glory” John Rich, 1692-1761 (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2011), 85-98.
Moira Goff, The Incomparable Hester Santlow (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007).