Tag Archives: Baroque Dance

English Court Balls, 1685 – 1702

Back in 2019, I wrote a couple of posts about dancing at the English court – The Restoration Court Ball and Catherine of Braganza: a Dancing Queen. Recent research has taken me back to the topic of court balls and I thought I would pursue birthday balls in particular up to the accession of Queen Anne. Charles II’s queen undoubtedly helped to establish the convention of balls to celebrate royal birthdays following the Restoration in 1660. As I said in my post about her, the first ball that we know of celebrating Catherine of Braganza’s birthday was held on 15 November 1666, some four years after her arrival and marriage. Several others are known from subsequent years.

By contrast, there is evidence for only one ball in honour of Charles II’s birthday, held on 29 May 1675. There may be several reasons for this (not least that the King’s restoration coincided with his birthday) but the lack of such celebrations is still worth further research.

Charles II died on 6 February 1685 and was succeeded by his brother James, Duke of York. James II was crowned on 23 April 1685 and the Hall Theatre at Whitehall Palace was apparently first prepared for a ball the following October. The new King’s birthday was on 14 October, while that of his Queen Mary of Modena was on 5 October.

Preparations for a ball in the Hall Theatre are recorded in October 1686, but there are no indications of similar work the following year. By October 1688, Britain was in crisis – William of Orange landed at Torbay on 5 November and on 23 December James II sailed to exile in France.

Researchers seem to have paid little attention to court balls during the reign of William III and Mary II, although surviving evidence indicates that such entertainments continued. The couple were reported to have danced at a ‘greate Ball’ held at the court of Charles II on 15 November 1677, not long after their marriage on 4 November. Despite his evident seriousness, William of Orange is reported to have been a good dancer.

Following their joint acceptance of the throne on 13 February 1689 and their coronation on 11 April that year, it was several months before court entertainments settled into a pattern. There was a ball to celebrate William III’s birthday on 4 November 1689, the first of what would become a series. There seems to have been no parallel entertainment for Mary II’s birthday on 30 April the following year, or indeed in later years, although the Queen apparently hosted a ball for her sister Princess Anne’s birthday on 6 February 1691. William III’s birthday was accompanied by a ball at Whitehall Palace in November 1691, November 1693 and November 1694. There may well have been a ball in November 1692 as well but direct evidence that would confirm this does not survive.

The death of Queen Mary II on 28 December 1694 brought court entertainments to a halt. In November 1695 there was no ball for the birthday of the widowed King. In November 1696, William III’s sister-in-law Princess Anne – who had taken on her late sister’s role of court ‘hostess’ – gave a ball for the King’s birthday and there were further such balls in 1697, 1698 and 1699.

Princess Anne’s birthday was celebrated by a ball at Kensington House on 6 February 1698, although this seems to have been an isolated occasion. I have recently been investigating some of the choreographies by Mr Isaac, dancing master to Princess Anne, and it is possible that those that can plausibly be dated to the 1690s include some that were originally performed at the birthday balls for William III.

It is worth reiterating that the birthday balls that were a feature of Queen Anne’s reign and continued throughout the ensuing Georgian era had their beginning in the 1660s, perhaps under the auspices of the royal dancing master Jerome Gahory (Mr Isaac’s uncle). William III himself tacitly acknowledged the importance of French dancing at his court, continuing the precedent set by Charles II, when Le Palais des Plaisirs was given at Kensington House in 1698 and again when the French dancers Claude Ballon and Anthony L’Abbé danced there before him in 1699. L’Abbé was Isaac’s brother-in-law and would continue the line of royal dancing masters when he was appointed to that post by George I around 1715.

Further research among a range of primary sources is needed on this topic. For this post, I have mainly relied on the following secondary sources:

John van der Kiste. William and Mary (Stroud, 2008)

Anne Somerset. Queen Anne: the politics of passion (London, 2012)

Eleanore Boswell. The Restoration court stage, 1660-1702 (London, 1966). Reprint of the 1932 ed.

A register of English theatrical documents 1660-1737, compiled and ed. Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume. 2 vols. (Carbondale and Edwardsville, 1991)

See also:

Moira Goff. ‘The testament and last will of Jerome Francis Gahory’, Early Music, 38.4 (November 2010), pp. 537-542

Jennifer Thorp. ‘Monsieur L’Abbé and Le Palais des Plaisirs: a new source for a London spectacle’, Proceedings of the SDHS Conference 2010, pp. 335-343.

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

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

Choreographic Motifs: The Right Line

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

The Richmond

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

Plate 3
Plate 4 (sequences at top and bottom)

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

The Rondeau

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

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

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

The Favorite

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

Plate 2
Plate 5

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

The Spanheim

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

Plate 1
Plate 3

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

The Britannia

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

Plate 4

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

Plate 7
Plate 8

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

Plate 9

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

Isaac’s Steps

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

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

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

The Richmond

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

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

The Rondeau

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

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

The Favorite

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

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

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

The Rigadoon

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

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

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

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

The Spanheim

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

The Britannia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Richmond:

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

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

The Rondeau:

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

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

The Rigadoon:

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

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

The Favorite:

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

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

The Spanheim:

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

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

The Britannia:

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

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

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

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

Mr Isaac’s Six Dances

A Collection of Ball-Dances perform’d at Court; … All Compos’d by Mr. Isaac and Writ Down in Characters, by John Weaver was published in London in 1706. There is evidence to suggest that some individual dances had already appeared, but it was certainly the earliest collection of dances to be published in London in Beauchamp-Feuillet notation. It seems to have been intended to accompany Orchesographie, Weaver’s translation of Feuillet’s Choregraphie, which appeared the same year. It was also the first collection of English choreographies and close analysis suggests that these had a character quite distinct from the French ball dances being published in notation in Paris around the same time. We have no portrait of Weaver, but there is this print of Mr Isaac, engraved by George White after a portrait by Louis Goupy which seems not to survive.

The Collection of Ball-Dances was ‘printed for the Author’, presumably Weaver who had produced the notations and who had signed the work’s dedication to the Duke of Richmond. It was published by subscription – 47 names appear in the List of Subscribers, all of whom were men and most (if not all) were dancing masters. Both Isaac and his brother-in-law Anthony L’Abbé subscribed and the list is otherwise almost identical to that for Orchesography (see my recent post Subscription Lists and London’s Dancing Masters: John Weaver for more information).

So far as we know, the Collection survives in only two copies now in the USA, at the Library of Congress and Harvard University Library respectively. There is a possible third copy at the British Library, bound with other notated dances, which I hope to be able to discuss in a separate post in due course.

The order of the dances on the title page reflects their order in the volume.

This order is confirmed by pagination in the top right-hand corner of each plate, although three of the dances – The Rondeau, The Favourite and The Spanheim – have additional individual paginations in the top left-hand corner of each of their pages. The Britannia is engraved in a different style from the rest of the choreographies, not only does it have a decorative border on its first plate but the notated steps have different profiles. These details raise questions about the compilation of the collection, which may have been brought together after some of the dances had been notated for separate publication. I hope to be able to discuss some of these possibilities when I look at the individual dances in later posts.

The dedicatee of A Collection of Ball-Dances perform’d at Court was Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond (1672-1723), the son of Charles II and his mistress Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth. In his dedication to the Duke, John Weaver writes ‘from your Grace it was that I receiv’d the first encouragement in the Subscription towards this Undertaking, and all, or most of the following Dances, have been Honour’d with your Grace’s Performance’. This portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller depicts the duke around the time the Collection was published.

Weaver suggests that Richmond had provided some financial support for the publication of the Collection, although his name does not appear in the list of subscribers. Was there another unpublished list of the royal and aristocratic contributors to the costs of publication?

There is also the question of which dances the duke had in fact performed. Weaver’s uncertainty (he writes ‘all, or most’) is perplexing. We know that Isaac was the creator of all six choreographies and he would surely have been able to provide Weaver with accurate information about their performers (Isaac and Weaver were close collaborators over some years). So, did the duke perform only some of the choreographies when they were first given at court, perhaps dancing others at private gatherings to which Isaac was not privy? Whichever ones he did dance, who did he partner?

According to evidence presented by the American dance historian Carol Marsh, in her 1985 thesis ‘French Court Dance in England’, the six dances in this collection may range in date of composition from 1690 to 1706. She draws on the publication date of the music for each dance to indicate when the corresponding choreographies might have been created (the resulting chronology does not relate to the order of the dances in the volume). Isaac’s ball dances thus belong to the court culture of William III and Mary II as well as the early years of Queen Anne. There was more dancing at court in the 1690s than many historians realise, which might also have implications for our understanding of dancing on the London stage during that decade.

Isaac’s six dances have other features which are important for our understanding of ballroom dancing of the period. Here is a summary of basic information about each of the notated choreographies, in the order in which they appear in the Collection, together with an image of the first plate of notation.

The Richmond: 1695 or before. The music was published in The Self-Instructor (London, 1695). The dance is a hornpipe in 3/2, with the musical structure AABBCCDDEEFF’ (A=B=C=D=E=4 F= 8, F’=4 as a petit reprise), and has 52 bars of music.

The Rondeau: c1693. The music was published that year in the 7th edition of Apollo’s Banquet. The dance uses music in a slow 3 and duple time, with a concluding minuet. As the title suggests, the musical structure of the first part is AABACAA (A=B=C=8. A is the slow 3, B and C are in duple time). The musical structure of the minuet is also AABACAA (A=B=C=8, written in 3, i.e. 3/4 rather than 6/4). There are 112 bars of music in all.

The Rigadoon: c1695-1698. An alternative version of the music for Isaac’s choreography was published in Theatre Musick I in 1698 (there is no concordance for Weaver’s version). The dance is a rigaudon and was acknowledged as Isaac’s most famous choreography. The musical structure is AABB (A=4 B=6), played four times to provide 80 bars of music for the dance.

The Favorite: c1690 or earlier. The music was published in the 6th edition of Apollo’s Banquet in 1690, although it can also be found in the Deusiesme recueil des dances et contre-dances (Amsterdam, 1688). It is a chaconne followed by a bourrée. The chaconne has three variations (4+4 bars, 4+4 bars, 8+8 bars) and is played through twice. The bourrée is AABBB’ (A=B=8, B’=4 and is a petit reprise). In all the dance has 100 bars of music.

The Spanheim: may date between 1701 and 1705. The music was published in the Second Book of the Lady’s Banquet in 1706 and there was a country dance to the tune published in 1705. This dance is a gigue, with the musical structure AABBCCDD (A=4 B=6 C=4 D=6), which is repeated to give 80 bars of music.

The Britannia: this was the dance created for Queen Anne’s birthday on 6 February 1706. Although the music was published in 1706 by John Walsh and Joseph Hare together with other ‘new Minuets, Rigadoons, and French Dances, danced at Balls and publick Entertainments’, no copy of this is known to survive. This is another multi-partite choreography, beginning with a section in triple time, followed by a bourrée and then a minuet. The triple-time opening section has the musical structure AA (A=10). The bourrée is also AA (A=14), while the minuet has a rondeau structure AABACAA (A=B=C=8). The whole dance has 104 bars of music.

The music for The Britannia, along with that of many of the dances published after 1706, has been attributed to James Paisible, who may also have provided music for some of the earlier choreographies.

Over the years, I have performed The Richmond and The Favorite and I have worked on The Rondeau and The Rigadoon. I have never danced either The Spanheim or The Britannia, although I am looking forward to learning both of them in due course (albeit on my own, which makes analysis of these duets tricky).

There are another fifteen notated duets by Mr. Isaac, some of which can also be dated to the period between 1690 and 1706, although all were ostensibly first published after 1706. These begin with The Union of 1707 (another choreography I have danced) and end with The Morris of 1716 (a dance I hope to work on at a later date).

All of Isaac’s dances are challenging and even perplexing – as the above short descriptions of the six choreographies in the 1706 Collection suggest. They are very different in style (and even in technique) to the contemporary duets created by Guillaume-Louis Pecour. Were they the product of Isaac’s personal approach to choreography, or do they reflect the idiosyncrasies of English court dance in the French style? Isaac was part French and may well have trained in Paris (he certainly danced in some of the ballets given at the court of Louis XIV), which adds to the questions surrounding his dances. I will try to discuss each of these six dances in separate posts as and when I have done sufficient work on them. I have written on Isaac and some of his dances before and I give a list of these earlier posts below, for those who might be interested.

Earlier Posts

Isaac’s Rigadoon

Isaac’s Rigadoon: the Choreography

Reconstructing Isaac’s Rigadoon

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

Further Reading

Carol Marsh, ‘French Court Dance in England, 1706-1740: a Study of the Sources’ (unpublished PhD thesis, City University of New York, 1985)

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

Jennifer Thorp, ‘Mr. Isaac, Dancing Master’, Dance Research, 24.2 (Winter, 2006), 117-137

Moira Goff ‘The testament and last will of Jerome Francis Gahory’, Early Music, 38.4 (November 2010), 537-542

Subscription Lists and London’s Dancing Masters: Kellom Tomlinson

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.

Reading list:

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)

Subscription Lists and London’s Dancing Masters: Anthony L’Abbé

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.

Reconstructing The Louvre (Aimable Vainqueur)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading List:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading List

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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