Tag Archives: Baroque Dance

Season of 1725-1726: Group Entr’acte Dances at Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields

Myrtillo was performed at Drury Lane on 25 September 1725 and then at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 4 October. At Drury Lane the dancers for this particular group entr’acte dance were never specifically billed, so we cannot be sure how many dancers there were and who performed Myrtillo. At Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the bill for 2 April 1726 named Dupré, Lally, Pelling, Mrs Laguerre, Mrs Wall and Mrs Bullock, who probably formed three couples according to the order in which their names appear, i.e. Dupré and Mrs Laguerre, Lally and Mrs Wall, Pelling and Mrs Bullock – reflecting the dance partnerships during this season.

In the absence of pictorial material directly related to dancing on the London stage at this period, it is worth looking at some of the conventions around the depiction of dancers in a pastoral setting. This is obviously a quite separate area of research and one that I will not try to undertake here. However, this print after Watteau dating to the late 1720s perhaps evokes some of the visual expectations that audiences might have brought to the theatre, as well as some possible influences on the theatre managers and their designers.

The choreography had begun as a ‘Grand Dance’ within the ‘Pastoral Interlude’ Myrtillo, an afterpiece with a libretto by Colley Cibber and music by Johann Christoph Pepusch first given at Drury Lane on 5 November 1715. The afterpiece did not last long, but its ‘Grand Dance’ was first billed separately in the entr’actes on 31 May 1716 when the dancers were Dupré, Boval, Dupré Jr (not the same dancer as at Lincoln’s Inn Fields ten years later), Mrs Santlow (who became Mrs Booth), Mrs Bicknell and Miss Younger. The entr’acte dance Myrtillo was revived at Drury Lane regularly thereafter, and billed at Lincoln’s Inn Fields for the first time on 17 October 1721. It would continue in repertoire at Lincoln’s Inn Fields until the 1729-1730 season and at Drury Lane until 1734-1735.

Myrtillo was usually danced by three couples, although some advertisements suggest that there could be as many as five or as few as two (I haven’t yet checked whether or not the transcriptions in The London Stage are accurate for these latter). It is one of the very few entr’acte dances from this period for which we can be sure of the music, since Pepusch’s original score survives in the collections of London’s Royal Academy of Music. It includes a single dance at the end of the entertainment, which has five sections – a rigaudon, a gavotte, a musette, another rigaudon and a passepied (the pieces are not titled, but their musical characteristics suggest these dance types). I discussed Myrtillo in my book The Incomparable Hester Santlow, so I will not analyse it further here except to suggest that it may have been first choreographed by Louis Dupré and he may well have mounted it at Lincoln’s Inn Fields later.

A key part of any choreography is surely the costuming, which delineates characters as well as helping to shape the steps performed by individual dancers. A surviving costume bill from the Drury Lane Theatre tells us that, in the afterpiece Myrtillo, Mrs Santlow wore a white lustring dress decorated with rose coloured satin ribbon and trimmed with white ribbon roses, while Mrs Bicknell wore only a ‘Paysanes Dress’. The bill also mentions binding for Mrs Santlow’s stays and the whalebone of her petticoat – she evidently wore a hooped skirt. It survives, along with many others, in the collections of the Folger Shakespeare Library, and provides helpful insights not only into what dancers wore on the London stage, but also the hierarchies of the characters they portrayed.

The other group dances at Drury Lane in 1725-1726 were La Follett and Le Badinage Champetre, both choreographed by Roger, and a Turkish Dance (also titled Grand Turkish Dance). Roger may well have been drawing on his earlier career with various companies of French commedia dell’arte players (possibly including that led by Francisque Moylin, uncle to Francis and Marie Sallé). In 1725-1726, he was appearing with one of London’s own theatre companies for the first time and apparently made his Drury Lane debut with La Follett on 23 September 1725. He wasn’t explicitly billed until 28 September, when he was named as the dance’s choreographer and described as the ‘French Pierot’. La Follett itself was billed as a dance ‘in Comic Characters’ and danced by Roger, Thurmond Jr, Boval, Lally, Mrs Brett and Miss Tenoe. The ‘Comic Characters’ were probably drawn from the commedia dell’arte, but I am not going to pursue the meaning of the dance’s title here. It was given eleven performances in 1725-1726 and then disappeared from the repertoire.

The title of Le Badinage Champetre is surely self-explanatory. It was performed by five couples, with (as was usual) the men billed first followed by the women – Roger, Boval, Lally, Duplessis, Haughton, Mrs Booth, Mrs Tenoe, Mrs Brett, Mrs Walter, Miss Lindar. I suggest that this was a divertissement rather than a single dance, with Roger and Mrs Booth as the leading couple and the last two men and last two women as supporting dancers to the others. Le Badinage Champetre proved popular and was danced regularly into the 1730s.

The Turkish Dance given at Drury Lane on 31 March 1726 was performed by five men – Thurmond Jr, Roger, Boval, Lally and Duplessis (the transcription in The London Stage omits Boval, although he appears in the Daily Courant advertisement on that day). Thurmond Jr had probably danced in L’Abbe’s ‘Turkish Dance’ duet in 1723-1724, so could this new choreography (which I suspect may have been by him) have used music from Campra’s L’Europe galante? Or did it perhaps draw on Lully’s music for the Turkish Ceremony in Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, which had been presented at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket a few seasons earlier?

This image from part two of Lambranzi’s 1716 Neue und curieuse theatrialische Tantz-Schul shows four Turks dancing together. Can it tell us anything about either the costuming or the choreography of the Turkish Dance given at Drury Lane in 1726?

At Lincoln’s Inn Fields, in addition to Myrtillo the following group entr’acte dances were performed:

Grand Dance

Shepherds and Shepherdesses

The Rivals (a trio)

Grand Dance of Two Punches, Two Scaramouches, and Three Harlequins

Grand Spanish Dance

Grand Chacone

The Grand Dance was first given on 21 March 1726 with three couples – Dupré and Mrs Wall, Sallé and Mrs Bullock, Lally and Mrs Anderson – listed so in the bills. It was advertised as being performed at the end of the afterpiece, a ‘Pastoral Entertainment of Vocal and Instrumental Musick’ entitled The Fickle Fair One. Was it actually an entr’acte dance, or was it performed in the piece’s closing scene?

Shepherds and Shepherdesses was given on 18 April 1726 and danced by Dupré, Sallé, Lally, Pelling, Mrs Bullock, Mrs Wall, Mrs Anderson. Such dances were particularly popular during the 1720s and 1730s, although this one seems not to have outlasted the 1725-1726 season. The uneven number of men and women seems to point to a divertissement structure incorporating solos and duets.

The Rivals was a trio danced by Francis Sallé, Francis Nivelon and Marie Sallé ‘in the Characters of Harlequin, Punch and Harlequin Woman’. The Sallés must have been the Harlequins, with Nivelon as Punch. The dance was presented only once, on 18 April 1726 for the benefit of Francis and Marie Sallé. It presumably included commedia dell’arte-style pantomime alongside dancing and may have been a short scene. There were always a number of dances each season that were performed only as benefit pieces and this seems to have been one of them.

This print is taken from a well-known painting by Nicolas Lancret of the mid-1720s. It shows Harlequin and Harlequine, with Pierrot rather than Punch (although Lancret did depict Punch in other paintings). Could it give us a flavour of the commedia dell’arte-style dances on the London stage, in particular The Rivals with its three French dancers?

I am reproducing prints in this post because this was how such paintings became known in London at this period.

The Grand Dance of Two Punches, Two Scaramouches, and Three Harlequins was first billed on 19 April 1726 for Lally’s benefit. The dancers were not named until 30 April, when the dance was repeated at the benefit of Newhouse and Mrs Wall. Dupré and Sallé were two Harlequins, with Mrs Wall as Harlequin Woman making up the third, the Punches were Newhouse and Pelling and the Scaramouches Lanyon and Dupré Jr. This Grand Dance was repeated at two more benefits before the end of the season. Dances by commedia dell’arte characters had been popular since the first decade of the 18th century and it would be interesting to chart the changes in that popularity as well as the variety of choreographies offered. Over time, they were wholly absorbed into the pantomime afterpieces and all but disappeared from the entr’actes.

Both the Grand Spanish Dance and the Grand Chacone were added to the Lincoln’s Inn Fields entr’acte dance repertoire at Dupré’s benefit on 21 April 1726. It is possible that both dances were either arranged or choreographed by him. ‘Spanish’ dances were regularly given in the entr’actes, although this Grand Spanish Dance – performed by Dupré, Pelling, Newhouse, Lanyon, Dupré Jr, Mrs Bullock, Mrs Wall, Mrs Ogden and Mrs Anderson – was danced only once. The billing of five men and four women suggests that Dupré may have danced as a soloist with four supporting couples.

The Grand Chacone was danced by four men and four women – Dupré, Lally, Pelling, Dupré Jr, Mrs Bullock, Mrs Wall, Mrs Ogden and Mrs Anderson. Like the Grand Spanish Dance, this choreography was performed only once. Chacones were performed regularly in the entr’actes at London’s theatres from the first decade of the 18th century to the 1730s. Many were solos associated with individual dancers. This Grand Chacone may provide some hints on those danced at the Paris Opéra, although we can only guess at the choreographies performed there or in London. Was the music for both this dance and the Grand Spanish Dance from French operas?

Despite the lack of documentation on the actual dancing, these group dances are interesting for what they tell us about choreographic themes popular in London and with the choreographers working there, as well as the deployment of dancers in the ‘company within the company’ at each of London’s theatres. In my next post, I will take a look at the duets given at Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

Season of 1725-1726: Entr’acte Dances at Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields

In my first post about dancing on the London stage during the 1725-1726 season, I provided some statistics for the number of entr’acte dances performed in the theatres. At Drury Lane there were 28 dances in all – 4 group dances, 1 trio, 13 duets and 10 solos. At Lincoln’s Inn Fields there were 43 entr’acte dances – 7 group dances, 2 trios, 22 duets and 12 solos. I should qualify this set of figures immediately by noting that 5 dances – 1 trio, 3 duets and 1 solo – were given only during the Lincoln’s Inn Fields summer season. Nevertheless, the disparity between the two theatres is interesting since Drury Lane had 91 performances with entr’acte dancing billed, whereas (excluding its summer season) Lincoln’s Inn Fields had 81.

As with the dancers, the figures are not quite accurate, although it is probably next to impossible to be sure exactly what dances were performed. At Drury Lane, Roger danced a solo Peasant, a solo Drunken Peasant and a solo French Peasant. Were these all different choreographies? Were all (or perhaps two) of them the same dance, but performed differently according to the various characters depicted? At Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Nivelon gave both a solo Wooden Shoe Dance and a solo Wooden Shoe Dance in the Character of a Clown. Were these actually the same choreography? There were also two Shepherd and Shepherdess duets given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields during the course of the season, one by Francis and Marie Sallé and the other, titled Shepherd and Shepherdess representing Acis and Galatea, by Le Sac and Miss La Tour. I think that these had different music and different choreographies (which may, however, have been related in terms of steps, figures and even choreographic motifs). The duet by Le Sac and Miss La Tour may have used music by Handel, whose Acis and Galatea had first been performed some years previously, although it would not reach the London stage (in a revised version) until 1731. The duet was performed at their joint benefit on 11 May 1726, when Miss La Tour also played a ‘Set of Mr Hendel’s Lessons’ on the harpsichord as an entr’acte entertainment. It seems likely that the Sallés danced to music from a French opera. I also made a mistake when I included the new Dance of Slaves advertised on 25 October 1725 among the entr’acte dances. When I took another look, I concluded that it was probably danced within Oroonoko which was the mainpiece that evening.

There is an overlap in the dance titles advertised at the two theatres, suggesting a common source for some dances and perhaps shared music, if not similar choreographies. Here are those titles.

Myrtillo, a group dance

Polonese, a duet

Dutch Skipper, a duet

Pastoral, a duet

Saraband, a duet

Minuet, a duet

Peasants, a duet

Spanish Entry / Spanish Dance, a solo

I will use these dances as the starting point to look more closely at the repertoire of entr’acte dances given at Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726. I will deal with each of the dance types – group (including trios), duet and solo – in separate posts. Curiously, there is quite a lot we can discover (and that I can say) about them, even though we cannot reach the actual choreographies.

Season of 1725-1726: Dancers at Lincoln’s Inn Fields

The figures I initially gave for the dancers at the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre during the 1725-1726 season were not right either. There were, in fact, 16 dancers (9 men and 7 women) who danced regularly in the entr’actes during the main season. Of the others, Glover danced only on 14 April 1726. He had been a member of the dance ‘company within the company’ since 1723-1724 but was absent from Lincoln’s Inn Fields this season, apart from this one performance. ‘Pollett’s Son’, who made a single appearance on 25 April 1726 may have been a child dancer – there were other dancers named Pollett in London’s theatres around this time, although their careers need further research. Burny made only one appearance before the end of the main season, but he (together with Morgan and Smith) danced during the theatre’s summer season. I will look at the summer season and its dancers separately.

The following entr’acte dancers were at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726:

Nivelon

Lally

Dupré

Newhouse

Pelling

Dupré Jr

Sallé

Le Sac

Lanyon

Mrs Laguerre

Mrs Wall

Mrs Bullock

Mrs Ogden

Mlle Sallé

Miss La Tour

Mrs Anderson

At least one name in this list is likely to be familiar to those interested in the 18th-century dance.

Among the dancers at Lincoln’s Inn Fields the one most often billed in 1725-1726 was Nivelon, who danced in the entr’actes some 50 times. He was followed by Sallé (46 billings). None of the other men appeared nearly so often – next was Lally (31 billings), Le Sac (22), Dupré (17), Newhouse (15), Pelling (9), Dupré Jr (7) and Lanyon (4). Among the women, Mlle Sallé was the most in demand with 38 entr’acte billings. Mrs Wall danced some 34 times, followed by Mrs Bullock (32), Mrs Laguerre and Miss La Tour (22 performances each), Mrs Ogden (15) and Mrs Anderson (10). Mrs Ogden and Mrs Anderson also danced during the summer season.

As at Drury Lane, each dancer’s repertoire provides clues to his or her status. Nivelon and Sallé were first among the men. Nivelon performed 6 solos, 4 duets and 1 trio, while Sallé danced 1 solo, 6 duets, 1 trio and 2 group dances. Dupré had 2 duets and 6 group dances (he was also billed as a choreographer). Newhouse also performed 2 duets but appeared in only 1 group dance. Le Sac gave 1 solo and also performed 4 duets. Pelling, Dupré Jr and Lanyon were all supporting dancers, appearing only in group choreographies. Among the women, Mrs Wall had the most extensive repertoire, with 3 solos, 7 duets and 6 group dances. Mlle Sallé danced 1 solo (Les Caractères de la Danse), 5 duets and 1 trio. Mrs Laguerre performed in 6 duets and 1 group dance, while Mrs Anderson gave 1 solo and 2 duets and performed in 4 group dances. Miss La Tour danced 1 solo and 4 duets and Mrs Ogden was billed in 2 duets and 2 group dances. None of the women can be described simply as supporting dancers.

All the men, except for Le Sac, danced in the pantomime afterpieces which were performed on nearly as many evenings as entr’acte dancing. As at Drury Lane, the roles performed by these dancers reveal more about their place within the ‘dance company’. They also tell us a little about the specialities of individual dancers. Four pantomimes were given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields during the main season – Jupiter and Europa, The Necromancer, Harlequin a Sorcerer and Apollo and Daphne. The first two are anonymous, but may have been devised by the theatre’s manager John Rich who was himself a Harlequin and took that role in these afterpieces. The second two have libretti by the writer Lewis Theobald. Nivelon’s role was Punch, while Lally was Mezzetin, Pelling was Pierrot and Newhouse was Scaramouch (Lanyon also appeared as Scaramouch). Nivelon’s status was shown by Apollo and Daphne; or, The Burgomaster Tricked (to give the pantomime its full title), in which he was the Burgomaster and thus central to the comic plot. Lally (Edward Lally, who may or may not have been the brother of Michael Lally at Drury Lane that season) and Dupré both took prominent dancing roles in the pantomimes. Dupré also performed as a dancing Harlequin (Rich did not dance).

Mlle Sallé danced both Daphne and Flora, ‘An Inconstant’, in Apollo and Daphne, the only pantomime in which she appeared. Mrs Wall was Europa in Jupiter and Europa and took prominent roles in three more pantomimes. Mrs Bullock and Mrs Anderson also had significant dancing roles. Mrs Laguerre, Mrs Ogden and Miss La Tour did not appear in pantomimes at all. Mrs Laguerre had been one of the leading dancers at Lincoln’s Inn Fields and would be so again, but she seems to have been absent from late November 1725 to mid-March 1726. She was also an actress (the only one among Lincoln’s Inn Fields’s female dancers in 1725-1726) and played 11 acting roles during the months she was present.

So, what of the ‘dance company’ at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726? Le Sac and Miss La Tour made their debuts together and danced a series of duets. They were advertised as ‘Scholars of Mr. Dupre’ and were presumably just emerging from his tutelage. Were they members of the ‘dance company’ or more like apprentices? Francis and Marie Sallé were returning to dance in London for the first time since the 1718-1719 season, so they may have been seen as ‘guest artists’. Nivelon must have been the leading male dancer, and perhaps the company’s dancing master. (Although the meaning and even the existence of that position needs investigation and discussion). Lally and Dupré may have been more-or-less equal, followed by Newhouse and Pelling, then Dupré and Lanyon.

The relative status of the women is more difficult to unravel. Their benefits perhaps provide additional clues (although Rich at Lincoln’s Inn Fields seems to have been less hierarchical about these than the management at Drury Lane), along with their dancing partners. Mrs Laguerre was probably the leading local female dancer, her benefit (shared with her husband, the singer-actor John Laguerre) was on 14 April 1726. She was most often partnered by Nivelon. Mrs Wall shared her benefit with Newhouse, on 30 April, her main partner was Lally although she also danced with Dupré (who may have been one of her teachers). Mrs Bullock shared her 2 May benefit with her brother-in-law, the actor William Bullock. She danced her only duet with Nivelon, but in the group dances she seems to have been partnered by Sallé and Dupré most often. Mrs Anderson’s benefit (also shared) came on 9 May and Mrs Ogden had no benefit at all. They were evidently the lowest ranking of the female dancers in the company.

There are accounts surviving for Lincoln’s Inn Fields for the seasons 1724-1725 and 1726-1727 which provide more information about the relative status of the dancers, based on their pay scales. The 1724-1725 accounts have been analysed in some detail – I provide a reference to the article below – and I looked at those for 1726-1727 myself some years ago (although my notes are not extensive). They tell us that Nivelon earned by far the most among the dancers – much more than even the two Sallés (at least in 1726-1727) – and that Dupré was the next highest paid of the male dancers, followed by Lally. The highest paid of the women were Mrs Laguerre and Mrs Bullock. Apart from Nivelon, none of the dancers received anything like as much as the principal singers in Rich’s company.

The only one of the dancers at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726 for whom we have a portrait is Marie Sallé. Here she is, as a dancer and off-stage.

Reference

Judith Milhous, ‘The Finances of an Eighteenth-Century London Theatre: the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Company under John Rich in 1724-1725’ in Berta Joncus and Jeremy Barlow (editors), “The Stage’s Glory” John Rich, 1692-1761 (Newark, 2011), pp. 61-69.

Season of 1725-1726: Dancers at Drury Lane

In my first post devoted to the 1725-1726 season on the London stage, I gave the number of dancers billed in the entr’actes at the Drury Lane Theatre as 19 (12 men and 7 women). Further research has shown that these numbers were not correct and also revealed some of the problems with the information in both The London Stage, 1660-1800 and the Biographical Dictionary of Actors, which were my principal sources. (I provide full references for these at the end of this post).

For the total number of dancers who appeared in the entr’actes, I first read through the calendar of performances for the season noting down the names as they appeared. When I went back to check the number of entr’acte appearances by each of those dancers, I discovered that some of them were billed only once. The Topham advertised only on 25 September 1725 is identified by the Biographical Dictionary as John Topham, although he may equally well have been his brother H. Topham. In any case, his single performance shows that he was not a regular member of the Drury Lane company in 1725-1726. The ‘Cheshire Boy’ was billed only on 6 January 1726 and his performance record over the seasons suggest that he was an occasional ‘guest artist’ and not a member of the Drury Lane company in this or other seasons. Sandham, who was billed for a single entr’acte appearance on 5 May 1726, may or may not have been the father of the two Sandham children who performed on a number of occasions (the billing may instead have referred to ‘Master Sandham’, his son, but I am not sure). The London Stage also records Nivelon as dancing a Drunken Peasant on 3 November 1725, but the advertisement in the Daily Courant for that day clearly records the performer as Monsieur Roger.

There was also the puzzle of two dancers, one named Rainton and the other Young Rainton. The Biographical Dictionary records them as two different individuals. However, a comparison of their respective dance repertoires in 1725-1726 as well as checks on the original newspaper advertisements show that they were one and the same.

So far as I can tell, the following dancers appeared at Drury Lane throughout the 1725-1726 season, in both the entr’actes and the pantomime afterpieces:

Rainton

Thurmond Jr

Roger

Lally

Boval

Duplessis

Haughton

Miss Tenoe

Miss Robinson

Mrs Booth

Mrs Walter

Mrs Brett

Miss Lindar

 Thus, there were 13 entr’acte dancers (7 men and 6 women), together with two children – Sandham’s son and daughter – making 15 in all. The adults formed a ‘company within the company’, although that concept is not entirely straightforward. Among the women four also took acting roles (one additionally sang), while the men were all first and foremost dancers.

It is possible to characterise the members of this ‘company’ more precisely, through the number of their appearances and their repertoire. Among the men, Rainton appeared most often (52 entr’acte billings) followed by Boval (49), Thurmond Jr (41), Roger (38), Lally (33), Duplessis (22) and Haughton (20). Among the women, Miss Robinson was the busiest (61 entr’acte billings), followed by Miss Tenoe (47), Mrs Brett (45), Mrs Booth (35), Mrs Walter (24) and Miss Lindar (13). Sandham’s son and daughter made 8 and 6 entr’acte appearances respectively.

The individual repertoires performed by these dancers provide a different perspective. Among the men, Roger and Boval performed the most choreographies – Roger appeared in 3 solos, 1 duet and 3 group dances, while Boval danced 4 duets and 3 group dances. Duplessis and Haughton had the narrowest repertoires with 1 trio and 2 group dances each. Miss Robinson had the most extensive entr’acte repertoire of the women, with 3 solos and 4 duets, while (at the other extreme) Miss Lindar appeared in only 1 group dance. These figures point to dancers at different stages of their careers as well as of varying status within the dance ‘company’. It is worth pointing out that Mrs Booth was also one of Drury Lane’s leading actresses and played 21 principal acting roles during 1725-1726. Miss Tenoe also did a lot of acting, taking 15 supporting roles during the season.

Every one of the 13 entr’acte dances also took roles in Drury Lane’s popular pantomime afterpieces. It is with these productions that the status of individual dancers emerges. All three of Drury Lane’s 1725-1726 pantomimes – The Escapes of Harlequin, Harlequin Doctor Faustus and Apollo and Daphne – had been created by John Thurmond Jr. The title roles in Apollo and Daphne were danced by him and Mrs Booth. Roger was Harlequin in both The Escapes of Harlequin and Harlequin Doctor Faustus, appearing in Apollo and Daphne as both Pierrot and, in the pantomime’s concluding ballet, a Rival Swain. Two of that season’s popular group dances, La Folete and Le Badinage Champetre, were created by Roger. It is possible that both he and Thurmond Jr acted as dancing masters to the Drury Lane company.

Rainton and Miss Robinson enjoyed a dance partnership this season and seem to have been the young, up-and-coming stars. Lally, Boval, Duplessis and Haughton, like Miss Tenoe, Mrs Walter, Mrs Brett and Miss Lindar, were essentially supporting dancers in both the entr’actes and afterpieces. The two Sandham children were really a popular speciality act, although their repertoire drew on the same dances as adult performers.

Apart from the frustration of not really knowing what any of the dances performed on the London stage at this period were like, there is also the disappointment of having no portraits of all but a very few of the dancers. Even leading dancers could rarely afford the services of a portrait painter. Among the dancers at Drury Lane in 1725-1726 we have portraits of only one – Hester Booth, the company’s star ballerina and leading actress. Here she is in the familiar Harlequin portrait and portrayed in more classical guise.

In my next post, I will look more closely at the dancers who appeared in the entr’actes and afterpieces at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726.

References

For those who might be interested, the full references for The London Stage (the volume that I used for this post) and the Biographical Dictionary of Actors are as follows:

The London Stage, 1660-1800. Part 2: 1700-1729, ed. Emmett L. Avery (Carbondale, Ill., 1960)

A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers & Other Stage Personnel, 1660-1800, ed. Philip H. Highfill Jr, Kalman A. Burnim and Edward A. Langhans. 16 vols (Carbondale, Ill., 1973-1993)

A Season of Dancing: 1725-1726

I have written quite a number of posts on individual dances or groups of dances performed on the London stage during the 18th century. I thought it would be interesting to look in detail at just one season, to get a more rounded view of dancing in London’s theatres. I have chosen, not quite at random, 1725-1726. London’s theatre seasons ran from September to the following June and during the earlier 1700s there were often summer seasons at one or more of the playhouses that extended into July or August. The information I will set out is mostly taken from the calendar of performances provided by The London Stage, 1660-1800.

In 1725-1726, London had four theatres offering stage performances. Chief among them were the Theatres Royal in Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Only they were allowed to present serious drama, under the patents granted by King Charles II following his restoration in 1660. Drury Lane is shown on the left and Lincoln’s Inn Fields on the right, both depictions are later than the period I am looking at.

Although there is an illustration of the Drury Lane auditorium, following the changes made for David Garrick by Robert Adam later in the 18th century, there is no such image for Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The Little Theatre in the Haymarket presented a variety of entertainments even though it was, to all intents and purposes, unlicensed. The King’s Theatre, also in the Haymarket and almost opposite the Little Theatre, was London’s opera house. The Little Theatre is on the left and the King’s Theatre is on the right. Again, both images are later.

The following images show the auditoriums of both theatres. The Little Theatre is on the left (this image is much later) and the King’s Theatre on the right (this image is dated 1724 and shows a masquerade in progress).

It is interesting to note that the present Drury Lane Theatre occupies the same site as its much smaller predecessor, while today’s Theatre Royal Haymarket is right next to the site of the Little Theatre. Her Majesty’s Theatre is where the King’s Theatre once stood. The Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre has entirely disappeared – it was finally demolished to make way for the Royal College of Surgeons of England in the early 19th century – but its successor is the Royal Opera House, on the same site as the new Covent Garden Theatre built for the Lincoln’s Inn Fields company in 1732.

The 1725-1726 season opened at Drury Lane on 4 September 1725 and closed at the King’s Theatre on 7 June 1726. There was also a summer season at Lincoln’s Inn Fields which ran from 17 June to 23 August 1726. Apart from two isolated performances in December 1725 and February 1726, the Haymarket Theatre hosted a company of French players from 24 March to 7 May 1726. In total, there were 186 performances at Drury Lane, 193 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields (including the 16 performances of the summer season), 53 at the King’s Theatre and 25 at the Haymarket Theatre.

At this period much of the dancing was given in the entr’actes and in the newly popular pantomime afterpieces. A little straightforward statistical analysis provides an indication of the amount of dancing at the various theatres. At Drury Lane, 91 performances (around 49%) included entr’acte dancing and 44 (about 24%) included afterpieces with dancing. At Lincoln’s Inn Fields there were 97 performances with entr’acte dances (around 50%, although every performance during the summer season had dancing) and 85 (around 44%) included afterpieces with dancing. At both houses far less music was advertised explicitly in the entr’actes, but there would have been a great deal of music associated with the performance in general as well as in the plays and afterpieces – this was taken for granted and not mentioned in the bills. About 13% of performances at Drury Lane and 26% at Lincoln’s Inn Fields had entr’acte music advertised. No dancing of any sort was advertised at the King’s Theatre this season. At the Haymarket, the repertoire of commedia dell’arte pieces was quite different from the fare at the other theatres. The distinction between mainpieces and afterpieces, with or without dancing, is not meaningful. Nevertheless, 16 performances (64%) were advertised with entr’acte dancing. Such analyses for individual seasons can be revealing – the patterns that might emerge over longer periods are yet to be investigated.

How many dancers did Drury Lane, Lincoln’s Inn Fields and the Haymarket Theatre employ? The short answer is, we don’t really know. It is possible to chart those dancers who performed regularly in the entr’actes, as well as those who appeared in the pantomime afterpieces, but without the company’s accounts (which rarely survive) it is difficult to be sure of their status.  The leading dancers in the afterpieces were usually those who appeared most frequently in the entr’actes and may have formed ‘a company within the company’. However, some of these professional dancers (usually the women) were also actors. The afterpieces also employed minor players within the company as supporting dancers. In 1725-1726, 19 dancers (12 men and 7 women) were billed in the entr’actes at Drury Lane. At Lincoln’s Inn Fields, there were 21 entr’acte dancers (14 men and 7 women). At the Haymarket Theatre, 11 dancers (7 men and 4 women) were billed in the entr’actes during the short season given by the French comedians. I will come back to all of these dancers in a later post.

Then, there is the repertoire performed in the entr’actes by these dancers. How many and what sort of dances were performed each season in London’s theatres? This is another question which cannot be answered definitively. Dances with similar titles may or may not be the same (a clue sometimes lies in their performers). Dances with the same title but billed as solos or duets may be the same dance (if the billing is obviously inaccurate), or related versions of a dance, or different dances altogether (again a clue might be in the performers). Very occasionally, a dance with a common title might be attributed to a particular dancer, pointing to a specific choreography – although we do not know how much such choreographies made use of conventional elements. With these caveats in mind, I have interpreted the titles of the dances billed in the entr’actes, dividing them into solos, duets, trios and group dances.

At Drury Lane, 28 dances were billed in the entr’actes: 10 solos, 13 duets, one trio and 4 group dances. Only one dance, the Dutch Skipper, was billed as both a duet and a solo. Lincoln’s Inn Fields advertised 43 entr’acte dances: 12 solos, 22 duets, two trios and 7 group dances. At the Little Theatre in the Haymarket there were only 13 entr’acte dances: 2 solos, 3 duets, one trio and 7 group dances. There was, of course, an overlap in titles (and perhaps choreographies, too) between the three theatres. I will return to these dances in a later post.

In 1725-1726, the most significant dancing beyond the entr’actes came in the pantomime afterpieces. There were three pantomimes in repertoire at Drury Lane: The Escapes of Harlequin, Harlequin Doctor Faustus and Apollo and Daphne. All were by John Thurmond Jr and none were new. At Lincoln’s Inn Fields, seven afterpieces included dancing – one of these, St. Ceciliae; or The Union of the Three Sister Arts, was a masque and not a pantomime. The Lincoln’s Inn Fields pantomimes were Jupiter and Europa, The Necromancer, Harlequin a Sorcerer, Apollo and Daphne, The Cheats; or, The Tavern Bilkers and The Jealous Doctor. Only Lewis Theobald’s Apollo and Daphne was new. I will return to all these pantomimes in a later post.

There is one final element in this survey of dancing in London’s theatres in 1725-1726. Some 50 to 60 mainpiece plays, or more, were given each season at the two patent theatres. A small number of these included a significant amount of dancing (enough to be mentioned in the bills with the dancers listed) and were performed season after season over many decades. At Drury Lane, Macbeth (Shakespeare’s play, but with significant revisions and additions by Sir William Davenant) and The Tempest (an adaptation of Shakespeare’s play by Davenant, Dryden and Thomas Shadwell) were part of the repertoire. At Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Macbeth (but not The Tempest), The Prophetess, The Island Princess and The Emperor of the Moon were given. In 1725-1726 there was also The Pilgrim, with the group dance The Humours of Bedlam (which I have written about elsewhere). The Capricious Lovers by Gabriel Odingsells was given with ‘proper Dances’ (that is dances within the play) but it did not last beyond three performances. I will continue to look at these mainpieces with dancing in separate blog posts.

As you can see from this brief analysis, dancing formed a significant part of the entertainments given each evening in London’s theatres but it is not straightforward to chart what was danced, when and by whom. It is safe to say, however, that although much of that dancing was very different to what we see today, it influenced many aspects of the enormous range of dance styles we have in the twenty-first century.

The ‘Z’ Figure of the Minuet: Taubert and Tomlinson

I am not going to undertake a lengthy and exhaustive investigation of the ‘Z’ figure of the minuet. My aim is simply to discover the origins of the version I originally learned. Here, I will look at two sources in particular, and glance at some others.

The earliest notated source for a minuet comes from Jean Favier’s notation for Le Mariage de la Grosse Cathos of 1688. This minuet is for four dancers and was performed within an entertainment given by professional dancers at the court of Louis XIV. It thus falls outside my present topic. Details can, of course, be found in Musical Theatre at the Court of Louis XIV: Le Mariage de la Grosse Cathos by Rebecca Harris-Warrick and Carol G. Marsh, a study published in 1994 which includes a facsimile reprint of the manuscript.

The treatise by I.H.P. ‘Maître de danse, oder Tantz-Meister’, published in Glueckstadt and Leipzig in 1705, contains the ‘Menuet d’Anjou’ a ballroom duet for a couple. This is a choreographed dance rather than a conventional ballroom minuet, so it too falls outside my topic. The dance and its notation, together with a translation of the treatise can be found in Barocktanz / La Danse Baroque / Baroque Dance, edited by Stephanie Schroedter, Marie-Thérèse Mourey and Giles Bennett and published in 2008.

The next treatise to deal with the ballroom minuet, and apparently the earliest to look at the basic form of this dance, is Gottfried Taubert’s Rechtschaffener Tantzmeister published in Leipzig in 1717. This valuable treatise is now available in an English translation by Tilden Russell published in 2012. Taubert turns to the minuet in chapter 30 of his second book. After a lengthy discussion of the various minuet steps, he discusses the ‘principal figure of the minuet’ in chapter 33. He gives a short history of the ‘Z’ figure and identifies three versions currently in use – a reversed ‘S’, a ‘2’ and the ‘Z’. For the reversed ‘S’, Taubert prescribes sideways pas de menuet for the first semi-circle and forward pas de menuet for the second. For the ‘2’ he suggests various combinations of sideways and forwards pas de menuet, but he also says:

‘Some use only side steps throughout, in this way: three or four to the left, bringing them down to the beginning of the straight line, along which they turn and make one or two side steps to the right, thus using no forward steps in the principal figure, which I find displeasing. Also it should be remembered that nowadays many do not make the turn to the left [at the straight line], but instead, after having passed by the woman with side steps, always keeping her before their eyes, they dance backward, and then sideways to the right.’ (p. 640 original text, p. 529 translation)

So, we have another backwards step – although Taubert’s sequence is not the same as Rameau’s.

For the ‘Z’ version of the figure, Taubert says ‘Two side steps to the left are made along the upper horizontal line, two or three forward steps along the long middle line, and another one or two side steps to the right along the lower horizontal line’ (p. 640, p. 529. Taubert is describing the figure as danced by the man). He adds ‘Recently it was reliably reported to me that two royal personages were seen dancing this figure with nothing but side steps from right to left, circling round each other at the same time; but I would never lightly advise anyone to try this’. Taubert also notates the ballroom minuet – the ‘Z’ figure looks like this (p. 658, p. 541):

As you can see, there are two pas de menuet à trois mouvements to the left, two more forward and two pas de menuet à deux mouvements to the right having turned around the left shoulder. The half turn is divided into two quarter-turns performed over the final demi-jeté of the fourth pas de menuet and first demi-coupé of the fifth.

In Le Maître a danser, some eight years later, Rameau explained that Guillaume-Louis Pecour had been responsible for changing the original reversed ‘S’ to a ‘Z’ figure (chapter 22, p. 84).

In his Trattato del Ballo Nobile published in Naples in 1728, Giambatista Dufort has a second section devoted to the minuet and looks at the ‘Z’ figure in chapter 5. Essentially, he prescribes two pas de menuet to the left, two more to cross and then two to the right. He does not mention any backwards steps.

Kellom Tomlinson published The Art of Dancing in London in 1735 (although he claimed to have completed the work in 1724, before Rameau published Le Maître a danser). He provides a detailed account of the steps and figures of the minuet in book two, reaching the ‘Figure of S reversed’ in chapter 7. Tomlinson uses eight pas de menuet for the figure. He begins with four pas de menuet à trois mouvements sideways – two to the left and two on the diagonal to meet in the middle – followed by four pas de menuet (‘one and a fleuret’) forwards to complete the ‘S reversed’. He adds that the last of the eight pas de menuet may be made sideways. Like Taubert, Tomlinson includes a notation for his ballroom minuet with two ‘S reversed’ figures in which he varies the last step.

Tomlinson also includes several engravings showing couples dancing the minuet. In this one they are about to begin the ‘S reversed’ figure.

Not only does the ‘Z’ figure include a pas de menuet backwards, in more than one treatise, but the type of step as well as the number used varies according to the different dancing masters who wrote about it in the early 1700s. I wish I had known this when I was learning the dance. The version I learned most closely resembles Taubert’s notation, although I do not remember him ever being cited as the source. I am not going to take this particular line of enquiry any further, at least for the time being, but I think there is ample material for some practical research by those who would like to get a little closer to how the minuet might have been danced at balls and assemblies in the 18th century.

The ‘Z’ Figure of the Minuet: Pierre Rameau

I recently saw a demonstration of the ‘Z’ figure of the minuet that gave me pause for thought. Citing Pierre Rameau and the diagram in Le Maître a danser, the figure was danced with two pas de menuet sideways to the left, two forwards on the diagonal and one backwards to the right. So far as I can remember, I have never been taught the ‘Z’ figure in this way, but instead of rushing to the conclusion that the interpretation must be wrong, I decided to do some research. A quick look on YouTube revealed very few videos of the ballroom minuet, let alone Rameau’s version of this dance. Of the two videos I found, the couple in one danced the final section of the ‘Z’ figure with two pas de menuet sideways to the right (turning around the right shoulder for the necessary quarter-turn), while the other couple did indeed do a single pas de menuet backwards. It was interesting that the latter video was far more recent than the former, so was I looking at a fresh interpretation of Rameau’s instructions?

Rameau deals with the figures of the ballroom minuet in his chapter XXII, ‘Du Menuet, & de la maniere de le danser régulierement’. Here is Rameau’s illustration of the ‘Z’ figure – ‘Figure Principal du Menuet’ – from this chapter.

As you can see, it says that both dancers perform two pas de menuet sideways to the left, two more forwards to pass one another by the right shoulder ‘en effaçant l’épaule’ and one backwards to the right (‘un en arriere du coté droit’).

When we turn to Rameau’s text, his written instructions are less clear.

Although he includes the numbers 1, 2 and 3 on his diagram, Rameau refers only to 2 and 3 in his text. In fact, he says nothing at all about the final step of the ‘Z’ figure. Is it possible that a part of Rameau’s instructions was omitted when the book was printed? So far as I am aware, there has been no detailed bibliographical study of this text that might address such issues.

I turned to John Essex’s 1728 translation of Rameau’s treatise, The Dancing-Master, to see whether he might have made good the omission in the original. Essex reproduces Rameau’s diagram, titling it ‘The fourth & Principal Figure of the Menuet’ and he too shows ‘two menuet Steps to ye left’ followed by ‘two forward, shading the shoulder’, but he has ‘two backwards to the right’.

Essex has made a change to Rameau’s illustration, but he merely translates the associated text without alteration.

Although Rameau’s treatise was published in 1725, was he perhaps reflecting an earlier French convention for the performance of the ‘Z’ figure? Was Essex merely making a faithful translation, or was he referring to a convention still current in English performances of the minuet?

Why was I taught a ‘Z’ figure with two pas de menuet sideways to the left, two forwards on the diagonal and two sideways to the right? Does the answer lie in other dance manuals of the early 18th century rather than in an idiosyncratic approach to dance reconstruction? I will turn to the other sources for the ‘Z’ figure in a new post.

The Most Popular Entr’acte Dances on the London Stage, 1700 – 1760

For many years, I have been bringing together what information I can find about the entr’acte dances given in London’s theatres between 1700 and 1760, although I have recently been extending my attention backwards to the Restoration and forwards as far as 1800 (occasionally even beyond that). My work is based on the calendar of performances in The London Stage, 1660-1800, but I am trying to add details of music, dancers, notated dances and other sources where and when I can. So far as I can tell, there is no detailed study of dancing on the London stage from the late 17th to the early 19th century and I need to try to fill this gap for my work as a dance historian of the period.

I thought I would look through my several files to find the dances that were most popular during the first six decades of the 18th century. What follows is necessarily incomplete and subjective. I have written posts on some of the dances mentioned, which I will refer to as I go. I have grouped together those dances which plausibly have a common theme and I hope to return to some of them in more detail with later posts.

This advertisement in the Daily Post for 30 April 1726 shows the bill offered at Lincoln’s Inn Fields that evening, with dances at the end of each act of the tragedy.

Comic Dances and Serious Dances

Comic Dances and Serious Dances seem, at first sight, to represent the opposite extremes of the entr’acte repertoire. In some ways they do, and they are sometimes billed together in ways that suggest that they were seen that way by 18th-century audiences. The title Serious Dance is perhaps easier to interpret. These were less often advertised than Comic Dances and many can plausibly be linked to belle danse style and technique. My post Serious Dancing looks at John Weaver’s discussion of the genre.

Comic Dances were among the most popular of the entr’acte entertainments in London’s theatres throughout the 18th century, although it is next to impossible to define exactly what was meant by a ‘comic’ dance. Few clues are provided in the advertisements, although there are hints that ‘comic’ quite often indicates an element of pantomime or points to a speciality act with dancing but performed by a player who was not, first and foremost, a dancer.

Grand Dances and Ballets

The Grand Dance emerges during the Restoration period. Most such dances billed in the 18th century are advertised with no details other than a list of performers, although some add ‘Grand Dance’ to a more specific title which takes them into another genre. For example, the Grand Dance of Momus originated in Momus Turn’d Fabulist; or, Vulcan’s Wedding by Ebenezer Forrest, first given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1729-1730. It continued as an entr’acte dance until 1745-1746. The cast lists in later bills suggest that it was a mini-ballet (in the modern sense of the term).

The Ballet first appears in London at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1726-1727, when ‘A Grand Ballet by ten Persons of different Characters’ was given for the benefit of Michael Poitier. Like the Grand Dances, the advertisements rarely give any clues to the nature of Ballets other than a list of dancers. The title Grand Dance seems, over time, to have given way to Ballet or Grand Ballet. The last two continued to be advertised into the 1780s.

My posts on this topic include Grand Ballet, Grand Dance and Serious Dance and The Rise and Fall of the Grand Dance on the London Stage.

Dance Types: Chacone, Hornpipe, Loure, Minuet and Tambourin

This heterogeneous list indicates part of the range of dance types to be seen on the London stage. The Chacone, Loure and Minuet may, of course, be classed as belonging to the genre of French belle danse. The Loure is actually the Louvre – Pecour’s famous duet Aimable Vainqueur – see my post Aimable Vainqueur on the London Stage. Like the Louvre, the Minuet was a staple of the benefit repertoire. I have also written about Minuets on the London Stage and Minuets Mocked.

The Chacone makes its first recorded entr’acte appearance in 1702-1703, when Mrs Elford (who was regularly partnered by Anthony L’Abbé) danced one as a solo at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. It was later taken up by Ann Bullock, who performed a solo Chacone regularly from 1714-1715 to 1734-1735. There were also Chacones given as duets and group dances – the latter often including commedia dell’arte characters, underlining the diverse nature of the musical form. The group Chacones given in the 1770s and 1780s were probably rather different choreographically from the earlier dances.

The Hornpipe is unlikely to have been the pastoral dance in 3/2 known from the notations published in London in the early 1700s, with one possible exception in the form of a solo choreographed by L’Abbé for a ‘Gentleman’ which may have been related to the dance performed at Drury Lane in 1713 ‘by a Gentleman for his Diversion’. The notation published in the mid-1720s reveals a lively and demanding dance with pas battus and a cabriole in the opening sequence.

The Hornpipe advertised regularly from the 1720s to the 1750s and added to The Beggar’s Opera, as well as being given at benefits to the end of the 18th century, was a duple-time dance with nautical associations. It was really a speciality dance performed by dancing actors.

The Tambourin or Tambourine (as it was often billed) made its debut on the London stage as a solo performed by Marie Sallé at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1730-1731. Its alternative title French Tambourin suggests links with the Paris Opéra. It was subsequently danced as a solo or a duet, sometimes as a group dance, into the 1750s. The Tambourine dances performed in London’s theatres into the 1780s seem to have taken the dance in a new direction by making it closer to a speciality dance.

National Dances: Dutch, Irish and Scotch

Many entr’acte dances linked to different nations were given in London’s theatres from the early 1700s into the 1760s and beyond. Among the Dutch Dances the most popular seems to have been the Dutch Skipper for which the earliest known billing was in 1703-1704 when it was danced by Mr and Mrs du Ruel (he was French and she was English). There were also Dutch Clown, Dutch Sailor and Dutchman and Wife, among others. The Dutch Skipper as well as the Dutch Sailor call to mind the illustrations in Lambranzi’s Neue und curieuse theatrialische Tantz-Schul of 1716. Here is a ‘Dutch Sailor’ duet from part two.

Irish dances appear in the bills as early as 1700, although the most popular became the Fingalian which began its stage career in 1724-1725 and survived (doubtless in a succession of choreographies) into the early 1780s.

Neither Dutch Dances nor Irish Dances were anywhere near as popular as Scotch Dances. In the entr’actes these were initially associated with solo female dancers – Mrs Bicknell (who was from Scotland) in the first decade of the 18th century and Ann Bullock from 1719-1720 to 1740-1741. There were duets as well as solos and group dances as well, notably the Scotch Dance choreographed by Leach Glover for three couples which held the stage from the early 1730s for around ten years. Dances like these were performed into the 1760s and I suggest that they drew their identity primarily from their music. The ‘Scotch’ dances that claimed the stage from the 1780s seem to have emerged from a changed cultural milieu, in which costume as well as music may have proclaimed their nationality.

Commedia dell’arte Characters: Harlequin, Scaramouch and Pierrot

Three commedia dell’arte characters made their mark on the entr’actes. Harlequin and Scaramouch arrived before 1700, as characters in plays rather than dancing masks. Both had migrated to the entr’actes by 1700 and continued into the 1730s. Harlequin often appeared solo, or in scenes with other commedia dell’arte characters. Female Harlequins, Harlequines, were popular too. Although Scaramouch also appeared solo, one of the most popular entr’acte offerings in the early decades of the 18th century was Four Scaramouches. When pantomime afterpieces became the rage in the 1720s, they were centred around Harlequin and Scaramouch who were thereafter seen less often in the entr’actes.

Pierrot seems to have been introduced in 1723-1724 by Francis and Louis Nivelon as Two Pierrots. There was also the Pieraite, a duet for a man and a woman billed from the mid-1720s to the later 1730s. Pierrot Dances continued into the mid-1750s and were occasionally revived until 1770-1771.

This painting, ascribed to Philippe Mercier (1689-1760), perhaps gives an idea of Harlequin, Harlequine and Pierrot as they appeared on the London stage.

Scaramouch was depicted several times by Lambranzi, in this plate he performs his characteristic long step.

Punch made a number of entr’acte appearances over the years, but he was never as popular as his fellow masks.

Peasants, Sailors and Shepherds

Peasant Dances were by far the most popular in London’s theatres. Leaving aside the Drunken Peasant, which became a speciality turn by dancing actors, there were dancing Peasants of nationalities ranging from Bohemia to Venice. French Peasants were the most popular, although there were many Peasant Dances with no national connotations. These various dances were seen from the 1710s to the 1760s. Did the male French Peasants perhaps look like this early 18th-century depiction of Henri Dumoulin?

Dancing Sailors go back to the Restoration and before. Sailor Dances remained popular into the 1750s and were quite frequently revived into the 1790s. Some of these choreographies had national overtones – there were French Sailors (and Matelots), Grecian Sailors (from an opera with a plot from classical antiquity) and even a Russian Sailor. Such dances were likely to have been closer to French belle danse than the speciality hornpipes mentioned above.

Shepherds had featured as dancing characters for many decades before they reached the London stage, although Shepherd Dances only really began to be billed in the entr’actes during the 1720s. There were, of course, also Bergers and Bergeries as well as a number of Pastoral Dances. Did Shepherds and Shepherdesses on the London stage emulate their French counterparts, as in this depiction by Watteau?

Entr’acte Dances on the London Stage

The challenge with all of the entr’acte dances given in London’s theatres is to uncover the steps, figures, style and technique they may have used and to get an idea of the choreographies that depicted them. Some have links to the notated dances, while many relate to music popular at the time (what we would now regard as classical music, as well as popular and traditional tunes). All the dances I have mentioned were affected by their political as well as their cultural context. Hopefully, further research will not only reveal more about the dances but also show more clearly their influence on the other dancing to be seen in London’s theatres.

Dances on the London Stage: The Running Footman

The bill at the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre for 16 November 1723 included, among the entr’acte dances, a Running Footman’s Dance by Nivelon and Mrs Rogier. It was evidently quite popular, for it was given ten times that season (two of the performances were billed as a solo by Nivelon). It was copied at the Richmond Theatre the following summer, where it was danced as a solo by Haughton.

The running footman must have cut a conspicuous figure on the streets of London and elsewhere. Footmen were part of aristocratic and wealthy entourages and running footmen were highly prized. All footmen were young men with good carriage and good physiques, but running footmen were particularly fit and strong as they were employed to run just ahead of their master’s coach on a journey, in a livery designed to attract attention. A satirical piece in the Universal Spectator describes them as wearing ‘fine Holland Drawers and Waistcoats, Thread Stockings, a blue silk Sash fringed with Silver, a Velvet Cap with a great Tassel’ and carrying ‘a Porter’s Staff with a large Silver Handle’. The details of their livery obviously varied according to their employer, but such features as the cap and the staff made them instantly recognisable, as in this undated image.

The running footman also ran errands in town and was entered into competitive foot races by his employer. These events included wagers and could be elaborate. They were regularly reported in the newspapers during much of the 18th century, as in Applebee’s Original Weekly Journal for 24 September 1720.

It was surely such exploits that gave Nivelon the idea for the dance – it seems likely that he was the original choreographer.

Nivelon and Mrs Laguerre (as Mrs Rogier became following her remarriage in 1724) performed the Running Footman from 1723-1724 until 1727-1728, with a brief revival in 1732-1733. The fact that it was a duet, when put together with the duties of real running footmen, suggests that the dance had a narrative element and was not simply a display of dancing skills. The Running Footman would feature among entr’acte dances in London’s theatres until the 1763-1764 season. Many of these dances were solos, which does suggest virtuosic display, and in 1750-1751 the Running Footman was given as a male duet which may well have mimicked the races mentioned above. The last mention of the Running Footman as an entr’acte dance was on 4 May 1764, when Robert Aldridge danced with Miss Baker and supporting dancers (indicated, as usual, only by ‘&c.’). Did this choreography make use of a narrative? Could it have looked back to Nivelon’s original dance?

Music for a Running Footman country dance can be found in several sources of the mid-18th century. The earliest to bear the title seems to be that in The Compleat Country Dancing-Master published by John Walsh in 1731, where it has the title Running Footman’s Jigg. Could this be the tune used by Nivelon? All these country dances have a time signature of 6/8.

The Running Footman also seems to have been absorbed into an entr’acte dance named The Medley. There were a couple of early entr’acte dances with that title, performed in 1702-1703 and 1734-1735 respectively, but the one that is relevant to this post must be the ‘New Entertainment call’d The Medley, by Slingsby, Miss Baker, &c.’ given at Drury Lane on 20 November 1764. This was performed more than forty times that season although oddly, given its popularity, it wasn’t revived until 1767-1768 (with different performers). It was subsequently given in 1770-1771, when it was performed by ‘Scholars of Giorgi’ (he was a leading dancer at Drury Lane). That version of The Medley continued in repertoire into the 1772-1773 season. All of these performances were at Drury Lane. The Medley moved to the Theatre Royal, Haymarket for 1774-1775 and 1775-1776 and took a last bow there in 1783-1784 when it was danced by ‘Master Giorgi, Miss Byrne and others’. There are no hints in the surviving advertisements about the theme of the dance, although the title suggests that it included several different choreographies.

At least one version of The Medley was performed in the provinces, where it was advertised with full details. Here is the relevant section from the advertisement in the Derby Mercury for 28 February 1782. My thanks to Keith Cavers for providing both the information and the reference.

The list of characters in The Medley suggests that it was drawn not only from entr’acte dances popular on the London stage, but also from well-known dances within afterpieces. Were these linked together by a narrative thread spun by the Running Footman himself? Mr West was the dancer and choreographer William West (born circa 1757). As I write, I haven’t been able to find evidence that he did succeed Slingsby in The Medley at Drury Lane – unless he was one of the unnamed ‘Scholars of Giorgi’ who performed it there in the early 1770s (when West would have been in his mid-teens).

The Running Footman made two other stage appearances in the late 18th century. One was at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket on 8 August 1781 in an afterpiece titled Medea and Jason. This was a parody of Noverre’s well-known ballet, which had been given in London for the first time at the King’s Theatre earlier that season. The Haymarket cast included the ‘Prince de la Cour (as a Running Footman)’ danced by Master Byrn. This production may be worth returning to in a later post. The Running Footman’s last appearances seem to have been in another afterpiece, Here and There and Everywhere, also given at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, from 31 August 1785. The role was taken by Master Goosetree. In both cases, the Running Footman seems to have been performed by a boy rather than an adult male dancer.

There is another image of the running footman in a series of four studies by the Italian artist Giovanni Paolo Panini, possibly dating to the mid-1750s. They provide an idea of the figure represented on the London stage by Nivelon, Slingsby and some of the other dancers who performed the Running Footman.

Minuets Mocked

Among the many minuets danced in London’s theatres in the course of the 18th century, two have titles that single them out from the majority. A Mock Minuet was performed at Covent Garden on 12 April 1733 and lasted into the following season. A Grotesque Minuet was given a single performance at the same theatre on 20 April 1758. What might their titles tell us about these particular entr’acte dances, or about minuets performed on the London stage more generally?

According to the advertisement in the Daily Journal on 12 April 1733, the performance at Covent Garden included a ‘Mock Minuet by Nivelon and Mrs Laguerre, introduced by Pelling, Mrs Pelling, Newhouse, Miss La Tour, De la Garde, Mrs Ogden, Lesac, Miss Baston’ to be given at the end of act 4 of Thomas Otway’s tragedy Venice Preserv’d.

Mock Minuet Daily Journal 12 Apr 1733 (2)

The entr’acte dance was given another six performances before the end of the season, with several different mainpieces although all the performances were benefits (including one for Mrs Laguerre and her husband, the actor-singer John Laguerre). On 7 May, and for all subsequent performances, the number of supporting couples was reduced from four to three. The Mock Minuet was revived for another eight performances in 1733-1734 at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket. Nivelon again led the dancers, with Miss Robinson as his partner, but there were only two supporting couples. Such variations in the number of dancers and even changes of venue were not unusual for dances given on the London stage, although in this case Nivelon revived the dance at the Haymarket following his departure from the Covent Garden company.

Why was the dance titled a ‘Mock Minuet’? The answer lies beyond the dance repertoire in London’s theatres, for it must surely relate to an extremely successful play. Henry Fielding’s The Mock Doctor; or, The Dumb Lady Cur’d, an adaptation of Molière’s Le medecin malgré lui, was first given at Drury Lane on 23 June 1732. It had been such a hit that not only was it revived the following season but it secured a place in the repertory into the 19th century. At Drury Lane it was given several times early in the 1732-1733 season and then revived again in January 1733. The Mock Doctor was performed for the first time at the Goodman’s Fields Theatre and the Little Theatre in the Haymarket on 13 and 14 February 1733 respectively, underlining its popularity with audiences.

All this was followed by several other plays that tried to capitalise on Fielding’s success. The anonymous The Mock Officer; or, The Captain’s Lady was given at Drury Lane on 28 March 1733, followed by Chetwood’s The Mock Mason ‘a Ballad Opera of one Act’ given a single performance at Goodman’s Fields on 13 April 1733 (for Chetwood’s benefit). Covent Garden joined in with The Mock Lawyer, ‘a Farcical Ballad Opera’ by Edward Phillips, on 27 April 1733 and finally there was the anonymous The Mock Countess at Drury Lane on 30 May 1733. Most of these copy-cat productions responded to the format of Fielding’s play which, with its several songs, resembled a small-scale ballad opera. The Mock Minuet was given in the middle of all this opportunistic rivalry – which surely explains its title.

The choreographer of the Mock Minuet was very likely Francis Nivelon, with whom the dance moved from Covent Garden to the Haymarket. Can all this information tell us anything about the entr’acte dance itself? Nivelon had been a member of John Rich’s company since the 1723-1724 season and may well have created many, if not all, of the choreographies he had performed at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in both entr’acte dances and afterpieces. Among the entr’acte dances he performed in 1732-1733 were two first given around the same time as the Mock Minuet – the Sleeping Dutchman and his Frow on 27 March 1733 and The Amorous Clowns; or, the Courtezan on 3 May 1733.

The advertisement for the Sleeping Dutchman and his Frow in the Daily Journal for 16 May 1733 follows the same pattern as that for the Mock Minuet (I couldn’t locate the advertisement for 27 March).

Mock Doctor Daily Journal 16 May 1733 (2)

Nivelon subsequently took this same dance to Drury Lane and the advertisement for the performance there on 10 October 1734 makes it clear that Nivelon is the Sleeping Dutchman with Mrs Laguerre as his wife. There were many ‘Dutch’ duets performed on the London stage at this period, so Nivelon seems to be giving a new twist to an old theme and perhaps also using some familiar music.

The Amorous Clowns; or, the Courtezan was actually advertised with its own cast list in the Daily Journal for 3 May 1733.

Mock Doctor Daily Journal 3 May 1733 (2)

Nivelon had made a speciality of Clowns (in this context meaning ‘Boors’ or ‘Rustics’) and so was presumably drawing on his own dances and perhaps their music too. He may have collaborated with Pelling on this entr’acte dance, for it turns up at Drury Lane in 1735-1736 with Pelling as the lead Clown. It seems likely that both of these dances – and the Mock Minuet – incorporated comic action alongside dances.

Could the Mock Minuet have drawn on The Mock Doctor? Nivelon may well have used music from some of the latter’s songs but did he draw on one or other of Fielding’s two intertwining plots? The major strand concerns Gregory, his wife Dorcas and her revenge when he beats her – Gregory is the ‘Mock Doctor’ of the play’s title. The other follows Charlotte and Leander, who cannot marry because her father intends her for another. Charlotte is the ‘Dumb Lady’ of the play’s sub-title, who is treated by the ‘Mock Doctor’. If Nivelon did refer explicitly to Fielding’s farce (and the Mock Minuet was one of Covent Garden’s responses to Drury Lane’s success with The Mock Doctor), the scenes with Dorcas and Gregory probably provided the sort of comic action he had already created so often.

Another Mock Minuet was given single performances in each of the 1752-1753 and 1753-1754 performances. In both cases it was danced by ‘Maranesi and Sga Bugiani’, each time for Maranesi’s benefit. This was a duet and may well owe something to the Italian grottesco dance tradition. It is also worth noting that another Mock Minuet held the stage from the 1770-1771 season until the end of the century. This dance was associated with James Townley’s farce High Life Below Stairs, in which two servants impersonate their master and mistress to dance an ‘awkward and conceited’ minuet. The dance became such a hit with audiences that it was regularly billed as a feature of the performance when the afterpiece was given.

The Grotesque Minuet is less of a conundrum. On the London stage the term ‘Grotesque’ is not often used for dances and in advertisements signifies performance by characters from the commedia dell’arte – as John Weaver made clear in his The History of the Mimes and Pantomimes (1728) – ‘By Grotesque Dancing, I mean only such Characters as are quite out of Nature; as Harlequin, Scaramouch, Pierot, &c.’ (p. 56). Weaver did muddy the waters by adding ‘tho’ in the natural Sense of the Word, Grotesque among Masters of our Profession, takes in all comic Dancing whatever’. When it comes to dancing on the London stage, one can never be quite sure about anything.

The single performance of the Grotesque Minuet was given by Leppie and Miss Hillyard for her benefit. Unfortunately, I can’t find any evidence to suggest which commedia characters they may have represented, if indeed they did. Perhaps their duet looked a little like this dance depicted by Giandomenico Tiepolo in 1756?

Gian Domenico Tiepolo Grotesque Minuet 1756