Among the many dances published in notation in the early 18th century are four collections ostensibly for the stage.
- Raoul Auger Feuillet. Recüeil de dances (Paris, 1700)
- Guillaume-Louis Pecour. Recüeil de dances (Paris, 1704)
- Guillaume-Louis Pecour. Nouveau recüeil de dances (Paris, c1713)
- Anthony L’Abbé. A New Collection of Dances (London, c1725)
Feuillet’s 1700 collection has 15 of his own choreographies, the music for many being taken from French operas. The 1704 collection has 35 choreographies by Pecour and is described on the title page as ‘contenant un tres grand nombres, des meillieures Entrees de Ballet’. Many of these are linked, in the head titles on the first plate of individual notations, to specific performers in the operas from which the music is taken. The Nouveau Recüeil, dated to 1713 on internal evidence, is described on its title page as ‘Dance de Bal et celle de Ballet contenant un tres grand nombres des meillieures Entrees de Ballet’. It contains 9 ballroom dances and 30 choreographies for the stage. Many of the latter are also linked to specific performers in particular French operas. L’Abbé’s New Collection is dated, again on internal evidence, to around 1725. It contains only 13 choreographies, all but one of which are linked to dancers who appeared in London’s theatres and most of which use music from French operas.
These collections between them provide many insights into the dances performed onstage in both Paris and London during the first quarter of the 18th century (and perhaps the decade before). However, with so small a corpus of material, representing only three dancing masters, and uncertainty about the purpose of these collections it is difficult to draw any firm conclusions about the dance repertoire in either of the two cities.
Here are some statistics relating to the contents of each collection:
Feuillet (1700): 2 duets for a man and a woman; 3 male duets; 7 male solos; 2 female solos; one dance for 9 men (the only example of a stage dance for a group of dancers among all the surviving notations). The first dance in the collection is Le Rigaudon de la Paix, a duet for a man and a woman.
Pecour (1704): 15 duets for a man and a woman; 5 male duets; 1 female duet; 8 male solos; 6 female solos. The first dance in the collection is Sarabande pour une femme, to music from the Entrée for L’Espagne in the ‘Ballet de Nations’ within Le Bourgeois gentilhomme. Prominent among the named performers are Ballon and Mlle Subligny.
Pecour (c1713), stage dances only: 12 duets for a man and a woman; 4 male duets; 5 female duets; 3 male solos; 6 female solos. The first stage dance in the collection is the Entrée pour un homme et une femme, danced by Ballon and Mlle Subligny in Lully’s Thesée, although this time the most prominent of the named performers are Mlle Guyot and David Dumoulin.
L’Abbé (c1725): 4 duets for a man and a woman; 2 male duets; 1 female duet; 4 male solos; 2 female solos. The first dance in the collection is the Loure or Faune performd, before his Majesty King William the 3d bÿ Monsr. Balon and Mr. L’Abbé. The leading dancers in this collection are Dupré and Mrs Santlow, who each feature in four dances.
So, we get a flavour of changing emphases between the dances included in each collection, for example the increasing proportion of female solos and female duets in the two Pecour recüeils. The bedrock of the repertoire throughout all four remains the duets for a man and a woman and the solos and duets by men, which may well reflect the distribution as well as the status of dances within the original stage context.