Tag Archives: Francis Nivelon

Season of 1725-1726: Other Entr’acte Duets at Lincoln’s Inn Fields

The other duets given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields this season were:

French Peasant

Passacaille

French Sailor and his Wife

Shepherd and Shepherdess

Spanish Entry

Le Marrie

Two Pierrots

Running Footman’s Dance

Fingalian Dance

Burgomaster and his Frow

Tollet’s Ground

Chacone

Venetian Dance

Swedish Dance

Spinning Wheel Dance

The last two duets were performed only during the summer season.

It is immediately apparent that Lincoln’s Inn Fields offered a wider range of entr’acte choreographies than Drury Lane in 1725-1726. This was related to the dancers employed there this season, as well as John Rich’s habitual use of dance as a weapon in his rivalry with the other patent theatre.

The French Peasant danced by Nivelon and Mrs Laguerre on 29 September 1725 was one of the perennially popular dances on the London stage. So far as I can tell, a French Peasant duet was first advertised at Drury Lane on 15 June 1704, when the dancers were Mr and Mrs Du Ruel. It would continue in the entr’acte repertoire until the early 1740s. Several Peasant or ‘Paysan’ dances were recorded in notation in the early 1700s, including this choreography by Guillaume-Louis Pecour published in the Nouveau recüeil de dance de bal et celle de ballet around 1713.

These dances may provide hints towards the French Peasant dances on the London stage.

The Passacaille was seldom advertised as a duet in London’s theatres and the two performances given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 13 October and 9 November 1725 by Lally and Mrs Wall seem to be the last to be billed before the 1770s. The only notated passacaille duet for a man and a woman, choreographed by Guillaume-Louis Pecour for Ballon and Mlle Subligny, was published in 1704 and thus does not necessarily provide an exemplar for a dance of the mid-1720s. I wrote about both solo and duet passacailles in my post The Passacaille back in 2017.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, ‘Sailor’ dances on the London stage go back to the 17th century and were a frequent feature in 18th-century entr’acte entertainments. A French Sailor duet was performed at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in the mid-1710s, but the French Sailor and his Wife performed there on 25 October 1725 by Francis and Marie Sallé seems to mark a new chapter in the stage life of the dance. I can certainly devote a post to the sailor dances in London’s theatres, so I won’t pursue the topic further here. It is just worth mentioning that a Matelot duet was introduced to the entr’actes at Drury Lane in 1726-1727, raising a question about the difference between it and the French Sailor dances.

I discussed Shepherd and Shepherdess dances in an earlier post, Season of 1725-1726: Entr’acte Dances at Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields, so I will move straight on to the Spanish Entry given as a duet by Lesac and Miss La Tour on 2 November 1725. I have written about ‘Spanish’ dances before – in posts entitled ‘Spanish’ Dances, Dancing ‘Spaniards’ and ‘Spanish’ Dancing and the Dance Treatises – but I haven’t taken an extended look at such dances on the London stage. I am not going to attempt that here, although it is certainly another topic worth exploring. There were Spanish Dances and Spanish Entries advertised in the entr’actes at London’s theatres from the first decade of the 18th century, which probably drew on similar choreographies from the Restoration period. The Spanish Entry had been advertised as a duet at Lincoln’s Inn Fields and had stayed in the repertoire for a few seasons. It had then disappeared, only to reappear in the mid-1720s with the duet danced by Lesac and Miss La Tour. The use of the word ‘Entry’ for this dance suggests (to me at least) that it was less likely to have been a version of the Folies d’Espagne than one of the other dance types made popular in the French comédies-ballets and opéra-ballets given in Paris. Here is the first plate from Pecour’s well-known ‘Entrée Espagnolle’ for Ballon and Mlle Subligny, which provides one example that may have been influential (it was transcribed by Kellom Tomlinson in his ‘WorkBook’ compiled during the first two decades of the 18th century).

Le Marrie’ danced by Francis and Marie Sallé at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 16 December 1725 must surely have been Pecour’s ball dance La Mariée, first published by Feuillet in his 1700 Recüeil de dances composées par Mr. Pecour. As I wrote in another post back in 2015, La Mariée on the London Stage, research by the American dance historian Rebecca Harris-Warrick has shown that this duet probably began as a stage dance in Paris and reached the London stage shortly after 1698. The Marie performed at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1717-1718 could have been La Mariée resurfacing in the entr’actes, although its performance by the Sallés seems to have given the duet a new lease of life with regular revivals at benefit performances. Here is the first plate from the 1700 collection.

Two Pierrots was also danced by the Sallés at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 16 December 1725. They seem to have introduced the male-female duet to London – previously there had been a few Pierrot solos and an all-male duet by Francis and Louis Nivelon in 1723-1724. The Sallés were answered at Drury Lane by Roger and Mrs Brett in La Pierette later that season. I should probably have counted Two Pierrots and La Pierette among the entr’acte dances shared between the two theatres, although the titles suggest that two might have been quite different thematically if not choreographically. Pierrot dances would last into the 1750s and beyond.

The Running Footman, danced by Nivelon and Mrs Laguerre on 10 March 1726, had been introduced to the London stage by them in 1723-1724. It was probably created by Nivelon and I looked at the duet in some detail in my post Dances on the London Stage: The Running Footman back in September.

The Fingalian Dance performed by Newhouse and Mrs Ogden on 11 April 1726 had first been danced by them in 1724-1725. They would continue to perform it regularly each season until 1733-1734. This entr’acte duet had apparently begun life as ‘A new Irish Dance in Fingalian Habits by Newhouse, Pelling, and Mrs Ogden’ at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1723-1724 but the trio format did not survive the season. Newhouse and Mrs Ogden were also billed more than a dozen times during 1724-1725 in an Irish Dance. I think that was probably the Fingalian Dance, which I am guessing was choreographed by Newhouse. There are a number of ‘Irish’ tunes in the various editions of Playford’s The Dancing Master, all considerably earlier than the duet by Newhouse and Mrs Ogden. They may hint at the music for the Fingalian Dance, although the dance itself seems to have been characterised by its costumes as much as the ‘Irishness’ of its music. Fingal is a county in Ireland in the Dublin region – the reference to ‘Fingalian Habits’ suggests costumes that are at least recognisably Irish. So far, I have not managed to find any clues as to what these ‘Habits’ may have been like. Fingalian Dances would survive in the London stage entr’acte repertoire until the 1770s.

The Burgomaster and his Frow, another entr’acte dance performed by Newhouse and Mrs Ogden on 20 April 1726, was one of the many ‘Dutch’ dances given in the entr’actes at London’s theatres. The duet seems to have been variously titled – as Dutch Boor in 1723-1724 and 1724-1725 and as Dutch Burgomaster and Wife in 1724-1725 – but it seems to have been distinct from the Dutch Skipper, which Newhouse was never billed as dancing. There is, of course, music for a ‘Dance for the Dutch man and his Wife’ in Thomas Bray’s 1699 collection Country Dances. This tune was used in Europe’s Revels for the Peace, the masque created to celebrate the peace of Ryswick that ended the Nine Years’ War in 1697.

Tollett’s Ground, danced by Newhouse and Mrs Laguerre on 30 April 1726 and revived during the Lincoln’s Inn Fields summer season by him and Mrs Ogden, took its title from its music. The piece is generally attributed to the Irish musician Thomas Tollett, who worked in London’s theatres during the 1690s and may have died in 1696. It appeared in several music collections around 1700 and was first billed at Drury Lane in 1701-1702, when it was performed by John Essex and Mrs Lucas. During the 1710s it was given several times by Margaret Bicknell and her sister Elizabeth Younger. The Tollett’s Ground duet survived into the early 1730s and was usually performed at benefits or during the summer season.

I mentioned the Chacone in my post The Most Popular Entr’acte Dances on the London Stage, 1700-1760 a couple of months ago. In 1725-1726, a Chacone duet was danced at Lincoln’s Inn Fields by Dupré and Mrs Wall on 30 April and then 23 May 1726, followed by Lally and Mrs Wall on 30 May. Some of the chaconnes given in London’s theatres were associated with Harlequin, but others (including this one) were evidently serious dances. We do have a local notated example of a chaconne for the stage which was published around this time and might shed light on some of those given in the entr’actes. Anthony L’Abbé choreographed the ‘Chacone of Galathee’ for Delagarde and Mrs Santlow (from 1719 Mrs Booth) perhaps around 1712, although it seems to have been notated some ten years later – around the time it was published by Le Roussau in A New Collection of Dances. As this plate reveals, it was a showpiece of virtuosity for these two dancers (I strongly suspect that Delagarde’s entre-chat à six should also have a tour-en-l’air, and I certainly think that Mrs Santlow was capable of adding an entre-chat à six to her tour).

The Chacone duets danced by Dupré and Lally with Mrs Wall in 1725-1726 may have been similar.

The Venetian Dance was given just once this season, on 9 May 1726 by Burny and Mrs Anderson ‘both Scholars to Essex’. At present, I can’t be sure whether ‘Essex’ is William Essex, who had made his debut at Drury Lane the previous season, or his father John, who had left the stage to pursue his career as a dancing master more than twenty years earlier. John Essex is perhaps the more likely candidate. It is tempting to assume that a Venetian Dance must be performed to a forlana, but a contemporary source suggests a quite different piece of music – the allemande used by Pecour for his duet of that title, published in Paris in 1702. I have puzzled over this musical choice, apparently made for a ‘Venetian Dance by Mr Shaw and Mrs Booth’ which was performed (but not mentioned in the bills) in 1724-1725. I can see that I should return to Venetian Dances in another post.

Dances associated with particular nations were decidedly popular at Lincoln’s Inn Fields this season. Another was the Swedish Dal Carl given by Pelling and Mrs Ogden on 17 June 1726 (the opening performance of the summer season). A ‘new Swedish Dance’ had entered the entr’acte repertoire at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1714-1715, when it was performed by Delagarde and Miss Russell (later Mrs Bullock and a leading dancer at that theatre). Thereafter the Swedish Dale Karl, as it was usually known, was performed most seasons into the 1730s. It may well have continued to use the music recorded in The Ladys Banquet 3d Book, a collection first published around 1720, although the earliest surviving edition has been dated around 1732. The ‘new Play House’ mentioned on the score is probably Lincoln’s Inn Fields, which opened in 1714. There are no solo Swedish Dances billed in London’s theatres, so is the ‘Sweedish Woman’s Dance’ actually part of the duet?

The last of the dances I listed at the beginning of this post was also performed only during the Lincoln’s Inn Fields summer season. Newhouse and Mrs Ogden performed the Spinning Wheel Dance on 21 June 1726. The duet had first been given in 1723-1724 at the same theatre and the bills indicate that it only ever received a handful of performances. I would characterise it as one of the novelty dances that turn up in the entr’actes from time to time, particularly during summer seasons.

My next post on the season of 1725-1726 will be concerned with the entr’acte solos given at Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

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.

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

 

The Humours of Bedlam

Another play that I thought had dancing in it was The Pilgrim. This was originally a Jacobean verse drama by John Fletcher, which may have been revived in the 1660s and 1670s. It was adapted by John Vanbrugh and first performed in its new guise in the spring of 1700. The new version also had a ‘Secular Masque’ by John Dryden. The advertisement for 6 July 1700 announced The Pilgrim ‘Revis’d with Large Alterations, and a Secular Masque’. There were entr’acte dances at that performance, but there was no indication of dancing in the play. The Pilgrim was performed every season until the early 1730s and then regularly revived until the early 1750s. There were further revivals in 1761-1762 and 1762-1763 and then the play disappeared from the repertoire – except for a few performances in the 1780s.

Vanbrugh’s version of The Pilgrim was published in 1700, with Dryden’s ‘Secular Masque’, and there were further editions in 1724, 1742, 1745 and 1753. I have been able to check the editions of 1700 and 1724 and no dancing is mentioned. The ‘Secular Masque’ is preceded by Dryden’s ‘Song of a Scholar and his Mistress, who being Cross’d by their Friends, fall Mad for one another; and now first meet in Bedlam’. (Several scenes in The Pilgrim are set in a madhouse.) No dancing is mentioned in either the ‘Song’, which is actually a short scene, or the ‘Secular Masque’. When I worked my way through all the performances of The Pilgrim in The London Stage, I discovered that it didn’t include dancing, except for two brief periods during its long stage life.

The revised version of The Pilgrim was first performed at the Drury Lane Theatre, but from 1715-1716 it was also given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. From 1720-1721, it was only given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields (and then Covent Garden) until 1737-1738 – with the exception of a run of performances at the Goodman’s Fields Theatre in 1730-1731 and a single performance there in 1731-1732. The Pilgrim returned to the Drury Lane repertoire in 1738-1739, but it was only given there until 1740-1741. It then returned to Covent Garden, where it was performed occasionally until 1762-1763. There was a small flurry of performances at Drury Lane in 1750-1751, when The Pilgrim was given with ‘Proper Dances’ (dances within the play) although the advertisements do not say what these were.

The first time The Pilgrim was billed with dancing which related to the play was on 16 November 1723 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, when the entr’acte dances included The Humours of Bedlam. When both were repeated on 27 November, the bills provided a cast list for the dance. Here is an extract from the Daily Courant for 27 November 1723.

LIF 27 Nov 1723 Daily Courant (2)

The mad dancing characters were not the same as those in the cast list of the play, although there was an overlap in the Mad Taylor (taken by an actor in the play and a dancer in the The Humours of Bedlam). At later performances the bills indicate that The Humours of Bedlam was actually given in the play and the two were regularly given together until the 1728-1729 season, after which the dance disappeared from the advertisements. At Goodman’s Fields The Humours of Bedlam was also given with The Pilgrim, although four dancers instead of six were advertised.

I suggest that The Humours of Bedlam was performed as part of the ‘Song of a Scholar and his Mistress’ and that the choreographer was Francis Nivelon, who was initially billed as the Mad Taylor and seems to have been the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre’s dancing master. The following season Nivelon danced the Mad Soldier (originally performed by his brother, who had left the company), the role he kept until 1726-1727. He was always named first in the dance’s cast list. Nivelon’s frequent dancing partner was Mrs Rogier (after her remarriage Mrs Laguerre), who appeared as the Mad Lady. She and several other dancers appeared every time The Humours of Bedlam was given. Nivelon was succeeded by Poitier in 1727-1728 and Francis Sallé in 1728-1729.

The cast list for this choreography suggests a series of solos in character, some of which may have had more pantomime than dancing, and a duet by Nivelon and Mrs Rogier – unless she danced with each of the men in turn. John Barrett’s surviving music for The Pilgrim all dates to the early 1700s, long before The Humours of Bedlam. Could some of it have been used for the dance?

There were occasional Mad Dances in the entr’actes at London’s theatres, some of which were given by French performers, but none of which can be linked either to The Pilgrim or The Humours of Bedlam. Nivelon, if he was indeed the choreographer, may have been drawing on a dance topic from the Paris fairs.

The only other dance to be associated with The Pilgrim was The Lunaticks, first performed at Drury Lane on 13 December 1740 in the entr’actes to Comus. It was given with The Pilgrim on 18 December 1740 and 6 January 1741. At the latter performance it was advertised within act 4 of the play. This group dance had four principal dancers – Fausan, Signora Fausan, Muilment and Mlle Chateauneuf, with supporting dancers (billed only as ‘&c.’). It was, presumably, by Fausan and lasted only this one season.

With both The Humours of Bedlam and The Lunaticks, the idea was most likely to entice fresh audiences to a familiar play. The importance of dancing on the London stage should never be overlooked.

 

The First Ballet at Covent Garden

In a recent TV dance programme, the presenter told us that the first ballet was given at Covent Garden in 1734. I assume that she meant the first ballet to be given at that theatre and not the first ballet to be given in London, which had been John Weaver’s The Loves of Mars and Venus performed at the Drury Lane Theatre in 1717. She did not name the work, but the date indicates that she was referring to Pygmalion, first given at Covent Garden on 14 January 1734. Was this really the first ballet to be performed at John Rich’s new playhouse, the first such building on the site of what we now know as the Royal Opera House?

What was a ballet in early 18th-century London? The definition I work with is a stage work in which the narrative is told through dance, mime and music only, with no words. This describes John Weaver’s intention, although he called his stage works dramatic entertainments of dancing not ballets. For the purposes of this post, I will draw on that definition while concentrating on dancing at the Covent Garden Theatre from its opening on 7 December 1732 to the first performance of Pygmalion on 14 January 1734.

I’ll begin by looking more closely at Pygmalion. It is now attributed to the ballerina Marie Sallé, who took the role of the Statue Galatea. Her creations for the London stage were much applauded in Paris, where she was known as a dancer at the Académie Royale de Musique (the Paris Opéra). A description of Pygmalion was published in the Mercure de France for April 1734, in the form of a letter from London dated 15 March – by which date the ballet had been performed at least fourteen times, demonstrating its success with London audiences. The dance historian Cyril Beaumont published a translation of the letter in his Three French Dancers of the 18th Century in 1934. The ballet itself is described thus:

‘Pygmalion enters his studio accompanied by his sculptors, who execute a characteristic dance, mallet and chisel in hand. Pygmalion bids them throw open the back of the studio which, like the forepart, is adorned with statues. One in the middle stands out above all the others and attracts the admiration of everyone. Pygmalion examines it, considers it, and sighs. He puts his hands on the feet, then on the body; he examines all the contours, likewise the arms, which he adorns with precious bracelets. He places a rich necklace around the neck and kisses the hands of his beloved statue. At last he becomes enraptured with it; he displays signs of unrest and falls into a reverie, then prays to Venus and beseeches her to endow the marble with life.

Venus heeds his prayer; three rays of light appear, and, to the surprise of Pygmalion and his followers, the statue, to suitable music, gradually emerges from its insensibility; she expresses astonishment at her new existence and at all the objects which surround her.

Pygmalion, amazed and transported, holds out his hand for her to step from her position; she tests the ground, as it were, and gradually steps into the most elegant poses that a sculptor could desire. Pygmalion dances in front of her as if to teach her to dance. She repeats after him the simplest as well as the most difficult and complicated steps; he endeavours to inspire her with the love which he feels, and succeeds.’

Pygmalion was always given as an entr’acte entertainment, never as an afterpiece, and (apart from calling it ‘new’ at its first performances) the advertisements drew no particular attention to it. It is never called a ‘ballet’.

The account of the action suggests that it began with a group dance by the Sculptors, followed by an extended mime sequence for Pygmalion. There was a little bit of scenic business (as Venus ‘heeds his prayer’) and then a mime sequence by the Statue, Galatea, followed by solos and a duet for her and her creator. The whole piece is essentially a single scene. It draws on a number of antecedents, one of which is indicated by Gregorio Lambranzi in his Neue unde Curieuse Theatrialische Tantz-Schul of 1716 in a plate showing sculptors at work (part 2, plate 24).

Lambranzi Part 2 Plate 24

The dancers at Covent Garden were Malter and Mlle Sallé, who performed as Pygmalion and Galatea, together with Dupré, Pelling, Duke, Le Sac, Newhouse and Delagarde, all regular members of Rich’s company.

What earlier entertainments at the new theatre might be classed as ballets? There are three contenders: The Sleeping Dutchman and his Frow given 27 March 1733; The Amorous Clown; or, The Courtizan given 3 May 1733; The Cobler; or, The Merry Wife Constant given 4 May 1733. All were performed by a principal couple with a group of supporting dancers and their titles suggest a narrative with action conveyed through dance and mime. All three pieces were created for benefit performances and only The Sleeping Dutchman and his Frow was given more than once.

The Cobler; or, The Merry Wife Constant can also be associated with a dance recorded by Lambranzi, who shows a Cobbler ‘with the tools of his trade, the use of which he expresses in mime’ before he is joined by his wife and the two dance together (part 2, plates 29, 30).

This entr’acte dance has a cast list which pairs the characters with commedia dell’arte characters (the Cobler is Punch, but the ‘Merry Wife’ has no counterpart), an idea used in some of Rich’s pantomime afterpieces. This suggests expressive action drawn from the commedia dell’arte, which by this period was common on the London stage. The Cobler; or, The Merry Wife Constant was probably created by Newhouse, who danced the Cobbler, for his own benefit.

The other two pieces involved Francis Nivelon, who was Rich’s leading dancer and probably the dancing master at Covent Garden. He shared a background in French fair theatre with Marie Sallé. The Sleeping Dutchman and his Frow was created for Nivelon’s own benefit and he and Mrs Laguerre took the title roles. She was Rich’s leading English female dancer, with skills that allowed her to take over some of Marie Sallé’s pantomime roles notably Daphne and Flora in Apollo and Daphne. Mrs Laguerre was also an actress, albeit a minor one. They were supported by Newhouse, Pelling, Le Sac, Delagarde, Miss La Tour, Mrs Pelling, Mrs Ogden and Miss Baston. The men would all appear in Pygmalion the following season.

The Amorous Clown; or, the Courtizan has the strongest claim to be considered a ballet. It was given right at the end of the performance, following the afterpiece, suggesting that it was a more substantial piece. It was created for the benefit of Dupré and Mrs Pelling, probably by Nivelon for the cast list had ‘Clowns by Nivelon and Pelling; Wives by Miss Latour and Mrs Ogden; Courtizan – Mrs Pelling’. In this context a ‘Clown’ was an unsophisticated Countryman or Rustic. The title suggests that the piece centred on Nivelon and Mrs Pelling and contained mime sequences as well as dances.  Mrs Pelling, like Mrs Laguerre, had skills that extended to serious dance and allowed her, too, to take over some of Marie Sallé’s pantomime roles.

These dance pieces have been overlooked by dance historians because they had very limited stage lives and were never noticed in the newspapers or elsewhere (it is worth recalling that Pygmalion received little attention in the British newspapers). Unlike Pygmalion, we have no accounts of their action. All three are comic rather than serious (although one or more of them may well have included some serious dancing). They make no use of the classical mythology used as a yardstick for the importance of dance works by so many 20th-century dance writers. Despite all that, I suggest that Pygmalion was not the first ballet given at the new Covent Garden playhouse – that honour should arguably go to The Amorous Clown; or, the Courtizan. Marie Sallé’s ballet was created within, and as a result of, the rich and varied repertoire of dancing (which included many such small ballets, serious as well as comic) in London’s theatres during the early 1700s.