Tag Archives: Gallini

What’s in a name: Gallini’s forty-four cotillons

Somebody recently mentioned one of Gallini’s cotillons to me, with particular reference to its name. I thought it might be interesting to take a look at his dance titles to see if any patterns emerge. Meaningful analysis is difficult without access to a comprehensive list of cotillon titles, French as well as English, throughout the period when this contredanse was popular. However, a little while ago I compiled a list of the titles of the earliest English cotillons which might help.

All but one of Gallini’s titles are French. The exception is La Graziosetta which is, presumably, Italian. The same is true for all the other early cotillons published in London, although Gherardi occasionally adds English versions, for example La Poison d’Avril or the April Fool.  Thomas Hurst who was insistent that his dances were ‘New English Cotillons’ nevertheless gave his titles first in French and then in English, as Le Moulinet. The Windmill and La Belle Angloise. The British Beauty.

There are a fair number of titles which include place names, perhaps hinting at the fashionable pastimes to be enjoyed there. Gallini has Les Amusements de Spa and Le Bois de Boulogne, among others. Gherardi is more inclined to London and its environs, for example Les Folies d’Ormond Street and Les Plaisirs de Tooting.

There are plenty of titles which are commonplaces, such as Gallini’s La Belle Paisanne and Les Quatre Saisons (Siret also has a cotillon entitled Les Quatre Saisons). It would be interesting to know how many of the cotillons that share a title also use the same music and, conversely, how many use the same music but have different titles. A few cotillons have titles that are the same as those of much earlier contredanses, for example Le Pistolet and La Pantomime (both in collections by music publishers). Are there any links between the dances or their music?

There are allusions to royalty, as in Gallini’s Le Prince de Galles and La Royale. There are also acknowledgements of other dancing masters. Gallini has Les Plaisirs de Carel, but his Le Rondeau de Fischer may refer to the composer and oboist Johann Christian Fischer who spent some time in London. Carel also features in the 1768 cotillon collection by the music publishers Thompson (La Carel and La Nouvelle Carel). Villeneuve includes the cotillon La Dubois in his collection.

There are, of course, many allusions to love, in keeping with the galanterie inseparable from the cotillon. Gallini has L’Amour Fidelle and L’Amour du Village as well as, less obviously, Les Plaisirs Enchantés and La Pouvoir de la Beauté. The cotillon mentioned to me was La Zone de Venus. The Figure goes as follows:

Gallini Zone of Venus 1

Gallini’s Instructions for La Zone de Venus

Is it intended to represent homage to Venus and to love? In the 18th century the ‘Zone’ of Venus was identified as her girdle or ‘Cestus’, which was decorated to encourage desire. There is a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds entitled ‘Cupid untying the Zone of Venus’, which shows him undoing the ribbon around her waist. It seems that the ‘Cestus’ became an object of interest (if indeed it was not invented) during the early 1700s. So, was Gallini’s title innocently referring to youthful love or was it intended to be risqué?

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The Cotillon Ball

As I explained in earlier posts, the cotillon may have been introduced to London in the mid-1760s by Giovanni-Andrea Gallini. His ‘collection of cotillons or French dances’ was probably first published in 1765. By 1768, the cotillon had become the first-ever dance craze. Newspaper advertisements during that year show that these contredanses françaises were central to the balls and assemblies organised by some of the biggest names in London entertainments for the beau monde.

The St James’s Chronicle for 16-18 February 1768 included a poem satirising this ultra-fashionable dance.

St James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post, 16-18 February 1768, from ‘Poets Corner’.

St James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post, 16-18 February 1768, from ‘Poets Corner’.

This was one of many such jibes – a sure indication of the dance’s overwhelming popularity.

The first to advertise a cotillon event that year was Teresa Cornelys at Carlisle House in Soho Square, famous for its masquerades and other lavish entertainments. The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser for 8 March 1768 reported:

‘On account of the Royal Family, Nobility, and Gentry, now universally dancing the Cotillons, which are very elegant French country dances lately introduced into the gay and fashionable world, at all their assemblies, a very polite and brilliant company is expected to-morrow at the Annual Assembly in Soho-square … in order to be spectators of, or parties in, these celebrated dances.’

Some weeks later, in the Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser for 26 April 1768, Gallini advertised cotillons at his own event:

‘By Desire, Mr. Gallini’s Ball (by subscription) will be at Haberdashers Hall, Maiden lane (for one night only) on Wednesday the 11th of May, where the new Cotillons Allemande will be performed.’

Tickets were half a guinea each (around 52 pence, equivalent to at least £55 today). Gallini had already held at least one ball that year. Although the advertisements for his ball on 23 March 1768, like those for previous years, made no specific mention of the cotillon, Gallini did promise ‘great Variety’ of dances. He may, of course, have been including cotillons in his balls even before the publication of his collection but only felt the need to advertise them when faced with competition.

Over the next few years, the cotillon ball remained very popular. I will pursue this phenomenon a little further in a later post.

Dancing the cotillon: Gallini’s steps

I have looked at the changes and discussed the figures of the cotillon. I now turn to the steps of this contredanse française. Among the dancing masters in London who published cotillons when the craze for these dances began, only Gallini, Gherardi and Villeneuve say anything about steps. The figures and the steps are so closely intertwined that both Gallini and Gherardi describe them together.

Gallini’s steps are all recognisably from the long-established vocabulary of la belle danse, the ‘French Dancing’ that developed at the court of Louis XIV in the late 17th century and subsequently spread throughout Europe. They were at once over-familiar and unfamiliar. Gallini introduces them by saying:

‘A description of all the Steps and Figures in Dancing, might, by the Reader, be thought tedious, therefore it is intended here to explain only those which are used in the following cotillons’’

He begins with the Assemblé, which is used ‘at the end of several Steps’.

‘the Assemblé Forward is performed by Sinking and Advancing the hinder foot in a circular manner, Springing and Falling on both feet in any Position that shall be proper for the following Step.’

The use of a circular motion hints at the decorations that could be added within the cotillon.

Le Balancé:

‘is done by Sinking, then Rising as you Step forward or sideways with one foot, the other must follow Straight to the first Position, and in the same manner Step back again, beginning with the contrary foot.’

Le Chassé ‘is performed in various ways’:

‘To do this Sideways you must place yourself in the Second Position; if you go to the Right, it is performed by Sinking, then in Rising Spring on both feet and place the Left foot behind where the Right was, at the same time the Right foot Advancing to the Second Position.’

Gallini explains ‘if you Chassé cross, add one Step in the fifth Position and an Assemblé’ and the same is done for the chassé forward. This step was moving towards the 19th-century basic quadrille step.

Le Contretemps:

‘To perform this Forward you must advance your Right foot, sink on both feet, but spring and fall on the Right, then walk two Steps Straight.’

He goes on ‘to this you may add an assemblè’, taking it towards a pas de gavotte.

He describes only half-turn pirouettes:

‘[La Pirouette] is performed to the Right, by bringing your Right foot in the fifth Position behind, then  Rising on your Toes, and turning half Round to the same Position, do the same again to bring you Round; this may be done to the Left, by Reversing the Feet.’

Finally, Gallini gets to Le Rigaudon, one of the characteristic steps of the cotillon.

‘To perform this in the first Position, you must Sink, then Spring, and Fall on the Right foot, bring your left to the first Position, move your Right and return it to the same Position, the knees being straight, Sink, then Spring on both feet and Fall on your Toes in the first Position.’

He adds ‘This may be done by Reversing the Feet’. He also, helpfully, explains how to do the rigaudon from the third position, allowing the dancer to move forwards or backwards.

‘When the Rigaudon is performed in the third Position, with the Right foot foremost, you must Sink, then Spring, and Fall on the Right foot; advance your Left to the same Position, then advance the Right to the third Position, the Knees being straight, Sink, then Spring on both feet and Fall on your Toes with the Left foot foremost in the same Position.’

The one step Gallini completely ignores is the demi-contretemps, the basic step of the cotillon already being used as early as Le Cotillon, the dance for four published in 1705.

His step descriptions seem to be his own, which he presumably developed in the course of his teaching rather than simply copying them from earlier dance manuals. They don’t seem to provide quite enough detail to perform all these steps properly – assuming that the steps were indeed the same as those notated and described in the early 1700s. Do Gallini’s instructions provide hints on the changing style and technique of ballroom dancing in the mid-18th century?

Dancing the cotillon: Gallini’s figures

In his New Collection of Forty-Four Cotillons, Gallini makes clear that figures are made up of specific steps, fitted to floor patterns traced by the dancers as they move. He puts steps and patterns together into one list and describes the figures for each of his cotillons in terms of these elements.

Rather than trying to analyse the figures for individual cotillons in the various English collections, I will look only at the patterns forming part of those figures which are explained by the dancing masters. I am definitely not an expert on country dancing, so the obvious may occasionally elude me as I work through these.

In his ‘General Rules’ at the beginning of his collection Gallini lists the following:

Allemande: ‘This Figure is performed by interlacing your Arms with your Partner’s, in various ways’.

Les Chaines: he gives three – La Grande Chaine or Las D’Amour, ‘by forming a Love-knot’, the Vis-a Vis, ‘done by two opposite Couple with Right-hand and Left’,  and a Chaine ‘performed by two Couple Right-hand and Left, side-ways’. The second sounds like the chaine anglaise, but what is the third?

Moulinet: ‘the same as Hands cross’, and ‘the Grand, or Double Moulinet’ performed by all the dancers.

La Poussette: ‘performed by holding the Lady’s hands, and making her Retreat, then She does the same by her Partner’.

La Course, or La Promenade: ‘performed by taking hold of your Partner’s hands, and walking with her’, through a quarter, a half, three-quarters or the whole of the set.

Les Quarrés: Le Grand Quarré has all the dancers moving, whereas Le Petit Quarré has only four dancers.

La Queue du Chat: ‘performed by two Couple [sic] changing places, beginning at the Right, and then returning to their own places’.

Les Ronds: ‘performed by taking hold of each others hands, and going round with the Chassé’. Le Grand Rond is performed by all the dancers.

As Gallini indicates, several of these patterns are also used separately as changes. The dancers would have been guided by the music, since the changes were danced to the first strain and the figure to the second and any subsequent strains. In his instructions for each cotillon, Gallini was careful to specify which musical strain accompanied which section of the figure.

Gallini’s Additional Tunes

At the end of the New Collection of Forty-Four Cotillons, Gallini includes ‘Music for Six select Dances, Two of which may be used as Cotillons’. The tunes are individually titled:

Allemande (a cotillon, numbered 45)

Le Prince de Galles (a cotillon, numbered 46)

Le Charmant Vainqueur

La Fourlane Venitienne ou La Barcariuole

Menuet du Dauphin

Le Passe-pied de la Reine

In his Treatise upon Dancing of 1762, Gallini had listed the dances ‘most in request’, although he did not include the allemande. This dance, which had a long history, was enjoying a revival in a new and fashionable form alongside the cotillon.  Gallini did list some titles which dated back to the early 1700s, alongside others which seem to be little more than generic dance types. Among the former are the Bretagne and La Mariée, while the latter include the Forlana and the Passepied. The Menuet du Dauphin is the title of a choreography by the famous French dancing master Marcel, published in notation in Paris in 1765, although Gallini supplies different music. In the late 1760s, other dancing masters advertised a similar repertoire. It is all but impossible to know what choreographies were actually danced. Were amateur dancers still expected to perform dances from the court of Louis XIV in London’s ballrooms? Were fashionable French ballroom duets performed in London as well as Paris?

I will return to dancing masters and their lessons. The survival of dances from an earlier era is a topic for exploration at a later date, as is the allemande.

Gallini’s cotillons

The first, and best-known, of the manuals on the cotillon published in London seems to have been Gallini’s. His A New Collection of Forty-Four Cotillons, appended to his Critical Observations on the Art of Dancing, appeared around 1765. Most of the book is taken up with music and written instructions for the cotillons themselves, but Gallini begins with ‘General Rules’. These aren’t as helpful as they might be since he assumes that would-be dancers are already familiar with the square formation and the numbering of couples around the set. (I write here as a relative newcomer myself to this dance).

He begins by explaining that every cotillon begins with a Grand Rond and that any of another 8 changes may be danced after the figure. Gallini assumes that his readers know the basic structure of the cotillon. He then lists and explains a number of figures and steps – but ‘only those which are used in the following Cotillons’. These are the ones he includes.

Allemande; Assemblé; Balancé; Chaines; Chassé; Contretems;

Moulinet; Pirouette; Poussette; Course or Promenade; Quarrés;

Queue du Chat; Ronds; Rigaudon

It is not surprising that the terminology is entirely French. Indeed, the ‘Frenchness’ of this dance probably added to its appeal in London.

In his instructions for each cotillon (all of which have appealing French titles), Gallini specifies only the opening Grand Rond and then describes the Figure. He does explain the musical structure. In some cotillons, he specifies the use of minuet steps. Some knowledge and interpretation is needed to actually perform these dances.