Tag Archives: Harlequin

Season of 1725-1726: Solo Entr’acte Dances at Drury Lane

The following solo entr’acte dances were given at Drury Lane during 1725-1726:

Passacaille

Harlequin

Peasant

Drunken Peasant

Punch

Scaramouch

Dutch Skipper

Pastoral

Spanish Entry

French Peasant

A solo Passacaille was performed by Miss Robinson at Drury Lane on 2 October 1725. She had first been advertised in the dance the previous season and she repeated it four times in 1725-1726. Mrs Booth also danced a solo Passacaille on 15 April 1726. This was one of the solos shared between the two playhouses, for Mrs Bullock performed another solo Passacaille at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 2 May 1726. In London’s theatres, the solo passacaille was firmly linked to female dancers. The first surviving advertisement is for a performance by Mrs Elford in 1705-1706 (although Mlle Subligny is known to have danced Pecour’s Passacaille d’Armide in London during the 1701-1702 season), while the latest is for a ‘New Dance call’d Le Passecalle de Zaid’ performed by Mlle Auretti in 1753-1754. There is one notation which can shed light on the style and technique of London’s leading female dancers in such solos – Anthony L’Abbé’s ‘Passagalia of Venüs & Adonis’ created for Mrs Booth (then Mrs Santlow) around 1717 and published in the mid-1720s. I have written elsewhere about this astounding solo and here is the first plate.

It is interesting that all the solo passacailles published in notation are also for women.

Solo Harlequin dances were popular throughout the first three decades of the 18th century and enjoyed occasional revivals into the mid-1750s. In 1725-1726, Mrs Booth was billed in a Harlequin entr’acte dance on 14 October 1725. She had been famous for this solo since very early in her career and would continue to dance it into the early 1730s. I wrote at some length about the dance in The Incomparable Hester Santlow and I am sure that this portrait is intended to represent her in this solo, although – as I have said many times before – there is strong evidence that she wore an ankle-length skirt in performance.

The other solo Harlequin given at Drury Lane this season was danced by Rainton several times in April and May 1726.

On 25 October 1725, Roger danced a solo Peasant, followed by a Drunken Peasant on 3 November and a French Peasant on 13 May 1726. Peasant dances were popular for many years, although they were generally only billed a few times each season. Drunken Peasant dances would become extremely popular in the 1730s, while French Peasant solos were regularly revived into the early 1740s. It is impossible to be certain how these dances might have related to one another, although they may well have had overlapping step vocabularies and choreographic motifs. The Drunken Peasant may have relied more heavily on pantomime, while the French Peasant may have used a recognisably ‘French’ tune. Of course, the advertisements may have been inaccurate and the difference between Peasant and French Peasant dances may simply have been an inconsistency of billing.

Lambranzi includes a Drunken Peasant and a Drunken Peasant with his Wife in Part One of his Neue und curieuse theatrialische Tantz-Schul of 1716, describing the solo thus:

‘When the curtain is raised this drunken peasant is seen. As the air begins he tries to get up, but falls down several times. At last he staggers to his feet and waves his hand to the tankard of beer, which does not want to come to him. Reeling, he snatches it up, drinks from it thrice, puts it on the ground again and finishes the strain by staggering backwards and forwards, walking and jumping. At the end he claps on his hat, picks up the tankard and exits tottering from side to side.’ (Gregorio Lambranzi, translated by Derra de Moroda and edited by Cyril Beaumont, New and Curious School of Theatrical Dancing. Reprint (London, 2002), p. 20)

He also provides this image:

The description may well relate to performances of the Drunken Peasant in London’s theatres. However, during the 1720s there were also regular performances of an entr’acte Drunken Man solo by the comic actor John Harper at Drury Lane. Although he was predominantly an actor, Harper also danced from time to time. So, one question is – was the Drunken Peasant influenced by the Drunken Man or vice versa?

There was only one performance of a Punch dance at Drury Lane this season, a solo by Sandham’s son given on 27 January 1726. Although there had been Punch dances on the London stage since at least the first decade of the 18th century, these would not really become popular until the 1730s. During the 1710s and 1720s, Punch was usually seen dancing in company with Harlequin and from the 1720s he also featured in pantomime afterpieces. I hope to explore the London stage history of Punch dances in a later post.

Scaramouch made regular entr’acte appearances from the very early 1700s through to the 1760s. Like Punch, he featured in pantomimes and is also worth a post of his own. His depictions by Lambranzi, who refers to his ‘beautiful pas de Scaramouch’ and his ‘long steps combined with cabrioles and pirouettes’, are well known. Here are two of them.

In 1725-1726, Sandham’s son danced a ‘new Scaramouch’ on 15 April 1726, repeating it on 23 April and 18 May. All were benefit performances – the last was shared between the two Sandham children and the dancer Mrs Walter.

I wrote about the solo Dutch Skipper when I looked at the shared entr’acte duets at Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields, so I will not say any more here. I also discussed the Pastoral duets in that post. There were very few solos with the title Pastoral advertised in London’s theatres and all but one were performed by female dancers. The exception was the Pastoral danced by ‘Vallois, lately arrived from the Opera at Paris, the first Time of his dancing in England; a Scholar to M Marcelle’ at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 13 April 1732 – both his dance and Vallois himself are worth further research.

I discussed the Spanish Entry duets in my post Season of 1725-1726: Other Entr’acte Duets at Lincoln’s Inn Fields but the solo Spanish Dances and Spanish Entries are worth additional consideration. These certainly go back to the late 17th century in London, and most (if not all) have a French origin. Music for a ‘Spanish Entry’ danced by Anthony L’Abbé and published in 1698 in The Second Book of the Dancing Master comes from Campra’s L’Europe galante. René Cherrier’s solo Spanish Dance given at Drury Lane in 1704-1705 may well also have used French music. Both solos probably drew on choreographies danced at the Paris Opéra, where both men spent part of their careers. In 1725-1726, a solo Spanish Entry was danced by Miss Robinson at Drury Lane on 9 May 1726. She seems to have made the dance a regular part of her repertoire, for she continued to perform it until 1728-1729. The whole question of Spanish Dances in London’s theatres is complicated by occasional advertisements for the Folies d’Espagne (although these are rare), solo Louvres (the Louvre duet was almost always Aimable Vainqueur) and Sarabands (many of which were certainly French, although – given the identification of the Saraband with the Spanish in English plays of the period – some must surely have indeed been Spanish). I looked briefly at ‘Spanish’ Dances and Dancing ‘Spaniards’ in earlier posts, but the topic is certainly worth more detailed investigation at a future date.

In my next post, I will look at the solos performed at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726. The topic of dancing in London’s theatres during the 1725-1726 season is turning into a marathon and I still have danced afterpieces and mainpiece plays with dancing to explore!

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.