Tag Archives: Jacques Dezais

Dances for four: a first list

My initial list of dances for four looks as follows. I give the publication date, the title of the dance and the choreographer (if known).

1705                Le Cotillon (Anon.)

1706                Le Menuet à Quatre (Anon.)

1710                Le Passepied à Quatre (Feuillet)

1711                Mr Holt’s Minuet & Jigg

[c1713]            Menuet à Quatre (Pecour)

[c1713]            Rigaudon à Quatre (Pecour)

1716                La Gavotte du Roy (Balon)

1719                L’Italiene (Dezais)

1725                Cotillon Hongrois à Quatre (Dezais)

1725                L’Inconstante à Quatre (Dezais)

1725                La Blonde à Quatre (Dezais)

1725                La Brunne à Quatre (Dezais)

1725                La Carignan, Menuet à Quatre (Dezais)

1765                Le Quadrille (Magny)

1771                Passepied à Quatre (Clement)

1771                Allemande à Quatre (Clement)

There are also two dances for which we have no date of composition or publication:

La Blonde et La Brune (Anon. Source unknown, unless this choreography is the same as the Dezais dances above)

Minuet à Quatre (Pecour. In a manuscript collection dated 1751)

So, there are around 18 dances for four among the surviving notations

The next question concerns the sources for these dances, and what they might tell us about the status of dances for four in the 18th-century ballroom.






Following a discussion about eighteenth-century dances for four with a fellow baroque dance specialist and I thought I would make a list of the surviving notations. I had classified them as ballroom dances, so I turned to La Danse Noble (1992) by Meredith Little and Carol Marsh and La Belle Dance (1996) by Francine Lancelot, the two catalogues of this repertoire. Between them, they provided a total of eleven choreographies ranging in date from 1705 to 1771.

One starting point for the discussion was Feuillet’s Le Cotillon, published in 1705. This choreography has the same structure, and uses the same steps, as the cotillons published in Paris in the 1760s. Even though it appears alongside ballroom dances in the IIIIe. Recueil de Dances de Bal and is notated in the same way, it is essentially a contredanse. It is nevertheless listed in both catalogues. However, another dance for four, Le Quadrille, published by Magny in his Principes de Choregraphie (1765), appears in neither catalogue though it too is notated in the same way. Magny tells us that he composed the dance simply to show all the steps used in contredanses, so it was presumably omitted because it was classed as a contredanse.

I couldn’t help pursuing matters a little further. Neither Le Cotillon des Fêtes de Thalie (for eight dancers) from the XIIIIe. Recüeil de Danses (1716) nor L’Italiene (for four) from the XVII Recüeil de Dances (1719) both by Dezais, appear in the catalogues. Both these dances are recorded in the simplified form of notation used for contredanses. However, Little and Marsh include Mr Holt’s Minuet [and] Jigg for four, published in Pemberton’s An Essay for the Further Improvement of Dancing (1711) even though the dance is written in simplified notation and is very similar to a country dance. (Lancelot covers French dances and dancing masters, omitting anything which is purely English).

I began to wonder if the distinction between ballroom dances and country dances was less clear than I had supposed. When I came across the Premier Livre de Contre-Dances (1725) by Dezais and discovered that it has at least five dances for four, I realised that drawing up my list was not going to be entirely straightforward. So many country dances and contredanses were published during the eighteenth century that no researchers have tried to emulate Little and Marsh and Lancelot by trying to catalogue them. There is no easy way to investigate this repertoire. Are dances for four ballroom dances or contredanses? How many more of them are out there?