Tag Archives: Jean Favier

Contextualizing Mr Isaac’s Minuets

I thought it would be interesting, and perhaps informative, to try to place Mr Isaac’s minuets within the context of other minuet choreographies of approximately the same period. It isn’t easy to date the French notated dances, other than by their dates of publication, but given that some use music that appeared earlier they, too, may have been created a few years before their first appearance in print. I have taken my investigation as far as 1709, the year that Isaac’s The Royal Portuguez was published. Apart from the minuet in Favier’s Le Mariage de la Grosse Cathos of 1688, which I include here, there are six other minuets to be explored. Some are minuets only, while others are minuet sections within multi-partite dances.

La Bourée d’Achille was first published in Feuillet’s Recueil de dances composées par Mr. Pecour in Paris in 1700, one of the first two collections of dances to appear in notation. The minuet is the central section of the dance, with 48 bars of music in 3/4 time (2xAABB A=4 B=8), preceded and followed by a bourrée. The music is from Achille et Polixène, the opera begun by Lully and completed after his death by Colasse. It was first performed in 1687 and then not revived until 1712. So, the duet must antedate 1700 and could belong to the mid to late 1690s.

The Menuet à Deux was published by Feuillet in Recueil de dances contenant un tres grand nombres, de meillieures entrées de ballet de Mr. Pecour which appeared in Paris in 1704. This was the first collection of dances closely linked to the Paris Opéra (Feuillet had published a collection of his own ‘theatrical’ choreographies in 1700, but these seem not to have been associated with dancers on the professional stage). It was danced by Dumoulin l’aîné and Mlle Victoire in Campra’s Fragments de Mr de Lully in 1702 and the choreography obviously belongs to that date. As its title suggests, this is a minuet throughout which has 48 bars in 3/4 time (AABB A=8 B=16)

The Entrée pour un homme et une femme was also choreographed by Pecour and included in the 1704 Recueil de dances. The music is from Destouches’s opera Omphale, first given at the Paris Opéra in 1701 and then at court in 1702 (after which it was not revived until 1721). The notation declares that this duet was performed by Ballon and Mlle Subligny. It was, of course, a minuet for the stage rather than the ballroom with 68 bars of music in 3/4 time (a rondeau, ABACA A=16 B=8 C=12)

La Bavière, choreographed by Pecour, appeared in the IIIIe Recueil de dances de bal pour l’année 1706 published in Paris the previous year. This is a minuet followed by a forlana, to music from La Barre’s La Vénitienne first given at the Paris Opéra in 1705, so this ballroom dance must surely have been created with speedy publication in mind. The minuet has 32 bars of music in 3/4 time (AABB A=B=8)

The Brawl of Audenarde, by Siris, was published individually in London as his ‘new Dance for the year 1709’ and was obviously intended to celebrate the Duke of Marlborough’s victory at the Battle of Oudenarde as part of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1708. The title page says ‘The Tune by Mr. G.’, John Ernest Galliard, and the music was published separately the same year. This dance is a courante followed by a minuet and then a gigue, so it has structural affinities with some of Mr Isaac’s choreographies. The minuet has 32 bars of music in 3/4 time (ABAB A=B=8).

Le Menuet d’Alcide, another choreography by Pecour, was also published in 1709 but in Paris within the VIIe Recüeil de dances pour l’année 1709. Its music is from the opera Alcide by Louis Lully and Marin Marais, first performed at the Paris Opéra in 1693 and revived in 1705 (according to Francine Lancelot’s catalogue La Belle Dance (entry FL/1709.1/02) the music was also used in Ariane et Bacchus by Marais in 1696). This is another minuet throughout with 54 bars of music in 6/4 (3xAABB’ A=4 B=6 B’=4). It is possible, but perhaps unlikely, that Pecour’s choreography dates to the mid to late 1690s.

Leaving aside issues of dating, do any of these minuets have steps or figures in common with those by Mr Isaac that I explored in my earlier post?

Favier’s minuet ‘Entrée des 2. Garçons et des 2. filles de la Nopce’ in Le Mariage de la Grosse Cathos is analysed in detail by Rebecca Harris-Warrick and Carol Marsh in their 1994 book Musical Theatre at the Court of Louis XIV (see particularly pages 144-148). This choreography uses pas de menuet and contretemps du menuet, plus a single coupé and assemblé combination. The pas de menuet and contretemps du menuet differ from later versions, both in their component steps and their timing (see Harris-Warrick and Marsh, pp. 109, 111). There is no reference to any of the later conventional figures of the ballroom minuet. This ‘Entrée’ is a stage choreography performed within a work which uses music, songs and dances to portray an event – the marriage of ‘Fat Kate’. It is, perhaps, more surprising that it uses a standard and restricted vocabulary of steps than that it ignores the usual figures of the minuet, if these had indeed been established by 1688.

The French ballroom dances published in the early 1700s all reflect the menuet ordinaire as known from Rameau’s Le Maître à danser of 1725. The minuets in La Bourée d’Achille and La Bavière, as well as Le Menuet d’Alcide, all predominantly use the pas de menuet with some contretemps du menuet and occasional grace steps. In La Bourée d’Achille the pas de menuet à trois mouvements is favoured, while in Le Menuet d’Alcide preference is given to the pas de menuet à deux mouvements. The figures of these two minuets (particularly the latter) recognisably relate to the conventional figures of the ballroom minuet, but the minuet section in La Bavière is too short to do other than allude to the opening figure before moving on to another short figure which simply gets the dancers to their places to begin the following forlana.

Of the two minuets for the stage, the Menuet à Deux danced by Dumoulin l’aîné and Mlle Victoire is the most conventional. Of the twenty-four pas composés in this dance (which are written as if in 6/4), ten are pas de menuet à deux mouvements and eight are contretemps du menuet. Pecour begins the dance with a coupé sideways as the couple face each other, followed by a pas tombé and a jetté. The first B section of the music begins with the couple facing one another on a right line for a pas balancé forwards and backwards, incorporating a beat and an ouverture de jambe, before moving sideways away from each other with a fleuret and a pas balonné. They then repeat this sequence. Despite his choice of steps, Pecour seems not to reflect any of the ballroom minuet’s figures within his choreography – although this dance has quite a strong inward focus between the two dancers which is interesting in the context of a stage performance. Here is the first plate.

The Entrée pour un homme et une femme, danced by Ballon and Mlle Subligny in Omphale, has a far more varied vocabulary of steps with only four pas de menuet à deux mouvements and two contretemps du menuet. Otherwise Pecour uses pas composés based on a wider range of basic steps, some of which play with conventional steps from the minuet, for example the demi-contretemps followed by a pas tombé and a jetté, while others come together into sequences which echo those he uses in other dance types, like the coupé à deux mouvements followed by a coupé sans poser as the couple move sideways away from each other. There are no clear references to the conventional figures of the minuet, although the final retreat does have a contretemps du menuet as the pair move backwards upstage. Here is the final plate of this duet.

It is worth noting that this dance is far more outwardly focussed than Pecour’s Menuet à Deux. It is less easy to identify as a minuet from its choreography, but I suspect that a subtle relationship with the conventions of the ballroom minuet might emerge in the course of detailed reconstruction of the duet.

The last of the minuets seems to relate most closely to those by Mr Isaac, perhaps because Siris was working in London as well, or maybe because he was trying to emulate some aspects of Isaac’s choreographic style. Here is plate two of The Brawl of Audenarde with the whole of the minuet section.

The notation and engraving styles are strikingly different from those of the French notations and resemble those of Isaac’s dances (the printer John Walsh produced both Isaac’s and Siris’s dances). The dancers have just completed the courante, the opening section of the duet, and are facing each other offset across the dancing space. They begin by moving onto the same diametrical line with a variant of the pas de bourrée in which the last step is a pas glissé, recognisable from Isaac’s minuet for The Britannia, to which Siris adds a final plié. This is joined to a hop and a jetté, the final elements of the contretemps du menuet, to make a new hybrid pas composé emulating the sort of steps created by Isaac. Siris makes copious use of the pas de menuet à deux mouvements – there are seven in all within this 16-bar minuet (although the music is notated in 3/4, the dance steps are written in 6/4) and four are given small variations. There is a grace step, the pas de courante, which appears once in its usual guise of a tems de courante followed by a demi-jetté battu and then in an ornamented version (performed by the woman as well as the man) which has a double beat. The latter comes close to the end of the minuet section, by which time the couple are in mirror symmetry and so dancing on opposite feet. Like La Bavière, the minuet section of The Brawl of Audenarde is too short to include even allusions to the figures of the ballroom minuet. It ends with the man and woman side by side facing the presence, but improper, ready to begin the gigue with which the duet ends.

On the evidence of this small selection of early notated minuets, six French and one English (or, at least, published in London), Mr Isaac’s choreography was very idiosyncratic. The nearest to him in style is Siris. Should we read anything into the fact that, in his own translation of Feuillet’s Choregraphie entitled The Art of Dancing, Demonstrated by Characters and Figures and published in London in 1706, Siris claimed that he had been taught the notation by its inventor Pierre Beauchamp in the late 1680s? As we now know, Mr Isaac had begun his career in Paris by the early 1670s and was undoubtedly acquainted with Beauchamp. Did he and Siris enjoy similar early training in belle danse, contributing to the similarities between their approaches to choreography?

Le Triomphe de l’Amour

The ballet de cour came up in a recent email exchange about dance history. I haven’t written anything on this for a long time, but my thoughts quickly turned to Le Triomphe de l’Amour of 1681. It is usually associated with the introduction of female professional dancers to the stage of the Paris Opéra, but here I will concentrate on its first performances at the court of Louis XIV.

Le Triomphe de l’Amour was intended to celebrate the marriage of Louis XIV’s eldest son the Dauphin Louis (1661-1711), known as Monseigneur, to Marie Anne Christine de Bavière (1660-1690).

Their wedding had taken place on 7 March 1680, but the ballet in which he and the new Dauphine were to dance had been delayed by Monseigneur’s illnesses. Rehearsals finally began in December 1680 – there were 39 during December and January 1681. Le Triomphe de l’Amour was given its first performance on 21 January 1681, in the Salle de Comédie at the Château of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. There would be 29 performances in all, running until 18 February 1681. It was so successful that it became the first ballet de cour to transfer to the public theatre and it was given at the Paris Opéra by a wholly professional cast in May 1681. Among those professional dancers were Mlles de La Fontaine, Pesant, Carré and Leclercq – the first female dancers to appear on the Opéra stage.

At court, Le Triomphe de l’Amour was the first ballet to be given since Les Amants Magnifiques in 1670 (current scholarly opinion is that Louis XIV did not dance in that ballet). It was a large-scale work with 64 dancers, 48 singers and 75 or 76 instrumentalists. Among the dancers were 13 professionals, who appeared alongside 25 male and 22 female members of France’s royalty and nobility. There were also four dancers for whom I have not been able to ascertain their status – the ‘Sieurs’ Huet, Courcelles and Chalons were listed as ‘Petits Danceurs’ in Entrée V, while Jobelet joined them among the Jeux in Entrée XX – they may have been the children of the professional musicians employed by the court.

There were twenty danced Entrées in all, each of which had between one to four musical airs for the choreography. These Entrées are numbered in the livret published to accompany the court performances in 1681, although the ballet is not otherwise divided into acts or scenes. The following analysis of the structure of Le Triomphe de l’Amour is based on the appearance of successive deities and love stories.

This just one among many different approaches to the structure of this ballet.

Monseigneur made his first appearance in Entrée III as a Plaisir, his second in Entrée XIV as an Indien de la Suite de Bacchus and his last as Zephire in Entrée XIX, but for each of his appearances in the ballet the livret names another dancer with whom he alternated. These were, in turn, Lestang l’aîné, Lestang le cadet (both professionals) and M. de Mimurre. The Mercure Galant for January 1681, which provided a review of Le Triomphe de l’Amour, explained that ‘Monseigneur le Dauphin ne dança point le premier jour du Balet, mais on fut agreablement surpris quand on le dança  la seconde fois’, adding that his appearance was ‘une preuve de l’entier rétablissement de sa santé’ and that ‘Il a résolu de se donner le divertissement de son Entrée une fois chaque semaine’.

The Dauphine appeared first as the Première Nymphe de Diane in Entrée IX and then as Flore, alongside Monseigneur, in Entrée XIX. Marie Anne Christine de Bavière surprised everyone during the run of court performances of Le Triomphe de l’Amour, as the Mercure Galant recorded.

‘Madame la Dauphine qui s’estoit fait admirer dans toutes les siennes par sa justesse à la dance, s’attira de nouvelles acclamations le second jour qu’elle parut. Aussi fit-elle une chose assez extraordinaire. Madame la Princesse de Conty estant malade, & n’ayant pû dancer ses Entrées, le Roy dit deux heures avant le Balet, qu’il falloit que Madame la Dauphine en dançant quelqu’une. Son dessein n’estoit pas que ce fust dés ce jour mesme. Cependant cette Princesse apprit sur l’heure une grande Entrée toute remplie de figures, & dans laquelle il y a plus de douze reprises. Ainsi toute la Cour fut fort étonnée de luy avoir vû faire en moins de deux heures, ce qu’une Personne moins intelligente n’auroit pas appris en quinze jours.’

This story is perhaps less well known to dance historians than it deserves.

The Princesse de Conti, Marie-Anne de Bourbon (1666-1739), was the daughter of Louis XIV and Louise de la Vallière and (despite her tender age) recently married to the Prince de Conti. She danced as a Nereïde in Entrée VI and as Ariane in Entrée XIII. Louis XIV’s insistence on the Dauphine dancing in place of the Princesse de Conti was perhaps to do with the appearance of Monseigneur among the Indiens de la Suite de Bacchus in Entrée XIV, which included a chaconne which is likely to have been performed by all the dancers in this scene.

Other royal dancers in Le Triomphe de l’Amour were Mademoiselle, Anne Marie d’Orléans (1669-1728) the daughter of the King’s brother Philippe and his first wife Henriette Anne. She was the first among the three Graces who appeared in the very first Entrée of the ballet.

The final Entrée of Le Triomphe de l’Amour was for La Jeunesse, performed by Mlle de Nantes the seven-year-old daughter of Louis XIV and Mme de Montespan. The Mercure Galant declared ‘Mademoiselle de Nantes dance seul. Elle s’en acquitte avec tant de grace, de legereté, & de justesse, qu’elle enchante tout le monde. Aussi n’a-t-on jamais vu personne qui eust l’oreille plus fine, ny plus d’agrément pour toute sorte de Dances’.

Another of the noble female dancers was Marie Antoinette de Béthune, Duchesse de Sully (1643-1702) who appeared as a Nymphe de Diane in Entrée IX, a Fille Grecque de la Suite d’Ariane in Entrée XIV and a Nymphe de Flore in Entrée XIX. She was an experienced participant in ballets de cour, for she had danced in place of the first Madame, Henriette Anne, in the title role of the Ballet de Flore in 1669. I have not been able to find a portrait of her.

Notable among the noblemen were the Comte de Brionne, the nineteen-year-old Henri de Lorraine (1661-1712), who danced as a Plaisir in Entrée III, a Dieu Marin in Entrée VI and as Bacchus in Entrée XIII and M. de Mimurre, who danced alongside Brionne in Entrées III and VI, as an Indien de la Suite de Bacchus in Entrée XIV and as Zephire in Entrée XIX when Monseigneur did not take the role.

The professional dancers had more to do individually than the nobles, for most of them danced three or four roles apiece. One exception was Pierre Beauchamps (1631-1705), who took only the role of Mars in scene 2 – he is also credited with creating the choreography for Le Triomphe de l’Amour. Beauchamps was supported by courtiers as his Guerriers, together with more courtiers as Amours as well as the ‘Petits Danceurs’ mentioned earlier. The livret’s description hints at pantomime well as dancing and action in this scene. Mars appears armed among his Guerriers showing that he loves only ‘les Combats, le sang, & le carnage’ – which suggests that Entrée IV was a form of Pyrrhic Dance. He is disarmed by the Amours, who chain him with garlands of flowers before dancing to celebrate their victory over the god of war. This design by Berain is either for Mars or a Guerrier.

Borée and Orithye in scene 4 were both performed by professional dancers. Guillaume-Louis Pecour was Borée with Faüre as Orithye – all the female roles in this scene were danced by men en travesti. The livret’s description of the scene again suggests some pantomime as well as dance and mimed action. Borée watches Orithye from a distance and when he approaches her is overcome with love. Orithye is frightened by him and her companions the Filles Athéniennes try to defend her but ‘les vents qui suivent Borée escartent les Athéniennes, & donnent moyen à Borée d’enlever Orithye’. The following designs by Berain are for the Followers of Borée and Orithye.

In scene 5, devoted to Diane and Endymion, the professional dancer Favier l’aîne was Endymion. Jean Favier is well-known for his 1688 mascarade Le Mariage de la Grosse Cathos, recorded in his own system of dance notation. This scene brought together noble and professional dancers, with the Dauphine and noblewomen as the Nymphes de Diane, noblemen as Songes and finally professional dancers as the Peuples de Carie (who were also represented by a chorus of singers as they called upon the goddess to return to the night sky). This engraving shows Berain’s design for Endymion.

The god Apollon made his appearance in scene 8, danced by Lestang le cadet, followed by Lestang l’aîné as Pan. Apollo’s followers – Bergers héroïques – were all professional dancers, as were the Faunes that accompanied Pan. This was the last scene with professional dancers, although Le Triomphe de l’Amour closed with a ‘Danse generale’ by Apollon and his Bergers héroïques, Pan with his Faunes, Zephirs, Nymphes de Flore and the Jeux bringing a total of 27 dancers onto the stage. The livret makes no mention of Zephire, Flore or La Jeunesse, so presumably these royal dancers did not take part in the ballet’s finale.

Despite the scale of the performance, Le Triomphe de l’Amour had only one set throughout ‘un Lieu magnifique orné, & que l’on a disposé pour y recevoir l’Amour qui doit y venir en triomphe’, shown in this engraving from the livret.

There is far more to be said about Le Triomphe de l’Amour both at court and at the Paris Opéra and I may well return to this ballet in due course. In the meantime, here are some of the modern sources I have used in putting together this post.

James R. Anthony. French Baroque Music from Beaujoyeulx to Rameau (Portland, Or, 1997)

Barbara Coeyman, ‘Lully’s influence on the organization and performance of the “Ballet de Cour” after 1672’ in Jean-Baptiste Lully. Actes du Colloque … 1987 (Laaber, 1990)

Jérôme de La Gorce, Berain, dessinateur du Roi Soleil (Paris, 1986)

Jérôme de La Gorce, Féeries d’opéra (Paris, 1997)

Rebecca Harris-Warrick, Dance and Drama in French Baroque Opera (Cambridge, 2016)

Philippe Quinault, Le Triomphe de l’Amour in Benserade. Ballets pour Louis XIV, ed. Marie-Claude Canova-Green. 2 vols. (Toulouse, 1997), volume 2

The ‘Z’ Figure of the Minuet: Taubert and Tomlinson

I am not going to undertake a lengthy and exhaustive investigation of the ‘Z’ figure of the minuet. My aim is simply to discover the origins of the version I originally learned. Here, I will look at two sources in particular, and glance at some others.

The earliest notated source for a minuet comes from Jean Favier’s notation for Le Mariage de la Grosse Cathos of 1688. This minuet is for four dancers and was performed within an entertainment given by professional dancers at the court of Louis XIV. It thus falls outside my present topic. Details can, of course, be found in Musical Theatre at the Court of Louis XIV: Le Mariage de la Grosse Cathos by Rebecca Harris-Warrick and Carol G. Marsh, a study published in 1994 which includes a facsimile reprint of the manuscript.

The treatise by I.H.P. ‘Maître de danse, oder Tantz-Meister’, published in Glueckstadt and Leipzig in 1705, contains the ‘Menuet d’Anjou’ a ballroom duet for a couple. This is a choreographed dance rather than a conventional ballroom minuet, so it too falls outside my topic. The dance and its notation, together with a translation of the treatise can be found in Barocktanz / La Danse Baroque / Baroque Dance, edited by Stephanie Schroedter, Marie-Thérèse Mourey and Giles Bennett and published in 2008.

The next treatise to deal with the ballroom minuet, and apparently the earliest to look at the basic form of this dance, is Gottfried Taubert’s Rechtschaffener Tantzmeister published in Leipzig in 1717. This valuable treatise is now available in an English translation by Tilden Russell published in 2012. Taubert turns to the minuet in chapter 30 of his second book. After a lengthy discussion of the various minuet steps, he discusses the ‘principal figure of the minuet’ in chapter 33. He gives a short history of the ‘Z’ figure and identifies three versions currently in use – a reversed ‘S’, a ‘2’ and the ‘Z’. For the reversed ‘S’, Taubert prescribes sideways pas de menuet for the first semi-circle and forward pas de menuet for the second. For the ‘2’ he suggests various combinations of sideways and forwards pas de menuet, but he also says:

‘Some use only side steps throughout, in this way: three or four to the left, bringing them down to the beginning of the straight line, along which they turn and make one or two side steps to the right, thus using no forward steps in the principal figure, which I find displeasing. Also it should be remembered that nowadays many do not make the turn to the left [at the straight line], but instead, after having passed by the woman with side steps, always keeping her before their eyes, they dance backward, and then sideways to the right.’ (p. 640 original text, p. 529 translation)

So, we have another backwards step – although Taubert’s sequence is not the same as Rameau’s.

For the ‘Z’ version of the figure, Taubert says ‘Two side steps to the left are made along the upper horizontal line, two or three forward steps along the long middle line, and another one or two side steps to the right along the lower horizontal line’ (p. 640, p. 529. Taubert is describing the figure as danced by the man). He adds ‘Recently it was reliably reported to me that two royal personages were seen dancing this figure with nothing but side steps from right to left, circling round each other at the same time; but I would never lightly advise anyone to try this’. Taubert also notates the ballroom minuet – the ‘Z’ figure looks like this (p. 658, p. 541):

As you can see, there are two pas de menuet à trois mouvements to the left, two more forward and two pas de menuet à deux mouvements to the right having turned around the left shoulder. The half turn is divided into two quarter-turns performed over the final demi-jeté of the fourth pas de menuet and first demi-coupé of the fifth.

In Le Maître a danser, some eight years later, Rameau explained that Guillaume-Louis Pecour had been responsible for changing the original reversed ‘S’ to a ‘Z’ figure (chapter 22, p. 84).

In his Trattato del Ballo Nobile published in Naples in 1728, Giambatista Dufort has a second section devoted to the minuet and looks at the ‘Z’ figure in chapter 5. Essentially, he prescribes two pas de menuet to the left, two more to cross and then two to the right. He does not mention any backwards steps.

Kellom Tomlinson published The Art of Dancing in London in 1735 (although he claimed to have completed the work in 1724, before Rameau published Le Maître a danser). He provides a detailed account of the steps and figures of the minuet in book two, reaching the ‘Figure of S reversed’ in chapter 7. Tomlinson uses eight pas de menuet for the figure. He begins with four pas de menuet à trois mouvements sideways – two to the left and two on the diagonal to meet in the middle – followed by four pas de menuet (‘one and a fleuret’) forwards to complete the ‘S reversed’. He adds that the last of the eight pas de menuet may be made sideways. Like Taubert, Tomlinson includes a notation for his ballroom minuet with two ‘S reversed’ figures in which he varies the last step.

Tomlinson also includes several engravings showing couples dancing the minuet. In this one they are about to begin the ‘S reversed’ figure.

Not only does the ‘Z’ figure include a pas de menuet backwards, in more than one treatise, but the type of step as well as the number used varies according to the different dancing masters who wrote about it in the early 1700s. I wish I had known this when I was learning the dance. The version I learned most closely resembles Taubert’s notation, although I do not remember him ever being cited as the source. I am not going to take this particular line of enquiry any further, at least for the time being, but I think there is ample material for some practical research by those who would like to get a little closer to how the minuet might have been danced at balls and assemblies in the 18th century.