Tag Archives: Kellom Tomlinson

Learning to Dance: Kellom Tomlinson

According to his own testimony, Kellom Tomlinson completed his dance manual in 1724 but was obliged to defer publication following the appearance of The Dancing-Master in 1728. The Art of Dancing was finally published in 1735, complete with more than thirty engraved illustrations. It is probably the most beautiful of the dance treatises produced during the 18th century. Tomlinson brought out a second edition in 1744.

He provided an outline of the book’s contents at the very beginning:

‘The First Book treats of the beautiful Attitudes or Postures of Standing, the different Positions from whence the Steps of Dancing are to be taken and performed; and likewise the Manner of Walking gracefully. The several Sorts of Bows and Courtesies are also fully described, and all or most of the Steps used in Genteel Dancing’

Like Taubert (but unlike Rameau), Tomlinson also included ‘many of those [Steps] properly belonging to the Stage’. The second book of his treatise focuses on the minuet.

Tomlinson’s illustrations are integral to his manual of dancing:

‘the Piece which I here offer to the World will be of general Use to all, who either have learned, or are learning to dance: the Words describing the Manner in which the Steps are to be taken; and the Figures representing Persons as actually taking them’

The engravings were a selling point, but also provided an additional income stream since they could be purchased independently of the text.

Kellom Tomlinson. The Art of Dancing (London, 1735), Book II, Plate VIII.

Kellom Tomlinson. The Art of Dancing (London, 1735), Book II, Plate VIII.

The Art of Dancing begins with three chapters, ‘Of Standing’, ‘Of Walking’ and ‘Of Bowing’ respectively. After a discussion ‘Of the Dancing-Room’, intended to assist pupils in navigating the spaces within which they would be expected to dance duets, Tomlinson gets straight on to steps. Unlike Taubert and Rameau, he defers explanations of the steps and figures of the minuet until after he has dealt with the other steps would-be dancers might meet in danses à deux or figure dances.

The chapters on standing and walking are short, just a couple of pages each. ‘Of Bowing’ (which deals with both gentlemen and ladies) carries on through ten pages. Most of the first chapter, on standing, is devoted to a description of the five positions of the feet. Tomlinson relates these to the graceful and agreeable ways of standing to be used by gentlemen – ‘Position, then, is the different Placing or Setting our Feet on the Floor, whether in Conversation or Dancing’. In his second chapter, Tomlinson makes the link between walking and dancing explicit – ‘And it is further to be noted, that, in Walking with a good Grace, Time and Harmony must be observed, as well as in Dancing’.

Tomlinson begins his third chapter on ‘the different Sorts of Honours’ by explaining  ‘Bows or Courtesies are the outward Marks of Respect we pay to others, … and, if made in a regular Manner, they are, indeed, very grand, noble and highly ornamental’. He obviously saw such honours as integral to manners and polite deportment and very closely linked, in their performance, to dancing. He gives as much instruction on the disposition of the body as on the mechanics of the bow or courtesie, talking of:

‘the handsome Position of the Waiste, neither too much forwards nor backwards, the whole Poise of the Body  being beautiful and upright, directly perpendicular or right down over the Heel or Heels , on which the Poise rests’

The recommended stance contributes much to both the lady’s and the gentleman’s honours.

The fourth chapter, ‘Of the Dancing-Room’ ends with a survey of the dancing body and the elements of dancing. Tomlinson seems to be drawing on John Weaver’s Anatomical and Mechanical Lectures upon Dancing, published in 1721, as well as Feuillet’s Choregraphie. I will return to the ‘Actions and Motions of the Body’, first set out by Feuillet, ‘from whence the whole Body or Art of Dancing is produced’.  Kellom Tomlinson is not specific about his teaching methods, but he makes reference to these basic ‘Actions and Motions’ throughout his explanations of steps.

The Minuet: Sources

The topic of Georgian balls brings me to that most terrifying of dances with which they all began – the minuet. This was the one duet that everyone had to learn, if not to master, if they hoped to gain a place within polite society.

The minuet disappeared from the ballroom, and from dancing lessons, some 200 years ago. There is no recognisable descendant among our modern ballroom dances. We must, therefore, turn to written sources if we wish to reconstruct the dance. None of the surviving dance manuals and notations is entirely clear and, between them, they pose many problems of interpretation.

The earliest surviving notated minuet is a dance for four (two men and two women) from the mascarade Le Mariage de la Grosse Cathos, created by Jean Favier the elder for performance at Versailles in 1688. Favier recorded the whole entertainment in his own system of dance notation. The steps of the ballroom minuet were published in Beauchamp-Feuillet notation in 1701. Feuillet inexplicably omitted them from the first edition of Choregraphie in 1700 and had to add a ‘Supplément de pas’ to the second edition.

The earliest dance manual to describe and explain the ballroom minuet in detail is Gottfried Taubert’s Rechtschaffener Tantzmeister, published in Leipzig in 1717. Better known, at least to baroque dance aficionados, is Pierre Rameau’s Le Maître a danser (Paris, 1725) with its translation by John Essex The Dancing-Master (London, 1728). Kellom Tomlinson, whose The Art of Dancing appeared in London in 1735, followed them by devoting several chapters to the steps and figures of the ballroom minuet. Like Taubert, he provided a notated version of the duet. It is reasonable to assume that all three treatises reflect the teaching practice of the dancing masters themselves.

During the 18th century dance treatises were published throughout Europe. Many drew on Rameau’s work and included the minuet as part of a course of instruction in ‘French Dancing’. Alongside these were the minuets published in notation. Many are duets for a man and a woman. There are also minuets for four (two men and two women), as well as dances for five or more and a number of solos. In addition, there are several dances that include the minuet as one of the sections in a small-scale ‘suite’ of differing dance types.

I will look more closely at these and other sources for the minuet in future posts, as I explore the various facets of this familiar but little-known and much-misunderstood dance.

The Illustration is from George Bickham the younger’s An Easy Introduction to Dancing: or the Movements in the Minuet Fully Explained published in London in 1738. This little work draws heavily on The Dancing-Master, for which Bickham had provided new illustrations when it was reissued in the early 1730s.

Bickham Minuet

A Year of Dance: 1715

The most significant event of 1715 was the death of Louis XIV on 1 September. He was succeeded by his five year old great-grandson, who became Louis XV. Philippe, duc d’Orléans, the son of Louis XIV’s brother (who had died in 1701) became Regent to the child-king. The new reign would usher in significant cultural as well as political changes.

In Britain, George I was briefly threatened by a Jacobite rising that sought to put the Catholic James Francis Edward Stuart, son of James II, on the throne. The rebellion began in September and was over before Christmas. With the succession assured, at least for the time being, the new Hanoverian dynasty began to settle into English court life.

In Paris, Dezais published the XIII Recüeil de danses pour l’année 1715. This contained only two duets – La Transilvanie by Claude Ballon and Le Menuet d’Espagne by Dezais himself. Another collection, notated and published by Gaudrau, was entitled Danses nouvelles presentées au Roy. Gaudrau had begun to publish dances by Guillaume-Louis Pecour a couple of years earlier, with a Nouveau recüeil de dance de bal et celle de ballet. The Danses nouvelles were two ballroom duets by Pecour, La Venitienne and Le Branle allemand. The former was to a piece of music from Mouret’s Les Fêtes de Thalie.

Pecour. Danses nouvelles (Paris, [1715?]), title page.

Pecour. Danses nouvelles (Paris, [1715?]), title page.

Dezais’s collection was probably published early in the year (perhaps even towards the end of the previous year). Gaudrau’s is undated, but has been ascribed to 1715. The collection must have appeared after the death of Louis XIV, for it is dedicated to his successor. Pecour wrote:

J’ay l’honneur de presenter a Votre Majesté les deux premieres dances que j’ay composées depuis son règne, je souhaitte avec ardeur les voir un jour éxécuter par Votre Majesté, …

Pecour was in his early sixties and had worked for the French court for more than forty years. It seems that he was hoping for further employment.

In London, at least nine dance publications appeared during 1715 as dancing masters vied for the patronage of the new royal family. The first to appear was Siris’s The Princess Anna, advertised towards the end of January. No copy of this dance is known to survive. A new edition of For the Further Improvement of Dancing, John Essex’s translation of Feuillet’s 1706 Recüeil de contredances, probably dates to 1715. Essex dedicated it to ‘Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales’ and the only known copy may well have been the one presented to her. It included some new country dances and ‘a new French Dance, which I presume to call the Princess’s Passpied’. This duet may have been created with an eye to the Princess’s birthday on 1 March.

The dancing master Richard Shirley published his own notated versions of Ballon’s La Silvie (which had appeared in Paris in 1712) and Pecour’s Aimable vainqueur (first published 1701) in mid-March. He, too, may have had an eye on the birthday celebrations for the Princess of Wales.

George I’s birthday on 28 May was marked by the appearance of a duet honouring his eldest granddaughter Princess Anne, aged five. There were two competing editions of L’Abbé’s The Princess Royale. One was notated by Edmund Pemberton, who was to record and publish L’Abbé’s ballroom duets for many years. The other was by the music publisher John Walsh, who seems to have pirated Pemberton’s version.

L’Abbé. The Princess Royale (London, [1715]), title page.

L’Abbé. The Princess Royale (London, [1715]), title page.

Walsh also published Mr Isaac’s new ballroom dance The Friendship, which may have appeared early in the year. The Morris, Mr Isaac’s ‘new Dance for the year 1716’, was published towards the end of 1715 not by Walsh but by Pemberton.

The ninth of the dance publications was from an up-and-coming dancing master, Kellom Tomlinson. He produced his first published duet The Passepied Round O during the year. It may simply have been fortuitous that it appeared in 1715, but Tomlinson was soon to prove himself adept at attracting patronage.

One other dance may belong to 1715, although it was not published for several more years. L’Abbé’s stage dance Canaries ‘perform’d by Mr La Garde and Mr Dupré’ appeared in his A New Collection of Dances around 1725. Charles Delagarde and Louis Dupré were both among the dancers at Lincoln’s Inn Fields during the 1714-1715 season. This was the only time they are known to have danced together. The duet signals the new emphasis on dancing in London’s theatres, as well as the virtuosity of the male professional dancers working in them.