Following my recent detailed analysis of the 1725-1726 theatrical season on the London stage, I thought I should return to my A Year of Dance series and add 1726. (I wrote about 1725 quite some time ago). Politically, this seems to have been a quieter year than 1725.
In France in June, Louis XV appointed his old tutor André-Hercule de Fleury as his chief minister. Fleury was created a cardinal in September 1726. The previous spring, the poet and writer Voltaire had arrived in England for two years of exile from France following a second period of imprisonment in the Bastille. He quickly learned English, honing his language skills by regular visits to London’s theatres. During his stay he was to meet Alexander Pope, John Gay and Jonathan Swift, among others.
In England, 1726 was marked by the death of the architect and dramatist Sir John Vanbrugh on 26 March, followed by that of the scourge of London’s theatres Jeremy Collier on 26 April, whose A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage published in 1698 had attacked Vanbrugh among other leading playwrights. Towards the end of the year, George I’s former wife Sophia Dorothea of Celle died. Their marriage had been dissolved following her adultery in 1694 and she had been imprisoned in her native Celle for more than twenty years. 1726 also saw the publication of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (‘Lilliputians’ would in due course become a popular feature on the London stage), as well as the ‘rabbit’ hoax by Mary Toft which fascinated and bamboozled many over the autumn.
In the wider context for these posts, the most significant theatrical event of 1726 in London was the new pantomime at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Apollo and Daphne given on 14 January, which brought Francis and Marie Sallé back to the London stage after an absence of several years and reintroduced them to audiences as adult dancers. It answered Drury Lane’s 1725 Apollo and Daphne pantomime, which was revised and revived in reply. This small painting by the Italian artist Michele Rocca probably dates to the early 18th century.
There was also Italian opera at the King’s Theatre, with two new operas by Handel – Scipione on 12 March and Alessandro on 5 May. The Italian soprano Faustina Bordoni made her debut as Rossane in Alessandro, with Francesca Cuzzoni as Lisaura and Senesino in the title role.
In Paris, Destouches’s opéra-ballet Les Stratagèmes de l’Amour (composed to celebrate the marriage of Louis XV and Marie Leszczyńska the previous year) was given at the Paris Opéra on 28 March. The dancers included Françoise Prévost and David Dumoulin – she led the Troyennes in the first divertissement in Entrée I, while he led the Matelots in the second divertissement, and they danced together as Esclaves (with sixteen other dancers) in Entrée III. Rebel’s tragédie en musique Pyrame et Thisbé had its first performance on 17 October. David Dumoulin and Mlle Prévost also danced in this production, leading the Egyptiens (with Blondy) in act two and the Bergers and Bergères in act three.
No dances were published in notation this year. The last of the Paris collections had appeared in 1725, while in England the series of new dances ‘For the Year’ by Anthony L’Abbé had already ceased to be annual. It would resume in 1727 and continue, with occasional gaps, until 1733.
There were seven afterpieces with dancing at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726. One was a masque, while the rest were the pantomimes listed below.
Jupiter and Europa
Harlequin a Sorcerer
Apollo and Daphne
The Cheats; or, The Tavern Bilkers
The Jealous Doctor
Only Apollo and Daphne was new. The list shows clearly how important pantomimes were to John Rich and his theatre company.
The masque was St. Ceciliae; or, The Union of the Three Sister Arts, which had first been performed in 1723-1724 and was briefly revived in 1724-1725 and 1725-1726. When it was given on 22 November 1725 (St. Cecilia’s day) it was advertised with ‘Proper Dances’ performed by three couples.
Jupiter and Europa; or, The Intrigues of Harlequin was given on 21 October 1725 with ‘Lun’ (John Rich) as Jupiter (Harlequin) and Mrs Wall as Europa and performed eight times in all during the season. The pantomime had first been performed in 1722-1723, when it had been billed as a ‘new Dramatic Entertainment of Dancing in Burlesque Characters’. It lasted in the repertoire in its original form until 1727-1728 and was then revived in 1735-1736 within a new pantomime, The Royal Chace; or, Merlin’s Cave: With Jupiter and Europa. Like many of the pantomimes of this period, it is worth a post of its own. The abduction of Europa by Jupiter in the form of a bull was a favourite theme of artists of the period. This French painting by Pierre Gobert dates to the 1710s.
The Necromancer; or, Harlequin Doctor Faustus was given on 3 November 1725 with Lun as Faustus. This pantomime had been John Rich’s answer to John Thurmond Junior’s Harlequin Doctor Faustus in 1723-1724. It proved to be far more popular than its rival and would be regularly revived into the 1740s. The serious parts of Rich’s pantomimes used singers, rather than dancers as at Drury Lane, so Rich’s practice was to publish libretti for the ‘Vocal Parts’ with brief references to the action of the comic characters. The competition between the two Faustus pantomimes and the craze for these afterpieces which ensued meant that there were two scenarios printed for the Lincoln’s Inn Fields version. These provide details of the comic plot. The bills highlight the commedia dell’arte characters who appear in the final scene, performed by the company’s leading dancers – Harlequin Man and Woman, Pierrot Man and Woman, Mezzetin Man and Woman and Scaramouch Man and Woman. The Necromancer also featured Francis Nivelon as Punch. This particular pantomime has attracted much scholarly attention, including analyses of the surviving music, and I will look at it more closely in a separate post. One drawing survives which is generally agreed to show the singer Richard Leveridge as an Infernal Spirit with John Rich as Faustus in scene one.
Harlequin a Sorcerer: With the Loves of Pluto and Proserpine, given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 21 January 1725, was Rich’s next new pantomime after The Necromancer. It received nearly 30 performances in its first season and was revived on 13 November 1725 for another ten. In 1725-1726, it was overshadowed by the popularity of that season’s new pantomime Apollo and Daphne. Rich, as Lun, took the title role in Harlequin a Sorcerer, while Pluto and Proserpine were played by singers. The pantomime’s subtitle refers to the pantomime that Rich had wanted to produce (and would indeed put on the following season). The libretto that was published to accompany performances records a few details of the scenic tricks and transformations in the piece, which I will also look at separately. Harlequin a Sorcerer lasted until the early 1730s and was revived at Covent Garden in the 1750s.
The 1725-1726 season’s new pantomime, Apollo and Daphne; or, The Burgomaster Tricked, was first given on 14 January 1726 with Francis and Marie Sallé in the title roles and Francis Nivelon as the Burgomaster. It had 45 performances before the end of the season and would be regularly revived into the 1750s, making it one of Rich’s most popular pantomime afterpieces. Apollo and Daphne was unusual among the Lincoln’s Inn Fields pantomimes for using dancers to play the principal characters in the serious plot – Rich was, of course, replying to Thurmond Junior and Mrs Booth at Drury Lane. Only the words for the ‘Vocal Parts’ were published, with little beyond the descriptions of the various scenes to hint at the dance and mime performed by the Sallés. There is no mention of the comic scenes with the Burgomaster or the various commedia dell’arte characters. Rich went one better than Drury Lane with his concluding entertainment to Apollo and Daphne, in which Francis and Marie Sallé reappeared as Zephyrus and Flora. Recent research suggests that this was taken from Aubert’s opera La Reine des Péris given at the Paris Opéra in 1725. Again, I will have to devote a separate post to this pantomime. The Triumph of Flora, like Zephyrus and Flora, was a favourite theme for artists. This version by Poussin is much earlier, although the artist was still greatly admired in the 18th century.
The last two pantomimes in repertoire at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726 were given during the summer season. The Cheats; or, The Tavern Bilkers was revived on 1 July 1726 for the first of five performances. Over the years casts were rarely listed for this pantomime, and this summer’s advertisements were no exception. The Cheats had begun life in 1716-1717 and was undoubtedly intended by Rich as a hit at John Weaver, whose danced afterpieces were popular at Drury Lane that season (Weaver’s first piece for the stage had been titled The Tavern Bilkers). On the occasions when the characters in The Cheats were named in the bills they were revealed as drawn from the commedia dell’arte – the piece was billed as an ‘Italian Night Scene’ at its first performance. The Cheats was revived into the early 1730s.
The Jealous Doctor; or, The Intriguing Dame, given on 19 July 1726 and then for another three performances, also dated back to 1716-1717. It had replied to the play by John Gay, Alexander Pope and John Arbuthnot Three Hours after Marriage given at Drury Lane that same season. The play lasted for only a few performances, but the pantomime was revived around half-a-dozen times each season until 1725-1726. Its relegation to the 1726 summer season marked the end of its stage life.
I am going to round up this lengthy exploration of dancing on the London stage during the 1725-1726 season in my next post by considering what all these details might tell us about dancing at the two patent theatres and stage dancing in London more generally.
The following solo entr’acte dances were given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726:
Wooden Shoe Dance
Les Caractères de la Dance
As I mentioned in my last post about the entr’acte solos at Drury Lane, this season the Passacaille and the Spanish Dance were also performed there.
I recently wrote a post about Scotch Dances on the London stage and I began by mentioning those performed during the 1725-1726 season. Mrs Bullock performed a solo Scots Dance at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 4 October 1725 and repeated it at least ten times that season. Thanks to her and Newhouse (who performed a Scottish Dance with Mrs Ogden at least five times this season), Scotch Dances had become a regular feature in the entr’actes by the mid-1720s. Although we still don’t know much about them and where they might have come from.
On 13 October 1725, Nivelon performed a Wooden Shoe Dance and repeated what was surely the same dance ‘in the Character of a Clown’ (meaning a rustic or peasant) on 25 October. The solo was billed simply as a Wooden Shoe Dance for the rest of the season and he performed it at least eleven times. There had been occasional Wooden Shoe Dances as early as 1709-1710, but it was Nivelon who established them in the entr’acte repertoire. He sometimes danced a Wooden Shoe duet with Mrs Laguerre (although not in 1725-1726), but his solo was far more popular.
Only one of the many solos and other dances given in the entr’actes at London’s theatres over the course of the 18th century is widely known among those with an interest in dance history. At Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 27 November 1725, Marie Sallé performed ‘Les Caractères de la Dance, in which are express’d all the different Movements in Dancing’. The description refers to Rebel’s score, which runs through the courante, minuet, bourée, chaconne, saraband, gigue, rigaudon, passepied, gavotte, loure and musette in some eight minutes or so. This dance (which was also occasionally performed as a duet) has been much discussed and often recreated. Its history on the London stage is worth a post of its own, so I won’t say much here. Mlle Sallé gave it three times during the 1725-1726 season. It was revived by her once in 1726-1727 and then several times as Les Caractères de l’Amour (which I assume was essentially the same) in 1733-1734, her penultimate season on the London stage. The solo obviously proved popular, because it was performed by several of London’s leading female dancers into the early 1750s.
A solo French Sailor was apparently danced at Lincoln’s Inn Fields by Francis Sallé on 3 January 1726. I have been wondering whether this really was a solo, since every other performance of the French Sailor this season was a duet by both Sallés. There is no other reference to Francis giving a solo Sailor’s Dance, with the exception of his appearance in a Sailor’s Hornpipe in 1729-1730. The advertisement refers to ‘Mons Salle’s French Sailor’, which may simply be meant to draw attention to the fact that he had created the duet that he danced with his sister. Of course, he may simply have adapted that duet into a solo to be performed alongside the solo French Peasant by Nivelon and Mrs Bullock’s solo Scotch Dance on the same bill.
On 31 March 1726, Nivelon danced a solo French Clown. Although he was occasionally so billed, he was more often advertised in a Clown solo (he appeared at least once as a Dutch Clown). Nivelon’s repertoire, in particular his appearance in pantomime afterpieces, needs careful analysis, but it is possible that the main difference between these three solos was their costumes rather than their choreographies. The term ‘Clown’ can have rustic connotations, but perhaps Nivelon’s solo was related to the ‘Buffoon’ depicted by Lambranzi, who describes his performance thus (the translation is from New and Curious School of Theatrical Dancing translated by Derra de Moroda, edited by Cyril Beaumont and first published in 1928, p. 25):
‘This buffoon does various foolish but curious pas, with distorted but comic jumps, which he varies as much as possible and endeavours to make still more humorous, until the air has been played three times.’
Lambranzi shows the Buffoon performing a suitably distorted pas.
In 1725-1726, four different female dancers performed a solo Chacone in the entr’actes at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The first was Mrs Bullock on 31 March 1726, followed on 9 May by Mrs Anderson, on 11 May by Miss Latour and on 14 May by Mrs Wall. All were benefit performances (Miss Latour was dancing at her own benefit). Mrs Anderson went on to perform her solo Chacone another eight times during the theatre’s summer season. Without their music, it is difficult to know what these solos might have been like. Were they related to Pecour’s ‘Chacone pour une femme’ danced to music from Lully’s Phaëton and published in notation in 1704? Mrs Bullock’s Chacone was part of her repertoire from 1714-1715 to 1734-1735 and undoubtedly changed over the years. What little evidence we have of her technical abilities (in the form of L’Abbé’s ‘Saraband of Issee’ and ‘Jigg’ created for her and Dupré) suggests that she could be a virtuoso dancer. Was her solo Chacone popular because it was a tour de force?
Leach Glover made his first appearance of the season on 14 April 1726, a benefit for Mrs Laguerre and her husband, when he danced a solo Louvre. Most advertisements for the Louvre referred to the duet Aimable Vainqueur, a favourite for benefit performances, but solo billings point to quite different dances. They are never billed explicitly as such, but at least some of them may have been ‘Spanish’ dances using loures either from Lully’s Le Bourgeois gentilhomme or Campra’s L’Europe galante. There was a recent precedent for such a solo in L’Abbé’s ‘Spanish Entrée’ created for the young George Desnoyer in 1721 or 1722 and published in notation around 1725.
This solo was to Lully’s music and provides a glimpse of the male dance virtuosity to be seen in London’s theatres at this period. This first plate includes cabrioles and a pirouette with pas battus (in modern terminology petits battements). Later in the solo there are several entre-chats à six, some of which are incorporated into tours en l’air.
At his benefit on 15 April 1726, Nivelon included his solo Flag Dance – a piece that he seems to have had a near monopoly on. He apparently introduced it to the London stage at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1723-1724 and was last billed performing it in 1730-1731. This is another piece which might have a link to Lambranzi, who has a dance by a ‘Switzer’ with a ‘standard’.
Nivelon’s dance may also have been related to the ‘Flourishing of the Colours’ performed by Signora Violante at the King’s Theatre in 1719-1720.
Nivelon was very busy in the entr’actes during 1725-1726, for on 15 April he also added a Dutch Boor to his repertoire. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, ‘Dutch’ dances were very popular on the London stage, although – apart from the Dutch Skipper – solo dances were far less often performed than duets. By London audiences, a ‘Dutch Boor’ was probably seen as a Dutch peasant or country bumpkin. Nivelon was rarely seen in ‘Dutch’ dances and this seems to be the only time he performed such a solo on its own.
Mrs Wall danced a solo ‘new Saraband compos’d by Dupre’ at the benefit she shared with Newhouse on 30 April 1726. It is possible that she had been taught by Dupré, although this was not mentioned in the bills. I wrote about the Saraband on the London Stage back in 2015, so I won’t say more here – except to suggest that this solo was a ‘French’ rather than a ‘Spanish’ Saraband.
There was a solo Spanish Dance at Lincoln’s Inn Fields this season, given by Lesac on 11 May 1726 – his benefit shared with Miss Latour, both of them billed earlier in the season as scholars of Dupré. Could this also have been a loure?
The last of the solos danced at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726 was a ‘new Comic Dance called Dame Gigogne’ performed by Mrs Anderson on 5 July 1726. This seems to be the only mention of this character in the entr’actes at London’s theatres. Dame Ragonde, however, turns up several times, notably in the mid-1710s, usually alongside various commedia dell’arte characters and sometimes with her ‘Family’. Dame Gigogne and Dame Ragonde are all but interchangeable and can be traced back in dance and music contexts to the late 17th century, notably to the cast of Le Mariage de la Grosse Cathos given at Louis XIV’s court in 1688. For a short discussion of both characters and their history see Musical Theatre at the Court of Louis XIV by Rebecca Harris-Warrick and Carol G. Marsh (1994), particularly pages 41-43. This image of Dame Ragonde may hint at Mrs Anderson’s appearance in her solo.
She is shown as a lady of uncertain age in a distinctly old-fashioned dress.
I will turn my attention to dancing in the pantomime afterpieces at both playhouses next, although one or two other topics may intervene over the next few weeks.
The other duets given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields this season were:
French Sailor and his Wife
Shepherd and Shepherdess
Running Footman’s Dance
Burgomaster and his Frow
Spinning Wheel Dance
The last two duets were performed only during the summer season.
It is immediately apparent that Lincoln’s Inn Fields offered a wider range of entr’acte choreographies than Drury Lane in 1725-1726. This was related to the dancers employed there this season, as well as John Rich’s habitual use of dance as a weapon in his rivalry with the other patent theatre.
The French Peasant danced by Nivelon and Mrs Laguerre on 29 September 1725 was one of the perennially popular dances on the London stage. So far as I can tell, a French Peasant duet was first advertised at Drury Lane on 15 June 1704, when the dancers were Mr and Mrs Du Ruel. It would continue in the entr’acte repertoire until the early 1740s. Several Peasant or ‘Paysan’ dances were recorded in notation in the early 1700s, including this choreography by Guillaume-Louis Pecour published in the Nouveau recüeil de dance de bal et celle de ballet around 1713.
These dances may provide hints towards the French Peasant dances on the London stage.
The Passacaille was seldom advertised as a duet in London’s theatres and the two performances given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 13 October and 9 November 1725 by Lally and Mrs Wall seem to be the last to be billed before the 1770s. The only notated passacaille duet for a man and a woman, choreographed by Guillaume-Louis Pecour for Ballon and Mlle Subligny, was published in 1704 and thus does not necessarily provide an exemplar for a dance of the mid-1720s. I wrote about both solo and duet passacailles in my post The Passacaille back in 2017.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, ‘Sailor’ dances on the London stage go back to the 17th century and were a frequent feature in 18th-century entr’acte entertainments. A French Sailor duet was performed at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in the mid-1710s, but the French Sailor and his Wife performed there on 25 October 1725 by Francis and Marie Sallé seems to mark a new chapter in the stage life of the dance. I can certainly devote a post to the sailor dances in London’s theatres, so I won’t pursue the topic further here. It is just worth mentioning that a Matelot duet was introduced to the entr’actes at Drury Lane in 1726-1727, raising a question about the difference between it and the French Sailor dances.
I discussed Shepherd and Shepherdess dances in an earlier post, Season of 1725-1726: Entr’acte Dances at Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields, so I will move straight on to the Spanish Entry given as a duet by Lesac and Miss La Tour on 2 November 1725. I have written about ‘Spanish’ dances before – in posts entitled ‘Spanish’ Dances, Dancing ‘Spaniards’ and ‘Spanish’ Dancing and the Dance Treatises – but I haven’t taken an extended look at such dances on the London stage. I am not going to attempt that here, although it is certainly another topic worth exploring. There were Spanish Dances and Spanish Entries advertised in the entr’actes at London’s theatres from the first decade of the 18th century, which probably drew on similar choreographies from the Restoration period. The Spanish Entry had been advertised as a duet at Lincoln’s Inn Fields and had stayed in the repertoire for a few seasons. It had then disappeared, only to reappear in the mid-1720s with the duet danced by Lesac and Miss La Tour. The use of the word ‘Entry’ for this dance suggests (to me at least) that it was less likely to have been a version of the Folies d’Espagne than one of the other dance types made popular in the French comédies-ballets and opéra-ballets given in Paris. Here is the first plate from Pecour’s well-known ‘Entrée Espagnolle’ for Ballon and Mlle Subligny, which provides one example that may have been influential (it was transcribed by Kellom Tomlinson in his ‘WorkBook’ compiled during the first two decades of the 18th century).
‘Le Marrie’ danced by Francis and Marie Sallé at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 16 December 1725 must surely have been Pecour’s ball dance La Mariée, first published by Feuillet in his 1700 Recüeil de dances composées par Mr. Pecour. As I wrote in another post back in 2015, La Mariée on the London Stage, research by the American dance historian Rebecca Harris-Warrick has shown that this duet probably began as a stage dance in Paris and reached the London stage shortly after 1698. The Marie performed at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1717-1718 could have been La Mariée resurfacing in the entr’actes, although its performance by the Sallés seems to have given the duet a new lease of life with regular revivals at benefit performances. Here is the first plate from the 1700 collection.
Two Pierrots was also danced by the Sallés at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 16 December 1725. They seem to have introduced the male-female duet to London – previously there had been a few Pierrot solos and an all-male duet by Francis and Louis Nivelon in 1723-1724. The Sallés were answered at Drury Lane by Roger and Mrs Brett in La Pierette later that season. I should probably have counted Two Pierrots and La Pierette among the entr’acte dances shared between the two theatres, although the titles suggest that two might have been quite different thematically if not choreographically. Pierrot dances would last into the 1750s and beyond.
The Running Footman, danced by Nivelon and Mrs Laguerre on 10 March 1726, had been introduced to the London stage by them in 1723-1724. It was probably created by Nivelon and I looked at the duet in some detail in my post Dances on the London Stage: The Running Footman back in September.
The Fingalian Dance performed by Newhouse and Mrs Ogden on 11 April 1726 had first been danced by them in 1724-1725. They would continue to perform it regularly each season until 1733-1734. This entr’acte duet had apparently begun life as ‘A new Irish Dance in Fingalian Habits by Newhouse, Pelling, and Mrs Ogden’ at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1723-1724 but the trio format did not survive the season. Newhouse and Mrs Ogden were also billed more than a dozen times during 1724-1725 in an Irish Dance. I think that was probably the Fingalian Dance, which I am guessing was choreographed by Newhouse. There are a number of ‘Irish’ tunes in the various editions of Playford’s The Dancing Master, all considerably earlier than the duet by Newhouse and Mrs Ogden. They may hint at the music for the Fingalian Dance, although the dance itself seems to have been characterised by its costumes as much as the ‘Irishness’ of its music. Fingal is a county in Ireland in the Dublin region – the reference to ‘Fingalian Habits’ suggests costumes that are at least recognisably Irish. So far, I have not managed to find any clues as to what these ‘Habits’ may have been like. Fingalian Dances would survive in the London stage entr’acte repertoire until the 1770s.
The Burgomaster and his Frow, another entr’acte dance performed by Newhouse and Mrs Ogden on 20 April 1726, was one of the many ‘Dutch’ dances given in the entr’actes at London’s theatres. The duet seems to have been variously titled – as Dutch Boor in 1723-1724 and 1724-1725 and as Dutch Burgomaster and Wife in 1724-1725 – but it seems to have been distinct from the Dutch Skipper, which Newhouse was never billed as dancing. There is, of course, music for a ‘Dance for the Dutch man and his Wife’ in Thomas Bray’s 1699 collection Country Dances. This tune was used in Europe’s Revels for the Peace, the masque created to celebrate the peace of Ryswick that ended the Nine Years’ War in 1697.
Tollett’s Ground, danced by Newhouse and Mrs Laguerre on 30 April 1726 and revived during the Lincoln’s Inn Fields summer season by him and Mrs Ogden, took its title from its music. The piece is generally attributed to the Irish musician Thomas Tollett, who worked in London’s theatres during the 1690s and may have died in 1696. It appeared in several music collections around 1700 and was first billed at Drury Lane in 1701-1702, when it was performed by John Essex and Mrs Lucas. During the 1710s it was given several times by Margaret Bicknell and her sister Elizabeth Younger. The Tollett’s Ground duet survived into the early 1730s and was usually performed at benefits or during the summer season.
I mentioned the Chacone in my post The Most Popular Entr’acte Dances on the London Stage, 1700-1760 a couple of months ago. In 1725-1726, a Chacone duet was danced at Lincoln’s Inn Fields by Dupré and Mrs Wall on 30 April and then 23 May 1726, followed by Lally and Mrs Wall on 30 May. Some of the chaconnes given in London’s theatres were associated with Harlequin, but others (including this one) were evidently serious dances. We do have a local notated example of a chaconne for the stage which was published around this time and might shed light on some of those given in the entr’actes. Anthony L’Abbé choreographed the ‘Chacone of Galathee’ for Delagarde and Mrs Santlow (from 1719 Mrs Booth) perhaps around 1712, although it seems to have been notated some ten years later – around the time it was published by Le Roussau in A New Collection of Dances. As this plate reveals, it was a showpiece of virtuosity for these two dancers (I strongly suspect that Delagarde’s entre-chat à six should also have a tour-en-l’air, and I certainly think that Mrs Santlow was capable of adding an entre-chat à six to her tour).
The Chacone duets danced by Dupré and Lally with Mrs Wall in 1725-1726 may have been similar.
The Venetian Dance was given just once this season, on 9 May 1726 by Burny and Mrs Anderson ‘both Scholars to Essex’. At present, I can’t be sure whether ‘Essex’ is William Essex, who had made his debut at Drury Lane the previous season, or his father John, who had left the stage to pursue his career as a dancing master more than twenty years earlier. John Essex is perhaps the more likely candidate. It is tempting to assume that a Venetian Dance must be performed to a forlana, but a contemporary source suggests a quite different piece of music – the allemande used by Pecour for his duet of that title, published in Paris in 1702. I have puzzled over this musical choice, apparently made for a ‘Venetian Dance by Mr Shaw and Mrs Booth’ which was performed (but not mentioned in the bills) in 1724-1725. I can see that I should return to Venetian Dances in another post.
Dances associated with particular nations were decidedly popular at Lincoln’s Inn Fields this season. Another was the Swedish Dal Carl given by Pelling and Mrs Ogden on 17 June 1726 (the opening performance of the summer season). A ‘new Swedish Dance’ had entered the entr’acte repertoire at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1714-1715, when it was performed by Delagarde and Miss Russell (later Mrs Bullock and a leading dancer at that theatre). Thereafter the Swedish Dale Karl, as it was usually known, was performed most seasons into the 1730s. It may well have continued to use the music recorded in The Ladys Banquet 3d Book, a collection first published around 1720, although the earliest surviving edition has been dated around 1732. The ‘new Play House’ mentioned on the score is probably Lincoln’s Inn Fields, which opened in 1714. There are no solo Swedish Dances billed in London’s theatres, so is the ‘Sweedish Woman’s Dance’ actually part of the duet?
The last of the dances I listed at the beginning of this post was also performed only during the Lincoln’s Inn Fields summer season. Newhouse and Mrs Ogden performed the Spinning Wheel Dance on 21 June 1726. The duet had first been given in 1723-1724 at the same theatre and the bills indicate that it only ever received a handful of performances. I would characterise it as one of the novelty dances that turn up in the entr’actes from time to time, particularly during summer seasons.
My next post on the season of 1725-1726 will be concerned with the entr’acte solos given at Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
Myrtillo was performed at Drury Lane on 25 September 1725 and then at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 4 October. At Drury Lane the dancers for this particular group entr’acte dance were never specifically billed, so we cannot be sure how many dancers there were and who performed Myrtillo. At Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the bill for 2 April 1726 named Dupré, Lally, Pelling, Mrs Laguerre, Mrs Wall and Mrs Bullock, who probably formed three couples according to the order in which their names appear, i.e. Dupré and Mrs Laguerre, Lally and Mrs Wall, Pelling and Mrs Bullock – reflecting the dance partnerships during this season.
In the absence of pictorial material directly related to dancing on the London stage at this period, it is worth looking at some of the conventions around the depiction of dancers in a pastoral setting. This is obviously a quite separate area of research and one that I will not try to undertake here. However, this print after Watteau dating to the late 1720s perhaps evokes some of the visual expectations that audiences might have brought to the theatre, as well as some possible influences on the theatre managers and their designers.
The choreography had begun as a ‘Grand Dance’ within the ‘Pastoral Interlude’ Myrtillo, an afterpiece with a libretto by Colley Cibber and music by Johann Christoph Pepusch first given at Drury Lane on 5 November 1715. The afterpiece did not last long, but its ‘Grand Dance’ was first billed separately in the entr’actes on 31 May 1716 when the dancers were Dupré, Boval, Dupré Jr (not the same dancer as at Lincoln’s Inn Fields ten years later), Mrs Santlow (who became Mrs Booth), Mrs Bicknell and Miss Younger. The entr’acte dance Myrtillo was revived at Drury Lane regularly thereafter, and billed at Lincoln’s Inn Fields for the first time on 17 October 1721. It would continue in repertoire at Lincoln’s Inn Fields until the 1729-1730 season and at Drury Lane until 1734-1735.
Myrtillo was usually danced by three couples, although some advertisements suggest that there could be as many as five or as few as two (I haven’t yet checked whether or not the transcriptions in The London Stage are accurate for these latter). It is one of the very few entr’acte dances from this period for which we can be sure of the music, since Pepusch’s original score survives in the collections of London’s Royal Academy of Music. It includes a single dance at the end of the entertainment, which has five sections – a rigaudon, a gavotte, a musette, another rigaudon and a passepied (the pieces are not titled, but their musical characteristics suggest these dance types). I discussed Myrtillo in my book The Incomparable Hester Santlow, so I will not analyse it further here except to suggest that it may have been first choreographed by Louis Dupré and he may well have mounted it at Lincoln’s Inn Fields later.
A key part of any choreography is surely the costuming, which delineates characters as well as helping to shape the steps performed by individual dancers. A surviving costume bill from the Drury Lane Theatre tells us that, in the afterpiece Myrtillo, Mrs Santlow wore a white lustring dress decorated with rose coloured satin ribbon and trimmed with white ribbon roses, while Mrs Bicknell wore only a ‘Paysanes Dress’. The bill also mentions binding for Mrs Santlow’s stays and the whalebone of her petticoat – she evidently wore a hooped skirt. It survives, along with many others, in the collections of the Folger Shakespeare Library, and provides helpful insights not only into what dancers wore on the London stage, but also the hierarchies of the characters they portrayed.
The other group dances at Drury Lane in 1725-1726 were La Follett and Le Badinage Champetre, both choreographed by Roger, and a Turkish Dance (also titled Grand Turkish Dance). Roger may well have been drawing on his earlier career with various companies of French commedia dell’arte players (possibly including that led by Francisque Moylin, uncle to Francis and Marie Sallé). In 1725-1726, he was appearing with one of London’s own theatre companies for the first time and apparently made his Drury Lane debut with La Follett on 23 September 1725. He wasn’t explicitly billed until 28 September, when he was named as the dance’s choreographer and described as the ‘French Pierot’. La Follett itself was billed as a dance ‘in Comic Characters’ and danced by Roger, Thurmond Jr, Boval, Lally, Mrs Brett and Miss Tenoe. The ‘Comic Characters’ were probably drawn from the commedia dell’arte, but I am not going to pursue the meaning of the dance’s title here. It was given eleven performances in 1725-1726 and then disappeared from the repertoire.
The title of Le Badinage Champetre is surely self-explanatory. It was performed by five couples, with (as was usual) the men billed first followed by the women – Roger, Boval, Lally, Duplessis, Haughton, Mrs Booth, Mrs Tenoe, Mrs Brett, Mrs Walter, Miss Lindar. I suggest that this was a divertissement rather than a single dance, with Roger and Mrs Booth as the leading couple and the last two men and last two women as supporting dancers to the others. Le Badinage Champetre proved popular and was danced regularly into the 1730s.
The Turkish Dance given at Drury Lane on 31 March 1726 was performed by five men – Thurmond Jr, Roger, Boval, Lally and Duplessis (the transcription in The London Stage omits Boval, although he appears in the Daily Courant advertisement on that day). Thurmond Jr had probably danced in L’Abbe’s ‘Turkish Dance’ duet in 1723-1724, so could this new choreography (which I suspect may have been by him) have used music from Campra’s L’Europe galante? Or did it perhaps draw on Lully’s music for the Turkish Ceremony in Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, which had been presented at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket a few seasons earlier?
This image from part two of Lambranzi’s 1716 Neue und curieuse theatrialische Tantz-Schul shows four Turks dancing together. Can it tell us anything about either the costuming or the choreography of the Turkish Dance given at Drury Lane in 1726?
At Lincoln’s Inn Fields, in addition to Myrtillo the following group entr’acte dances were performed:
Shepherds and Shepherdesses
The Rivals (a trio)
Grand Dance of Two Punches, Two Scaramouches, and Three Harlequins
Grand Spanish Dance
The Grand Dance was first given on 21 March 1726 with three couples – Dupré and Mrs Wall, Sallé and Mrs Bullock, Lally and Mrs Anderson – listed so in the bills. It was advertised as being performed at the end of the afterpiece, a ‘Pastoral Entertainment of Vocal and Instrumental Musick’ entitled The Fickle Fair One. Was it actually an entr’acte dance, or was it performed in the piece’s closing scene?
Shepherds and Shepherdesses was given on 18 April 1726 and danced by Dupré, Sallé, Lally, Pelling, Mrs Bullock, Mrs Wall, Mrs Anderson. Such dances were particularly popular during the 1720s and 1730s, although this one seems not to have outlasted the 1725-1726 season. The uneven number of men and women seems to point to a divertissement structure incorporating solos and duets.
The Rivals was a trio danced by Francis Sallé, Francis Nivelon and Marie Sallé ‘in the Characters of Harlequin, Punch and Harlequin Woman’. The Sallés must have been the Harlequins, with Nivelon as Punch. The dance was presented only once, on 18 April 1726 for the benefit of Francis and Marie Sallé. It presumably included commedia dell’arte-style pantomime alongside dancing and may have been a short scene. There were always a number of dances each season that were performed only as benefit pieces and this seems to have been one of them.
This print is taken from a well-known painting by Nicolas Lancret of the mid-1720s. It shows Harlequin and Harlequine, with Pierrot rather than Punch (although Lancret did depict Punch in other paintings). Could it give us a flavour of the commedia dell’arte-style dances on the London stage, in particular The Rivals with its three French dancers?
I am reproducing prints in this post because this was how such paintings became known in London at this period.
The Grand Dance of Two Punches, Two Scaramouches, and Three Harlequins was first billed on 19 April 1726 for Lally’s benefit. The dancers were not named until 30 April, when the dance was repeated at the benefit of Newhouse and Mrs Wall. Dupré and Sallé were two Harlequins, with Mrs Wall as Harlequin Woman making up the third, the Punches were Newhouse and Pelling and the Scaramouches Lanyon and Dupré Jr. This Grand Dance was repeated at two more benefits before the end of the season. Dances by commedia dell’arte characters had been popular since the first decade of the 18th century and it would be interesting to chart the changes in that popularity as well as the variety of choreographies offered. Over time, they were wholly absorbed into the pantomime afterpieces and all but disappeared from the entr’actes.
Both the Grand Spanish Dance and the Grand Chacone were added to the Lincoln’s Inn Fields entr’acte dance repertoire at Dupré’s benefit on 21 April 1726. It is possible that both dances were either arranged or choreographed by him. ‘Spanish’ dances were regularly given in the entr’actes, although this Grand Spanish Dance – performed by Dupré, Pelling, Newhouse, Lanyon, Dupré Jr, Mrs Bullock, Mrs Wall, Mrs Ogden and Mrs Anderson – was danced only once. The billing of five men and four women suggests that Dupré may have danced as a soloist with four supporting couples.
The Grand Chacone was danced by four men and four women – Dupré, Lally, Pelling, Dupré Jr, Mrs Bullock, Mrs Wall, Mrs Ogden and Mrs Anderson. Like the Grand Spanish Dance, this choreography was performed only once. Chacones were performed regularly in the entr’actes at London’s theatres from the first decade of the 18th century to the 1730s. Many were solos associated with individual dancers. This Grand Chacone may provide some hints on those danced at the Paris Opéra, although we can only guess at the choreographies performed there or in London. Was the music for both this dance and the Grand Spanish Dance from French operas?
Despite the lack of documentation on the actual dancing, these group dances are interesting for what they tell us about choreographic themes popular in London and with the choreographers working there, as well as the deployment of dancers in the ‘company within the company’ at each of London’s theatres. In my next post, I will take a look at the duets given at Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
In my first post about dancing on the London stage during the 1725-1726 season, I provided some statistics for the number of entr’acte dances performed in the theatres. At Drury Lane there were 28 dances in all – 4 group dances, 1 trio, 13 duets and 10 solos. At Lincoln’s Inn Fields there were 43 entr’acte dances – 7 group dances, 2 trios, 22 duets and 12 solos. I should qualify this set of figures immediately by noting that 5 dances – 1 trio, 3 duets and 1 solo – were given only during the Lincoln’s Inn Fields summer season. Nevertheless, the disparity between the two theatres is interesting since Drury Lane had 91 performances with entr’acte dancing billed, whereas (excluding its summer season) Lincoln’s Inn Fields had 81.
As with the dancers, the figures are not quite accurate, although it is probably next to impossible to be sure exactly what dances were performed. At Drury Lane, Roger danced a solo Peasant, a solo Drunken Peasant and a solo French Peasant. Were these all different choreographies? Were all (or perhaps two) of them the same dance, but performed differently according to the various characters depicted? At Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Nivelon gave both a solo Wooden Shoe Dance and a solo Wooden Shoe Dance in the Character of a Clown. Were these actually the same choreography? There were also two Shepherd and Shepherdess duets given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields during the course of the season, one by Francis and Marie Sallé and the other, titled Shepherd and Shepherdess representing Acis and Galatea, by Le Sac and Miss La Tour. I think that these had different music and different choreographies (which may, however, have been related in terms of steps, figures and even choreographic motifs). The duet by Le Sac and Miss La Tour may have used music by Handel, whose Acis and Galatea had first been performed some years previously, although it would not reach the London stage (in a revised version) until 1731. The duet was performed at their joint benefit on 11 May 1726, when Miss La Tour also played a ‘Set of Mr Hendel’s Lessons’ on the harpsichord as an entr’acte entertainment. It seems likely that the Sallés danced to music from a French opera. I also made a mistake when I included the new Dance of Slaves advertised on 25 October 1725 among the entr’acte dances. When I took another look, I concluded that it was probably danced within Oroonoko which was the mainpiece that evening.
There is an overlap in the dance titles advertised at the two theatres, suggesting a common source for some dances and perhaps shared music, if not similar choreographies. Here are those titles.
Myrtillo, a group dance
Polonese, a duet
Dutch Skipper, a duet
Pastoral, a duet
Saraband, a duet
Minuet, a duet
Peasants, a duet
Spanish Entry / Spanish Dance, a solo
I will use these dances as the starting point to look more closely at the repertoire of entr’acte dances given at Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726. I will deal with each of the dance types – group (including trios), duet and solo – in separate posts. Curiously, there is quite a lot we can discover (and that I can say) about them, even though we cannot reach the actual choreographies.
The figures I initially gave for the dancers at the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre during the 1725-1726 season were not right either. There were, in fact, 16 dancers (9 men and 7 women) who danced regularly in the entr’actes during the main season. Of the others, Glover danced only on 14 April 1726. He had been a member of the dance ‘company within the company’ since 1723-1724 but was absent from Lincoln’s Inn Fields this season, apart from this one performance. ‘Pollett’s Son’, who made a single appearance on 25 April 1726 may have been a child dancer – there were other dancers named Pollett in London’s theatres around this time, although their careers need further research. Burny made only one appearance before the end of the main season, but he (together with Morgan and Smith) danced during the theatre’s summer season. I will look at the summer season and its dancers separately.
The following entr’acte dancers were at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726:
Miss La Tour
At least one name in this list is likely to be familiar to those interested in the 18th-century dance.
Among the dancers at Lincoln’s Inn Fields the one most often billed in 1725-1726 was Nivelon, who danced in the entr’actes some 50 times. He was followed by Sallé (46 billings). None of the other men appeared nearly so often – next was Lally (31 billings), Le Sac (22), Dupré (17), Newhouse (15), Pelling (9), Dupré Jr (7) and Lanyon (4). Among the women, Mlle Sallé was the most in demand with 38 entr’acte billings. Mrs Wall danced some 34 times, followed by Mrs Bullock (32), Mrs Laguerre and Miss La Tour (22 performances each), Mrs Ogden (15) and Mrs Anderson (10). Mrs Ogden and Mrs Anderson also danced during the summer season.
As at Drury Lane, each dancer’s repertoire provides clues to his or her status. Nivelon and Sallé were first among the men. Nivelon performed 6 solos, 4 duets and 1 trio, while Sallé danced 1 solo, 6 duets, 1 trio and 2 group dances. Dupré had 2 duets and 6 group dances (he was also billed as a choreographer). Newhouse also performed 2 duets but appeared in only 1 group dance. Le Sac gave 1 solo and also performed 4 duets. Pelling, Dupré Jr and Lanyon were all supporting dancers, appearing only in group choreographies. Among the women, Mrs Wall had the most extensive repertoire, with 3 solos, 7 duets and 6 group dances. Mlle Sallé danced 1 solo (Les Caractères de la Danse), 5 duets and 1 trio. Mrs Laguerre performed in 6 duets and 1 group dance, while Mrs Anderson gave 1 solo and 2 duets and performed in 4 group dances. Miss La Tour danced 1 solo and 4 duets and Mrs Ogden was billed in 2 duets and 2 group dances. None of the women can be described simply as supporting dancers.
All the men, except for Le Sac, danced in the pantomime afterpieces which were performed on nearly as many evenings as entr’acte dancing. As at Drury Lane, the roles performed by these dancers reveal more about their place within the ‘dance company’. They also tell us a little about the specialities of individual dancers. Four pantomimes were given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields during the main season – Jupiter and Europa, The Necromancer, Harlequin a Sorcerer and Apollo and Daphne. The first two are anonymous, but may have been devised by the theatre’s manager John Rich who was himself a Harlequin and took that role in these afterpieces. The second two have libretti by the writer Lewis Theobald. Nivelon’s role was Punch, while Lally was Mezzetin, Pelling was Pierrot and Newhouse was Scaramouch (Lanyon also appeared as Scaramouch). Nivelon’s status was shown by Apollo and Daphne; or, The Burgomaster Tricked (to give the pantomime its full title), in which he was the Burgomaster and thus central to the comic plot. Lally (Edward Lally, who may or may not have been the brother of Michael Lally at Drury Lane that season) and Dupré both took prominent dancing roles in the pantomimes. Dupré also performed as a dancing Harlequin (Rich did not dance).
Mlle Sallé danced both Daphne and Flora, ‘An Inconstant’, in Apollo and Daphne, the only pantomime in which she appeared. Mrs Wall was Europa in Jupiter and Europa and took prominent roles in three more pantomimes. Mrs Bullock and Mrs Anderson also had significant dancing roles. Mrs Laguerre, Mrs Ogden and Miss La Tour did not appear in pantomimes at all. Mrs Laguerre had been one of the leading dancers at Lincoln’s Inn Fields and would be so again, but she seems to have been absent from late November 1725 to mid-March 1726. She was also an actress (the only one among Lincoln’s Inn Fields’s female dancers in 1725-1726) and played 11 acting roles during the months she was present.
So, what of the ‘dance company’ at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726? Le Sac and Miss La Tour made their debuts together and danced a series of duets. They were advertised as ‘Scholars of Mr. Dupre’ and were presumably just emerging from his tutelage. Were they members of the ‘dance company’ or more like apprentices? Francis and Marie Sallé were returning to dance in London for the first time since the 1718-1719 season, so they may have been seen as ‘guest artists’. Nivelon must have been the leading male dancer, and perhaps the company’s dancing master. (Although the meaning and even the existence of that position needs investigation and discussion). Lally and Dupré may have been more-or-less equal, followed by Newhouse and Pelling, then Dupré and Lanyon.
The relative status of the women is more difficult to unravel. Their benefits perhaps provide additional clues (although Rich at Lincoln’s Inn Fields seems to have been less hierarchical about these than the management at Drury Lane), along with their dancing partners. Mrs Laguerre was probably the leading local female dancer, her benefit (shared with her husband, the singer-actor John Laguerre) was on 14 April 1726. She was most often partnered by Nivelon. Mrs Wall shared her benefit with Newhouse, on 30 April, her main partner was Lally although she also danced with Dupré (who may have been one of her teachers). Mrs Bullock shared her 2 May benefit with her brother-in-law, the actor William Bullock. She danced her only duet with Nivelon, but in the group dances she seems to have been partnered by Sallé and Dupré most often. Mrs Anderson’s benefit (also shared) came on 9 May and Mrs Ogden had no benefit at all. They were evidently the lowest ranking of the female dancers in the company.
There are accounts surviving for Lincoln’s Inn Fields for the seasons 1724-1725 and 1726-1727 which provide more information about the relative status of the dancers, based on their pay scales. The 1724-1725 accounts have been analysed in some detail – I provide a reference to the article below – and I looked at those for 1726-1727 myself some years ago (although my notes are not extensive). They tell us that Nivelon earned by far the most among the dancers – much more than even the two Sallés (at least in 1726-1727) – and that Dupré was the next highest paid of the male dancers, followed by Lally. The highest paid of the women were Mrs Laguerre and Mrs Bullock. Apart from Nivelon, none of the dancers received anything like as much as the principal singers in Rich’s company.
The only one of the dancers at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726 for whom we have a portrait is Marie Sallé. Here she is, as a dancer and off-stage.
Judith Milhous, ‘The Finances of an Eighteenth-Century London Theatre: the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Company under John Rich in 1724-1725’ in Berta Joncus and Jeremy Barlow (editors), “The Stage’s Glory” John Rich, 1692-1761 (Newark, 2011), pp. 61-69.
In a recent TV dance programme, the presenter told us that the first ballet was given at Covent Garden in 1734. I assume that she meant the first ballet to be given at that theatre and not the first ballet to be given in London, which had been John Weaver’s The Loves of Mars and Venus performed at the Drury Lane Theatre in 1717. She did not name the work, but the date indicates that she was referring to Pygmalion, first given at Covent Garden on 14 January 1734. Was this really the first ballet to be performed at John Rich’s new playhouse, the first such building on the site of what we now know as the Royal Opera House?
What was a ballet in early 18th-century London? The definition I work with is a stage work in which the narrative is told through dance, mime and music only, with no words. This describes John Weaver’s intention, although he called his stage works dramatic entertainments of dancing not ballets. For the purposes of this post, I will draw on that definition while concentrating on dancing at the Covent Garden Theatre from its opening on 7 December 1732 to the first performance of Pygmalion on 14 January 1734.
I’ll begin by looking more closely at Pygmalion. It is now attributed to the ballerina Marie Sallé, who took the role of the Statue Galatea. Her creations for the London stage were much applauded in Paris, where she was known as a dancer at the Académie Royale de Musique (the Paris Opéra). A description of Pygmalion was published in the Mercure de France for April 1734, in the form of a letter from London dated 15 March – by which date the ballet had been performed at least fourteen times, demonstrating its success with London audiences. The dance historian Cyril Beaumont published a translation of the letter in his Three French Dancers of the 18th Century in 1934. The ballet itself is described thus:
‘Pygmalion enters his studio accompanied by his sculptors, who execute a characteristic dance, mallet and chisel in hand. Pygmalion bids them throw open the back of the studio which, like the forepart, is adorned with statues. One in the middle stands out above all the others and attracts the admiration of everyone. Pygmalion examines it, considers it, and sighs. He puts his hands on the feet, then on the body; he examines all the contours, likewise the arms, which he adorns with precious bracelets. He places a rich necklace around the neck and kisses the hands of his beloved statue. At last he becomes enraptured with it; he displays signs of unrest and falls into a reverie, then prays to Venus and beseeches her to endow the marble with life.
Venus heeds his prayer; three rays of light appear, and, to the surprise of Pygmalion and his followers, the statue, to suitable music, gradually emerges from its insensibility; she expresses astonishment at her new existence and at all the objects which surround her.
Pygmalion, amazed and transported, holds out his hand for her to step from her position; she tests the ground, as it were, and gradually steps into the most elegant poses that a sculptor could desire. Pygmalion dances in front of her as if to teach her to dance. She repeats after him the simplest as well as the most difficult and complicated steps; he endeavours to inspire her with the love which he feels, and succeeds.’
Pygmalion was always given as an entr’acte entertainment, never as an afterpiece, and (apart from calling it ‘new’ at its first performances) the advertisements drew no particular attention to it. It is never called a ‘ballet’.
The account of the action suggests that it began with a group dance by the Sculptors, followed by an extended mime sequence for Pygmalion. There was a little bit of scenic business (as Venus ‘heeds his prayer’) and then a mime sequence by the Statue, Galatea, followed by solos and a duet for her and her creator. The whole piece is essentially a single scene. It draws on a number of antecedents, one of which is indicated by Gregorio Lambranzi in his Neue unde Curieuse Theatrialische Tantz-Schul of 1716 in a plate showing sculptors at work (part 2, plate 24).
The dancers at Covent Garden were Malter and Mlle Sallé, who performed as Pygmalion and Galatea, together with Dupré, Pelling, Duke, Le Sac, Newhouse and Delagarde, all regular members of Rich’s company.
What earlier entertainments at the new theatre might be classed as ballets? There are three contenders: The Sleeping Dutchman and his Frow given 27 March 1733; The Amorous Clown; or, The Courtizan given 3 May 1733; The Cobler; or, The Merry Wife Constant given 4 May 1733. All were performed by a principal couple with a group of supporting dancers and their titles suggest a narrative with action conveyed through dance and mime. All three pieces were created for benefit performances and only The Sleeping Dutchman and his Frow was given more than once.
The Cobler; or, The Merry Wife Constant can also be associated with a dance recorded by Lambranzi, who shows a Cobbler ‘with the tools of his trade, the use of which he expresses in mime’ before he is joined by his wife and the two dance together (part 2, plates 29, 30).
This entr’acte dance has a cast list which pairs the characters with commedia dell’arte characters (the Cobler is Punch, but the ‘Merry Wife’ has no counterpart), an idea used in some of Rich’s pantomime afterpieces. This suggests expressive action drawn from the commedia dell’arte, which by this period was common on the London stage. The Cobler; or, The Merry Wife Constant was probably created by Newhouse, who danced the Cobbler, for his own benefit.
The other two pieces involved Francis Nivelon, who was Rich’s leading dancer and probably the dancing master at Covent Garden. He shared a background in French fair theatre with Marie Sallé. The Sleeping Dutchman and his Frow was created for Nivelon’s own benefit and he and Mrs Laguerre took the title roles. She was Rich’s leading English female dancer, with skills that allowed her to take over some of Marie Sallé’s pantomime roles notably Daphne and Flora in Apollo and Daphne. Mrs Laguerre was also an actress, albeit a minor one. They were supported by Newhouse, Pelling, Le Sac, Delagarde, Miss La Tour, Mrs Pelling, Mrs Ogden and Miss Baston. The men would all appear in Pygmalion the following season.
The Amorous Clown; or, the Courtizan has the strongest claim to be considered a ballet. It was given right at the end of the performance, following the afterpiece, suggesting that it was a more substantial piece. It was created for the benefit of Dupré and Mrs Pelling, probably by Nivelon for the cast list had ‘Clowns by Nivelon and Pelling; Wives by Miss Latour and Mrs Ogden; Courtizan – Mrs Pelling’. In this context a ‘Clown’ was an unsophisticated Countryman or Rustic. The title suggests that the piece centred on Nivelon and Mrs Pelling and contained mime sequences as well as dances. Mrs Pelling, like Mrs Laguerre, had skills that extended to serious dance and allowed her, too, to take over some of Marie Sallé’s pantomime roles.
These dance pieces have been overlooked by dance historians because they had very limited stage lives and were never noticed in the newspapers or elsewhere (it is worth recalling that Pygmalion received little attention in the British newspapers). Unlike Pygmalion, we have no accounts of their action. All three are comic rather than serious (although one or more of them may well have included some serious dancing). They make no use of the classical mythology used as a yardstick for the importance of dance works by so many 20th-century dance writers. Despite all that, I suggest that Pygmalion was not the first ballet given at the new Covent Garden playhouse – that honour should arguably go to The Amorous Clown; or, the Courtizan. Marie Sallé’s ballet was created within, and as a result of, the rich and varied repertoire of dancing (which included many such small ballets, serious as well as comic) in London’s theatres during the early 1700s.
Dancing in London’s theatres during the 18th century is a topic that has not attracted dance historians. There are very few reliable accounts and no extended study has so far been published. My work in this area began when I did my PhD on the English dancer-actress Hester Santlow, whose dancing career began in 1706 and ended when she retired from the stage in 1733. I found myself trying to reconstruct the context within which she danced, as well as her dancing repertoire. My thesis was entitled ‘Art and Nature Join’d: Hester Santlow and the Development of Dancing on the London Stage, 1700-1737’. Since then, I have extended my interest to dancing on the London stage from 1660 to 1760. Central to this period are, of course, the notated theatrical dances published in the early 18th century to which I referred in my earlier post Stage Dancing.
The paradox of any research into dancing on the London stage is that the dances, with the exception of the handful of notated choreographies, have entirely disappeared. There are also very few portraits of dancers or depictions of dancing before the late 18th century. Any research is therefore very challenging. This is probably why the period has attracted little or no interest from dance researchers. There is also the bias towards dancing in Paris, which is widely seen as the sole centre of serious dancing at this time.
Yet, this was a particularly exciting period for London audiences, who were avid followers of dancers and their repertoire. ‘French Dancing’ reached London from Paris not long after the Restoration in 1660. French stars came to the English capital, where they could make good money in the commercial theatres. Claude Ballon made a brief visit in 1699 and his favourite dancing partner, the ballerina Marie-Thérèse de Subligny, came in 1702. There were also home-grown dance celebrities who could equal them in the style and technique of serious dancing, notably Hester Santlow. The British developed their own dances and genres of dancing. Among the former was the hornpipe, acknowledged as an ‘English’ dance. Among the latter was the first modern ballet, created by John Weaver, a theorist as well as a dancer and a dancing master. The Loves of Mars and Venus, performed at the Drury Lane Theatre in 1717, was the first dance work with recognisable characters and a story in which the entire narrative was conveyed through dance and gesture alone, with no sung or spoken words. This was a significant development in the art of dancing and must surely have influenced the French ballerina Marie Sallé, who also came to dance, and experiment with dancing, in London.
Dancing was popular in London’s theatres throughout the 18th century. Dances were regularly performed between the acts of plays (entr’acte dances). There was a great deal of dancing (serious as well as comic) in the pantomimes that became popular from the 1720s and there were dance divertissements in plays and musical works. The entr’acte dances were many and various, from speciality comic dances drawing on indigenous dance forms to complex and virtuosic serious dances deploying the style and technique of French professional dancing.
I will try to reveal some of this wealth of innovative dance entertainment in future posts.