Although I mentioned the Little Theatre in the Haymarket in my first post on the 1725-1726 season and occasionally referred to it subsequently, I didn’t really include it in my survey of dancing in London’s theatres.
The Little Theatre was built late in 1720 on a site immediately beside where the Theatre Royal, Haymarket now stands. So far as we know, it was unlicensed, although this did not prevent it from offering short seasons of drama and other entertainments by foreign and amateur companies of players. In three of the five seasons between its opening and the 1725-1726 season, the Little Theatre provided a venue for companies of French comedians who offered an extensive repertoire of commedia dell’arte pieces alongside comedies by Molière and, in 1721-1722, tragedies by Corneille and Racine. In the first season of 1721-1722, the company included Francisque Moylin as Arlequin and Monsieur Roger as Pierrot. Roger returned to the Little Theatre for the 1724-1725 season and in 1725-1726 he joined the Drury Lane company as a dancer and choreographer. Dancing was offered each season at the Little Theatre, although the proportion of performances with entr’acte dancing ranged between 85% and only 24%. The concept of ‘entr’acte dancing’ does not really fit with the repertoire presented by these French companies, so the statistics may not be as significant as they appear.
Usually, the French companies appeared from December to March but in 1725-1726 they played only from March until May 1726. Their repertoire was entirely pieces from the commedia dell’arte, apart from Molière’s Le mariage forcé (which seems to have been a favourite with these troupes). Sixteen of the twenty-three performances were billed with dancing and the bills name eleven dancers (7 men and 4 women). Among the men were Poitier and Lalauze, the former would become a leading dancer in London in the years to come. There is some doubt about the identity of the Lalauze who danced in London from the 1730s. Between them, these dancers gave thirteen entr’acte dances – 7 group dances, 1 trio, 3 duets and 2 solos. Choreographies for commedia dell’arte characters predominate, closely followed by those for other characters, not least Peasants. Among the other dances was Le Cotillon, given at Poitier’s benefit on 9 May 1726 by twelve dancers . He may well have been the choreographer.
The Little Theatre in the Haymarket in the early 1720s was the place where the Paris forains met London audiences and influenced London’s dancers and theatre managers. They, and their repertoire, await the detailed research that will uncover their place within the eco-system of the 18th-century London stage. These paintings by Watteau evoke their many-faceted performances.
There were three afterpieces with dancing at Drury Lane during the 1725-1726 season. All were pantomimes.
The Escapes of Harlequin
Harlequin Doctor Faustus
Apollo and Daphne
All had been created by John Thurmond Junior and none were new this season. The second two are worth posts of their own and I will write these in due course.
The Escapes of Harlequin was given on 19 October 1725. The cast listed in the bills consisted entirely of commedia dell’arte characters – Roger and Mrs Booth were Harlequins, Thurmond and Boval together with Mrs Brett and Miss Lindar were Punches, Bridgwater and Mrs Willis (both actors rather than dancers) were the Doctor and his Wife, while Rainton danced Pierrot and Miss Tenoe Columbine. The pantomime had first been given, at Drury Lane, on 10 January 1722 and had been moderately successful in subsequent seasons, although it was performed only twice in 1725-1726 and would be revived only once more, in 1727-1728. No scenario was published and no music is known to survive (the composer is never mentioned in the bills). The afterpiece is ascribed to John Thurmond Junior by John Weaver, who included it in his ‘List of the Modern Entertainments that have been Exhibited on the English Stage; Either in Imitation of the Ancient Pantomimes, or after the Manner of the Modern Italians’ within his The History of the Mimes and Pantomimes published in 1728. Weaver’s lengthy title provides a summary of the influences that lay behind the new pantomimes. The Escapes of Harlequin was initially described in the bills as ‘A new Dramatick Entertainment of Dancing in Grotesque Characters’ linking it to the ‘Modern Italians’.
The pairs of characters suggest a series of duets, while the separate characters of Pierrot and Columbine perhaps hint at a plot which involves them, although it is impossible to guess at the action of the afterpiece. Thurmond Junior may have drawn on one or more of the plays (many of which were commedia dell’arte pieces) performed by a company of French comedians at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket during 1720-1721. I did wonder whether he might have been using existing entr’acte dances, but the evidence points another way – a Harlequin duet later performed in the entr’actes which might have originated in The Escapes of Harlequin. We know little, if anything about the dancing in Thurmond Jr’s pantomime but, since it had a cast of characters entirely from the commedia dell’arte performed by leading dancers at Drury Lane, might this drawing by Claude Gillot evoke its style?
Harlequin Doctor Faustus, given on 9 November 1725, was the pantomime that had started a craze for the genre when it was first performed at Drury Lane on 26 November 1723. John Rich had swiftly responded at Lincoln’s Inn Fields with the even more successful pantomime The Necromancer; or, Harlequin Doctor Faustus (which I will discuss in my next post) and both productions were integral to the repertoires of the two theatres for many seasons. At least three scenarios were published for Harlequin Doctor Faustus, which differ in some details, so we have a good idea of its action. Little if any of the music survives. The pantomime is, of course, based on the legend of Doctor Faustus and his pact with the Devil, told through the distorting lens of the commedia dell’arte. Thurmond Junior is identified as the author of the piece on the title pages of the scenarios. At the first performances, he played Mephistophilus with John Shaw as Faustus. In 1725-1726, no cast was listed until 3 June 1726 when Roger was Harlequin / Faustus and either Rainton or Haughton (both young dancers) performed Mephistophilus.
An important feature of this particular pantomime was the ‘grand Masque of the Heathen Deities’ with which it ended. This was an extended divertissement of serious dancing, in complete contrast to the grotesque commedia dell’arte characters who appeared in the main part of the afterpiece. The transition from pantomime to divertissement is described in the scenario, Harlequin Doctor Faustus: with the Masque of the Deities (1724). Time and Death enter the Doctor’s study and sing, in turn, to warn Faustus his time is up.
‘When the Songs are ended, it Thunders and Lightens; two Fiends enter and seize the Doctor, and are sinking with him headlong thro’ Flames, other Devils run in and tear him piece-meal, some fly away with the Limbs, and others sink. Time and Death go out.
The Music changes, and the Scene draws, and discovers a Poetical Heaven with the Gods and Goddesses rang’d in order on both sides the Stage, who express their joy for the Enchanter’s Death, (who was supposed to have power over the Sun, the Moon, and the Seasons of the Year.)’
The ‘Gods and Goddesses’ are the dancers in the masque. The excerpt above from the printed text shows how elaborate the staging was, with its tricks, transformations and sophisticated scenery. Sadly, there is no visual record at all of Harlequin Doctor Faustus but the ‘assembly of the gods’ was a favourite topic for ceiling paintings, including this one by William Kent which dates to around 1720.
The last of Thurmond Junior’s pantomimes to be given in 1725-1726 was his most recent, Apollo and Daphne; or, Harlequin’s Metamorphoses on 11 February 1726. Thurmond Junior and Mrs Booth danced the title roles, with Theophilus Cibber as Harlequin. It had first been given as Apollo and Daphne; or, Harlequin Mercury at Drury Lane on 20 February 1725 with the same leading dancers. John Rich had had to wait nearly a year before he could reply from Lincoln’s Inn Fields with Apollo and Daphne; or, The Burgomaster Tricked, in which the title roles were danced by Francis and Marie Sallé with Francis Nivelon as the Burgomaster. Two scenarios were published for the Drury Lane pantomime, which tell us that it began and ended with episodes from Apollo’s fruitless pursuit of Daphne, separated by a complete comic plot in four scenes, and had a concluding pastoral divertissement. In 1724-1725, Thurmond Junior and Mrs Booth were a Sylvan and a Nymph, while in 1725-1726 the divertissement had become ‘a Rural Masque: Les Bois d’Amourette’ with Mrs Booth again as a Nymph and both Thurmond Junior and Roger as two Rival Swains.
It is worth noting that, for its first performance in 1724-1725, Apollo and Daphne is billed as ‘A New Dramatick Entertainment of Dancing’, linking it to John Weaver’s ballets of a few years before. In 1725-1726, Thurmond Junior had obviously revised his pantomime in answer to Rich’s version and it received more than 25 performances that season (more than in 1724-1725), although it would remain in the Drury Lane repertoire only until 1727-1728. The music for Thurmond Junior’s Apollo and Daphne was by Richard Jones and Henry Carey, but no score survives. We have little idea of the visual effect of the production, although the scenarios record some of the scenic and special effects in both the serious and the comic parts of the pantomime. Apollo’s pursuit of Daphne and her transformation into a laurel tree when he catches her, were favoured topics for artists of the period and both moments were depicted in the pantomime. This version, by Giambatista Tiepolo, is nearly thirty years later, but it shows Daphne beginning her transformation beside her father the river god Peneus as Apollo catches up with her too late.
In my next post, I will turn to the Lincoln’s Inn Fields afterpieces with dancing.
Highland Dances were never advertised as often as Scotch Dances, at least over the period up to 1760. The earliest surviving advertisement is for a performance on 6 July 1700 at Drury Lane for ‘A Scotch Song with the Dance of the Bonny Highlander; never done but once before on the English Stage’ (the single previous performance may also have been given during 1699-1700). ‘Highlanders’ had a much longer history in dance music, as the tune ‘The Highlanders’ March’ in the 1657 third edition of Playford’s The Dancing Master suggests. The tune for the ‘Scotchman’s dance’ in Brome’s The Northern Lass, in Playford’s seventh edition of 1687, has the alternative title ‘The Highlanders’ March’, indicating that ‘Scotch’ and ‘Highland’ could be seen as equivalent.
A handful of billings in the early 1700s may point to the wider popularity of Highland Dances. Claxton performed The Highland alongside The Whip of Dunboyn (thereby pairing a Scottish with an Irish dance) at Drury Lane on 18 June 1703, while the Devonshire Girl (later billed under her own name as Mrs Mosse) gave at least three performances of a Highland Lilt at the same theatre during the 1702-1703 and 1704-1705 seasons. The first of these was a duet with her ‘Master’, who was in fact Claxton. There was also the Grand Dance of the Laird and his Highland Attendance, performed with ‘other Scotch dances’ at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 28 April 1704, alongside a Scotch Song in Praise of a Highland Laird and ‘other Scotch songs’. This seems to have been the only such performance at Lincoln’s Inn Fields this season. No performers were named in the bill and no context is given for this particular entertainment.
Apart from a ‘new Scotch Highlander by de la Garde’s Two Sons’ performed at their Lincoln’s Inn Fields benefit in 1718-1719, there were no more Highland Dances advertised until the 1720s when Lally Jr (Michel Lally) offered a solo and Newhouse performed a duet with Mrs Ogden at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, while Mrs Bullock danced a solo Highland Lilt at Drury Lane. The most popular dance of this period came towards the end of the decade, with the Highlander and Mistress first given by Francis Sallé and Mrs Laguerre at his benefit on 8 April 1729 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The duet was repeated on 17 April for Mrs Laguerre’s benefit (shared with her husband) and it received nine more performances before the end of the 1728-1729 season. It was revived for several more performances in each of the three following seasons and would undoubtedly have continued in repertoire if Sallé had not died in 1732. Was it this duet that was taken into the afterpiece The Dutch and Scotch Contention; or, Love and Jealousy given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 22 October 1729 and revived there in 1730-1731 and 1731-1732?
The Dutch and Scotch Contention was, in its turn, taken from a ballet performed during the summer of 1729 at the Opéra Comique in Paris, within the opera La Princess de la Chine. The Mercure de France for July 1729 provides an account of the piece, which replaced a ‘Divertissement de Chinois’ in act three.
‘Le 7. de ce mois [July], on donna à la place du Divertissement du 3e Acte de la Piece dont on vient de parler [La Princesse de la Chine], un Balet singulier, extrémement picquant & vrai par sa composition, par le naïf des caracteres qui y sont excellemment rendus, & par la finesse & la legereté de l’execution; cinq hommes & deux femmes, dansant sur des Airs d’un Musicien Ecossois, presentent avec une intelligence à laquelle on ne sçauroit rien desirer, par leurs pas, leurs attitudes & leurs gestes, ce qui se passe dans les Musicaux d’Hollande, qui sont des especes de Cabarets à Biere à peu près comme nos Guingettes, où les Matelots & autres Particuliers de differentes Nations, éprouvent diverses avantures de galanterie. Ce qu’on exprime ici par des Tableaux animez, très ingenieux & très-agréables, c’est l’Amour & la Jalousie. Ces Passions y sont renduës très sensibles par les inimitables Danseurs qui composent ce Balet. Le Sieur Nivelon & La Dlle Rabon, jeune personne, très-bonne Danseuse, y paroissent en Hollandois, comme l’Amant & la Maîtresse. Le sieur Roger, qui a composé les pas du Balet, & dont la seule figure est capable de faire éclater de rire le plus grand Stoïcien, y figure le Valet du Hollandois. Le sieur Sallé, en Ecossois, & le sieur Rinton; en Ecossoise, sa Maîtresse. Le sieur Boudet, Valet de l’Ecossois. Ces deux Nations sont très-bien caracterisées par ces excellens Pantomimes. On n’entrera pas dans un plus grand détail pour donner une idée de ce Balet figuré, dans lequel, sans le secours de la parole, on s’exprime avec l’intelligence la moins équivoque & la plus claire.’
[Spelling and diacritics are as given as in the original text]
Marian Hannah Winter (The Pre-Romantic Ballet (London, 1974), p. 84) mentions l’Amour et la Jalousie as an example of the beginnings of the ballet d’action, to which English performers and ideas made significant contributions. Of the five men and two women who danced in the piece (no mention is made of the second woman in the Mercure de France), only one was English so far as we know, but all were working regularly in London. Winter does not make the link to the entr’acte and afterpiece repertoire on the London stage, although she may have been aware of it.
The original ballet was by Roger, whose entr’acte dance Love and Jealousie given at Drury Lane on 18 October 1729 was probably also derived from his Paris version. It received only two performances and, sadly, the bills provide no information about the dancers. The cast may well have included Rainton, who was in the company that season. The review in the Mercure de France suggests that Sallé’s duet, with Rainton en travesti, was a comic number. When Nivelon introduced The Dutch and Scotch Contention at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, he danced the ‘Burgomaster’ (a well-known dance character in London) with the dancer-actress Mrs Younger as his wife and Sallé danced the ‘Highlander’ with Mrs Laguerre (another dancer-actress) as his wife. The piece also had four couples as supporting dancers, so could have had quite a bit of danced and mimed action. Nivelon obviously thought it worth his while to draw attention to entr’acte duets that were already popular – the ways in which these might have been re-choreographed by him and Roger is worth further consideration, as is the extent to which the ballet given in Paris might have been crafted around these duets, in particular Sallé’s Highlander and Mistress.
I wonder if this drawing by Louis Philippe Boitard, which may date to the early 1730s, provides a flavour of some of the dancing in The Dutch and Scotch Contention? Boitard engraved the illustrations for Nivelon’s The Rudiments of Genteel Behaviour in 1737.
This vignette from a single-sheet song in George Bickham Junior’s The Musical Entertainer, published in the late 1730s, perhaps suggests the sort of stage picture Nivelon wished to present in his afterpiece.
There were occasional advertisements for Highland Dances by dancers from Scotland, for example at Drury Lane in 1731-1732 when a solo Highland Dance was performed by ‘a Native of that Country, for his Diversion’. He was probably the same man as the ‘Scotch Gentleman’ and the ‘Native of Scotland’ also billed in Highland Dances that season. Such performances were the exception, raising the question how and where London’s professional dancers learnt their ‘Highland’ and ‘Scotch’ dances, or even whether their choreographies were recognisably Scottish at all.
Around 1750, there seems to have been a change in the Scottish dancing to be seen in London’s theatres. I have previously mentioned the Scotch Measure and Highland Reel danced by Froment and Mlle De La Cointrie at Covent Garden in 1748-1749 and repeated there by Froment (apparently as solos) the following season. Following these performances, the Highland Reel and the Reel did not begin to be advertised regularly until the late 1760s. I hope to be able to return to these later Highland Dances at some point.
The other entr’acte duets given at Drury Lane this season were the following:
Wooden Shoe Dance
As their titles suggest, they provided a variety of danced entertainment.
Hussars was danced by Thurmond Jr and Mrs Booth on 2 October 1725 and repeated several times during the season. The duet had originally been performed by John Shaw and Mrs Booth in 1719-1720 and she would go on to dance it with William Essex as well as John Thurmond Jr. It is easy to suggest that it was created by Shaw, but it is certainly possible that it originated with Mrs Booth. I discussed the duet and its costuming in The Incomparable Hester Santlow, including its music which (according to a contemporary source) was the forlana from La Sérénade vénitienne, added by Campra to the Ballet des Fragmens de Lully in 1703. This music suggests that Hussars may have been seen as a dance in masquerade.
John Shaw (who sadly died on 8 December 1725) had been one of London’s leading male dancers. He is one of the very few dancers of this period for whom we have a portrait, although only an engraving of the painting by John Ellys now survives.
The Muzette seems to have been introduced to the London stage by Rainton and Miss Robinson in 1724-1725, so their performances of the duet in 1725-1726 were a revival of the dance. As with Hussars, it was Miss Robinson who would go on to perform the Muzette with a series of partners, including William Essex and in 1729-1730 ‘Master Lally’ (probably Samuel Lally, a younger member of the Lally family). Muzette dances continued to be performed into the early 1740s, although it is likely that there were a number of different choreographies. I am reluctant to link this dance to the choreographies that were published in notation, the majority of which were created for the ballroom, although it certainly belongs to the genre of French-inspired pastoral dances that were popular in London’s theatres.
La Peirette or Pierette, given by Roger and Mrs Brett at Drury Lane on 21 March 1726 almost certainly has links to the French comedians who specialized in commedia dell’arte (the French influences on this Italian dramatic form are important to performances in London). This Pierrot or Pierette duet was almost certainly created by Roger – he had been described as the ‘French Pierrot’ in earlier bills – who continued to dance it with Mrs Brett and then other partners in subsequent seasons. Although the duet continued in the entr’acte repertoire after Roger’s death in 1731, it may or may not have drawn on his original choreography.
Whitson Holiday, danced at Drury Lane on 18 April 1726 by Boval and Miss Tenoe, was first performed at Drury Lane on 29 May 1721 by Boval and Mrs Younger. It was evidently by Boval, who danced it with a series of female partners until 1729-1730. The duet was created for a benefit performance and continued to be danced at benefits a few times each season throughout its stage life. The music may have come from Songs Compleat, Pleasant and Divertive, the new edition of Thomas Durfey’s Wit and Mirth; or, Pills to Purge Melancholy published in 1719 and then reissued under the original title 1719-1720. The collection includes the song tune ‘The Parson among the Pease’, which begins with the line ‘One long Whitson Holliday’.
The use of country dances towards the end of plays is quite well-known, but both solo and duet Country Dances were occasionally billed in the entr’actes – as at Drury Lane on 21 April 1726, when Rainton and Miss Robinson were billed together in a Country Dance at his shared benefit. I suspect that these dances should really be billed as Countryman and Countrywoman (as some were). None of the dances with these titles were performed regularly.
The Wooden Shoe Dance was far more popular as a solo than as a duet, and in the latter form was performed this season only at Drury Lane by Sandham’s children. I will take a closer look at these dances when I consider the entr’acte solos performed at the two patent theatres during 1725-1726.
The title Serious Dance was used regularly in the bills from the mid-1710s onwards. Advertisements rarely mentioned Serious Dances and Comic Dances together, although dancing ‘Serious and Comic’ was quite often billed thus. I don’t know why this should be, although the latter wording indicates that the two were seen as quite different. I haven’t yet written a post on comic dancing, although I have addressed Serious Dancing (back in 2017) and The Grand Ballet, Grand Dance and Serious Dance on the London Stage (in early 2018). The only Serious Dance billed in 1725-1726 was a duet by Michael Lally and Mrs Walter at Drury Lane on 18 May 1726, a benefit for Mrs Walter shared with Sandham’s children. It occurs to me that the title may have been used for another dance performed by them this season. Was it perhaps the Pastoral they gave at other performances in 1725-1726?
My next post will be about the other duets performed at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726.
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.
In my first post devoted to the 1725-1726 season on the London stage, I gave the number of dancers billed in the entr’actes at the Drury Lane Theatre as 19 (12 men and 7 women). Further research has shown that these numbers were not correct and also revealed some of the problems with the information in both The London Stage, 1660-1800 and the Biographical Dictionary of Actors, which were my principal sources. (I provide full references for these at the end of this post).
For the total number of dancers who appeared in the entr’actes, I first read through the calendar of performances for the season noting down the names as they appeared. When I went back to check the number of entr’acte appearances by each of those dancers, I discovered that some of them were billed only once. The Topham advertised only on 25 September 1725 is identified by the Biographical Dictionary as John Topham, although he may equally well have been his brother H. Topham. In any case, his single performance shows that he was not a regular member of the Drury Lane company in 1725-1726. The ‘Cheshire Boy’ was billed only on 6 January 1726 and his performance record over the seasons suggest that he was an occasional ‘guest artist’ and not a member of the Drury Lane company in this or other seasons. Sandham, who was billed for a single entr’acte appearance on 5 May 1726, may or may not have been the father of the two Sandham children who performed on a number of occasions (the billing may instead have referred to ‘Master Sandham’, his son, but I am not sure). The London Stage also records Nivelon as dancing a Drunken Peasant on 3 November 1725, but the advertisement in the Daily Courant for that day clearly records the performer as Monsieur Roger.
There was also the puzzle of two dancers, one named Rainton and the other Young Rainton. The Biographical Dictionary records them as two different individuals. However, a comparison of their respective dance repertoires in 1725-1726 as well as checks on the original newspaper advertisements show that they were one and the same.
So far as I can tell, the following dancers appeared at Drury Lane throughout the 1725-1726 season, in both the entr’actes and the pantomime afterpieces:
Thus, there were 13 entr’acte dancers (7 men and 6 women), together with two children – Sandham’s son and daughter – making 15 in all. The adults formed a ‘company within the company’, although that concept is not entirely straightforward. Among the women four also took acting roles (one additionally sang), while the men were all first and foremost dancers.
It is possible to characterise the members of this ‘company’ more precisely, through the number of their appearances and their repertoire. Among the men, Rainton appeared most often (52 entr’acte billings) followed by Boval (49), Thurmond Jr (41), Roger (38), Lally (33), Duplessis (22) and Haughton (20). Among the women, Miss Robinson was the busiest (61 entr’acte billings), followed by Miss Tenoe (47), Mrs Brett (45), Mrs Booth (35), Mrs Walter (24) and Miss Lindar (13). Sandham’s son and daughter made 8 and 6 entr’acte appearances respectively.
The individual repertoires performed by these dancers provide a different perspective. Among the men, Roger and Boval performed the most choreographies – Roger appeared in 3 solos, 1 duet and 3 group dances, while Boval danced 4 duets and 3 group dances. Duplessis and Haughton had the narrowest repertoires with 1 trio and 2 group dances each. Miss Robinson had the most extensive entr’acte repertoire of the women, with 3 solos and 4 duets, while (at the other extreme) Miss Lindar appeared in only 1 group dance. These figures point to dancers at different stages of their careers as well as of varying status within the dance ‘company’. It is worth pointing out that Mrs Booth was also one of Drury Lane’s leading actresses and played 21 principal acting roles during 1725-1726. Miss Tenoe also did a lot of acting, taking 15 supporting roles during the season.
Every one of the 13 entr’acte dances also took roles in Drury Lane’s popular pantomime afterpieces. It is with these productions that the status of individual dancers emerges. All three of Drury Lane’s 1725-1726 pantomimes – The Escapes of Harlequin, Harlequin Doctor Faustus and Apollo and Daphne – had been created by John Thurmond Jr. The title roles in Apollo and Daphne were danced by him and Mrs Booth. Roger was Harlequin in both The Escapes of Harlequin and Harlequin Doctor Faustus, appearing in Apollo and Daphne as both Pierrot and, in the pantomime’s concluding ballet, a Rival Swain. Two of that season’s popular group dances, La Folete and Le Badinage Champetre, were created by Roger. It is possible that both he and Thurmond Jr acted as dancing masters to the Drury Lane company.
Rainton and Miss Robinson enjoyed a dance partnership this season and seem to have been the young, up-and-coming stars. Lally, Boval, Duplessis and Haughton, like Miss Tenoe, Mrs Walter, Mrs Brett and Miss Lindar, were essentially supporting dancers in both the entr’actes and afterpieces. The two Sandham children were really a popular speciality act, although their repertoire drew on the same dances as adult performers.
Apart from the frustration of not really knowing what any of the dances performed on the London stage at this period were like, there is also the disappointment of having no portraits of all but a very few of the dancers. Even leading dancers could rarely afford the services of a portrait painter. Among the dancers at Drury Lane in 1725-1726 we have portraits of only one – Hester Booth, the company’s star ballerina and leading actress. Here she is in the familiar Harlequin portrait and portrayed in more classical guise.
In my next post, I will look more closely at the dancers who appeared in the entr’actes and afterpieces at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726.
For those who might be interested, the full references for The London Stage (the volume that I used for this post) and the Biographical Dictionary of Actors are as follows:
The London Stage, 1660-1800. Part 2: 1700-1729, ed. Emmett L. Avery (Carbondale, Ill., 1960)
A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers & Other Stage Personnel, 1660-1800, ed. Philip H. Highfill Jr, Kalman A. Burnim and Edward A. Langhans. 16 vols (Carbondale, Ill., 1973-1993)