Tag Archives: Pas Battus

Pas de Sissonne Battu in Stage Dances for Women

The pas de sissonne battu, shown in Feuillet’s ‘Table des Pas de Sissonne’ turns up in several of the notated stage solos and duets for women. I am not going to attempt any detailed analysis in this post, I will simply point out where the step occurs.

It can be found in two of the choreographies in the 1704 collection of Pecour’s ‘Entrées de Ballet’: the ‘Passacaille pour une femme’ performed by Mlle Subligny in Gatti’s Scylla; and the ‘Entrée Espagnolle pour une femme’ danced by her in Campra’s L’Europe galante.

It is notated twice in the passacaille, first in bar 96 (plate 28), when it is not (strictly speaking) a pas de sissonne since the assemblé battu is followed by a changement, and the dance bar concludes with a coupé simple.

Passacaille Scylla 28 (2)

It is danced again in bar 152 (plate 31). In both cases, the step is preceded by a coupé soutenue and followed by a coupé battu avec ouverture de jambe.

In the ‘Entrée Espagnolle’ it comes in the penultimate bar of the dance, bar 29 (plate 40) – the loure is notated with two pas composés to each bar of the music. The pas de sissonne is preceded by a contretemps and has an ouverture de jambe on the concluding spring. The assemblé battu is performed with a half turn in the air.

Entree Espagnolle 40 (2)

In Pecour’s Nouveau recüeil of around 1713, the pas de sissonne battu turns up in four of the female solos and just one of the duets. The ‘Gigue pour une femme’ danced to music from Louis Lully’s and Marais’s Alcide is a highly embellished choreography. The unnamed danseuse has a wealth of steps incorporating pas battus, although only one is a pas de sissonne battu. It comes early in the dance, bar 11 (plate 69) and concludes with a changement. It is preceded by two unusual pas composés incorporating tortillé movements (only one is shown here) and followed by a pas de bourée.

Gigue Alcide 69 (2)

I have often wondered whether the anonymous female soloist was, in fact, Mlle Guyot who is the female star in this collection.

Mlle Guyot is named as the performer of the ‘Gigue pour une femme’ from Campra’s Tancrède. This lively little number has a pas de sissonne battu in bar 32 (plate 76), although again it has a concluding changement rather than a spring onto one foot. It is followed by a coupé simple and a coupé avec ouverture de jambe, recalling the sequence in the passacaille from Scylla.

Gigue Tancrede 76 (2)

The ‘Entrée pour une femme seul’, a gavotte from Lully’s Atys, also danced by Mlle Guyot, has a pas de sissonne battu in bar 22 (plate 78). It, too, has a changement instead of a spring and is followed by a pas de bourée battu.

Gavotte Atys 78 (2)

The choreographic masterpiece in this collection, so far as the dances for women are concerned, is the ‘Passacaille pour une femme dancée par Mlle. Subligny en Angleterre’, presumably during her visit to London in the winter of 1701-1702. The music is from Lully’s opera Armide.

Mlle Subligny performs two assemblés battus during the solo. The first comes in bar 101 (plate 84) as a new variation begins in the music. It is followed by a changement and a coupé simple.

Passacaille Armide 84 (2)

The second is in bar 147 (plate 86), as the solo draws to its conclusion, and is the step just before she begins her final retreat. Again, it is followed by a changement and a coupé simple.

Passacaille Armide 86 (2)

The collection of c1713 is notable for the five duets performed by Mlle Guyot and Mlle Prévost. These characterful choreographies are full of pas sautés, although only the ‘Canarÿe dancée … au triomphe de l’amour’ includes a pas de sissonne battu (bar 8, plate 43). This example has a half-turn in the air and is preceded by a contretemps and followed by a pas de bourée.

Canarye Guyot Prevost 43 (2)

In L’Abbé’s New Collection of Dances, published around 1725, neither of Mrs Santlow’s solos include a pas de sissonne battu. However, the ‘Passagalia of Venüs & Adonis’ is an astounding choreography, so far as our ideas of the conventions of female dance technique are concerned. I have performed it numerous times and written about in several different contexts. I hope to return to it later.

L’Abbé’s ‘Passacaille of Armide’ danced by Mrs Elford and Mrs Santlow has one assemblé battu in bar 101 (plate 13). It draws attention to itself not only because it marks the transition to a new musical variation but also because it is followed by two beats in which the dancers come to a dynamic stop – a moment of stillness in which energy continues to flow through their bodies as they wait to resume their dance.

Passacaille Armide Duet 13 (2)

I suggest that, given the number of examples in these collections, the assemblé battu, within the pas de sissonne battu (which is often in a variant concluding with a changement) or alone, was a step integral to the vocabulary of early 18th-century professional female dancers. If they regularly performed this step, what other jumped pas battus might they have performed? There are some hints in the notated female solos and duets and also in the male-female duets as well as the dances for men.

Stage Dances for Women and Feuillet’s Pas Battus

I have long been sceptical about the claim that Mlle Camargo was the first woman to perform an entrechat-quatre on stage, not least because I know that several of the earlier notated stage dances for women contain pas battus not so far removed from that feat. I thought it was time I looked more closely at the vocabulary in those dances, focussing on batterie in the jumped steps rather than the percussive pas battus used to embellish so many of the walking steps in choreographies created for the stage.

I listed the four principal sources for notated stage dances in an earlier post. Between them these collections contain 16 female solos and 7 female duets. The publication dates range over some 25 years, more than a generation of dancers, although the choreographies themselves may range from the 1690s to the 1720s. We don’t know how these notations relate to what was actually performed onstage and there is no consensus about the purposes behind their publication. Were they intended to record the choreographies performed by leading dancers, for dancing masters working in the theatre or even for fans? Were they actually simplified versions of the original dances intended for the teaching of talented (but not necessarily professional) pupils? Whatever the truth, they provide invaluable evidence of the dancing we have lost. They are well worth detailed exploration.

In Choregraphie, Feuillet provides tables for ‘Cabrioles, et demi Cabrioles’ as well as ‘Entre-chats et demy entre-chats’.

In addition, he includes aerial pas battus in his tables of ‘Contre-temps; and ‘Pas de sissonne’.

I should point out that there are differing interpretations of Pierre Rameau’s description of the contretemps in chapter 37 of Le Maître a danser. He uses the phrase ‘se relever en sautant dessus’, which has led some scholar-practitioners to adopt a relevé rather than a sauté. The former means that it is not, technically, a jumped step.

Feuillet was himself the notator of the 1700 collection of his own choreographies, as well as the 1704 collection of Pecour’s ‘Entrées de Ballet’. Both Gaudrau, who notated the Pecour collection of around 1713, and Le Roussau, who notated L’Abbé’s New Collection, used the system published by Feuillet in Choregraphie. Which, if any, of these pas battus appear in the notated dances for professional female dancers recorded in these collections?