Tag Archives: Raoul Auger Feuillet

‘Spanish’ dancing and the dance treatises

Spanish dancing features very little in the early 18th-century dance treatises. Feuillet makes no reference to Spanish styles and techniques of dancing in Choregraphie, except for a section ‘De la batterie des Castagnettes’ towards the end of the manual. He provides notation for the arm movements as well as castanet beats to accompany steps danced to the Folie d’Espagne melody. His little 16-bar choreography does not correspond to any of the four Folie d’Espagne dances that survive in notation. In particular, it does not have the 8-bar repeat structure found in those but is through-composed. Feuillet says nothing about castanets being Spanish, but his choice of the Folie d’Espagne music for his example suggests the link. In his translation Orchesography, John Weaver omits Feuillet’s section on castanets altogether.

In his Neue und Curieuse Theatrialische Tantz-Schul of 1716, Lambranzi includes a plate showing a solo male dancer performing to the Folie d’Espagne tune. He says only:

‘In this dance pas de courante, pas graves, ballonnés, pas de sissonne and pas de chaconne must be employed, together with such other pas as the dancer may select.’

There is nothing inherently Spanish about the steps listed (except that the chaconne has a Spanish origin) and the dancer is not shown holding castanets. So is the dance ‘Spanish’ at all, apart from its music?

Lambranzi Folie 1-3

Lambranzi, Neue und Curieuse Theatrialische Tantz-Schul (1716), Part 1, plate 3

In his 1717 treatise Rechtschaffener Tantz-Meister, Taubert includes notation for five Folie d’Espagne variations for a solo woman. These were presumably taken directly from Feuillet’s choreography in his 1700 Recueil de dances. Taubert includes it as an example of ‘high theatrical’ dance. He says nothing about it being Spanish, but he probably assumed that the title of the music would speak for itself.

Pierre Rameau makes no mention of Spanish steps or dances in either of the treatises he published in 1725, Le Maître a danser and Abbrégé de la nouvelle méthode. This is possibly because his focus was solely on ballroom dancing. At that period, ‘Spanish’ dances were almost all intended for the stage.

By contrast, in The Art of Dancing Kellom Tomlinson refers several times to ‘Spanish’ dances, all of them stage choreographies. In his explanation of ‘the Close beating before and falling behind in the third Position, upright Spring changing to the same before, and Coupee to a Measure’ he cites Pecour’s ‘Spanish Entree for two Men’ and ‘Entree Espagnole for a Man and a Woman’ as dances within which this pas composé was used. Was there anything particularly ‘Spanish’ about this combination, or were the two dances merely ones with which Tomlinson was familiar as sources for a step sequence he liked? I will come back to this sequence in a later post.

In his 1762 A Treatise on the Art of Dancing, Giovanni-Andrea Gallini comments:

‘In Spain, they have a dance, called, Les Folies d’Espagne, which is performed either by one or by two, with castanets. There is a dress peculiarly adapted to it, which has a very pleasing effect, as well as the dance itself.’

His remarks are picturesque but, apart from the linking of castanets with ‘Spanish’ dancing and the tantalising reference to the dress ‘peculiarly adapted to it’, they are not particularly informative.

Far more helpful is Gennaro Magri in his Trattato Teorico-Prattico di Ballo published in Naples in 1779. Magri discusses ‘Spanish’ positions alongside the long-established true and false positions (which feature in Feuillet’s Choregraphie). They correspond to the five true positions, except that the feet are in parallel and not turned out. Magri also points out that both false and Spanish positions occur in pas tortillés, which are recorded in early 18th-century treatises and notations. This suggest another possible line of enquiry.

So, there are some pointers to the style and technique of ‘Spanish’ dancing in the 18th century. I should make it clear that my interest here is in ‘Spanish’ dancing as it might have been performed on the London stage in the early 1700s, where it was most likely filtered through ‘French’ dancing.


Isaac’s Rigadoon: the choreography

Isaac’s Rigadoon is one of 31 notated dances which either are or include a rigaudon (three more dances are labelled as rigaudons but are in fact gavottes). Among these 14 were published in London, of which 8 (Including Isaac’s Rigadoon) are rigaudons throughout. As I said in my previous post on this dance, it was first published in 1706 but may have been created some years earlier. Isaac choreographed a second rigaudon, The Rigadoon Royal, in 1711.

What made Isaac’s Rigadoon so admired and, apparently, so popular? Music theorists of the time characterised the rigaudon as ‘rustic’ and suggested that it was a fast dance. I have a delightful recording (made for rehearsal purposes some years ago) which is both and really brings the duet to life. The dance, in duple time, is quite long. The musical structure is the conventional AABB (A has 4 bars and B has 6) played through four times, so there are 80 bars of dancing. The choreography is lively. More than half of the steps incorporate small jumps, which are notated as such. There are no demi-jettés and only a few steps with a terminating demi-coupé to give a sense of suspension rather than a lilt. The step vocabulary is relatively limited, but Isaac’s use of variants on basic steps and his combinations of these demand swift reactions and rhythmic clarity. This can only be achieved through good underlying technique, particularly placement (or aplomb) and control over the mouvements that provide vertical articulation between and within the steps. The music needs some rustic heaviness (though not too much) but the steps need a feeling of upward spring. If the Rigadoon is as fast as I think it should be, it is not an easy dance and needs much practice to get it right. It must have been an agreeable challenge to able amateur dancers.

John Weaver identified four steps in Isaac’s Rigadoon that were rarely, if ever, found in other dances. All occur on the first plate of the notation, the first AABB section of the dance. Was Weaver (if not Mr Isaac himself) deliberately appealing not only to the contemporary love of novelty but also to a desire for ‘English Dancing’?

Weaver Step Suplement detail

Feuillet transl. Weaver. Orchesography (1706), ‘A Suplement of Steps’, detail.

Isaac Rigadoon 1 detail

Mr Isaac. The Rigadoon (1706), first plate, detail.

Weaver’s reference to ‘the so frequent use of them’ in the Rigadoon is a little puzzling. The ‘boree wth. a bound’ does appear throughout the dance. Feuillet gives notations for a large number of variants on the pas de bourée but none has either a final demi-jetté or jetté, even though Rameau refers to the former in Le Maître a danser. Weaver makes no reference to Isaac’s variant pas de bourée which has a pas glissé as the final step. The ‘contretem wth. a bound’ is used only four times by the man in the Rigadoon (the lady has three). There is nothing similar in Feuillet’s ‘Table des Contre-temps’. Although Rameau refers to a ‘contre-tems à deux mouvemens’ he actually means a contretemps balonné. My impression, from working through quite a number of notated choreographies over the years, is that the ‘contretem wth. a bound’ is quite widely used elsewhere, but I need to check this out. The ‘sissonne wth. a Contre temps’ occurs only at the very beginning of the Rigadoon. All the other sissonnes in the dance are the conventional version, as notated by Feuillet at the beginning of his ‘Table des Pas de Sissonne’ and described by Rameau. Isaac’s ‘contretems wth. a slide’ occurs only once, in the first B section near the beginning of the dance’. It is not recorded by either Feuillet or Rameau.

The contradiction between Weaver’s statement about ‘the so frequent use’ of these steps and the actual inclusion of them in his notation of Isaac’s Rigadoon raises questions. Could Weaver’s notation be inaccurate in some places? Did he perhaps use Feuillet’s standard notation instead of recording Isaac’s variant steps? Or was the dance as notated made more conventional to accommodate a greater range of amateur dance skills?

I meant this post to be a discussion of the difficulties, and the pleasures, to be encountered while learning Isaac’s Rigadoon, but I am still only about half-way through the choreography. A proper appraisal will have to wait for a little while longer.


Country Dancing Improved

A little while ago, I attended a ball where one of the country dances was The Busie Body. When I was told that it was by John Essex, I thought I ought to explore further.

In 1710, Essex translated Feuillet’s 1706 Recueil de contredances as For the Further Improvement of Dancing. What he translated was Feuillet’s introductory treatise on the simplified notation system used to record country dances. Instead of merely reproducing Feuillet’s collection of 32 country dances, Essex selected 10 from various sources. Three come from Feuillet’s 1706 Recueil: Pantomime; Gasconne; and The Female Saylor (La Matelotte in Feuillet). Two more dances are also French: Micareme and The Diligent, both from Feuillet’s VIme. Recüeil de danses et de contredanses pour l’Année 1708. The other five dances were, as Essex tells us in his Preface, ‘my own composing’. These are the dances titled Trip to the Jubilee, The Great Turk, The Busie Body, The Tatler and The Tost.

If the French were acknowledged as the masters of ballroom and stage dancing, la belle danse, the English claimed primacy in country dancing. Essex was happy to wave the flag in his Preface to For the Further Improvement of Dancing.

John Essex, Preface, For the Further Improvement of Dancing (1710), first page

John Essex, Preface, For the Further Improvement of Dancing (1710), first page

In this post, my interest lies in the titles of Essex’s own country dances and their links with stage and society in London.

Trip to the Jubilee must refer to Farquhar’s play The Constant Couple; or, The Trip to the Jubilee, first performed (so far as we know) at the Drury Lane Theatre on 28 November 1699. Farquhar’s play was one of the most popular of the early 18th century and was performed regularly until the 1790s. The ‘Jubilee’ was the Pope’s Jubilee year to be celebrated in Rome in 1700 – a trip to this event was a running joke throughout The Constant Couple. The dance and its music were first published in 1701 in the 11th edition of The Dancing-Master, described ‘as ‘tis Danced at the Play-House’. So it seems that Essex actually created this country dance for Farquhar’s play. He is certainly recorded as a professional dancer at Drury Lane in the first years of the 18th century.

The Great Turk uses music from the Turkish Entrée in Campra’s 1697 opéra-ballet L’Europe galante. Anthony L’Abbé made use of the same piece for his Türkish Dance in the early 1720s. Essex’s use of the music suggests that it was already familiar in London some years earlier. It is worth noting the danced entr’acte ‘Entertainment after the Turkish Manner’ given at Drury Lane on 2 February 1710. Did this perhaps also use Campra’s music?

The title of The Busie Body is taken from Mrs Centlivre’s play of the same name, first given at Drury Lane on 12 May 1709. This was another successful comedy played regularly in London’s theatres until the end of the century.  The published play has ‘A Dance’ towards the end, in accordance with the convention of a country dance performed by a play’s characters as the plot concludes. Could Essex’s dance have been performed in the original production of The Busie Body, even though he makes no mention of this?

The Tatler, obviously, refers to the famous periodical launched by Sir Richard Steele in 1709 and published three times a week until 1711. It dealt in news, gossip and the manners of the day and was frequently reprinted in collected editions throughout the 1700s.

The title The Tost was corrected to The Toast when Essex reissued For the Further Improvement of Dancing around 1715. (I will talk about this reissue in a later post). Essex may well have had in mind the ‘Toast’ as explained by Steele in the Tatler for 4 June 1709. She is:

‘… the Lady we mention in our Liquors, … call’d a Toast. … The Manner of her Inauguration is much like that of the Choice of a Doge in Venice: it is perform’d by Balloting; and when she is so chosen, she reigns indisputably for that Year; but must be elected anew to prolong her Empire a Moment beyond it.’

Was this dance implicitly dedicated to a well-known ‘Toast’ of the Kit-Cat Club (of which Steele was a member and to which he was referring)? Or was it meant as a compliment to the Duchess of Bolton, to whom Essex dedicated his collection? She was Henrietta née Crofts (c1682-1730), the illegitimate daughter of James, Duke of Monmouth. She married the second Duke of Bolton in 1697.

With his dances in For the Further Improvement of Dancing Essex is surely trying to appeal to a fashionable, London-based élite – the beau monde – members of which he hoped to attract as pupils.

‘Spanish’ dances

In an earlier post, I looked at the ‘French’ saraband. I thought I’d turn to the ‘Spanish’ saraband, but I quickly got caught up in a confusing web of ‘Spanish’ dances.

There are four notated dances that can be defined as ‘Spanish’ sarabands, because of their music. Two are solos for a man, one by Favier (in an undated manuscript) and the other by Feuillet (in his 1700 Recueil de dances). The other two are solos for a woman, from Feuillet’s 1700 collection and Pecour’s 1704 Recueil de dances. All four choreographies use the ‘Ier Air des Espagnols’ from the Entrée ‘L’Espagne’ in the Ballet des Nations at the end of Le Bourgeois gentilhomme. I’ll come back to these dances later.

There are four surviving choreographies to the Folie d’Espagne music.  This is, of course, also a saraband. Two of these dances are very closely related: Feuillet’s solo Folie d’Espagne pour femme published in 1700 was lightly adapted to become a duet, recorded in a manuscript collection where it is attributed to Pecour. There is also one solo for a man by Feuillet, surviving only in manuscript, and another by Pecour in his 1704 Recueil de dances. I will return to these four choreographies too. On the London stage, the Folie d’Espagne was advertised under that title only once – at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 29 May 1718 when it was performed ‘by a Little Girl that never danced on the Stage’.

Feuillet’s Sarabande Espagnole, a solo for a man in his 1700 collection, is actually a loure or gigue lente, another dance type that often has ‘Spanish’ connotations. There seem to be both ‘French’ and ‘Spanish’ loures, for some of the choreographies using this dance type have a pastoral or amorous context, at least so far as their music is concerned. The most famous ‘French’ loure is Pecour’s Aimable Vainqueur.

Another eight notated dances are designated ‘Spanish’ either in their titles or through their music. Five are loures, three of which are male solos. Two are by Feuillet, an Entreé DEspagnol surviving in manuscript and a Sarabande Espagnole pour homme in his 1700 collection. The third solo is the Spanish Entry in L’Abbé’s A New Collection of Dances dating to the mid-1720s. Pecour has an Entrée Espagnolle pour une femme and an Entrée pour deux hommes in his 1704 Recueil de dances. Both use the same piece of music from the Entrée for Spain in Campra’s L’Europe galante of 1697, as does Feuillet’s Entreé DEspagnol. The other two male solos use another tune from the Entrée L’Espagne in the Ballet des Nations.

Spanish dances were quite popular on the London stage. There were male and female solos, as well as duets, trios and a variety of dances for larger groups. It is virtually impossible to know what these choreographies were like, although the links of so many of the dancers to France and their training in ‘French’ dancing suggest that many were sarabands or loures or perhaps the Folie d’Espagne itself. Most of the advertisements for a ‘louvre’ probably refer to Aimable Vainqueur. However, there are a few billings for male and female solos, which may well be ‘Spanish’ loures. Among the last of the dancers to be advertised in a solo ‘louvre’ was La Barberina in the 1740-1741 and 1741-1742 seasons.

There is also the question of what made a dance ‘Spanish’ (apart from its music). I’ll come back to this.

Feuillet’s Sarabands

Six of the surviving notated sarabands are by Raoul Auger Feuillet. All are solo dances. He included two in his 1700 collection of his own choreographies, both to the ‘Spanish’ saraband in the Ballet des Nations from Le Bourgeois gentilhomme. I’ll look at those later, alongside Feuillet’s versions of the Folie d’Espagne. The other four sarabands are from a manuscript collection possibly compiled between 1710 and 1720. Three are solos for a woman and the fourth is a solo for a man.

As I said in my last post, I’ve been working on one of the sarabands for a woman – the Sarabande de Polixène. I’ve been wondering how the three female solos relate to one another, given that they are all by the same choreographer. I’ve long been interested in the very different choreographies created for male dancers (the complexities of most of these suggest that they were created for male professionals). These four sarabands provide an opportunity for some analysis. Unfortunately, I only have recorded music for the Sarabande de Polixène which makes reconstruction of the other solos difficult. I feel that such reconstruction is always the best basis for any analysis. I’ll just have to see what the notations themselves can tell me.

None of these solos is long. The Sarabande de Mr. Feüillet for a woman, whose music remains unidentified, has 40 bars. The Sarabande de Mr. Feüillet to music from act 1 scene 5 of Gatti’s opera Scylla (1701) has only 36 bars – I’ll refer to this dance as the Sarabande de Scylla. The Sarabande de Mr. Feuillet for a man, also with unidentified music, has 48 bars. The Sarabande de Polixène is the longest, with 64 bars of music taken from act 3 scene 5 of Colasse’s opera Polixène et Pirrhus (1706). All the music for these dances has a basic AABB structure with a B section longer than the A section. However, the Sarabande de Scylla has an AABBB’ structure in which both A and B have 8 bars and B’ has 4.

I find it useful to do some basic analysis to start with, looking at how many steps in a choreography incorporate jumps or beats or turns. Sometimes such ornamentations can point to a dance for the stage rather than the ballroom. In all three of the female solos around one-third of the steps include one or more jumped elements. The inclusion of beats runs from only 3% of steps in the Sarabande de Scylla to 11% in the Sarabande de Polixène. Both the female solo Sarabande de Mr. Feüillet and the Sarabande de Scylla add turns to around 45% of their steps, but the Sarabande de Polixène does this with only 22%. Does this suggest that the last is more presentational than the other two? Well, it might depend on where the dancer most often faces at the end of individual steps. The number of basic, unornamented steps ranges from 35% in the female Sarabande de Mr. Feüillet to 50% in the Sarabande de Scylla. Are there any conclusions that can safely be drawn from this?

The male solo saraband both overlaps with and radically departs from the step vocabulary of the other three dances, so I will devote a separate post to it. I will also look at the pas composés shared by these four solos, by which I mean those steps formed from two or more basic steps with or without further ornamentation.

In the meantime, here is some notation from one of the female solos. Note the pirouette on both feet with a full turn towards the end of this section.

Sarabande de Mr. Feüillet (undated). First plate

Sarabande de Mr. Feüillet (undated). First plate

The Saraband

I’ve recently been working on Feuillet’s solo Sarabande for a woman to music from Colasse’s 1706 opera Polyxène et Pirrhus. This choreography survives in a single manuscript source and must date to period 1706 to 1710. The music is very different from the better-known saraband in the Entrée for Spain within the Ballet des Nations that ends Lully and Molière’s Le Bourgeois gentilhomme. It seems that, in the early 18th century, there were two distinct types of saraband – one being French, as in the Sarabande de Polyxène, and the other Spanish, the best known examplar being the Folie d’Espagne.

A remark on the radio, describing  the saraband as ‘slow and stately’ prompted me to take a closer look at this dance type. I admit to being very tired of hearing the expression ‘slow and stately’ in relation to the very varied ballroom and theatre dances of the late 17th and 18th centuries, but it is difficult to know how to counter it.

There are at least 27 surviving choreographies labelled as sarabands, to which can be added four Folie d’Espagne notations (not included in the following statistics). The dance was popular both in the ballroom and on the stage. Ten of the notated sarabands are identifiable as ballroom dances. Nine of these include the saraband alongside other dance types in mini-dance suites. Five choreographies can be linked directly either to the Paris Opéra or the London stage. Six more dances are male solos and there are five female solos. All of these may have been intended either for the stage or as exhibition dances. Four of the solos (two male and two female) are to the saraband in Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, marking them out as ‘Spanish’.

There is, of course, much more to the saraband as a dance. Do the choreographies themselves differentiate between ‘French’ and ‘Spanish’ sarabands, or do these distinctions lie hidden within style and technique rather than on view in the step vocabulary and choreographic motifs? I will try to address these issues in later posts.

In the meantime, here is a description of a dancer performing a saraband from Father François Pomey’s Le Dictionnaire royal augmentée published in Lyon in 1671. The translation of the French original comes from a 1986 article by the researcher Patricia Ranum.

‘At first he danced with a totally charming grace, with a serious and circumspect air, with an equal and slow rhythm, and with such a noble, beautiful, free and easy carriage that he had all the majesty of a king, and inspired as much respect as he gave pleasure.

Then, standing taller and more assertively, and raising his arms to half-height and keeping them partly extended, he performed the most beautiful steps ever invented for the dance.

Sometimes he would glide imperceptibly, with no apparent movement of his feet and legs, and seemed to slide rather than step. Sometimes, with the most beautiful timing in the world, he would remain suspended, immobile, and half leaning to the side with one foot in the air; and then, compensating for the rhythmic unit that had just gone by, with another more precipitous unit he would almost fly, so rapid was his motion.

Sometimes he would advance with little skips, sometimes he would drop back with long steps that, although carefully planned, seemed to be done spontaneously, so well had he cloaked his art in skilful nonchalance.

Sometimes, for the pleasure of everyone present, he would turn to the right, and sometimes he would turn to the left; and when he reached the very middle of the empty floor, he would pirouette so quickly that the eye could not follow.

Now and then he would let a whole rhythmic unit go by, moving no more than a statue and then, setting off like an arrow, he would be at the other end of the room before anyone had time to realise that he had departed.

But all this was nothing compared to what was observed when this gallant began to express the emotions of his soul through the motions of his body, and reveal them in his face, his eyes, his steps and all his actions.

There is more, but isn’t this more than enough to refute the idea of the saraband (or, indeed, any baroque dance) as ‘slow and stately’? The expressive possibilities outlined in this passage can readily be seen in the surviving notated sarabands.

Solos for Girls

Among the 18th-century dances surviving in notation are fourteen solos for unnamed female dancers. Who were these solos created for? What sort of choreographies are they?

Four of these dances are probably for young girls. Mr Isaac’s Chacone and his Minuet, published in 1711 in Pemberton’s An Essay for the Further Improvement of Dancing, are usually seen as one dance (following Pemberton’s title page) but may have been originally created independently. The anonymous La Cybelline, to music by Charles Fairbank, dates to 1719. Thomas Caverley’s Slow Minuet for a Girl, which shares its title page design with La Cybelline, has been dated to 1729. However, it may have been choreographed before 1720 since there is another version of the dance by Kellom Tomlinson. This was probably written down between 1708 and 1714 when Tomlinson was apprenticed to Caverley.

Two solos are from Feuillet’s 1700 Recueil de dances, a collection of his own choreographies. No dancers are named. The Sarabande pour femme, to music by Lully for Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, and the Folie d’espagne pour femme are among the easiest of the dances in Feuillet’s collection.

Two of the solos are from the 1704 Recueil de dances, a collection ‘des meillieures Entrées de Ballet de Mr. Pecour’. There is the Sarabande pour une femme, to the same music as Feuillet’s Sarabande pour femme, and the Chacone pour une femme, to music from Lully’s opera Phaéton. Of the six female solos in this collection, only these two have unnamed performers.

One solo is from the Nouveau recueil de dance de bal et celle de ballet, choreographies by Pecour published around 1713. The Gigue pour une femme seule non dancée a Lopera, to music from Alcide by Louis Lully and Marin Marais, is the only one of the female solos in this collection that has an unnamed performer. All the others were performed by leading dancers at the Paris Opéra.

Turning again to the English choreographies, L’Abbé’s solo Passacaille to music from Lully’s opera Armide followed Isaac’s Chacone and Minuet in Pemberton’s Essay of 1711. It is derived from the duet he had created for the professional dancers Mrs Elford and Mrs Santlow around 1706 (which was not published until about 1725).

L’Abbé’s Passacaille from Pemberton’s Essay (1711), plate 1.

L’Abbé’s Passacaille from Pemberton’s Essay (1711), plate 1.

The remaining three solos are all entitled Sarabande and are ascribed to Feuillet. They appear in a manuscript which has been dated to the first decades of the 18th century. The music for one of these dances has not yet been identified, but the other two are from Gatti’s opera Scylla and Colasse’s Polyxène et Pyrrhus respectively. The great majority of dances in this source (24 out of 28) are solos and most are by Feuillet.

The status of each of these solos for girls is difficult to determine. They may have been theatrical dances for the stage or display dances for the ballroom. They may have been created for amateurs, apprentice dancers or young professionals. Closer investigation of the choreographies, their music and the sources within which they appear might shed further light on them.