Tag Archives: Scotch Dances

Scotch Dances on the London Stage, 1660-1760

In 1725-1726, the London theatre season for which I am looking at dance in detail, there were more than a dozen billings for a solo Scottish Dance by Mrs Bullock at the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre, as well as a handful of performances of a Scottish duet by Newhouse and Mrs Ogden. By the mid-1720s, Scotch (or Scots, or Scottish) Dances were a regular feature in the entr’actes at London’s theatres.

The very first edition of Playford’s collection of country dances, The English Dancing-Master of 1651, includes a tune with the title ‘Scotch Cap or Edinburgh Castle’, while the third edition of 1657 added the ‘Highlander’s March’. These highlight a much longer history of Scotch dances than the one I will explore here.

Theatre in London had come back to life shortly after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, although records of performances over the next forty years are very incomplete. It is particularly difficult to trace the history of dancing in the playhouses over this period. One of the earliest Restoration plays to feature a Scots character was John Lacy’s Shakespeare adaptation The Taming of the Shrew; or, Sauny the Scot. Lacy took the role of Sauny, Petruchio’s Scots servant. Samuel Pepys was not impressed when he saw the comedy at the Bridges Street Theatre on 9 April 1667, calling it ‘but a mean play: and the best part, “Sawny”, done by Lacy, hath not half its life’. John Lacy was one of the greatest comic actors of the time, and a favourite with Pepys, but he played Sauny with a Scots dialect that the diarist could hardly understand. He also played on English ideas of the Scots as poverty-stricken, dirty and with repulsive habits, to the delight of audiences. As well as being an actor, Lacy danced (he had been trained by the dancing master John Ogilby) and Sauny the Scot ends with a dance, although we do not know whether Lacy used a Scots tune. Lacy was depicted in three of his comic roles by John Michael Wright in the late 1660s or early 1670s. There is ongoing debate about which roles are shown, but the one on the left could perhaps be Sauny.

The 1686 seventh edition of Playford’s The Dancing Master had a number of pages added at the end in 1687. These have among them ‘The Scotch-man’s Dance, in The Northern Lass’. Richard Brome’s play The Northern Lass, given in 1629, was revived soon after the Restoration and quickly found a place in the repertory. There are two dances in the 1663 edition of the play, one by ‘Masquers’ in act 2 and the other a ‘Round’ in act 3. Perhaps the ‘Scotchman’ was one of the masquers? Here is the music.

Most historical country dance enthusiasts will know the ‘Scotch Measure’ included in Thomas Bray’s 1699 collection Country Dances.

Bray was apparently a dancer and dancing master with the United Company during the 1690s, so this particular Scotch Dance could possibly have been performed on the London stage.

From the 1670s to the early 1700s, 25 musical suites for plays given in London’s theatres include ‘Scotch’ tunes, showing their popularity over this period. Information about these can be found in Music in the Restoration Theatre by Curtis Price (the full reference is given at the end of this post). I confess that I have not looked at the play texts to see if they mention ‘Scotch’ dances, but Price tells us that the ‘Scotts’ tune’ or ‘Scotch Measure’ was very popular in the 1690s.

This brings us to the 18th century. I compiled a list of the various Scotch Dances given in London’s theatres between 1700 and 1760 a while ago and it provides some interesting statistics. The earliest advertisement transcribed in The London Stage after 1700 is for a solo Scotch Dance performed by Margaret Bicknell at Drury Lane on 20 August 1702. She was actually from Edinburgh and this was probably not the first time she had danced this particular solo. Between 1701-1702 and 1705-1706 there were a handful of Scotch Dances given. This is unlikely to represent their true popularity for, like the Restoration period, performances during the first few years of the 18th century are far from fully recorded. No Scotch Dances were advertised in the entr’actes from 1706-1707 to 1715-1716 (a period during which newspaper advertisements first provide extensive performance details). I cannot explain this gap, although disruptions in London’s theatres during the first decade of the 18th century, the Hanoverian accession in 1714 and then the Jacobite rebellion in 1715 must all have something to do with their absence.

There were relatively few Scotch Dances each season from 1716-1717 to 1723-1724, then in 1724-1725 there were 20 performances with Scotch Dances. With a few exceptions, 16-18 Scotch Dances were given performances each season until 1731-1732 when there were 25. Then, in 1732-1733, there were 96 billings for entr’acte Scotch Dances! This total was not exceeded during the period I am exploring, although the figures did not drop away immediately – there were more than 70 performances of Scotch Dances in 1733-1734 and more than 60 in 1734-1735. The numbers decline to around 20 each season, more or less and with wide variations from season to season, by the late 1740s. It will come as no surprise to learn that no Scotch Dances were given in 1745-1746 and few or none over the following two seasons. Scotch Dances then recovered to around 20 each season until the early 1750s, but from 1753-1754 to 1759-1760 they all but disappeared from the entr’acte repertoire.

I am not going to try to look at all these ups and downs in detail, but I was curious to know what was going on in 1732-1733 to cause such a boom in Scotch Dances. In fact, there were five different Scotch Dances performed in the entr’actes at Drury Lane, Lincoln’s Inn Fields and the Goodman’s Fields Theatre that season. The first was the solo Scotch Dance given by Mrs Bullock at Goodman’s Fields on 7 October 1732. She had been advertised in a solo Scotch Dance since 1719-1720, which had been popular for much of the 1720s. In 1732-1733, she danced it more than 30 times – contributing significantly to the total of Scotch Dances that season. The second dance was the ‘new Scot’s Dance’, a duet performed by Haughton and Mrs Walter at Drury Lane on 14 October 1732 which may have been a revival of the duet given at this theatre in August 1732 by Holt and Mrs Walter. This Scotch Dance was performed seven times in 1732-1733 and then disappeared from the bills. The ‘New Scotch Dance’ given by Glover, Mrs Laguerre, Dupré, Mrs Pelling, Delagarde Jr and Mrs Ogden at Covent Garden on 16 January 1733 was the first group Scotch Dance to be performed in the entr’actes for nearly thirty years, but it proved so popular that there would be more such choreographies in future seasons. Advertisements in 1733-1734 identify Glover as the choreographer and it would remain in repertoire until 1740-1741. Glover’s Scotch Dance was performed 46 times in 1732-1733. So, Mrs Bullock’s long established solo and Glover’s new group dance were the choreographies that made 1732-1733 the season of Scotch Dances.

There were three more Scotch Dances in 1732-1733. The Scottish Dance performed by Young Weeks ‘Scholar to Dupre’ was given three times, at Covent Garden on 30 April 1733 (a benefit for Dupré and Miss La Tour) and then again at Goodman’s Fields on 11 and 14 May. Miss Wherrit performed her ‘new’ solo Scotch Dance once, at Goodman’s Fields on 10 May 1733 (a benefit for herself and two others). Finally, there was another Scotch Dance duet, by Davenport and Miss Baston at Covent Garden on 9 August 1733 – they gave this six times during the theatre’s summer season.

So far as I can tell, there were no particular social or political reasons for the emphasis on Scotch Dances during 1732-1733. There were, though, several possible reasons relating to events affecting London’s theatre world. The first (and possibly the most significant one) was the opening of the first Covent Garden Theatre on 7 December 1732. John Rich had long been a rival to Drury Lane from his theatre in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, but the opening of a brand-new theatre on their doorstep took competition to new heights. At the same time, the Drury Lane company was beginning a particularly troubled period in its history. It had been run very successfully for around twenty years by a triumvirate of actor-managers – Barton Booth, Colley Cibber and Robert Wilks. Booth had been in ill-health for some time and in the summer of 1732 had sold out to the wealthy gentleman amateur John Highmore. Then, Wilks died in September 1732 and his management responsibilities passed to the painter John Ellys, also a theatrical amateur. Finally, in November 1732, Colley Cibber passed his management role to his son Theophilus – the only member of the new triumvirate with any knowledge and experience of the theatre. Tensions between the new managers soon mounted and the season ended in chaos with a rebellion by many of the actors, who the patentees locked out of the theatre on 26 May 1733. As if that was not enough, theatre rivalries had also been intensified by a third (unlicensed) playhouse – Goodman’s Fields had been offering performances in the Whitechapel area of London since 1729, but a new theatre opened there on 2 October 1732 under management determined to make the venture a success. Goodman’s Fields immediately began to emulate Covent Garden by including much entr’acte dancing in its bills. These events go some way towards explaining the large number of billings this season for Scotch Dances, which were obviously exploited for their popularity by both Covent Garden and Goodman’s Fields.

While Mrs Bullock’s solo may have drawn on ‘Scotch’ music familiar from earlier periods, there are few clues to the music that Glover used. My guess is that the success of his Scotch Dance had much to do with its music. There were certainly at least two collections of ‘Scots’ tunes published around this time, which suggest the popularity of ‘Scottish’ music in the early 1730s. One of them was William Thomson’s Orpheus Caledonius, first published in the mid-1720s and then given a second two-volume enlarged edition in 1733.

The dancers of these choreographies may well have worn a form of ‘Scotch’ dress. There are a couple of clues in a 1744 inventory of Covent Garden properties, where reference is made to ‘6 Scotch jacketts and caps 2 stuff plaid sashes and 6 bonnets to do. [ditto]’. ‘Stuff’ is a woollen, usually worsted, cloth. There is also reference to a ‘Highlander’s jacket’.  There is no certainty that these references are to dancers’ costumes (Macbeth was given every season at Covent Garden) but other information makes it likely. References for the inventory are at the end of this post. There are many 18th-century portraits showing various versions of ‘Scotch’ dress, although I have found it difficult to discover anything from the early 1700s. These two images are actually of a Highland Gentleman and Lady, ascribed to 1745 and printed in A Collection of the Dresses of Different Nations: Antient and Modern published in two volumes over the period 1757-1772. They may, perhaps, provide clues to the costuming of Scotch Dances in London’s theatres before the Jacobite rebellion.

Apart from the mid-1740s, Scotch Dances were frequently billed in the entr’actes into the late 1750s and some new titles were introduced from the late 1740s. Among these were the Scotch Measure danced with a Highland Reel by Froment and Mlle de la Cointrie within a ‘New Scotch Dance’ given alongside The Beggar’s Opera at Covent Garden on 24 April 1749. Froment had first been billed in a solo Scotch Dance in London in 1742-1743, with no mention of these other dances. In the ensuing years he had spent time in Edinburgh where he may have extended his knowledge of Scottish dancing (my thanks to Alena Shmakova, who is researching dancing in Edinburgh and brought this to my attention). Froment apparently continued his London career until the late 1770s, although he seems not to have been billed in further Scotch Dances. There was also a Grand Scottish Ballet, first performed by Cooke and Miss Hillyard at Covent Garden on 31 January 1750. They were presumably accompanied by a group of supporting dancers, as indicated by advertisements in later seasons. This choreography continued in repertoire until 1752-1753, when it was given at least 24 performances, after which it disappeared from the bills.

I will look at Highland Dances in a separate post as, for the earlier period at least, they seem to be different to Scotch Dances.

During the final decades of the 18th century, ideas about Scotland and the Scots changed markedly and Scotch Dances on the London stage underwent a transformation. I hope to write a post about these at a later date.

References

Much of the data in this post has been gathered from:

The London Stage, 1660-1800. 5 volumes (Carbondale, Ill., 1960-1968)

A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers & Other Stage Personnel, 1660-1800. 16 vols (Carbondale, Ill., 1973-1993)

For country dance tunes in the editions of Playford, I turned to:

The Complete Country Dance Tunes from Playford’s Dancing Master (1651-ca.1728), edited by Jeremy Barlow (London, 1985)

For musical suites associated with plays during the late 17th century, see:

Curtis Price, Music in the Restoration Theatre ([Ann Arbor, Mich.], 1979)

For the 1744 Covent Garden Inventory, see:

Philip H. Highfill Jr, ‘Rich’s 1744 Inventory of Covent Garden Properties’, Restoration and Eighteenth Century Theatre Research, 5.1 (1966)

This provides a complete transcript of the inventory.

Ana Martinez, ‘Scenographies behind the Scenes: Mapping, Classifying, and Interpreting John Rich’s 1744 Inventory of Covent Garden’, in “The Stage’s Glory” John Rich, 1692-1761, edited by Berta Joncus and Jeremy Barlow (Newark, NJ, 2011)

The original inventory is held in the British Library as Additional MS 12201.

The Most Popular Entr’acte Dances on the London Stage, 1700 – 1760

For many years, I have been bringing together what information I can find about the entr’acte dances given in London’s theatres between 1700 and 1760, although I have recently been extending my attention backwards to the Restoration and forwards as far as 1800 (occasionally even beyond that). My work is based on the calendar of performances in The London Stage, 1660-1800, but I am trying to add details of music, dancers, notated dances and other sources where and when I can. So far as I can tell, there is no detailed study of dancing on the London stage from the late 17th to the early 19th century and I need to try to fill this gap for my work as a dance historian of the period.

I thought I would look through my several files to find the dances that were most popular during the first six decades of the 18th century. What follows is necessarily incomplete and subjective. I have written posts on some of the dances mentioned, which I will refer to as I go. I have grouped together those dances which plausibly have a common theme and I hope to return to some of them in more detail with later posts.

This advertisement in the Daily Post for 30 April 1726 shows the bill offered at Lincoln’s Inn Fields that evening, with dances at the end of each act of the tragedy.

Comic Dances and Serious Dances

Comic Dances and Serious Dances seem, at first sight, to represent the opposite extremes of the entr’acte repertoire. In some ways they do, and they are sometimes billed together in ways that suggest that they were seen that way by 18th-century audiences. The title Serious Dance is perhaps easier to interpret. These were less often advertised than Comic Dances and many can plausibly be linked to belle danse style and technique. My post Serious Dancing looks at John Weaver’s discussion of the genre.

Comic Dances were among the most popular of the entr’acte entertainments in London’s theatres throughout the 18th century, although it is next to impossible to define exactly what was meant by a ‘comic’ dance. Few clues are provided in the advertisements, although there are hints that ‘comic’ quite often indicates an element of pantomime or points to a speciality act with dancing but performed by a player who was not, first and foremost, a dancer.

Grand Dances and Ballets

The Grand Dance emerges during the Restoration period. Most such dances billed in the 18th century are advertised with no details other than a list of performers, although some add ‘Grand Dance’ to a more specific title which takes them into another genre. For example, the Grand Dance of Momus originated in Momus Turn’d Fabulist; or, Vulcan’s Wedding by Ebenezer Forrest, first given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1729-1730. It continued as an entr’acte dance until 1745-1746. The cast lists in later bills suggest that it was a mini-ballet (in the modern sense of the term).

The Ballet first appears in London at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1726-1727, when ‘A Grand Ballet by ten Persons of different Characters’ was given for the benefit of Michael Poitier. Like the Grand Dances, the advertisements rarely give any clues to the nature of Ballets other than a list of dancers. The title Grand Dance seems, over time, to have given way to Ballet or Grand Ballet. The last two continued to be advertised into the 1780s.

My posts on this topic include Grand Ballet, Grand Dance and Serious Dance and The Rise and Fall of the Grand Dance on the London Stage.

Dance Types: Chacone, Hornpipe, Loure, Minuet and Tambourin

This heterogeneous list indicates part of the range of dance types to be seen on the London stage. The Chacone, Loure and Minuet may, of course, be classed as belonging to the genre of French belle danse. The Loure is actually the Louvre – Pecour’s famous duet Aimable Vainqueur – see my post Aimable Vainqueur on the London Stage. Like the Louvre, the Minuet was a staple of the benefit repertoire. I have also written about Minuets on the London Stage and Minuets Mocked.

The Chacone makes its first recorded entr’acte appearance in 1702-1703, when Mrs Elford (who was regularly partnered by Anthony L’Abbé) danced one as a solo at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. It was later taken up by Ann Bullock, who performed a solo Chacone regularly from 1714-1715 to 1734-1735. There were also Chacones given as duets and group dances – the latter often including commedia dell’arte characters, underlining the diverse nature of the musical form. The group Chacones given in the 1770s and 1780s were probably rather different choreographically from the earlier dances.

The Hornpipe is unlikely to have been the pastoral dance in 3/2 known from the notations published in London in the early 1700s, with one possible exception in the form of a solo choreographed by L’Abbé for a ‘Gentleman’ which may have been related to the dance performed at Drury Lane in 1713 ‘by a Gentleman for his Diversion’. The notation published in the mid-1720s reveals a lively and demanding dance with pas battus and a cabriole in the opening sequence.

The Hornpipe advertised regularly from the 1720s to the 1750s and added to The Beggar’s Opera, as well as being given at benefits to the end of the 18th century, was a duple-time dance with nautical associations. It was really a speciality dance performed by dancing actors.

The Tambourin or Tambourine (as it was often billed) made its debut on the London stage as a solo performed by Marie Sallé at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1730-1731. Its alternative title French Tambourin suggests links with the Paris Opéra. It was subsequently danced as a solo or a duet, sometimes as a group dance, into the 1750s. The Tambourine dances performed in London’s theatres into the 1780s seem to have taken the dance in a new direction by making it closer to a speciality dance.

National Dances: Dutch, Irish and Scotch

Many entr’acte dances linked to different nations were given in London’s theatres from the early 1700s into the 1760s and beyond. Among the Dutch Dances the most popular seems to have been the Dutch Skipper for which the earliest known billing was in 1703-1704 when it was danced by Mr and Mrs du Ruel (he was French and she was English). There were also Dutch Clown, Dutch Sailor and Dutchman and Wife, among others. The Dutch Skipper as well as the Dutch Sailor call to mind the illustrations in Lambranzi’s Neue und curieuse theatrialische Tantz-Schul of 1716. Here is a ‘Dutch Sailor’ duet from part two.

Irish dances appear in the bills as early as 1700, although the most popular became the Fingalian which began its stage career in 1724-1725 and survived (doubtless in a succession of choreographies) into the early 1780s.

Neither Dutch Dances nor Irish Dances were anywhere near as popular as Scotch Dances. In the entr’actes these were initially associated with solo female dancers – Mrs Bicknell (who was from Scotland) in the first decade of the 18th century and Ann Bullock from 1719-1720 to 1740-1741. There were duets as well as solos and group dances as well, notably the Scotch Dance choreographed by Leach Glover for three couples which held the stage from the early 1730s for around ten years. Dances like these were performed into the 1760s and I suggest that they drew their identity primarily from their music. The ‘Scotch’ dances that claimed the stage from the 1780s seem to have emerged from a changed cultural milieu, in which costume as well as music may have proclaimed their nationality.

Commedia dell’arte Characters: Harlequin, Scaramouch and Pierrot

Three commedia dell’arte characters made their mark on the entr’actes. Harlequin and Scaramouch arrived before 1700, as characters in plays rather than dancing masks. Both had migrated to the entr’actes by 1700 and continued into the 1730s. Harlequin often appeared solo, or in scenes with other commedia dell’arte characters. Female Harlequins, Harlequines, were popular too. Although Scaramouch also appeared solo, one of the most popular entr’acte offerings in the early decades of the 18th century was Four Scaramouches. When pantomime afterpieces became the rage in the 1720s, they were centred around Harlequin and Scaramouch who were thereafter seen less often in the entr’actes.

Pierrot seems to have been introduced in 1723-1724 by Francis and Louis Nivelon as Two Pierrots. There was also the Pieraite, a duet for a man and a woman billed from the mid-1720s to the later 1730s. Pierrot Dances continued into the mid-1750s and were occasionally revived until 1770-1771.

This painting, ascribed to Philippe Mercier (1689-1760), perhaps gives an idea of Harlequin, Harlequine and Pierrot as they appeared on the London stage.

Scaramouch was depicted several times by Lambranzi, in this plate he performs his characteristic long step.

Punch made a number of entr’acte appearances over the years, but he was never as popular as his fellow masks.

Peasants, Sailors and Shepherds

Peasant Dances were by far the most popular in London’s theatres. Leaving aside the Drunken Peasant, which became a speciality turn by dancing actors, there were dancing Peasants of nationalities ranging from Bohemia to Venice. French Peasants were the most popular, although there were many Peasant Dances with no national connotations. These various dances were seen from the 1710s to the 1760s. Did the male French Peasants perhaps look like this early 18th-century depiction of Henri Dumoulin?

Dancing Sailors go back to the Restoration and before. Sailor Dances remained popular into the 1750s and were quite frequently revived into the 1790s. Some of these choreographies had national overtones – there were French Sailors (and Matelots), Grecian Sailors (from an opera with a plot from classical antiquity) and even a Russian Sailor. Such dances were likely to have been closer to French belle danse than the speciality hornpipes mentioned above.

Shepherds had featured as dancing characters for many decades before they reached the London stage, although Shepherd Dances only really began to be billed in the entr’actes during the 1720s. There were, of course, also Bergers and Bergeries as well as a number of Pastoral Dances. Did Shepherds and Shepherdesses on the London stage emulate their French counterparts, as in this depiction by Watteau?

Entr’acte Dances on the London Stage

The challenge with all of the entr’acte dances given in London’s theatres is to uncover the steps, figures, style and technique they may have used and to get an idea of the choreographies that depicted them. Some have links to the notated dances, while many relate to music popular at the time (what we would now regard as classical music, as well as popular and traditional tunes). All the dances I have mentioned were affected by their political as well as their cultural context. Hopefully, further research will not only reveal more about the dances but also show more clearly their influence on the other dancing to be seen in London’s theatres.