Friday, 27 February 2015

Issues of Time Periods: Dates and Nomenclature

You often hear people referring to Georgian Dance or Barogue Dance or Regency Dance or Jane Austen Dancing.

The Georgian period covers some 116 years from 1714 to 1830 some writers also talk of the long eighteenth century as being anything up to1660 to 1830. The Baroque period is more difficult to pin down as it refers to a style rather than a period but authorities seem to agree it that in terms of music, certainly in England, it refers to a period from about 1600 to 1750. The Regency, i.e. when Prince George was actually Regent, ran from 1812 to 1820 however people frequently apply the term from much earlier than this as the Prince of Wales influence on fashion and style began to grow from about the time of the Regency Crisis of 1788 and some run the period up to the Prince's death as George IV in 1830.

References to Jane Austen dancing are even more confusing as far as we know Jane Austen attended her first ball in Basingstoke Town Hall in 1792 at the age of 16, she seems to have attended her first Bath Assembly in 1797 and many of her novels also seem to be set in the 1790's. However, most of the films of Austen novels seem to be set much later, usually around the date of publication i.e. 1811 - 1817 but often use dances and dance music from much early such as Mister Beveridge's Maggot which has its origins in Playford's publications of the late 17th Century.

This blog tries to avoid much of this by referring to the dancing of particular decades within the the long Eighteen century.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Two figures from the 1820s

Lead Down the Middle and through the Top Couple



The Lady and Gentleman at A B join hands and lead down two couples up again, lead through the top
couple, and take the situation of the Lady and Gentleman at C D. who move up to A B; this is performed with the side Step down the middle and up, and through the top to places, with three Chasse, Jette. and Assemble, eight bars.

Promenade



The Lady and Gentleman at A B cross hands before, that is, the Gentleman takes the right and left hands of the Lady with his right and left hands, (the right. hand must he placed uppermost;) the second and third couple do the same; then the whole three couples pass round in the line D to their places at C E F, the top couple at C taking the lead. This is performed with seven Chasses one Jette and Assemble, and requires eight bars.

N. B. The old method of promenading was by the Lady and Gentleman crossing their hands behind their backs, which. if not well performed, produces an inelegant effect, and is much more
laborious, and less graceful, than the above method, which the author introduced some years ago and is now generally followed.

From Thomas Wilson's "The Complete System of English Country Dancing"

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Early depictions of the Quadrille

Dancing the quadrille. Detail from a series of illustrations from about 1821 attributed to William Hawkes Smith of Birmingham satirising the craze for the quadrille in the late Georgian period.

The quadrille was introduced in France around 1760: originally it was a form of cotillion in which only two couples were used, but two more couples were eventually added to form the sides of a square. The "quadrille des contredanses" was now a lively dance with four couples, arranged in the shape of a square, each couple facing the center. One pair was called the "head" couple, the adjacent pairs the "side" couples. A dance figure was often performed first by the head couple and then repeated by the side couples.

Reaching English high society around in the early part of the nineteenth century the quadrille became a craze. As it became ever more popular it evolved into forms that used elements of the waltz, including The Caledonians and The Lancers. 

Writing in 1815 the London Dancing Master Thomas Wilson says: "Quadrilles are of that Species of Dancing that at present claim a high precedence in Fashionable Circles ' and from their partaking greatly bf the style of Cotillions in their Composition may notwithstanding their more fashionable appellation and their more short and less complex Figures be properly considered as petit (sic) or short Cotillions."
By the time of these illustrations although there was an enormous amount of quadrille music the form of the dance had settled down as consisting five parts named:
  1. Le Pantalon ("Trousers")
  2. L’été ("Summer")
  3. La Poule (The Hen")
  4. La Pastourelle ("The Shepherd Girl")
  5. Finale
Sometimes La Pastourelle was replaced by another figure; La Trénis or occasionally  this was added as a 6th part.
For the most part, the figures and steps of each of the parts remained the same whatever music was being used. However, some publishers, notably the Whites of Bath used dancing teachers to create new choreography which they offered as an alternative to the standard set.




Early depictions of the Quadrille

Dancing the quadrille. Detail from a series of illustrations from about 1821 attributed to William Hawkes Smith of Birmingham satirising the craze for the quadrille in the late Georgian period.
The quadrille was introduced in France around 1760: originally it was a form of cotillion in which only two couples were used, but two more couples were eventually added to form the sides of a square. The "quadrille des contredanses" was now a lively dance with four couples, arranged in the shape of a square, each couple facing the center. One pair was called the "head" couple, the adjacent pairs the "side" couples. A dance figure was often performed first by the head couple and then repeated by the side couples.
Reaching English high society around in the early part of the nineteenth century the quadrille became a craze. As it became ever more popular it evolved into forms that used elements of the waltz, including The Caledonians and The Lancers. 
Writing in 1815 the London Dancing Master Thomas Wilson says: "Quadrilles are of that Species of Dancing that at present claim a high precedence in Fashionable Circles ' and from their partaking greatly bf the style of Cotillions in their Composition may notwithstanding their more fashionable appellation and their more short and less complex Figures be properly considered as petit (sic) or short Cotillions."
By the time of these illustrations although there was an enormous amount of quadrille music the form of the dance had settled down as consisting five parts named:
  1. Le Pantalon ("Trousers")
  2. L’été ("Summer")
  3. La Poule (The Hen")
  4. La Pastourelle ("The Shepherd Girl")
  5. Finale
Sometimes La Pastourelle was replaced by another figure; La Trénis or occasionally  this was added as a 6th part.
For the most part, the figures and steps of each of the parts remained the same whatever music was being used. However, some publishers, notably the Whites of Bath used dancing teachers to create new choreography which they offered as an alternative to the standard set.




Saturday, 14 February 2015

The Vauxhall Fete

Vauxhall Gardens in London was arguably the most fashionable and popular of the many Georgian leisure gardens, which included several in Bath.

In 1813 an army led by Wellington had defeated the French at the battle of Vittoria and in response to the public rejoicing the Prince Regent sponsored a huge fete at Vauxhall Gardens which was according to William Wellesley-Pole, one of the organisers, the most "splendid and magnificent" ever held in England.



Captain Gronow in his Reminiscences recalls this event and, in particular, one of the early public appearances of the seventeen-year-old Princess Charlotte daughter of the Prince Regent at a parallel event The Regent held at Carlton House because although he sponsored the event at Vauxhall Gardens he would not attend in person because his wife had announced that she would be attending. 

"About three o'clock P.M. the elite of London society, who had been honoured with an invitation, began to arrive - all in full dress; the ladies particularly displaying their diamond and pearls, as if they were going to a drawing-room. The men, of course, were in full dress wearing knee buckles. The regal circle was composed of the Queen, the princesses Sophia and Mary, the Princess Charlotte, the Dukes of York Clarence, Cumberland, and Cambridge.


Princess Charlotte in 1817
This was the first day that her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte appeared in public. She was a young lady of more than ordinary personal attractions; her features were regular, and her complexion fair, with the rich bloom of youthful beauty; her eyes were blue and very expressive, and her hair was abundant, and of that peculiar light brown which merges into the golden: in fact, such hair as the Middle-Age Italian painters associate with their conceptions of the Madonna. In figure, her Royal Highness was somewhat over the ordinary height of women, but finely proportioned and well developed. Her manners were remarkable for a simplicity and good-nature which would have won admiration and invited affection in the most humble walks of life. She created universal admiration, and I may say a feeling of national pride, amongst all who attended the ball. The Prince Regent entered the gardens giving his arm to the Queen, the rest of the royal family following. Tents had been erected in various parts of the grounds, where the bands of the Guards were stationed. The weather was magnificent, a circumstance which contributed to show off the admirable arrangements of Sir Benjamin Bloomfield, to whom had been deputed the organization of the fete, which commenced by dancing on the lawn.

The Princess Charlotte honoured with her presence two dances. In the first she accepted the hand of the late Duke of Devonshire, and in the second that of the Earl of Aboyne, who had danced with Marie Antoinette, and who, as Lord Huntley, lived long enough to dance with Queen Victoria. The Princess entered so much into the spirit of the fete as to ask for the then fashionable Scotch dances. The Prince was dressed in the Windsor uniform, and wore the garter and star. He made himself very amiable, and conversed much with the Ladies Hertford, Cholmondeley, and Montford. Altogether, the fete was a memorable event."

It is probably these events which are commemorated in the title of the following:

The Vauxhall Fete a dance from "Le Sylphe. An elegant collection of twenty-four country dances, the figures by Mr Wilson, for the year 1814, adapted for the German flute, violin, flageolet or oboe".

The original instructions:

SINGLE FIGUR.E. (Each strain repeated)
Set &change sides with 2d Cu:set & back again down the mid: up again & right & left with the top Cu.

DOUBLE FIGURE (Tune played twice thro' with repeats)
Set & half right & left with 2d Cu: set & back again. Whole poussette hands 3 with bottom Lady hands 3 with bottom Gent & the double train.

I have the sheet music for this if you are interested