Thursday, 23 July 2015

Barree a Bath Dancing Master of the Regency

Monsieur Barree, "Professor of Dancing and Ballet-Master, Pensioner of the Opera House, Paris, and late Ballet-Master at the Opera House, London" was teaching in Bath before 1814.

He claims in an announcement in the Bath Chronicle that one of his pupils was the famous, and infamous, Mademoiselle Parisot. If this is true this must have been when he was ballet master in London at the King's Theatre then known as the Opera House.

Parisot moved to London and made her stage debut at the King's Theatre on 9 February 1796. The Morning Chronicle spoke of the 19-year-old's performance favorably and described her balance "as positively magical, for her person was almost horizontal while turning as a pivot on her toe." Parisot frequently wore costumes that accentuated her legs as she danced, leading the Monthly Mirror to remark on her degree of flexibility in a 1796 performance as creating "a stir by raising her legs far higher than was customary for dancers", Parisot's salary for the 1795–1796 season was £600 and she earned £577 in 1799–1800 and £840 during the 1803–1804 season.

Mademoiselle Parisot in a 1799 mezzotint
by Charles Turner

In the late 1790s, Parisot often danced with Rose and Charles Didelot, a husband and wife ballet pair that were trained in Paris and were later influential in developing Russian ballet. In 1798, The Bishop of Durham denounced a dress she had worn while dancing at the Opera as "indecent". 

Mademoiselle Parisot in a 1796 caricature
by Robert Newton.
The Bishop of Durham and
the Duke of Queensberry are in the theatre box

The risqué dance moves of Parisot and the Didelots and Parisot's use of sheer, neoclassical costumes that often exposed one breast led the same bishop to denounce the "immoral" antics of the French ballet dancers.

In a production in 1799, Parisot "astounded" British theatre goers when she dressed in menswear. A "shawl dance" performed by Parisot at the King's Theatre as part of the January 1805 production "was received with enthusiastic applause." On 15 June 1805, a riot occurred at the Opera due to the manager Mr. Kelly, following the Bishop of London's orders to end the ballet by midnight, drawing the curtain before a dance by Parisot was completed. The angry theatre patrons "threw all the chairs out of the boxes into the pit tore up the benches, destroyed the chandeliers, jumped into the orchestra, smashed the piano forte and broke all the instruments of the poor unoffending performers."

Mademoiselle Parisot had retired from the stage at the end of the 1807 season.

Whether Monsieur Barree moved to Bath on the retirement of his pupil or early is not clear but before 1814, we know he was living in the city with his wife and son who both assisted in his dance school which may have been located at 6 George Street. In 1814, he moved his family to Twerton. From 1814 to 1817 he seems to have confined himself to giving private lessons. Then in 1817 the following advert appeared:

This is an interesting document as it gives some insight into the how public dancing schools functioned at this time. Note that young people are taught separately with young men only being taught in the morning and young women only in the afternoon. Lessons took place three times a week and one class wholly devoted to the most fashionable dances at this time the Quadrille and the Waltz.

We also learn a little more about Barree. His daughter is now old enough to join him in the family business and it seems he has published a number of books on the art of dancing.

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