Friday, 16 October 2015

The state of the quadrille in 1815

The London dancing master Thomas Wilson in his preface to his book The Quadrille Instructor gave the following assessment of the state of quadrille dancing in 1815.

"Quadrilles are of that Species of Dancing that at present claim a high precedence in Fashionable Circles  and from their partaking greatly of 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 petite or short Cotillions."

It is interesting to see that in Wilson view the quadrille was a shortened and simplified type of cotillion. This fits well with the general trend for the fashionable company to choose simpler shorter dance with less strict dress codes. In Bath, this trend was marked from the late 1790s by the replacement of cotillion balls by the fancy balls with no minuets, fewer cotillions, more country dances and a relaxed dress code.

Interestingly in a letter to her niece in 1816, Jane Austen says " Much obliged for the Quadrilles, which I am grown think pretty enough, though of course they are very inferior to the cotillions of my own day"

"The Figures in this set of Quadrilles will be found to differ from those already published and which have been copied (from their being well known and to save the consequent trouble of composing new ones) into almost every collection of recent date. It being the Author's intention to accommodate those persons who wish to dance these Quadrilles as well as the others he has -adapted his Music to suit both; thereby affording the choice of two sets of. Figures instead of one; added to a clear Elucidation of them by proper Diagrams on a principle in point of explanation that he trusts will be found very superior to any others-, as they not only describe the various positions of the dancers but also shew the lines in' which they are to move from one situation to the other."

"The Music may be composed either in triple or common time (the former is preferable) and the tunes adapted to this purpose should be either, of French Origin or composed in the same easy style. The only merit attached to the Music hitherto published as Quadrille. to be found in those parts that are taken from other Composers, for instance a part of the Overture in "The Lady of the Manor" is introduced in “Le Duc de Wellington;” a part of a drinking song in “The Siege of Belgrade” in “Le Cuirassier;” the Minor Part of the same Opera in “La poule Anglaise;” the first strain of an old quick March (which is also a part of the Ballet of “Tamerlane and Bajazet'') in one of the;”Trenise''of which there are several."

"The lady of the manor" was a comic opera performed at the Theatre-Royal in Covent-Garden from about the 1770s. The Siege of Belgrade was a comic opera in three acts it incorporated music by Mozart, Salieri, Paisiello and Martini. It premiered on 1 January 1791 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in London with a great success. Tamerlane et Bajazet was a grand heroic ballet performed at the King's Theatre Haymarket in the first decade of the nineteenth century.

"Another favourite Quadrille may be found wholly taken from the Overture in Lodoiska and one of the Finales has for its subject the old song of 'The Arethusa'. Many others are composed in the style of Hornpipes and in other styles either so obsolete or with droning Minors as to be altogether incompatible with modern taste."

Lodoïska was an opera by Luigi Cherubini first performed at the Théâtre Feydeau in Paris on 18 July 1791.The Saucy Arethusa was a nautical song which was part of a "musical entertainment" titled The Lock and Key, performed at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden in 1796.

"In the Composition of Quadrilles the number of strains are generally three, they may be made to consist of two three or four strains beyond which they seldom extend they are all however considered as Rondos and provided the Music be correct invariably finish with the first strain. It is customary in performing them for the Dancers to wait until the first strain is played and if it be not marked with a repeat the dance commences with the second strain."

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