Saturday, 17 October 2015

If possible I shall try to get a few dance lessons

This is a quote from Elizabeth Canning's letter to her mother on the 4th November 1798 when she was visiting Bath. At this time, she was in her early twenties and would have had a choice of teachers, among them:

Anna Fleming proprietor of the long established Fleming family business which she ran with her assistant Miss Le Mercier in John Street.

Mrs Elliston and her partner Kitty Fleming, Anne's sister, who had set up their public establishment in Chapel Row in 1796 but in addition offered private lessons at 5 Pulteney street with the additional inducement of lessons in “art of reading and speaking with propriety” from Elizabeth's glamorous husband Robert rising star of the Bath and London Stage. 

There was also Charles Metralcourt who had returned to Bath in 1795 and who had been a ballet master at the London Opera House and offered his deep knowledge of the steps of the newly fashionable Scottish and Irish dances.

Susan Sibbald, a young boarder at the Belvedere school in Bath at the very end of the eighteenth century has left us a rare account of what a dance class of this period was like. The tall, erect, stoutish Miss Fleming would arrive at the school in her sedan chair to teach them minuets and figure dances while Miss Le Mercier concentrated on the basic steps and positions. A violinist came with them to
play the tunes. From time to time Miss Fleming would call out, 'Now ladies, do credit to Bath', and reward her best pupils with a bonbon from an amber box or a flower from her bouquet.

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