☰ Menu

(Advertise your events here for free)

Return to Index

Paper 21

Dancing the First Set of Quadrilles

Contributed by Paul Cooper, Research Editor

The First Set of Quadrilles were the favourite Quadrille Set in London's Assembly Rooms and were widely danced from 1816. We've considered them in several previous research papers, this time we'll discuss how they were danced. For further information on their historical context, please see The First Set, Edward Payne's First Set and James Paine's First Set. See also the 18th century Quadrille and the Quadrilles of Joseph Hart and Thomas Wilson. The First Set weren't the first Quadrilles to have been danced in Britain, but they were at the forefront of a renewed interest in them.

Figure 1. Practising a Quadrille, 1817
Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.
In this paper we'll review how the dance was taught by the British Regency era dancing masters. This isn't necessarily how they were danced by social dancers, but it is how many of the professional teachers intended for them to be danced. If you prefer to dance them in a different way, that's absolutely fine. This paper attempts to describe how the Quadrilles were danced when first introduced from around 1815, but as we'll see, there are significant variations between the source documents... and even more so if we consider similar works published in the 1820s. Expect to encounter variations!

The First Set of Quadrilles (also referred to as the favourite quadrilles) are made up of the following individual Quadrille dances:




The Major Source Works

Several early publications discuss the First Set in amplified detail. Such works do more than simply listing the figures in French or English, these texts include significant additional descriptive details that can aid our understanding. They were written in response to the rising popularity of the Quadrilles, they're a testimony to the popularity of the Quadrille 200 years ago. Such works include:

The Quadrille Dancer
Edward Payne
1818

An advert in The Morning Post for the 3rd November 1818 reported: THE QUADRILLE DANCER, just published, explaining every requisite to the attainment of the Steps and Figures, including all the Fashionable Figures in French and English. To which are added, Instructions for Spanish Dancing, - By E. PAYNE, Maitre de Danse..

Edward Payne was the subject of a previous article. He claimed to be the first dancing master in London to publish and teach the First Set of Quadrilles, probably from 1815. He was tremendously successful in so doing.

He had previously published his Quadrille Instructor in 1816 (Morning Post, 29th August 1816); I'm not aware of any surviving copies, but the text of that first work may have been absorbed into this 1818 book. The Quadrille Dancer contains detailed instructions for many aspects of dancing Quadrilles, but most specifically for dancing the First Set. As Payne was the highest profile of the early dancing masters to teach the First Set Quadrilles in London, this publication should be of great interest to modern enthusiasts.

This publication has an impeccable claim to authority, it is also the most detailed of the early Quadrille publications (at least until Alexander Strathy published his guide in 1822). Payne described the steps in balletic detail, discussed deportment, and gave clear descriptions of figures that are obscure in most other sources. Much of what follows in this article is derived from this publication.

Le Maitre a Danser
Anonymous
1818

An advert in The Morning Post for the 1st June 1818 reported: QUADRILLES - Le MAITRE a DANSER; or, the Art of Dancing Quadrilles, by which every one may easily learn to Dance them all without a Master, with the Figures in Drawings for that purpose, and a Vocabulary of the French Terms in the Quadrilles, by a celebrated French Teacher from Paris..

This work was printed anonymously in London in 1818, a third edition was published in 1820 (Morning Post, 4th April 1820). It contains several quotes from Jean-Étienne Despréaux's 1806 Mes Passe-Temps: Chansons suivies de L'Art de la Danse. It claimed to record an authentic style of quadrille dancing from Paris. It informs us that the English dancing masters were struggling to teach French dances, and that the author was motivated to provide a correction.

It's unclear how important this work was. It was republished several times, so may have been moderately popular in London; but as we'll see, the Parisian Quadrille figures described don't precisely match those printed by British sources. Even the phrase Parisian Quadrilles is the cause of much confusion; when used by a British writer of the period it often refers to the Quadrille sets danced at Almack's Assembly Rooms in London, not an authentic French style of dancing from Paris. This source is a little different, when it refers to Parisian Quadrilles, it literally refers to Quadrilles from Paris.

The anonymous author of this work is referred to in this paper as Maitre, rather than the more cumbersome anonymous author of the Maitre a Danser document.

The copy of this work from the British Library is available on-line courtesy of Google Books.

A Translation of Nine of the Most Fashionable Quadrilles
Barclay Dun
1818

Dun's advert in The Scots Magazine for the 1st December 1818 reported the availability of: A Translation of Nine of the most Fashionable Quadrilles, consisting of fifty French country dances, as performed in England and Scotland, with explanatory notes, to which are prefixed a few observations on the style, &c. of the quadrille, the English country dance, and the Scots reel; by Barclay Dun, teacher of dancing. 4s.

Barclay Dun was a Scottish Dancing Master who ran a successful business in Edinburgh. He was one of the first dancing masters to teach the Waltz in Edinburgh (Caledonian Mercury, 19th October 1811), but is best known for publishing this 1818 text.

The contents include several essays, and the English translation of the figures for many popular French Quadrille sets. The translation simply means that the figures were given in English only, most other sources printed them in both English and French. It includes figures for the First Set, the Scottish 2nd, 3rd and 4th Sets (most closely associated with Nathaniel Gow, but promoted by a medley of Edinburgh's dancing masters from 1817), and Edward Payne's 2nd through 6th sets from London (c.1816 to 1818).

Copies are available on-line courtesy of Google Books and the Library of Congress.

The Quadrille and Cotillion Panorama
Thomas Wilson
1819

Wilson's advert in The Morning Chronicle for the 7th April 1819 reported: just published, price 4s6d, the Quadrille Panorama, part the first: the second part being now in the press will shortly be published.

The first edition of this work was published in 1819, the second edition (with additional illustrations) in 1822. We've written about it previously here, a copy of the second edition is available on-line courtesy of The Library of Congress.

We've written about Thomas Wilson in numerous previous articles, he was the most prolific author of dancing manuals during the Regency era. He had previously published his Quadrille Instructor in 1816. This 1819 book discusses dancing the Quadrilles in significant detail, including detailed instructions for the First Set. I don't have access to a first edition of this work, and instead quote from the 1822 second edition. In so doing, I'm assuming that the content is approximately as it appeared in 1819... but it may contain later changes and clarifications.

Most of the illustrations in this paper are from the 1822 2nd edition of this book.

Figure 2. Ground Plan of a Quadrille, dancers stand in an octagon, 4 feet apart. From Wilson's Quadrille and Cotillion Panorama, 2nd edition, 1822.

There were many other publications that also documented the First Set, including the myriad Quadrille Preceptors (usually pocket sized guides), individual Quadrille publications (sometimes on cards and fans), and various periodicals reporting fashionable news. The source works in the table above are the earliest examples I know of that include amplified information on the First Set of Quadrilles in English, rather than providing a simple list of figures.

Something that will become clear is that the early publications don't agree amongst themselves on the minutiae of how these Quadrilles were danced. Minor variations are therefore inevitable on the dance floor. This is especially true if dancing later variants of the First Set of Quadrilles from the 1820s and beyond. Two additional source works that aren't discussed here, but will be of interest, are the 1827 Short Essay on the French Danse de Société by Charles Mason (which documented how Monsieur Beaupré taught Quadrille dancing in Paris, again in balletic detail); and the 1822 Elements of the Art of Dancing by Alexander Strathy (who had been teaching Quadrille dancing in Scotland from at least 1814).

The figures of the First Set are usually named in French, thereby emphasising their origin. They were also taught and called in French in many of the Assembly Rooms. The figures are named in this paper as they appear in Payne's 1818 Quadrille Dancer publication.

It's also important to know that the choreographies of the First Set were danced to many different tunes. By the mid 1820s the First Set figures were danced almost to the exclusion of any other Quadrille figures, and even in the late 1810s there were myriad Quadrille publications that were designed to be compatible with the figures of the First Set. If you attend recreations of historic balls, don't be surprised if you encounter these figures with unfamiliar music - 200 years ago that was both normal and expected.




Steps

Figure 3. The 5 Positions

Payne described the steps for dancing Quadrilles in his book. The table below documents Payne's steps using his descriptions, and in the order he listed them. It refers to the five positions. Figure 3 shows the five positions as they appear in S. J. Gardiner's 1786 A Definition of Minuet Dancing. They are the standard positions for ballet dancing, and appear in numerous historic dancing texts. You can also refer to our foot positions chart.

Payne was precise in specifying the steps, we can therefore surmise that this is as he taught them at his own dancing academy. Many dancing masters wrote scornfully of the poor technique of typical Quadrille dancers, we might infer that most dancers did not dance with this degree of precision. Balletic perfection was aspirational, but not necessarily achieved.

The Steps for the First Set as described by Payne:

Assemblè

This Step is used at the end of several others, to make an Assemblé with either foot, suppose the right, pliez on your left foot, and bring the right in a circular manner to the 3rd position before, falling on both feet with the knees perfectly straight; to make one backwards, pliez in the same way, finishing with you right foot behind. This step makes but part of another, and is in general preceded by the following.

Jettè et Assemblè

To make a Jetté forward, spring on your left foot, at the same time raising the heel of the right perpendicular to the 5th position behind, to this add an assemblé before; to perform this step backwards, spring on your left foot, at the same time raising the heel to the right to the 3rd position before, to this add an assemblé behind.

The Jettè et Assemblè is made with the same foot, and is similar to a period or full stop in reading, that closes a sentence. In Dancing this step closes most others, upon half or a whole strain of music, it also leaves the Person equally balanced on both feet, in the 1st or 3rd position from which you are ready to commence any step, and with either foot. This step occupies one bar of time.

Chassè Jettè et Assemblè, en avant en arrière à cotes

To perform this Step en avant, (ie forward) with your right foot before, pliez on both feet, and rise with a half spring in the 4th position, carrying your left foot in to the place of the right, at the same time advancing the right and placing the left in the 2nd position with the knees perfectly straight. To this add the Jettè with your right foot behind, and Assemblè with the same before, this occupies two bars.

To perform this Step en arrière, (ie backwards,) pliez on both feet, and rise with a half spring, in the 4th position returning back your right foot in to the place of the left, at the same time sliding your left behind and placing the right in the 2nd position. To this add the Jettè with your left foot behind, and Assemblè with the same behind, two bars.

To perform this à droite (ie sideways to the right,) pliez on both feet, and rise with a half spring in the 2nd position carrying your left foot sideways into the place of the right, at the same time sliding your right sideways, and placing the left in the 2nd position. To this add the Jettè with your right foot behind and Assemblè with the same before, two bars.

To perform this Step à gauche (ie to the left,) you have only to reverse the feet, two bars.

The Chassè Jettè et Assemblè, en avant en arrière, is applied when you advance and retire 4 bars, it is performed twice in La Trenis, La Pastoralle, Les Graces, &c. Advancing retiring to the right and to the left, is applied in figure de l'Eté.

Sissone Ballotè, Jettè et Assemblè

To perform this Step from the 3rd position with the right foot before, pliez equally on both feet, and rise with a spring on your left foot, the right at the 4th position with the knee extended, balloté, bring your right to the 3rd position and return it back again to the 4th without any motion of the knee, the movement being made from your hip. To this add the Jetté with yout left foot behind and Assemblè with the same before, two bars.

When this Step is performed from the 1st position, open to the 2nd and finish the Assemblé in the 1st.

The Sissone ballotè, Jettè et Assemblè, is performed in the same place, in setting. This step added to the side chassez, is applied when you chassez croisez.

Trois Chassés Jetté et Assemblé

To perform this step with your right foot before, pliez on both feet, rising with a half-spring in the 4th position, sliding your left foot into the place of the right, at the same time advancing your right, and carrying the left to the 4th position before, then sink on both feet as before, rising with a half-spring in the 4th position sliding your right foot into the place of the left, at the same time advancing your left and carrying the right to the 4th position before, repeat the same as explained with the right foot, finishing in the 2nd position instead of the 4th. To this add the Jetté, with your right foot behind, and assemblé with the same before, four bars.

This step is one of the most useful and general in Quadrilles, it is applied when you demie chaine, or chaine anglaise, demie promenade, traversez tour de mains, &c.

Balancé

To perform this step, pliez equally on both feet in the 1st position, and make a step forward with your right foot, rising on the toes, to the 4th position, the left following straight to the right; then sink as before, and make a step backwards with your left foot, rising on the toes to the 4th position, rising on the toes to the 4th position the right following, and finishing in the 1st position the same as at the commencement, two bars.

The balancé is in general united to the sissone balloté, Jetté et assemblé, and is applied when you balance à vos dames, &c..

Deux Jettés à cotes

To perform this step, make two springs on your right foot, in the 2nd position at the same time rising the heel of the left to the 5th position behind, afterwards spring twice on your left foot in the 2nd position at the same time raising the heel of the right, to the 5th position behind. This step is applied twice over and occupies four bars, in la Poule, when you balancè quatre forming a line, also in le Moulinet, when you balancé huit, observing always to commence the Jetté, on the same side as your partner.

Pas de Zephyr

To perform this step with the right foot behind, in the 4th position sink on your left foot, at the same time making an opening, or half circle with the right, to the 4th position behind, rising with a gentle spring on your left, at the same time making a half circle with the right, to the 4th position before, then bound forward on your right foot, with the knees perfectly extended, and make a battment with the left, finishing in the 4th position off the floor, repeat the same with the left foot before, to this add two Jettés on your right foot, two on the left, one on your right, one on the left, and finish with a Jetté et assemblé.

This step is applied when you advance, huit measures, tout seul, in la Pastoralle, and occupies eight bars, four advancing, and four retiring.



The other sources don't entirely concur with this list of steps. The author of Le Maitre A Danser wrote that With only two steps the Quadrilles may strictly be danced, viz. one to go En avant and the other for Rigaudon, Balloté, & Balancé, all others might be composed of these two.

Wilson encouraged many different step sequences to be used for figures in which Payne specified a single step. For example, Wilson wrote of the Balancez: Some persons imagine, that when Balancez is named, they must Set with the Step called the "Balancez," this is not the case; for, although the Balancez is a very suitable setting Step, yet there are others equally proper: as the "Coupé Baloté, the Sissonne Baloté," the "Rigadoon," &c. which all come under the general head, Balancez. Other similar examples could be provided. He listed the steps used in Quadrilles as Sissone Baloté, Coupé Baloté, Balancez, Rigadoon, Emboittés, Chassé, Jetté, Assemblé, Glissade, Pas de Basqué.

Figure 4. An Accident in Quadrille Dancing, 1817
Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.
We do have a Steps page here at RegencyDances.org that documents (with videos) some of the more important steps for Regency era dancing. If you're interested in learning more about the steps, Alexander Strathy's 1822 Elements of the Art of Dancing is essential reading, as is the 1817 Elements and Principles of the Art of Dancing by V.G.. We've also written about Country Dancing steps in a previous article.




The Figures of Le Pantalon

The first Quadrille of the First Set is called Pantalon. We've animated it here. Pantalon can also be seen being danced in a Jane Austen Dancers of Bath video on YouTube. The figures take 32 bars to dance, and are danced through twice, once for the head couples and then again for the side couples (assuming the typical 8 dancer arrangement). The major sources generally agree with each other in describing how this Quadrille is danced.

The music can be arranged as four 8 bar strains, and played as: A,BCDA,BCDA (arrangements with fewer strains are common). The leading A strain is an introduction in which the couples honour each other with bows and curtseys, the dancing begins with the B strain.

Payne said the following of the music: A tune for this figure requires thirty two bars, including the first repeat of the 1st part, a tune of three parts, each played as thus, the 1st part once, the 2nd ditto once, repeat the 1st part, then play the 3rd and finish with the 1st part, the tune played twice through. He arranged it as a Rondo: A,BACA,BACA. On the second repetition the side couples take their turn to perform the figures.

Payne described the figures as follows (the images are from Wilson, and may not show the figures exactly as Payne described them):

Introduction
8 bars - A

  

Chaine Anglaise entiére
8 bars - B

Payne: The four opposite advance with trois chassés Jetté et assemblé, and change situations, in passing the gentlemen give their right hands to the opposite ladies, and the left to their partners. To return, the four opposite advance as before, the gentlemen in repassing, give their right hands to the opposite ladies and the left to their partners, the four finishing in their places. This takes eight bars.
The other sources describe the figure in similar terms. Wilson comments The Figure shown by the Diagram is only Demie Chaine Anglaise.

Wilson shows in his diagram that the dancers should change directions when they draw level with the furtherest members of the side couples, not when they reach the opposite place; the man directs the lady to pass in front of him to her opposite position, avoiding a sharp right angled turn.

Balancé et tour de deux mains
8 bars - C

Payne: The two gentlemen turn to face their partners, all four balancé et sissone balloté, Jetté et assemblé, four bars. Then the two gentlemen turn their partners round to the left, four bars.
Note: the French indicates a two hand turn. The step for turning is trois chassés Jetté et assemblé.
The other sources describe the figure in similar terms. Maitre reports Balancez a vos dames, is when both couples opposite, dance four bars before their own partners. In Tour de main, the two gentlemen opposite give both hands to their own partners, turn round with them and remain in their places, it takes the time of four bars. Payne is unusual is specifying the turn being to the left.

Chaine des Dames
8 bars - D

Payne: The two ladies pass each other in the centre, giving the right hands, the top lady turns the bottom gentleman with her left hand, while the bottom lady turns the top gentleman. The two ladies meet again in the centre, giving their right hands, the top lady turns her partner with her left hand, while the bottom lady with her partner does the same, eight bars.
Note: Payne doesn't specify a step.

Dun emphasises that the men should move to meet the ladies: is performed by two ladies crossing over, giving the right hand to each other, and the left to the gentleman opposite, by whom they are turned; the gentleman at the same time make two circles to the left, receiving the ladies as they come forward, and turning them fully about; the ladies then return to their respective places, giving their hands as before.

This description matches Wilson's image, the two men are shown to perform a turn single figure on the spot over their left shoulders, in order to meet and turn the opposite lady; then a second time to meet and turn their own partners.

Demie queue du chat, or demie Promenade
4 bars - A1-4

Payne: The two gentlemen crossing hands, takes the right and left hands of their partners, with their right and left, and change situations, moving to the right, four bars.
Note: We've discussed the promenade embrace in a previous paper. The step is the trois chassés Jetté et assemblé.
The other sources describe the figure in similar terms. For example, Maitre says The gentleman takes with his right hand his own partner's right hand, and with his left her left, both side-ways, and go ... opposite to their places. The figure ends with the head couples in the opposite place to where they started.

Demie Chaine Anglaise
4 bars - A5-8

Payne: The four opposite return to their places, in passing the gentlemen give their right hands to the opposite ladies, and the left to their partners, four bars.
Note: The step is the trois chassés Jetté et assemblé.
This is the second half of the Chaine Anglaise entiére, it returns the dancers to their original positions.

Repeat once more
32 bars - BCDA

 The main figures of the dance are repeated for the side couples.




Figure 5. The L'Eté Quadrille, 1818
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Figures of L'Ete

The second Quadrille of the First Set is called L'Ete. We've animated Payne's version here. An alternative arrangement danced by the North River Colonial Dancers can be seen danced on YouTube. The figures take 24 bars to dance, and are danced through four times, once for each couple (assuming the typical 8 dancer arrangement). The major sources do not agree with each other in describing how this Quadrille is danced, this adds some complication for reenactors. Moreover, L'Ete is often performed using other variations of the figures to those listed here.

The music can be arranged as three 8 bar strains, and played as: A,BCA,BCA,BCA,BCA. The leading A strain is an introduction in which the couples honour each other, the dancing begins with the B strain.

Payne said the following of the music: A tune for this figure requires Twenty four bars, the tune played four times through.

Payne described the figures as follows (the images are from Wilson, and may not show the figures exactly as Payne described them):

Introduction
8 bars - A

  

En avant deux en arrière
4 bars - B1-4

Payne: The 1st lady and bottom gentleman advance with Chassé Jetté et assemblé, the same back again, four bars.
This figure is consistent across the sources, Wilson says: The advancing, is a straight forward movement; and the retiring, is to return in the same line to places; two lines being given in the Diagram to show the course forward and backward. The distance for the persons to advance, is to the Centre between the Opposites. The diagram also includes the directions for the next four bars of dancing.

Chassé à droite et à gauche
4 bars - B5-8

Payne: The lady chassés to the right and left, while the opposite gentleman does the same, four bars.
Note: The step is Chassè Jettè et Assemblè.
This figure is consistent across the sources, Maitre says: Is for the gentleman and the lady opposite to go to the right first, and then to the left; so the chassé is to go to the right and the Dechassé to the left, or to come back, but mind not to go to the left first, as some do that do not know how to perform it well, and go always facing one another. Wilson says that this can be performed with a Glissade step.

One of the dancers will have to pass in front of their partners, with their backs to their partners. Wilson suggests that this can be avoided by chasseing in the opposite direction, but Maitre didn't approve of this innovation.

Traversé
4 bars - C1-4

Payne: The lady and the gentleman cross over at the same time, and change situations, passing each other to the left, four bars.
Note: The step is Trois Chassés Jetté et Assemblé.
This figure is different across the sources. Both Maite and Dun share the same figure as Payne, but Wilson performs this figure in 2 bars. Wilson writes: This Figure is frequently divided, and performed to Two Bars of Music ... which may be seen by the original Figure to L'Eté; where, after the Traversez, the Chassez to Right and Left is taken up before the other half or Retraversez. It is generally performed without the Setting, thereby making it only to take up Two Bars of the Music, the Chassez to Right and Left Four Bars, and the Retraversez, or Return to Places, Two Bars, making together Eight Bars. This alternative description also includes the activity for the rest of the eight bar phrase.

Wilson's diagram shows the dancers only crossing as far as the further of the side couples, and not crossing into each others positions. It differs from Payne's description in which the active couple clearly end the figure in each other's places. The active couple should turn to face their home position after traversing the set.

Chassé à droite et à gauche
4 bars - C5-8

Payne: The lady and gentleman chassés to the right and left, four bars.
Note: The step is Chassè Jettè et Assemblè.
This figure is a repeat of the first Chassé à droite et à gauche. It's consistent across the sources, but Wilson has it start and end two bars earlier than the other writers. At the end of the figure the two active dancers end opposite their home positions. Wilson follows this figure with a two bar Retraversez, returning the dancers to their home positions - Wilson's 8 bar strain ends with the dancers in different positions to that of the other writers.

Balancé en avant
4 bars - A1-4

Payne: The lady and gentleman cross over at the same time, passing each other to the left, and balancé opposite their partners, four bars.
Note: Payne has the Balancé take 2 bars, so the cross over must also take two bars. Payne's Balancé is a basic forward and backwards motion, something that could come naturally after a crossing movement. Payne is unclear about where the dancers cross to, but with only two bars I suspect they end in front of (and thereby opposite) their partners. It's perhaps significant that he didn't write retraversez, a term that implies a return back to home positions. The active couple are required to pass to the left of each other, which happens naturally if they end in front of their partners. The following figure will be seen to end with finishing in their places, a phrase that hints they didn't start in their places.
This figure is even less clear in the other sources than the preceding figure. Dun appears to be consistent with Payne, he simply says Cross over again, setting to partners and identifies that the entire sequence takes 4 bars. Maitre could be interpreted to be consistent with Payne, but appears to require an extra 4 bars of music (a 4 bar Retraversez followed by a 4 bar Balancez); this vagueness is consistent with many other sources. Wilson had already returned the dancers to their home positions, so his Balancez is in home positions and takes 4 bars, as in the first half of Balancé et tour de deux mains.

Tour des deux mains
4 bars - A5-8

Payne: The lady joins both hands with her partners, the bottom gentleman does the same, and turn round to the left, finishing in their places, four bars.
Note: The step for turning is trois chassés Jetté et assemblé.
Regardless of where the dancers ended the preceding figure, they join two hands and turn to places. This is the second half of the Balancé et tour de deux mains figure. Payne is unusual in specifying that the turn is to the left.

Repeat three times more
72 bars - BCAx3

 Each lady and her opposite take their turn to perform the figures. The usual sequence is for the bottom lady to lead the second iteration of the dance, then the lady to the right of the top couple, finally the lady to the left of the top couple.




Figure 6. The La Poule Quadrille, 1817
Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

The Figures of La Poule

The third Quadrille of the First Set is called La Poule. We've animated Payne's version here, though as we'll see below, Payne isn't entirely clear about the figures. The animation uses what's described below as Wilson's English variant. An alternative arrangement can be seen danced at YouTube by the Vintage Dance Society. The figures take 32 bars to dance, and are danced through four times, once for each couple (assuming the typical 8 dancer arrangement). The major sources do not agree with each other in describing how this Quadrille is danced, so expect variations on the dance floor.

The music can be arranged as four 8 bar strains, and played as: A,BCDA,BCDA,BCDA,BCDA (arrangements with fewer strains are common). The leading A strain is an introduction in which the couples honour each other, the dancing begins with the B strain.

Payne said the following of the music: A tune for this figure requires Thirty two bars, repeated the same as le Pantalon, with this exception, the Tune must be played Four times through.. He arranged it as a Rondo, A,BACA,BACA,BACA,BACA.

Payne described the figures as follows (the images are from Wilson, and may not show the figures exactly as Payne described them):

Introduction
8 bars - A

  

Traversent deux en donnent la main droite, balotté
4 bars - B1-4

Payne: The top lady and bottom gentleman cross over at the same time and change situations, giving their right hands in passing, set, four bars.
Note: In this dance the traversé is followed by a balotté Setting step. In L'Ete the traversé took 4 bars without an explicit Setting step.
This half of the figure is consistent across the sources. Dun simply says A gentleman with the opposite lady cross over, giving the right hand, and set. It could be argued that Dun has the 1st man lead the dance, rather than the 1st lady as in Payne. Maitre makes the same hint.

In this traversal the active couple should give their right hands in passing, unlike the similar figure in L'Ete, and should set on arrival. This is sometimes performed as a graceful touching of the hands. The dancers should cross the set and turn back back into the set with sufficient time to perform a quick setting figure.

Note that Wilson's image also includes a retraversez figure.

Retraversent en donnant la main gauche
4 bars - B5-8

Payne: The lady and Gentleman resume their places, giving their left hands in passing, four bars.
Note: The active couple are implied to return back to their starting positions. This time there is no explicit reference to Setting, but the same amount of time is used as in the previous figure, Setting is thereby implied.
This half of the figure does vary between the sources. Wilson has the dancers return to their home positions, just as Payne seems to require. But Maitre explicitly leaves the active dancers in the middle of the Set: after the gentleman and lady opposite have given their right hands, crossing over; they give their left crossing again, and do not quit hands. Dun makes a similar statement: Cross back again, giving the left hand, which they retain. It's not possible to retain those left hands and return to home positions (unless one has very long arms or a very small Quadrille Set).

Dun and Maitre leave the dancers in a line across the centre of the set, the active dancers still holding left hands joined; Wilson returns them to their home positions. Payne says that they return home, but the following figure works better if they are already in the centre with left hands joined... so perhaps Payne should be interpreted as in Maitre and Dun. The lower (Wilson calls it French) of the two images for the following figure should assist in visualising the line across the set that is achieved if the left hand is not dropped.

Balancé quatre sans vous quitter
4 bars - C1-4

Payne: The lady joins her right hand with the right of her partners, the bottom gentleman with his partner does the same, the four set holding hands, forming a serpentine line, the two ladies facing to the right and the two gentlemen facing to the left, four bars.
Note: Elsewhere, Payne said to use the Deux Jettés à cotes step twice for the setting. In order to do that, the lead dancers should already be in a line across the set, or get themselves there almost immediately. This has implications for the interpretation of the preceding figure. The instruction that the men should face to the left and the ladies to the right is confusing, it is probably from the perspective of an observer at the top of the set (see Wilson's second diagram immediately below), rather than being relative to their current position.
Wilson has the dancers move into a line of 4 from their home positions, and has the two men in the centre: This figure is formed by Two Couple making a straight Line; the Gentlemen in the Centre, and the two Ladies Outside. This Line is used in the Figure to La Poule and others, which, together with the Setting, requires Four Bars. Wilson also explains that his variant is the English style, he describes the alternative as French, something he describes as being a very awkward situation for the bottom Lady.

Whereas, Dun and Maitre leave one lady and one man in the centre at the end of the preceding figure. Payne could be interpreted to match either Wilson(English) or Maitre/Dun/Wilson(French); Payne's indication that the men are facing to the left perhaps identifies him more strongly with Wilson's French variant, though the English variant could be implied if the perspective of the man is considered relative to his partner. Dun describes the figure as They give the right hand to their partners, and all four set, upon a line, without quitting hands.

Both the sequence of dancers within the line, and their starting positions, are unclear amongst the sources. The figure ends with the dancers remaining in this serpentine (Payne) or straight (Wilson) line across the set. The two central positions are either taken by the two men (Wilson's English variant) or the lead lady and her opposite man.

Demie Promenade
4 bars - C5-8

Payne: The gentlemen still retain their partners with their right hands, and join their left with the left of their partners and half promenade, (ie change situations,) beginning round to the right, four bars.
Note: We've discussed the promenade embrace in a previous paper. The step is the trois chassés Jetté et assemblé. The outer-most dancers turn to face the same direction as the inner most dancers (regardless of gender), without dropping right hands; they then join left hands and promenade.
This figure is similar to the demie Promenade in Pantalon, except that the dancers start in a different position (not as shown in the image). Wilson points out that if the French variant of the preceding figures are danced, This is a very awkward situation for the bottom Lady, who must be turned by her Partner before she is in a proper Situation to perform the Half-Promenade in "La Poule," which always follows Set four in Line: this, not only breaks the Time, but requires an extra Movement by the bottom Lady; but, in the Figure shown by the Diagram (which the Author has always preferred) where the two Gentlemen come into the centre, this inconvenience is avoided, as both Couples finish in proper situations to keep up the Promenade.

In Wilson's English figure, the men are already to the left of their partners (after the outer-most dancers turn), and in a natural position to take up Promenade hold. If the French figure is used, one of the couples are in this position, while the other couple has the dancers improper (the man is to the right of the lady). The couple in improper position could take up a reversed promenade hold, but instead Wilson has the lady move around the man (with no music in which to do so) and take up a regular promenade hold. Regardless of the promenade hold used, the figure must end with the dancers in proper position, opposite their home positions. The French variant isn't symmetrical which can be confusing for the dancers, the English variant is symmetrical.

Dun simply says Promenade half way round. Most other writers make a similarly vague statement. The figure ends with the lead couples in opposite position, and proper (the man to the left of the lady, and all facing into the set).

En avant en arrière
4 bars - D1-4

Payne: The lady and the opposite gentleman advance and retire, (that is the lady who commenc'd with the bottom gentleman,) four bars.
Note: The step is Chassé Jetté et assemblé.
This figure is consistent across the sources. Dun simply says The couple who began advance and retire. It's the same figure as was used in L'Ete. The image includes an extraneous chassez to the right and left that is not part of this figure.

Dos-à-dos
4 bars - D5-8

Payne: The lady and gentleman pass each other to the left and retire to the right, back to back, four bars. This figure is frequently performed by passing round each other, face to face, may there be termed Vis-à-vis.
Wilson adds the Opposites move round each other, back to back, to their original situations. In passing round each other, care must be taken to extend the Circle, to prevent the Dancers coming in contact with each other; which, amongst learners, too frequently occurs.

Maitre says the gentleman and the lady opposite advance crossing one another on the left side, the body always in front, then they cross behind each other to come by the right side to their places, but backwards ... But you must take care when you cross behind each other not to touch one another, as it happens to those who do not perform it well.

The image shows two couples performing the dos a dos, but only the active couple should perform it in this dance.

En avant quatre
4 bars - A1-4

Payne: The two gentlemen join their right hands with their partners left, the four advance and retire, four bars.
Note: The step to use is Chassé Jetté et assemblé.
This figure is the same as En avant deux en arrière in L'Ete, except that four dancers are involved rather than just two, and the couples hold inside hands. Dun simplifies it to Four advance and retire.

Demie Chaine Anglaise
4 bars - A5-8

Payne: The four cross over to their places, the gentlemen in passing give their right hands to the opposite ladies, and the left to their partners, four bars.
Note: The step is the trois chassés Jetté et assemblé.
This is the same figure that was used in Pantalon.

Repeat three times more
96 bars - BCDAx3

 Each lady and her opposite take their turn to perform the figures. The usual sequence is for the bottom lady to lead the second iteration of the dance, then the lady to the right of the top couple, finally the lady to the left of the top couple.




Figure 7. The La Trenis Quadrille, 1817
Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

The Figures of La Trenis

The fourth Quadrille of the First Set is called La Trenis. We've animated it here. The figures take 40 bars to dance, and are danced through four times, once for each couple (assuming the typical 8 dancer arrangement). The major sources largely agree with each other in describing how this Quadrille is danced, though they can be interpreted in different ways.

The music can be arranged as five 8 bar strains, and played as: A,BCDEA,BCDEA,BCDEA,BCDEA (arrangements with fewer strains are common). The leading A strain is an introduction in which the couples honour each other, the dancing begins with the B strain.

Payne said the following of the music: A tune for this figure requires Forty bars, repeated the same as le Pantalon, except the 3rd part, which is repeated, or must contain Sixteen bars. The tune played Four times through. He arranged it as a Rondo: A,BACCA,BACCA,BACCA,BACCA.

Payne described the figures as follows (the images are from Wilson, and may not show the figures exactly as Payne described them):

Introduction
8 bars - A

  

Chaine des dames
8 bars - B

This figure is explained in Pantalon.
Some interpretations like to make this a Chain for all four ladies, rather than just the two leading ladies. However, the early sources are consistent in making it a Chain for just the active couples.

Balancé à vos dames, et tour de deux mains
8 bars - C

This figure is explained in Pantalon.
The Balancé is often danced by facing partners and slipping a few steps to the right, and back to the left, similar to the Chassé à droite et à gauche in L'Ete. This common interpretation isn't consistent with Payne. Payne defines it using his forwards-and-backwards Balancé, followed by sissone balloté, Jetté et assemblé.

The other sources don't particularly comment. Maitre simply says both couples opposite, dance four bars before their own partners, which is always followed by Tour de main. Dun is similarly vague, he says Set to partners and turn them. Payne emphasises a two hand turn.

Un cavalier, conduit sa dame deux fois en avant, la laisse à la gauche du cavalier de vis-à-vis
8 bars - D

Payne: The gentleman with his partner advances and retires, four bars, again forward, the gentleman leaves the lady on the left of the opposite gentleman, then returns back to his place, four bars.
Note: this figure is performed with Chassè Jettè et Assemblè.
Wilson says: This figure, when performed, leaves the Lady on the opposite Situation, that is, on the Left of the opposite Gentleman, and her Partner in his original Place.

Dun says The first gentleman conducts his lady forward and back, then leads her across, leaves her on the left of the opposite gentleman, and returns to his place.

This is an usual figure as it leaves the dancers in an irregular position at the end of the figure. It requires subsequent figures to return the dancers back home.

.

Les deux dames traversent pendant que le cavalier traverse au milieu
2 bars - E1-2

Payne: The two ladies cross over to the opposite places, while the gentleman pass between, two bars.
Most sources describe the second part of the Trenise figure as a whole, but Payne splits it into several separate stages. This makes Payne's version easier to understand than most.

Dun, speaking of the first two bars, says The first and third ladies cross over ... while they are crossing over, the first gentleman passes between them ... .

Payne has the two ladies cross into opposite places in 2 bars, perhaps like Wilson's version of the Traversé figure. The first lady will have returned to her home position, and the second lady to the home position of the first man.

Wilson's diagram shows the entire 8 bars in one figure, it appears to show the ladies taking a curved path, and not simply crossing the set. Payne is clear that the ladies cross into the first couples home positions.

Les deux dames chassez croisez, tandis que le cavalier figure devant elles, et repassent à leur places en chassez croisez encore
6 bars - E3-8

Payne: The two ladies change sides, while the gentleman sets before them, two bars. The two ladies cross over back again, while the gentleman passes between and returns to his place, the two ladies again change sides, which returns the bottom lady to her place, four bars.
The first two bars for the ladies are described by Payne as change sides, or chassez croisez in French. The chassez croisez is a common term in quadrille dancing, it implies a sideways movement. Payne said to perform the 2 bar chassez croise with the Sissone Ballotè, Jettè et Assemblè step. Dun says of these two bars: The first and third ladies ... change sides, [the first man] sets to them. Payne's description of the 8 bar figure has caused the ladies to pass around two sides of a square (ending opposite their starting positions), while the first man moves forward and Sets. Some sources specify that the Setting uses a rigadon step.

The remaining four bars involve the ladies crossing back to the bottom end of the set, then performing a second chassez croise to return back to their positions at the start of the 8-bar figure. However, this final chasse croise will involve navigating around the bottom gentleman who is between them.

In the 8 bars the ladies have travelled around four edges of a square. Wilson's diagram shows a shorter path through the figure. In both variants the first lady returns to her irregular position at the end of the figure.

La Premiére figurante que occupé la gauche du cavalier, balancé à son cav. et tour de mains
8 bars - A

 

Payne: The lady who occupies the left of the gentleman, crosses over and makes a balancé to her partner, they then turn hands round to their places. Frequently the top and bottom couples balancé and turn hands, at the same time, eight bars.
Note: The step for turning is trois chassés Jetté et assemblé.
Payne has the first lady cross home, then balancé and turn her partner. However, Dun explains it slightly differently: The first couple set in the middle, then join hands and return to their places. Dun had the first lady and man come forward to meet each other, and then return home.

Payne's version is more symmetrical: the first lady crosses home in 2 bars, the head couples balancé in 2 bars, then two hand turn in 4 bars.

Repeat three times more
120 bars - BCDEAx3

 Each couple take their turn to perform the figures. The usual sequence is for the bottom couple to lead the second iteration of the dance, then the couple to the right of the top couple, finally the couple to the left of the top couple.




Figure 8. The La Finale Quadrille, c.1827
Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

The Figures of La Finale

The final Quadrille of the First Set is called La Finale. We've animated it here. The figures take 32 bars to dance, and are danced through four times, once for each couple (assuming the typical 8 dancer arrangement). The major sources largely agree with each other in describing how this Quadrille is danced, though it includes the entirety of the L'Ete dance, and that is subject to interpretation. An alternative arrangement danced by the York Regency Dancers can be seen danced at YouTube.

The music can be arranged as four 8 bar strains, and played as: A,BCDA,BCDA,BCDA,BCDA,A (arrangements with fewer strains are common). The leading A strain is an introduction in which the couples honour each other, the dancing begins with the B strain. The introduction is sometimes omitted (or the A strain played twice), so that the dancing begins with the A strain. An additional A strain at the end allows for a final 8 bar figure to finish the dance.

Payne said the following of the music: A tune for this figure requires Thirty two bars, one of two parts, Eight bars, in each, or sixteen in the 2nd, played as thus, the 1st part twice, the 2nd ditto, when Eight bars and once when sixteen, and finish with the 1st part, the tune played through four times through, at the conclusion the 1st part of this tune must be played twice over. He arranged it as: A,ABBA,ABBA,ABBA,ABBA,A.

A distinguishing characteristic of the Finale is that all eight dancers move simultaneously in some of the figures, a characteristic that isn't evident in the other Quadrilles in the First Set.

Payne described the figures as follows (the images are from Wilson, and may not show the figures exactly as Payne described them):

Introduction
8 bars - A

  

Chassé croisé tous les huit
4 bars - B1-4
Dechassé les huits
4 bars - B5-8

Payne: The whole eight change sides, the ladies pass before their partners, and set, four bars. The eight resume their places, in the same manner, four bars.
Note: This figure is performed using Sissone Ballotè, Jettè et Assemblè.
Dun describes the Chassez Croise as All the eight chassé across and set at the corners, chassé across again and set. He adds that it is performed by one or more couples, the ladies changing places with their gentleman, and passing before them..

Wilson says the Lady takes the place of the Gentleman, and the Gentleman that of the Lady.

We've previously seen chassez croisez within Payne's explanation of the Trenis figures, but this variant includes setting.

L'Ete
24 bars - CDA

 

Payne: En avant deux en arrière. Chassé à droite et à gauche. Traversé. Chassé à droite et à gauche. Balancé et tour de mains.

The above are performed exactly the same as figure de l'Eté.

The figure of L'Ete are included within the Finale verbatim.

Repeat three times more
96 bars - BCDAx3

 Each lady and her opposite take their turn to perform the same figures, beginning with a chasse croise for all eight each time. The usual sequence is for the bottom lady to lead the second iteration of the dance, then the lady to the right of the top couple, finally the lady to the left of the top couple.

pour Finale Chassé et dechassé tous les 8
8 bars - A

Payne: To finish, the eight change sides and back again, the same as at the commencement, which completes figure la Finale.
This is a repeat of the first chasse croise.




Figure 9. A Family Rehearsing a Quadrille, 1817
Courtesy of The British Museum

The Figures of La Pastoralle

The Pastorale quadrille wasn't included in the first versions of the First Set published by Edward Payne, but was included in the slightly later First Set of James Paine. Payne went on to write about it in his Quadrille Dancer, but only after his description of the Finale. Some sources omit Pastoralle, some use it to replace the Trenis Quadrille in 4th position, some include it between Trenis and Finale resulting in six Quadrilles in the First Set, but Payne documented it after the Finale, perhaps in recognition of its significance despite his initial ambivalence.

We've animated it here. The figures take either 32 or 36 bars to dance, depending on the arrangement of the music; they are danced through either four or eight times, once for each lead dancer (assuming the typical 8 dancer arrangement). An alternative arrangement danced by the Arbeau Dancers can be seen danced at YouTube.

The music can be arranged as four 8 bar strains, and played as: A,BCDA,BCDA,BCDA,BCDA,BCDA,BCDA,BCDA,BCDA (arrangements with fewer strains are likely). The leading A strain is an introduction in which the couples honour each other, the dancing begins with the B strain.

Payne said the following of the music: A tune for this figure requires Thirty six bars, when the hands three round is performed and thirty two when it is omitted, one of two parts, the 1st part to contain Eight bars, and the 2nd Twenty eight, or Twenty four, played as thus, the 1st part once, the 2nd ditto and finish with the 1st part, the tune played eight times through when the ladies perform the Contre-partie. He arranged it as: A,BA,BA,BA,BA,BA,BA,BA,BA.

Payne described the figures as follows (the images are from Wilson, and may not show the figures exactly as Payne described them):

Introduction
8 bars - A

  

Un cavalier avec sa dame en avant deux fois, la laisse à la gauche, du cavalier de vis-à-vis
8 bars - B

Payne: One gentleman with his partner advances, again forward, and leaves the lady on the left of the opposite gentleman and returns back to his place, eight bars.
Note: this figure is performed with Chassè Jettè et Assemblè.
This is the same figure we've previously seen in La Trenise. The lead couple advance and retire, then advance again leaving the lady on the left of the opposite man.

Le cavalier de vis-à-vis, avec les deux dames tour de rond
4 bars (optional)

 

Payne: The opposite gentleman with the two ladies hands three round to the left, four bars. This part of the figure is frequently omitted, its performance depends on the number of bars the tune contains.
Payne declared this figure to be optional, Dun omitted it entirely. It requires an unusual arrangement of the music that is rarely encountered.

Le cavalier et les deux dames en avant trois deux fois
8 bars - C

Payne: The gentleman and the two ladies holding hands, advances and retires twice, eight bars.
Note: this figure is performed with Chassè Jettè et Assemblè.
Dun simply says Three, in hands, advance and retire twice.

Le Premier cavalier seul huit measures
8 bars - D

Payne: The first gentleman sets alone during eight bars.
Note: this figure is performed with the Pas de Zephyr.
This solo figure was infamous for demonstrating a dancer's skill (or lack thereof). The anonymous author of Recollections of Almacks wrote of the introduction of the Quadrille to Almack's Assembly Rooms in the following terms: Quadrilles came - Paine's first set, I remember they were called. It was ages before country gentlemen could learn them; and when they did, who was the foolhardy man who dared to show his steps in that fearful pas seul in 'La Pastorale.'.

Payne suggested a complex and fancy solo setting figure, but many interpretations replace this with simpler steps such as a repeated en avant et arriere.

Wilson's illustration shows a lady's solo from later on in the dance.

Les quatre demie tour de rond
4 bars - A1-4

 

Payne: The four advance to the centre join hands and turn half round to the left and retire to the opposite places, four bars.
This figure ends with the head couples in opposite place to their home positions.

Demie chaine Anglaise
4 bars - A5-8

Payne: The four half right and left to their places, in passing the gentlemen give their right hands to the opposite ladies, and the left to their partners, four bars.
This is the same figure previously seen in Pantalon.

Repeat three times more
96/108 bars - BCDAx3

 Each gentleman takes his turn to lead. The usual sequence is for the bottom gentleman to lead the second iteration of the dance, then the gentleman to the right of the top couple, finally the gentleman to the left of the top couple.

Repeat four times more
128/144 bars - BCDAx4 (optional)

 Each lady takes her turn to lead, in the same sequence as with the men. Many arrangements omit these final four iterations of the dance, but Payne was explicit about including them.




Figure 10. Cover to the Almack's Quadrilles by T. Adams, 1824
Courtesy of JScholarship

Conclusion

There is some variation between the early sources regarding the figures of the First Set. We've reviewed the amplified descriptions of the figures from four early documents, but not considered the major documents from the 1820s and beyond. If we had done so, further variants would be found. The modern YouTube videos demonstrate still further variants.

These quadrilles were danced for enjoyment. We hope you'll have fun recreating them, and don't worry over much about the precise stepping information. But if you feel up to it, do give Payne's steps a chance; and better yet, why not share some videos of your dancing them for us all to enjoy and admire!

If you'd like to know more about early quadrilles, and especially the First Set, I can recommend two excellent books. First, Ellis Rogers' The Quadrille, the most thorough investigation into Quadrille dancing; and also Volume 7 of John Gardiner-Garden's encyclopedic Historic Dance. As always, we live in hope that new information will be found to further our knowledge of historic dance. If you have new information or documents, please do get in touch - we'd love to speak to you.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © RegencyDances.org 2010-2017
All Rights Reserved