‘Cotillons made Plain and Easy in an Accurate and Practicable Manner’

Instruction manuals for the cotillon were published in England from 1768 to around 1815, contemporary with French publications for this popular dance genre. Many were produced by musicians as part of the promotion of their services to the nobility and gentry for balls and many by publishing firms as an extension of the country dance books, but some were the brain-child of dancing masters. The variety of presentations and information provided by these publications can lead today’s dancer to a fair understanding of the performance of cotillons in the late eighteenth century. How useful were they to the dancers of the day? Who might have bought and used them?

The contrasting approaches of Gherardi, Hurst, Gallini, Lemaire, Siret and Noverre can be analysed in relation to parallel French publications in the level of information offered on figures and steps, and then evaluated. How accurate and how practicable were these publications? Their works can also be placed in the context of late eighteenth century manuals in English by those of masters such as Philpott, Gardiner and Peacock.  

The characteristics and history of the cotillon can be drawn out from this information, in the absence of a comprehensive theoretical manual. A popular dance genre in England, yet always considered characteristically French, the cotillon falls between the heyday of the minuet and the triumph of the quadrille, and has suffered some neglect by dance historians.   

Anne Daye pursues documentary research and practical reconstruction of dances and dancing of the past, with specialist study of the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as investigating the dance world of Jane Austen and the Regency period. Her doctoral thesis examined the antimasque of the Stuart masque, exploring its development as a political and artistic concept, alongside the emergence of the professional dancer in England. Post-doctoral research investigates further the growth of expressive dance on the London stage. Anne teaches, rehearses and publishes widely on 16th - 19th century dance, combining theory and practice. She has contributed sections on dance to two recent publications: The Palatine Wedding of 1613 (2013) ed. S. Smart and M. Wade; Singing Simpkin and other Bawdy Jigs by R. Clegg and L. Skeaping; also two articles ‘The role of the Balet Comique in Forging the Stuart Masque’ in Dance Research, Winter 2014 and Spring 2015. In addition to teaching in HE dance departments, such as TrinityLaban and the University of Bedfordshire, Anne is Director of Education and Research for The Historical Dance Society (formerly DHDS).  

Anne Daye
Symposium Title: 
Teaching Dance 2016
Author affiliation: 
TrinityLaban, London, and Dolmetsch Historical Dance Society