Expressing character and action in dance on English stages
While the ballet d’action is seen as the characteristic development in dance of the 18th century, the achievements in depicting character and action found in the antimasques of the Stuart masque are worth considering. From my research into the antimasques from 1609 to 1640, I have identified ‘dances of action’ occurring in performances from 1613 onwards. This paper will present examples of these dances of action and their function within each masque, but also propose a continuity of practice from the early Stuart courts across the interruptions of the Civil War and Commonwealth to the Restoration and early 18th-century London stage. The discussion will centre on the growth of a profession of dancer drawn from the community of stage players, stimulated by court employment, who could provide a pool of expertise available at the Restoration. The role of key figures, particularly Jeremy Herne choreographer for the antimasques from 1609 – 1640 and William Davenant key figure in the theatre up to 1668 will be considered, alongside the little-known genre of the moral masque on the public stage. Continuities in skill, musical practice and the presentation of specific characters and scenes will be indicated, to propose a direct link from antimasquer to grotesque dancer.