Theatre Dancers at the Court of Queen Anne
Fierce competition between London’s two theatre companies in the late 1690s led to Thomas Betterton engaging the famous French dancers L’Abbé and Balon for Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre. These dancers were also invited to perform before King William at KensingtonPalace. Some critics re-acted strongly against these expensive imports, but they pleased most people and brought in the audiences. During the reign of Queen Anne virtuoso French dancers became a permanent presence on the Londonstage and the period also saw the emergence of professional female dancers, several of whom were English.
This paper will look in detail at dancing in the theatrical entertainments presented before Queen Anne at St James’s Palace in the years before the queen’s ill health and the death of her husband reduced the scale of court festivities. The key dancers from both theatres figured in these performances and their offerings at court appear to reflect what was popular with audiences at the theatre. The entertainments for the queen’s birthday in 1704 and 1706 and the operas performed in 1705 and 1707 are of particular interest.