Early eighteenth-century dance notators as recorders of pantomimic gesture

Dance theorists of the time agreed that theatrical dance included scope for characterisation through certain types of movement and gesture. Leaving aside the specific directions incorporated into surviving dances for Harlequin and found in the writings of Auguste Ferrère (which are covered by other speakers at this symposium), there are also occasional clues to characterisation through mimetic gesture in several early 18th century dance sources, and they occur in social as well as theatrical dances. In some instances the clues are direct, appearing as symbols or as verbal descriptions incorporated into the dance notation; in other instances there is no specific direction for gesture or posture but it is clearly implied by the nature of the steps themselves. This paper examines the evidence for such pantomimic references and discusses their popularity during the first quarter of the 18th century.

Jennifer Thorp
Symposium Title: 
French and English Pantomime -2007
Author affiliation: 
New College, University of Oxford