Recurring images: recycling and plagiarism in eighteenth-century dance

The notated dances of the early eighteenth century contain a number of examples of short sequences of steps repeated from one dance to another, for reason which might range from the choreographer’s wish to try out the same step sequences in different dance types (as in several of L’Abbé’s dances for the ballroom during the 1720s) or simply to a lack of inspiration for varied steps, or to the representation of specific characters (such as Harlequin or a peasant), through sequences of steps or floor patterns that recur in theatrical dances by different dancing-masters of the time. Instances of one dancing-master passing off as his own work an entire dance created by someone else are more unusual, at least in the extant sources.

This paper gives a brief overview of the use of self-borrowing in early eighteenth-century dances for the ballroom and the theatre. It then looks in more detail at two dances in particular, examining the ways in which Feuillet’s Entrée de Matelot of c1706 turned into Dupré’s Entrée de l’Admiral de France some fifty years later, why each was created, and what they might suggest concerning continuity and change in eighteenth-century dance performances.

Jennifer Thorp
Symposium Title: 
Dancing Exploded - 2002
Author affiliation: 
Regent’s Park College, Oxford