Spies, Lies, and Dancing at London’s Opera House in the 1740s: New Clues to the Biography of M. Froment - or Mr Fremont – or Mr Frument?

The subject of this paper is a dancer called Jean Baptiste Froment, noted by A Biographical Dictionary of the London Stage 1660-1800 as flourishing in England between 1739 and 1777. Froment's name appears in the sources also as 'Fremont' and 'Frument', and like much in A Biographical Dictionary, the biography offered is sketchy, emphasising performances rather than life details. A French dancer, choreographer, and dancing master, he made his London debut at Drury Lane dancing a haymaker in the 1739 show, Harlequin Shipwrecked. He appeared regularly at all the playhouses in both main pieces and entr'act dances, and probably performed a great deal more than the newspaper advertisements suggest. Froment had a daughter who followed him into the business, he taught regularly, and he composed a number of dances. But in looking again at Froment, a number of important pieces of information have come to light. One provides evidence of his managing what appears to have been a substantial dancing academy in Lambeth in the 1760s. Another shows him to be flourishing well after the 1771 date offered by BDA with a dancing school in Bath. And the last, a report of his arrest at the Opera House in 1746, leads directly to his involvement the political unrest in the 1740s. 

Michael Burden
Author affiliation
New College, Oxford