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Court Dance of the 18th Century

During the 17th and 18th centuries, dance at the French court and theatre, copied at numerous courts and noble establishments across Europe, was cultivated to an exceedingly high degree.  The combination of music, fashion, art, and dance typified the highest qualities of the aristocratic and gentile classes.  No where was this more prevalent than in the court of France's Louis XIV (The "Sun King"), himself an avid (and by all accounts quite a talented) dancer.

Many exquisite dances from this period have survived, duly notated in a system reportedly invented by Pierre Beauchamp (dancemaster to King Louis XIV) and codified by Raoul Auger Feuillet in his book Chorégraphie ou l'art décrire la danse par charactères, figures, et signes démonstratifs, published in 1700.  This complex system of dance notation (in modern times referred to as Beauchamp-Feuillet notation) was copied and expounded upon in multilpe contemporaneous English texts by authors such as John Weaver (Orchesography and A Small Treatise of Time and Cadence in Dancing, London, 1706), Kellom Tomlinson (The Art of Dancing, London, 1735), and in Cyril W. Beaumont's translation of P. Rameau's The Dancing Master (1725). 

Each of these works provide invaluable detail on all topics of personal presentation in the noble manner, including standing, walking, how to bow, a description of dancing ballrooms and how one should behave within them, as well as instruction on how to interpret the dance notation and how the dances relate to their musical accompaniments.  In notated dances from the period, the dances are presented as a series of choreographed movements notated along a line (or tract), separated by measure lines coinciding with the accompanying music.  For a visual demonstration, view Kat & Chris performing Pecour's La ForlanaNeedless to say, a wealth of information has been preserved, which provides modern scholars and historical dancers the ability to reconstruct dances in the appropriate style.   

Members of Atlanta Baroque Dance have performed the following period dances for one couple (male/female):

  • La Forlana, L. Pecour, 1700 (music by Anon.)
  • La Vieille Bouree, c1700, anonymous
  • Aimable Vainqueur, L. Pecour, 1701 (music by A. Campra, from his opera Hesione)
  • L'Allemande, L. Pecour, 1702 (music by A. Campra)
  • la Bourée d'Achille, L. Pecour, 1700 (music by P. Colasse)
  • La Royall, P. Rameau, 1725
  • The Villette, c1725
Atlanta Baroque Dance can perform or teach these dances (and others) for you or your group - contact us today for your workshop, masterclass, or historical event.