Historical biography Uncategorised

Dance Biographies: Call for contributors part 1

This is the first of four blogs serving as a ‘call for contributors’ that will establish a collaborative, international, project in dance biography.  Broadly, this blog series will cover female theatrical dancers active between 1680 and 1860; it will consider the development and promotion of their careers and their reputations through the media of their day. Twenty-four potential subjects are proposed – for each of these particular questions or issues are supplied that are intended to stimulate responses in the respective blogs. Images are imagined as integral to the stories being told in the blogs, and a selection is nominated for each dancer. It is hoped that the topics proposed will stimulate offers of blog posts from archivists, art historians, iconographers and musicologists as well as dance specialists.

The current list of topics has a London-Paris bias, reflecting the research interests of the editor. Further proposals, however, of additional names – including dancers who would broaden the blog’s geographic scope – are welcome. The selection of images is also open to discussion, with this limitation: this blog can only publish images that are in the public domain in the United Kingdom. There is no dedicated budget to pay for photography of images nor to secure publishing rights.

This post announces five of the proposed subjects; three or four further blogs completing this ‘call for contributors’ will appear between mid-December and mid-January 2021. The blog series proper could launch as early as March 2021 and will continue with up to two posts per month until all the posts have been published. There is no particular plan to the sequence of blogs: deadlines will be agreed individually with contributors. 

The language of the blog is English; where necessary, the editor can offer to translate posts written in French, German or Italian. Individual blogs of over 1200 words are discouraged; where required, the editor will consider dividing longer blogs into two or three parts and publishing them in sequence.

And now, to open the curtain on five of our subjects:

Marie Sallé (1709-1756)

Active in London and in Paris, this dancer is of particular interest on several fronts: for her reception as a performer, for her status as a female ‘choreographer’, and for the carefully crafted public image projected in her portraits. Two key portraits from her lifetime are selected, and a later re-striking of the Lancret. Information about the motivations behind the creation of each of these images would be particularly welcome.

Proposed IMAGES for Sallé article:

Fenouil, Paul, fl. 1740s painter, and Giles Edme Petit, 1694-1760 (engraver). ‘M’lle M’rie Sallé, la Terpsicore françoise.’ Paris, chez Petit rue St. Jacques [174-?]. Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. *MGZFB Sal M P 2The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1740 – 1749.

Lancret, Nicolas, 1690-1843 (painter), and Nicolas Delarmessin, 1684-1753 (engraver). ‘Mlle. Sallé.’ Paris, 1730s. Copy: Pimpernel Prints.

Lancret, Nicolas , 1690-1843 (painter), and Hippolyte Louis Emile Pacquet, 1797- (engraver). ‘Mlle. Sallé règne de Louis XV. d’après Lancret 1730.’ [Paris] Impe. Fosset [ca. 1862]. Bureau des modes et costumes historiques, no. 58. H. Pacquet on plate. Unidentified production process after an engraving by H. Pacquet. Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. *MGZFB Sal M P 1The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1862.

Mlle Auretti by an anon. artist. Copy New York Public Library.
Mlle Auretti by an unknown artist. Image: New York Public Library.

Mlles Anne & Janneton Auretti  (fl. 1742-1753)

The Mlles Auretti were active in London’s Drury Lane and Covent Garden theatres, as well as in Paris. They became bywords for grace and elegance in subsequent references in print; their repertory is documented in part through the music series, ‘Hasse’s Comic Tunes’. The two illustrations selected have varied points of interest: can we identify the artists or publisher for the anonymous print? What is the motivation for the re-striking of the Scotin in the 1760s, and why was Queen Victoria moved to purchase of copy of this print (now in the New York Public Library)?

Proposed IMAGES for Auretti article:

Anon. [Paris? 1740s?]. The NYPL catalogue records the following legend: Telle est la célèbre Auretti, / L’ame du Bal, et de la Danse, / A qui le Ciel a departi / Le don de voler en cadance.  Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. *MGZFF Aur A U 3. The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1740-1749.

Scotin, Louis Gérard (engraver), and J. Spilsbury (engraver). “Mademoiselle Auretti.” G. Scotin sculpt. London, published according to act of Parliament by J. Spilsbury, engraver, map & print seller, in Russel Court Covent Garden [176-?]. A re-strike of Scotin’s engraving, originally dated Jan’y ye 15th 1745/6. Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1760 – 1769. *MGZFF Aur A U 2

Dawson, Nancy (Ann Newton c.1728-1767)

This popular British dancer is of interest for the fame generated by one particular role, the hornpipe; also for her accumulation of fame and reputation in song, verse, and an “Authentic Memoir.” 

Proposed IMAGE for Nancy Dawson article:

Anon. [after portrait by Michael Jackson?] ‘Nancy Dawson dancing the hornpipe‘. [London], c. 1753. Etching and Engraving. British Museum, 1849,1003.96.

Parisot, Mlle (c. 1775-after 1837)

Mademoiselle Parisot performed at the King’s Theatre during the final years of the eighteenth century. Noted for her unusual attitudes, all depictions of her – whether satirical or serious – emphasize her sensuality. The three illustrations proposed are each by artists of notably distinct styles.

Proposed IMAGES for Parisot article:

Devis, Arthur William, 1762-1822 (Artist), and John Raphael Smith, 1752-1812 (Engraver). “Mademoiselle Parisot” London: A.W. Devis, 1797. Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1797-03-11. *MGZFF Par U 1.

Masquerier, John James, 1778-1855 (artist), and Charles Turner, 1774-1857 (engraver). ‘Mademoiselle Parisot.’ [London? 1799]. Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1799. *MGZFB Par P 1.

Gillray, James, 1756-1815 (Artist). “Modern grace, or The operatical finale to the ballet of Alonzo e Cora.”  [London]: H. Humphrey, 1796. Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1796-05-05.

Parisot by Masquerier
Mlle Parisot, drawn by J.J. Masquerier and engraved by C. Turner. Copy: New York Public Library

Fairbrother, Sarah Louise (1816-1890) 

This performer belongs to an established tradition of English actress-dancers. Active on the stages of Edinburgh and then London circa 1827-1848, Fairbrother was noted particularly for her assumption of male roles, and also as Columbine. Her colourful private life culminated in a morganatic marriage to Prince George Duke of Cambridge. It is hoped this blog will redress the present emphasis on her personal life by offering an assessment of her theatrical reception. Indicative list of potential IMAGES, supplied by Pimpernel Prints, include lithographs of Fairbrother in the following roles: as Eglantine (in Valentine and Orson); as Abdallah (in The Forty-Thieves); as Little John (in the burlesque Robin Hood); also

Brandard, John, 1812-1863 (Artist), and James Warren Childe, d. 1862 (Lithographer). ‘Columbine [with facsimile signature Louisa Fairbrother].’ London: J. Mitchell, 1839.  Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. *MGZFX Fai 1-2The New York Public Library Digital Collections

Anyone wanting to contribute to this blog is encouraged to contact Sarah McCleave,