Development of the quadrille.
The quadrille was inspired by revolutionary France. It developed in the last years of the 18th century as a suite of four or five contredanses in a square formation for four couples.
During the French Revolution there was a tremendous passion for dance and as the citizens emerged from the Terror, “severed from their traditions and in search of a new unity …they found in dancing together a satisfaction of their need for a return from austerity and fear.” 1 Vivacious country dances, introduced from England in the early 1700s, had replaced the formal, hierarchical court dances. In the new political regime, the country dance was seen as an appropriate, democratic dance form: with little social precedent, every couple had the opportunity for prominence, dancing with the other couples in happy co-operation. In competition with the English longways dance, the French now introduced a dance in square formation for four couples: the contredanse Française en carré; this was to develop into the quadrille and in time, adopted a standardised sequence. By the reign of Napoleon, the quadrille was entrenched as the favourite dance of French society; when peace was restored, the English elite flocked to Paris eager for the latest French fashions.
The highly developed dance technique already established by the French court was adapted to this new dance, and continued to evolve with fresh steps and enchaînements. Quadrilles were contrived to highlight these dazzling steps – a fashionable spectacle presenting eight, cultivated dancers as soloists, single couples and finally as a united team, giving “encouragement to the impression of brilliance”. 2 The figures were deliberately simple and stereotyped to allow for the clear demonstration of exquisite footwork.
In England, the quadrille was danced as early as 1803; however, it only came to prominence in 1815 when danced by Lady Jersey and her friends at Almack’s, the most fashionable assembly room in London. It was another year before it was performed in Dublin and Edinburgh. Elizabeth Grant, in Memoires of a Highland Lady 1787-1827 gives an entertaining account of the introduction of the quadrille to the society of Edinburgh,
We practised privately…Finlay Dun had been abroad, and imported all the most graceful steps from Paris; and having kept our secret well, we burst upon the world at a select reunion…the spectators standing on chairs and sofas to admire us. 3
Elizabeth Grant, Memoires of a Highland Lady, 1787-1827.
The adoption of the quadrille was a slow and gradual process; it was not until the 1820s that it began to be widely known in Britain and subsequently the colonies.
Arrival in Australia
The French visitor, Rose de Freycinet, travelling in the Pacific, kept a detailed journal which included abundant references to dancing at balls, often given in her honour: waltzing, “very pretty quadrilles” and “hopping about in English reels “in Mauritius; a minuet and English dances in Portugese Timor. At Port Jackson (1819), although Rose records the numerous balls she attended, including a “rustic ball,” she makes no mention of quadrilles. The quadrille was her favourite and given her propensity for detailed recording, it would appear this dance had not yet reached the colony. One ball, “a splendid occasion” left her disenchanted, for “although I was not familiar with English dances, I was unable to avoid them. I did rather poorly.” 4
In September 1820, Monsieur Francis Girard, also known as Francois De Lisle of Paris, 168cm tall with brown hair and hazel eyes, was 27 years old when he arrived in Sydney as a convict on Agamemnon. Within a month, Francis, of “dashing appearance and pleasing address” 5 was advertising in the Sydney Gazette offering to teach the French language and all kinds of elegant dances including quadrilles and waltzes. Before long he was also teaching the gentlemanly accomplishment of fencing, a skill closely related to dancing. Girard was employed by educational institutions in Sydney, including Nott’s Academy in Castlereagh Street, Mr Wood’s Seminary and The Sydney Academy both in Macquarie Street. He also taught privately from his home at 71 Market Street, and offered classes in Parramatta, Liverpool and Windsor. Girard seems responsible for introducing the quadrille to the colony.
FRENCH LANGUAGE AND DANCING.- M. GIRARD, of Paris, presenting Compliments to the Families of Sydney, most respectfully informs them that he gives Instruction in his native language, and also in quadrilles, waltzes, &c. All kind of elegant dances, at Mr. Nott’s Academy, 44, Castlereagh street ; and those Families, who desire it, may be waited on at their own houses. 6
Sydney Gazette. 28 October, 1820.
It was another three years before the quadrille was reported as being danced socially. In both London and Edinburgh, it was first presented as an exhibition, practised privately by accomplished dancers before a ball – this may also have been the case in New South Wales.
On Thursday last, the 26th ultimo, a splendid Ball was given by WILLIAM COX, Esq. of Clarendon, near Windsor, which was attended by a large Party of Ladies and Gentlemen from Sydney, and other parts of the Country.
The town of Windsor exhibited the day previous, and on the day the Ball was given, a most pleasing sight of carriages, of all descriptions, passing through it….
The ball-room was tastefully fitted up; the newest quadrilles danced, and country dances gone through, with an unusual degree of spirit and liveliness, occasioned by the excellent music provided. The supper room displayed as much real hospitality as possibly could be witnessed by a Party of about 60, which partook thereof. The Party from Sydney was entertained the next day at Hobartville, the seat of WILLIAM COX, Esq. jun. where all the hospitality manifested itself that had passed the day and evening before. 8
Sydney Gazette. 4 September, 1823
Difficult first steps
One aspect of the quadrille which inhibited its rapid spread, was the complexity of the steps. Although the French delighted in elaborate displays of footwork, it was not until more simple steps were adopted that it became widely popular in the British Empire. The basic step enchaînement became temps levé, chassé, terminated with a jeté, assemblé . In simple terms, this is one or more skip change steps, completed with a punctuation step of a spring and jump. An impressive array of other steps could be added by more adept and flamboyant dancers, particularly in the solos.
A later reminiscence from the Sydney newspaper, The Empire, provides an insight into the difficulties of learning the new dance:
Paine’s first set I remember they were called. It was ages before country gentlemen could learn them: and when they did, who was the fool hardy man who dared show his steps in that fearful pas seul “La Pastorale”? .…It was necessary, when the balls at Almack’s began to go through the whole set, to learn a code of steps consistent with each. And there was a long preparatory training with a great lots of temper, and a loss of fiddle-strings on the part of the teachers. 12
Mons. Girard’s lessons at 4 guineas a quarter, were enormously expensive and would have been available only to the more prosperous members of society – another reason for the slow spread of the quadrille. Girard advertised regularly offering “English and French dancing, in all its branches”, instruction for children whom “by his care and assiduity,… will Become Proficients in a very short time”, and “begging to suggest…the Advantage which Ladies and Gentlemen would derive, by being finished a few Days previous to any Ball, with select Quadrilles, &c. in exercising which Mistakes would be effectually prevented.” 13
As there was a growing number of emancipists in the colony eager to advance socially and forget their convict origins, Girard rather charmingly, offered to those “many Ladies and Gentlemen, who are some what advanced in life, [and] may have, from a variety of causes [prison sentences?], neglected to acquire a proper Knowledge of Dancing, M. G. would undertake to teach, in three months, so that they might appear in the Ball-room with perfect grace.” 14
Another factor which hindered the acceptance of the quadrille was the difficulty of the music. For the majority of musicians, playing hornpipes, jigs, minuets and reels by ear, the new French music was complex and unusual. “Now they had to cope with a whole new range of tunes from France, many of which modulated into minor Keys and back again. Not only was the music itself unfamiliar but the style of playing for quadrilles was, or should have been, very different from their way of playing for English country dancing.” 15
By 1824, the quadrille had gained a degree of popularity in the fashionable society of the colony. At Sir John Jamison’s Ball attended by a “concentration of beauty, rank, and fashion, … dancing, consisted of country dances, quadrilles, and Spanish waltzes,…and was maintained with the utmost animation till midnight.” 16 In the same year the enthusiastic dancer and “prince” of Sydney society, Captain John Piper, “kept a band of music and danced quadrilles every evening under the spacious verandahs of his villa.” 17
Quadrille mania began to spread rapidly. Governor Darling‘s splendid ball at Government House in February, 1826 “consisted principally of French quadrilles which were tastefully executed by the Pandean Band.” 19
A few months later the King’s birthday ball in April “commenced with quadrilles, and was diversified with an occasional country-dance, but quadrilles were the favourites of the ladies, and the Band of the 3rd (Buffs) exquisitely performed them. The ladies skipt ‘on the light fantastic toe’ with all imaginable grace and spirit. It was supposed that 200 individuals occupied the saloon at one time.” 20
In May 1833, the quadrille reached new heights as the newly arrived professor of dancing, William Cavendish de Castell had “the honour of conducting the official King‘s Birthday Ball, at the express invitation of the Governor’s daughter, with the result that some 500 revellers enjoyed an evening of well organised dancing” 21:
In the evening Government-House was splendidly illuminated within and without, and His Excellency the Governor and Miss Bourke entertained a brilliant party of about five hundred persons at a ball and supper. Mr. Cavendish, professor of dancing, by the express desire of Miss Bourke [daughter of Govenor Bourke], had the honour of conducting the ball, by which many of those imperfections in the quadrilles (so generally complained of), were happily avoided, and the figures danced with a precision hitherto unknown in this colony…. Quadrilles, waltzes, and the gay sauteuse were kept up with unabated animation untill three o’ clock. 22
As the century progressed the quadrille and the waltz came to dominate the ballroom; however, in Australia the country dance was never completely displaced. With time the intricate steps of the quadrille gave way to more simple steps and eventually to a “lazy, nonchalant fashion of walking through the figures” indicative of the general lowering of dancing standards. The quadrille became a shadow of a once brilliant dance form.
Despite this, quadrilles remained extremely popular into the twentieth century. A great many new versions were devised with a multitude of different figures augmenting the older forms.
Music for the quadrille was first advertised in the Sydney Gazette of 31 March 1825.
BY MR. PAUL, On Friday the 1st of-April, at 11 o’clock, AN EXCELLENT ASSORTMENT OF MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS; comprising violins, bows, clarionets, flutes of various descriptions, pickrows, violin strings, a quantity of printed music; consisting of lnstruction books, quadrilles, waltzes, country dances, & c. 23
However, a far more significant suite of music was about to become available – the first Australian composition for the quadrille. Joseph Reichenberg, born in Naples in 1789, came to the colony in late 1824 with the 40th Regiment. In April 1825, he offered The First Set of Quadrilles for Australia:
Mr Reichenberg, Music Master, of the 40th Regiment, respectfully informs the Ladies and Gentlemen of the Colony, that he has composed a first Set of Quadrilles for Australia, with proper figures adapted to it for the Pianoforte, Flute or Violin; as also, for a full Band. The Same may be had in manuscript, from Mr Reichenberg, at the Military Barracks; or at Mr. Campbell’s, No. 93, George Street, by giving one Day’s Notice. Price 6s. 24
From about 1800, the figures of a standard French quadrille drew upon a set of specific French tunes : Le Pantalon (a pair of trousers), L’été (summer), La Poule (hen), La Trenise (named for a dancing master) which was replaced around 1835 with La Pastourelle (shepherd girl) , and Finale. Musicians soon began to compose new tunes for the dance figures and it became common practice to adapt popular tunes and music “selected from the newest and most celebrated operas”.
By 1840 another six collections had been devised in Australia.25
The First Set of Tasmanian Quadrilles (Deane)
The Hobarton Quadrilles (Reichenberg)
1 The safe arrival; 2 The Scotch settler; 3 The English settler; 4 The Irish settler; 5 The Union.
Another Set of Quadrilles for the 40th Regiment (Reichenberg)
1 La Peninsula; 2 La Waterloo; 3 La Paris; 4 L’Australia; 5 La Tasmania [celebrating the campaigns of the 40th Regiment].
Tasmanian New Quadrilles and Country Dances for 1832. (Reichenberg)
The Fairy Quadrilles. (Cavendish) Unpublished.
1 Listen to Australian (La pantalon) 2 Listen to Notasian (l’ete)
3 Listen to Woo-loo-moo-loo (La pastorelle) 4 Listen to Kurry Jong (la poule)
5 Listen to Matitanana (Finale)
Link to the transcribed music.
The Much Admired Australian Quadrilles (Ellard) These are
featured in the text.
1 La Sydney (La pantalon); 2 LaWooloomooloo (L’eté); 3 La Illawarra (La poule); 4 La Bong-Bong (La trenise); 5 La Engehurst (La finale). Selected from the newest and most celebrated operas and arranged for the Piano Forte or Harp.
Link to the transcribed music.
Of these compositions, only the last two have survived – Cavendish’s 1833 The Fairy Quadrilles and Ellard’s 1835 The Much Admired Australian Quadrilles.
This square piano was manufactured by Collard & Collard of London expressly for Francis Ellard. Ellard, as well as composing quadrille music, was one of the first dealers of musical instruments in Australia and had a significant influence on musical life in Sydney from the 1830s. The Much Admired Australian Quadrilles was undoubtedly performed on this instrument while dancers ‘skipt on the light fantastic toe.”
1 Guilcher, La Contredanse, 1969. English translation, Ellis Rogers 2010
3 Elizabeth Grant, Memoirs of a Highland Lady, 1787-1827. _____________________________________________________________
4 de Freycinet, Rose. A Woman of Courage. The Journal of Rose de Freycinet on her Voyage around the World 1817-1820.
5 Swindling A La Francoise. The Hull Packet and Original Weekly Commercial, Literary and General Advertiser (Hull, England), Tuesday, September 28, 1819; Issue 1717.
6 Classified Advertising. (1820, October 28). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), p. 2. Retrieved January 13, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2179848
7 [William Cox Senior, ca. 1797-1798 – miniature portrait] William Cox joined the New South Wales Corps in 1797 as lieutenant and was appointed Paymaster before he left for Australia. He arrived in Sydney on 11 January 1800. State Library of New South Wales. Album ID : 823396, Call no. MIN 382
8 No title. (1823, September 4). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), p. 3. Retrieved September 20, 2012, from
9 Garling, Frederick, 1806-1873 (2010-10-03). Guests assembled at the wedding of Adelaide (second daughter of Frederick and Elizabeth Garling of Sydney) with Sloper Cox, youngest son of Captain William Cox of “Hobartville”, Richmond, NSW. Mitchell Library. State Library of New South Wales. Call No. SV/27 http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/13563112
10 Bowd, D.G. Macquarie Country. A History of the Hawkesbury.
Library of Australian History, Sydney, 1994
11Hobartville, Richmond, N.S.W. picture by Hardy Wilson,1913? 1 drawing : pencil ; 30.1 x 38.5 cm. nla.pic-an2726807 Courtesy of Margaret McCredie for the use of her grandfather’s drawing, and National Library of Australia. nla.pic-an2726807 __________________________________________________________________
12 THE MAGAZINES. (1863, October 24). Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875), p. 2. Retrieved January 28, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60550415
13 Classified Advertising. (1825, April 28). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), p. 1. Retrieved September 20, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2183967
14Classified Advertising. (1825, April 14). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), p. 1. Retrieved January 28, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2183927
15 Rogers, Ellis A. The Quadrille. Published by C & E Rogers, England, 2003. _________________________________________________________________
16THE FASHIONABLE WORLD. (1824, July 1). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), p. 2. Retrieved January 28, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news- article2183020
17Barnard, Marjorie Faith. Life & Times Of Captain John Piper. Sydney,1973
18Classified Advertising. (1823, September 6). Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land Advertiser (Tas. : 1821 – 1825), p. 1. Retrieved January 14, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1089962
19 AUSTRALASIAN POLITICS. (1826, March 1). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), p. 2. Retrieved January 28, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2185331
20THE KING’S BIRTHDAY. (1826, April 29). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), p. 2. Retrieved August 26, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2185740
21Skinner, Graeme. First National Music. 1788-c.1860 Toward a General History of Australian Musical Composition. Thesis, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, 2011.
22THE KING’S BIRTHDAY. (1833, May 30). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), p. 2. Retrieved January 26, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2212236
23Advertising. (1825, March 31). The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), p. 4. Retrieved January 28, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article37073189
24Classified Advertising. (1825, April 28). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), p. 1. Retrieved October 15, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2183967
25Skinner, Graeme. First National Music. 1788-c.1860 Toward a General History of Australian Musical Composition. Thesis, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, 2011.
26John Benham’s piano, 1835. Possibly the earliest surviving Australian made piano. H8405
Collection Powerhouse Museum, Sydney. Photo: Penelope Clay. http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/collection/database/?irn=251609&search=ellard+piano&images=&c=&s=
27Ellard’s Much Admired Australian Quadrilles. Mitchell Library. State Library of New South Wales. Call No. MUSIC FILE/ELL
28Square piano, timber/metal/fabric, made for Francis Ellard of Sydney by [Collard and Collard], London, England, 1835 -1838. Collection Powerhouse Museum, Sydney. 2002/70/1 Photo: Sotha Bourn. http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/collection/database/?irn=11552#ixzz2J8JTsn9V
Dixon, Peggy. Nonesuch: Early Dance Vol.VIIa. Late 18th & early 19th Century Ballroom Dances. London, 1993.
Emmerson, George. Ane Celestial Recreatioun. A Social History of Scottish Dance. McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal and London, 1973.
Quirey, Belinda. May I Have The Pleasure? The Story of Popular Dancing. Dance Books, London, 1976.
V.G. of Philadelphia. The Art of Dancing. Philadelphia, 1817.
Private correspondence with Ellis Rogers, February, 2013.
The information on this website www.colonialdance.com.au may be copied for personal use only, and must be acknowledged as from this website. It may not be reproduced for publication without prior permission from Heather Clarke.