Wednesday, January 25th, 2012...11:36 am
Let’s Go to the Hop
You know your Friday afternoon is looking up when you open a 19th century dance treatise and stumble across the phrase “first, give all the ladies a vegetable….”
An early donation by the late John Milton Ward, Charles Périn’s wonderful guide to the Cotillion (or German Dance) provides an overview of many versions which were fashionable in France ca. 1876, complete with illustrations and appropriate music. Everything, in fact, that an aspiring French hostess would need to plan a fabulous ball.
The particular dance which caught my eye was in a section titled “Figures avec accessories,” dances organized by things! (The “figures” were the blocking of a particular dance, in which one would then perform particular “pas” or dance steps, described elsewhere.)
In Les Sauterelles, partners are chosen via grasshoppers. As seen in the illustration above, a lady sits in the center of the room; two gentlemen are given grasshoppers which they place on the ground at the same time. The one whose grasshopper jumps first claims the first dance with the lady. Those are mighty big grasshoppers (I’m guessing this was a seasonal dance) who have clearly been raised on French food!
The second half of this volume presents appropriate music for the dances, many of which were taken from the popular operas and operettas of the day. For instance, you might choose to set your Grasshopper dance to “Je veux vivre!” from Roméo et Juliette, by Gounod. I’ve always felt this aria had a hoppy, energetic feeling, which might suit the madness ensuing when the gentlemen were unable to recapture their grasshoppers…