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Collection of Dances in Choreography Notation (1700)

Images extracted from the latter half of Choregraphie, a book first published in 1700 which details a dance notation system invented in the 1680s at the court of Louis XIV. Its author, Raoul-Auger Feuillet, was maître de danse of the French King. In 1704 another maître de danse, Pierre Beauchamp, filed a formal complaint, arguing that Feuillet had taken credit for what was in fact Beauchamp’s invention. The system, which survived in modified forms into the 1780s, is now known as Beauchamp-Feuillet notation. It indicates the placement of the feet and six basic leg movements: plié, releveé, sauté, cabriole, tombé, and glissé. Changes of body direction and numerous ornamentations of the legs and arms are also part of the system, which is based on tract drawings that trace the pattern of the dance. Additionally, bar lines in the dance score correspond to bar lines in the music score. Signs written on the right or left hand side of the tract indicate the steps. Voltaire ranked the invention as one of the “achievements of his day” and Denis Diderot devoted ten pages to the subject in his Encylopdédie.

The rest of the book, including a beautifully illustrated explanation (in French) of the notation system, can be viewed here in our Texts collection.