7. Conduct of a dancing master’s practice (1 of 3)

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In spite of ungentlemanly raids on other fellows’ circuits and premises there were clearly rules, or a gentlemen’s agreement, as to terms of practice and standard prices for tuition, and ‘entrance’ fees, which all masters waived for a pupil with some tuition from another master. Examples of terms show a rise from the mid 1790s:

1760 Browne 15/- per quarter 5/- entrance
1793 Vernon 15/- per quarter 10/ entrance
1793 Lalliet 1 guinea per quarter 10/6 entrance
1793 Noverre 1 guinea per quarter 1 guinea entrance
1803 Lassells 1 guinea per quarter 1 guinea entrance

Matthews was one of many who considered it not the thing to advertise financial terms which ‘may be known on personal application’ and in private.

Cailliault – knowingly or otherwise – undercut the other masters and was maligned as a result. He seems to have played the innocent but did not profit by it.

The world of the Norwich dancing master was a busy one; there were more than 20 masters who practised between 1690 and 1815 in 21 locations used as teaching rooms. Between one and three masters were in practice at any one time with incursions from one to three raiders in some years.

Dancing masters commonly practised within a 20-mile radius; they worked hard and travelled a lot. Advertising that they took no more than 20 pupils (Gosnold) was meant to indicate that no pupil could skulk, ignored, at the back of the class.

The Pupils’ Ball had standard rules and prices:
1759 Harris 5/- scholars 2/6 non-scholars – a sop to parents and a carrot for prospective pupils
1793 Christian 6/-
1794 Noverre 5/-, which remained his price into the 1800s.

The Pupils’ Ball began at 6 or 7 pm, and at about 9pm ‘There will be dances as usual for Ladies and Gentlemen’, who no doubt felt obliged to dance better than usual. There were variations. Oliver’s ‘Scholars’ Publick Ball’ in 1752 opened with a concert. Vernon opened his Scholars’ Ball in 1774 with minuets, but it was usual to open with an entry march for the pupils after which minuets were succeeded by allemandes, gavottes, cotillons and ‘fancy dances’ – arrangements of a couple dance for several couples to show off to Mama and Papa. Dancing masters’ published collections of dances often follow this order, eg Augustin Noverre’s A New March, 6 new Minuets, 6 new Cotillons and 2 new Country Dances.

In some towns, Lancaster for example, pupils’ balls took place in the theatre. There is a description of such an event in The Clandestine Marriage.

London dancing masters commonly made visits to France to learn new dances and fashions. The provincial master went to London for training by a metropolitan master and new dances at second hand, returning to advertise his new skills.

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