- Era: 1840s to early 1900s, America
By the middle of the nineteenth century, the five figures of the first set of quadrilles had grown drearily familiar, and several lively, standardized figures had developed which could be substituted in for one or more of its figures. These replacement figures were known as "fancy figures" or "promiscuous figures" and could be used to enliven any quadrille. Two popular ones were the Basket Figure and the Star Figure, with the Basket being slightly more common in period sources. The Star appeared in dance manuals from the late 1850s all the way into the early 20th century. The Basket is even earlier, appearing as far back as 1841. The figures are equally useful today as a way to spice up a well-known quadrille without going to the bother of learning an entire new set of five figures.
Dancers in positions for a quadrille figure (from Hillgrove, 1863)
Basket Figure (48 bars x4 plus 8b intro)
4b Head couples forward and back
Take inside hands with partners; walk forward three steps and close; same backward
4b Head couples cross over
Pass right shoulders with opposites (ladies between gentlemen); end facing partners
4b Head couples balance to partners
Walk forward three steps and close, coming right shoulder to right shoulder with partner; same backward
4b Head couples cross back
As before, ladies inside gentlemen; end facing partners
8b Head couples balance
Take crossed hands (right in right, left in left) and slide seven steps and close diagonally across the set, gentlemen passing back to back; repeat back to places
8b Ladies to the center
All four ladies forward and back, forward again, and joins hands in a small circle
8b Gentlemen hands round on the outside
All four gentlemen join hands around ladies and circle clockwise (4b) and back (4b), finishing to the left of their partners
(music pauses briefly)
Men raise their joined hands and the ladies, keeping hands, stoop slightly and move backwards to stand outside the gentlemen's arms, to the right of their partner, forming a basket
4b Balance in circle
Step forward, close, back, close, forward, close, back, close.
4b Turn partners two hands to places
Notes on the Basket Figure
1. The figure is repeated four times; the first two times the head couples do the first 24 bars of dance and the ladies join hands in the center. The third and fourth times, the side couples start and the gentlemen join hands in the center.
2. Instead of going forward and back into the center, the ladies may join hands and circle clockwise (4b) and back (4b).
3. This figure is generally substituted for either Figure 2 or Figure 5 in the first set of quadrilles; if it is used for Figure 5, a final eight bars of "All Chassez" may be added at the end; see the Star Figure below for directions to this figure.
4. There is a piece of music, "Life Let us Cherish," which was a popular tune attributed to Mozart, listed as standard for this figure in several sources. It is a 16-bar piece of music played Da Capo (first eight bars repeated) to make 24 bars, which would have to be repeated eight times to fit this figure. Other pieces of the same length (or 48-bar pieces repeated four times) will work, but be sure that either the musicians are aware of the need for a pause or ritard after the first 40 bars of each repetition or that the dancers are aware that they should form the basket quickly without waiting for a musical cue.
5. Other figures may be substituted at will for the first 24 bars of dance, preceding the actual basket sequence, but the figures given are most common.
6. The first 16 bars were abbreviated historically to a single call "Forward Two." Modern dancers are unlikely to find this call helpful, so I have written out the individual figures.
The earliest appearance of this figure that I have discovered is in the anonymous 1841 manual, The ball-room instructer [sic], where only the bare 24 bars of the basket sequence are included and the figure is called "Basket-Dance."
Star Figure (32 bars x4 plus 8b intro plus 8b finale)
4b All four ladies forward and back
4b All four gentlemen forward and back
8b Ladies right hands across, left hands back
Keep left hands and give right hands to partners to form a cross or star
4b Balance in cross/star
Step forward, close, back, close, forward, close, back, close
4b Turn partners by the right hand to places
Ladies turn at the end to give left hands to partners for promenade position
8b All promenade round
Right hands in right, left in left, travel counterclockwise around the set using a galop step
Last time only:
8b All chassez
Face partners. Slide four steps to the right (ladies moving in and gentlemen out) and back to the left (4b); bow/curtsy to partner (4b)
Notes on the Star Figure
1. On the first two repeats, the ladies take the lead; the third and fourth times, the gentlemen. The ladies and gentlemen may also alternate.
2. This figure is typically substituted for Figure 5 in the first set.
3. Some later sources put the promenade at the beginning of the figure instead of the end, which is a very typical way of organizing a final (fifth) figure. There is also a shorter (24b) version which eliminates the promenade and final chassez entirely; this version might have been substituted for Figure 2.
4. This is not the same as the earlier "L'Etoile" or "Star" figure used in the Royal Scotch Quadrilles or as a cotillion figure.
Sources for the Basket and Star Figures
These two figures appeared in numerous sources throughout the second half of the 19th century. A representative sample includes:
Anonymous, The ball-room instructer [sic]. New York. 1841.
Anonymous. Cartier and Baron's practical illustrated waltz instructor, ball room guide, and call book. New York, c1879.
Anonymous. Wehman Bros.' book on the way to dance. New York, early 1900s.
Brookes, Laurence De Garmo. Brookes on modern dancing. New York, 1867.
De Garmo, William B. The dance of society. New York, 1875.
Dodworth, Allen. Dancing and its relations to education and social life. New York, 1900 (original edition 1885).
Ferrero, Edward. The Art of Dancing. New York, 1859.
Harvey, J. H. Wehman's complete dancing master and call book. New York. c1889.
Hillgrove, Thomas. A complete practical guide to the art of dancing. New York, 1863.
Hillgrove, Thomas. The scholars' companion and ball-room vade mecum. New York, 1857.
Howe, Elias (attrib). Howe's complete ball-room companion. Boston, 1858.