Almost four years ago, I discussed the quadrille figure "chassé out", or chassé ouvert, in a post discussing the reconstruction of a mid-century quadrille. I've revisited the figure occasionally since then, both in its Regency-era context and in its unusual mid-19th century appearances in the quadrille calls of American dancing master Elias Howe, and found enough new information to be worth a fresh post on the topic and to make me reconsider how I would reconstruct the figure both for early quadrilles of the 1810s-1820s and for the quadrille sets published by Howe in 1858 and 1862.
The full eight-bar sequence (go to the side couples, chassé out, and form lines) takes the dancers from a normal quadrille formation thus:
into two facing lines with each pair of dancers proper (gentleman on the left):
W2 M4 W3 M1
M2 W4 M3 W1
My original reconstruction of the sequence as danced in the 1810s was pulled from two sources: Alexander Strathy's Elements of the Art of Dancing (Edinburgh, 1822) and J. H. Gourdoux's Elements and Principles of the Art of Dancing as translated from the original French to English (with some notable additions and subtractions) by dancing professor "V. G." and published in Philadelphia in 1817. Here's a quick recap of the two sources:
Strathy's combination, Figurer à Droite sur les Côtés followed by Chassé Ouvert to form lines of four at the top and bottom of the set is described as follows:
Figurer à Droite sur les Côtés.
To perform this figure, two Gentlemen opposite receive in their right hand the left band of their Ladies, and advance to the couple on their right, performing the Temps Levé, Chassé, Jeté, and Assemblé before. Then all do the Sissone Dessous and Assemblé before with the left foot; also the Sissone Dessous and Assemblé before with the right foot.
This is performed to four bars of music.
Then, to perform what is called Chassé Ouvert, and performed by eight.--The Gentlemen, and the Ladies who are before them, join both hands, and all do the Chassé, (the Ladies to the right, and the Gentlemen to the left); each Gentleman makes a half turn with the Lady who goes along with him, and places her on his right, the whole forming two lines opposite each other.
This also requires four bars of music.
The Gourdoux-as-translated-by"V. G." version is quite similar, other than specifying that the chassé out is two bars in which the couple simultaneously makes a half-turn and that the final two bars are filled by setting:
TRAIT TO GO THE SIDE COUPLES.
For the performance of this trait, two gentlemen of the opposite couples will receive the left hand of their partner with their right hand, and leading towards the couple on the right hand side, they will, all together, do the temps levé, the chassé, the jeté and the assemblé, Then, facing the side couples, they will do the sisone under with the left foot and assemblé with it above the right foot, the sisone under with the right foot, and the assemblé with it above the left in the third position.
This trait is performed during four bars of the music.
To perform what is called chassé ouvert, which is generally called, in English, chassé out, the gentlemen and ladies, facing each other, will give both hands, and beginning together with the right foot, will perform the temps levé, the chassé, the jeté and the assemblé. Each gentleman will, at the same time, cause the lady, whose hands he holds, to turn around with him, and place her on his right hand side. This motion will bring the four gentlemen and four ladies upon two straight lines, and each gentleman opposite to his partner. In that situation, they will all do the sisone under with the left foot, and assemblé above the right; sisone under with the right foot and assemblé above the left in the third position.
At the time, I regarded the 1817 source as giving a more detailed explanation of the same figure described by Strathy in 1822. I've since reconsidered that conclusion, and now believe that Strathy and Gourdoux (in the "V. G." translation, which may or may not represent Gourdoux's exact words) may well be describing two slightly different variations.
This reexamination was spurred by a look at some eighteenth-century French cotillon figures containing a similar sequence that made it clear that while leading to the right (or, occasionally, to the left) and performing a chassé out was not an uncommon sequence of moves, the half-turn at the end was not necessarily a standard part of it. This is beautifully illustrated in the a Parisian contredanse manual from 1762 by le Seigneur de la Cuisse, Le répertoire des bals, ou Theorie-pratique des contredanses, from whence comes the following charming illustration from the contredanse La Griel:
This clearly shows the head couples leading to the right and performing the chassé out; the accompanying descriptions read:
Les 4 qui ont agi les premiers vont figurer vis-à-vis ceux de leur droite.
L'on prend la Dame qui se trouve vis-à-vis de soy et l'on chasse ouvert avec elle.
There is no half-turn, however, either as part of the figure or immediately following. The dancers end up in facing lines, but with each pair of dancers improper:
M4 W2 M1 W3
W4 M2 W1 M3
There are a number of other examples of this figure in Le répertoire des bals; see the dances Les Babillardes (X and XI), La Le Blond (II and III), Les Vacances (II and III, then X and XI), and Les Echos de Passy (VIII and IX). Sometimes the sequence takes eight bars, in which case each part is followed by setting (go to the right, 2b; set, 2b; chasse out, 2b; set, 2b); and sometimes it is given only four bars, in which case the setting is omitted. But in no case is the problem of improper lines resolved by a half-turn. Instead, each new pair remains improper and all sorts of ingenius figures are used to eventually get everyone back to their original places with their original partner.
A similar sequence is found in Potpourri françois de contre danse ancienne, by M. Landrin, dated tentatively to c1760 by the Library of Congress. There are no diagrams, alas, but in the middle of the fourth "potpourri" are found the following instructions:
Les 4 premier vont fair face adoite ét rigodon
Chassé ouverd 2 par 2 rapproché ét frapé dans vos mains
Once again, the figure does not resolve via a half-turn.
While there is a long gap between the cotillon sources and the quadrille sources, what all this suggests to me is that I should not assume that either the half-turn or the setting are an inherent part of the figure. I now feel that Strathy and Gourdoux-via-"V. G." are describing two slightly different variations on a once-common theme. Strathy -- generally thorough in his descriptions -- did not leave anything out. He may be presumed to mean exactly what he says, and no more than what he says: go to the right (2b); set (2b); chassé out (2b); and half-turn (2b), while Gourdoux-via-"V. G." conflates the chassé out and half-turn and adds the setting at the end.
I've found a few other early nineteenth century sources that offer information beyond simply using the figure. Interestingly, none of them include setting at the end:
1. A later edition of Gourdoux (1819), which includes the usual follow-up figure in which the lines go forward and back and partners turn to places:
On faisait autrefois le tems figuré à droite ou sur le côté. Chaque cavalier et sa dame se donnent la main, et vont se placer devant le cavalier et la dame qui sont placés à leur droite et font un demi-balancé, puis le chassé dit ouvert pour se mettre tous sur deux lignes et chaque cavalier vis-à-vis sa dame; ensuite tous les huit vont en avant et arrière, puis chaque cavalier va au-devant de sa dame, font un tour de main jusqúà leur place.
--- J. H. Gourdoux, Recueil d’un genre nouveau de contredanses et walses de différens auteurs (Paris, 1819)
My colloquial translation:
One could also [as opposed to previously given options] sometimes do the figuré à droite ou sur le côté. Each gentleman and his lady take each other by the hand and place themselves in front of the gentleman and lady to their right, and perform a demi-balancé [setting], then the chassé called ouvert to put themselves in two lines and each gentleman facing his lady. Afterward, all eight go forward and back, then each gentlemen moves in front of his lady and they do a turn by the hand to their place.
There is no mention of either the half-turn or any setting at the end here, though presumably something must fill out the final two bars of the figure. Traveling straight outward for four bars would leave the dancers much too far apart. Since Gourdoux is precise in specifying when to do a demi-balancé (setting), I find it somewhat more likely that he would consider the half-turn included in "le chassé dit ouvert". That phrasing suggests to me a term of art rather than a literal instruction.
2. The first figure of the second set in Barclay Dun's A translation of nine of the most fashionable quadrilles (Edinburgh, 1818), though the figure is described rather than named:
The first and third couples dance into the middle, turning to the right, and set opposite the second and fourth, with whom they turn, forming a line of four on each side
The amount of turn is not specified. "On each side" is somewhat ambiguous; this could mean at the sides (rather than the top and bottom) of the quadrille, but the similarity of the sequence with those found in other sources and the awkwardness for the dancers of turning from that position into lines along the sides of the set make me think that "each side" is just an imprecise way of saying "top and bottom of the set". Again, there is no mention of further setting at the end of the figure.
3. The first figure of The Psychean Quadrille, by R. C. Sidney, published in the first volume of the Harmonicon (London, 1823), with simple calls in French but more detail in the English "translation":
Les quatre à droite sur les cotés ballotez; changez de dames en formant deux lignes.
The four opposite chasse to the couple on their right and ballote; turn opposite ladies round with both hands, and form two lines of four.
Both Dun and Sidney give their sequences eight bars, and both resolve them with lines moving forward and back and a turn of partners to places, just as described by Strathy. The first four bars are occupied by the approach to the right-hand couple and the setting (ballotez is a form of setting). No chassé out is specified, but the turning could travel sufficiently to separate the dancers into lines.
For both Dun and Sidney, a full turn would take four bars and leave the pairs improper, in the older eighteenth-century style, which is not necessarily a problem. It is quite possible to do the final turn to places if the pairs are improper. I think it more likely, however, since other sources of this era form the facing lines with couples proper, that it would be a turn once and a half round, which leaves the dancers in proper pairs and lines, in keeping with the Strathy and Gourdoux/"V. G." figures.
(Edited 12/27/12 to add: please see my reconstruction of Simonet's Third Set for an example of the use of a version of chassé ouvert in another Regency-era quadrille.)
To summarize, this leaves us with three different possibilities:
Strathy: go to the right (2b), set (2b), chassé out (2b), half-turn (2b)
Gourdoux/"V. G.": go to the right (2b), set (2b), chassé out with half-turn (2b), set (2b)
Dun/Sidney: go to the right (2b), set (2b), chassé out turning (4b)
The first two end with the new pairs proper; the third could go either way. There is also the 1819 Gourdoux sequence, which I believe would be identical to the Dun/Sidney sequence. Any of these possibilities would be a legitimate choice in reconstructing a quadrille of the 1810s or 1820s which gives merely the "figurer à droite sur les côtés, chassé ouvert" sequence without further detail.
The opportunity to make use of it in a reconstruction will not arise terribly often, however. While the sequence is used by Dun and Sidney and turns up now and then in quadrille sets, including Pratt's First Sett of Quadrilles (London, n.d., c1820) and John Hewitt's Nahant Quadrilles (Philadelphia, 1836), it is not actually all that common. Major London dancing masters Thomas Wilson and G.M.S. Chivers do not even include this sequence in their lists of quadrille figures, nor have I yet found it used in other early nineteenth-century sources for either quadrilles or the "French country dances" (cotillons) that preceded them. I also have not, so far, found it in any other dance manual published in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Gourdoux offers a possible explanation in his 1819 manual:
Cette figure ne se fait plus à cause de l’embarras qú' éprouveraient les danseurs, qui font à présent des contredanses ou quadrilles en nombre indéterminé au-dessus de huit.
English translation, courtesy of native French speaker Serge Mailloux:
This figure isn't done anymore, due to the embarrassment it would cause to the dancers, who nowadays do contredanses or quadrilles in indeterminate numbers of more than eight.
I'm not sure exactly why it would embarrass the dancers, but the important part of the comment is that the figure is out of style in Paris by 1819.
That message did not cross the Atlantic to Massachusetts caller and music publisher Elias Howe (1820-1895), a dancing master with a somewhat old-fashioned take on quadrilles. Howe, something of a child prodigy, would have learned his dance style in the early 1830s, and certain early quadrille figures lasted in his works long past the time when other dancing masters had discarded them.
In his 1858 and 1862 dance manuals, Howe included the go-to-the-right/chassé out/form lines sequence over and over again in his somewhat random calls for different sets of quadrille tunes, including "first four lead to the right and form lines", "first four lead to the right, chassee [sic] out form lines across the hall", or "the first four lead to right and balance, chassee out and form lines." Since Howe is notably inconsistent in his usage (discussed further in my previous discussion of this figure, Wrestling with Belle Brandon, and gives eight bars to all of these versions, I think it most likely that all three variations of wording mean the same as the final one: "the first four lead to right and balance, chassee out and form lines", remarkably like the 1819 Gourdoux description.
In Howe's quadrilles, the sequence really does need to end with each pair proper, since Howe sometimes follows it up not with a simple "lines forward and back, turn partners to places" sequence (in which whether the dancers end up in proper pairs or not does not really matter) but instead with other figures, such as right and left or a ladies' chain, performed side by side by the two facing groups of four dancers, for which proper starting position with the gentleman to the left of the lady is important.
Since Howe never once mentions any setting at the end of the figure, I would favor the Strathy version -- albeit without the fancy footwork, that being out of fashion by the 1850s -- of going to the right (2b), setting (2b), chassé out (2b) and half-turn (2b) over the Goudoux/"V. G." version with the extra setting at the end.
I would also choose the Strathy sequence with the half-turn at the end over the Dun/Sidney version with the turning incorporated into the outward travel because of the date of Howe's book. By the time it was published, women's dresses had become substantially larger and were supported by hoops, as may be seen on the title page of Howe's 1862 manual. If the dancers are arranged so that the head couples are facing the side couples and the dancers immediately take hands with the facing person and begin to turn clockwise, even with some attempt to travel outward both ladies will be swung between the gentlemen, passing very close to one another. As anyone who has danced in a hoop skirt can tell you, this is not an ideal situation. By following Strathy's instructions in the order written, the dancers would separate for two bars, then have an easy time making a half-turn at a good distance from the other couple.