Like the Quadrille du Pas de Quatre, le Moulinet du Pas de Quatre is an experiment by French dancing master and author Eugène Giraudet in adapting the standard Pas de Quatre (a version of the schottische popular in Europe in the late nineteenth century) for small sets of dancers.
The Moulinet is a simple sequence dance, alternating between a short figure for two couples (done to schottische music) and waltzing. It involves only half of the standard Pas de Quatre step-sequence, which makes it a gentle and accessible introduction to the schottische for those new to the dance.
Unusually, we know not only the originator of the Moulinet but precisely when it was created: on March 10, 1897. Giraudet wrote in a later edition of his Traité de la danse (Paris, c1900) that it was
Créée le 10 mars 1897, pendant une récréation de leçon, avec le concours de MM. et Mlles Mourets, ses élèves, qui ont aidé le maître, par leur gracieux dévouement et leur lumière élégante, ce qui a fait de cette danse la plus belle création du siècle et du maître.
Created on 10 March, 1897, during a break in a lesson, with the cooperation of the Monsieurs and Mademoiselles Mourets, his pupils, who have helped the master by their graceful devotion and their elegant light, which have made of this dance the most beautiful creation of the century and of the master.
Giraudet also offered his "sincères hommages" to these pupils, from which I would construe that he had as much interest in the family’s continued patronage as in the quality of the dance. "The most beautiful creation of the century and of the master" is a vast, vast exaggeration.
Was it actually danced after that one lesson?
It’s hard to say how popular any dance like the Moulinet became outside its creator’s own studio, but Giraudet certainly made an effort to promote it over the years. In the July of 1903, the Société internationale des maîtres choréographes held a congress in Westphalie. Giraudet, as president of the Société, was heavily involved, and when the dancing masters had finished making speeches bashing the “grotesque et ridicule” cakewalk and generally lamenting the state of the modern ballroom, they settled on seven more respectable dances to accept for the 1903 season. Fourth of these was the Moulinet. This backward-looking decree was reported with varying degrees of sarcasm in Parisian journals such as Le Temps and Figaro.
Nonetheless, the Moulinet seems to have achieved enough fame, at least in some circles, to be mentioned in a series of jokes about dance in late 1905:
Le Moulinet du Pas de Quatre aura pour prélude le Pas de Trois; celle-ci, sera dit-on, réservée aux mathématiciens.
The Moulinet du Pas de Quatre [four] will have for its prelude the Pas de Trois [three]; this one, it will be said, reserved for mathematicians.
And in early 1907, the Moulinet appeared in a list of dances “en vogue” in les salons (as opposed to among “la société c’est-à-dire (la bourgeoisie) et le peuple”).
On to the practical details.