French Dances’ in Late Seventeenth-Century England

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


This paper considers the largely anonymous repertoire known in England, in the middle Baroque, as ‘French Dances’. Its significance is easily overlooked, but it influenced a range of composers of instrumental music in England in the late seventeenth century – for instance, Matthew Locke and Giovanni Battista Draghi borrowed the openings of some of the tunes. The extent to which ‘French dances’ were of French origin is debateable, although at least some of the repertoire survives in French sources, and it was explicitly understood at the time to be ‘French’ in style. Much of the repertoire was published as single-line music for a treble instrument, by John Playford, in the series Apollo’s Banquet (1669–1693), as well as within predecessor supplements attached to earlier editions of Playford’s The Dancing Master (c.1655–1665). Nevertheless, there are also several significant manuscript sources, including one that may be the work of a French dancing master working in England in the 1680s, which will be considered in this paper. In addition to its significance as identifiable ‘French style’ music in England, the repertoire of ‘French dances’ illustrates how memorisation played a significant part in the dissemination of musical style in this period. The repertoire was almost certainly memorised by dancing master violinists; some of it may also have been memorised by ‘mainstream’ art musicians in England when writing instrumental music for a variety of needs in a similar style.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventMusic in Transition: Music in Transition: Changing Styles and Approaches in the Mid-Baroque (1650-1710) - Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham City University, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 Jul 20153 Jul 2015


ConferenceMusic in Transition
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • French Dances
  • Consort Dances
  • Matthew Locke


Dive into the research topics of 'French Dances’ in Late Seventeenth-Century England'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this