Mademoiselle Mercandotti, Hughes Balls Hughes, and the (scandalous) uses of a Green Room

On 8 March 1823, the Spanish dancer, Mademoiselle Mercandotti was due to dance for a packed house in a performance of Daniel Auber’s ballet, Alfred. The audience were expectant: Mercandotti, who had arrived for the 1822-1823 season, had been dubbed ‘The Andalusian Venus’, and the manager of the King’s Theatre, John Ebers (c. 1785-c. 1830), ‘was pestered from morning to night by young men of fashion anxious to obtain an introduction.’ But when the moment came she failed to appear, and manager Ebers came on stage to announce her indisposition.

But it was later revealed that she had in fact eloped with a ‘young man of large fortune’, revealed to be the immensely wealthy Hughes Ball Hughes (1799-1863), nicknamed the ‘Golden Ball.’ As Walter Scott later commented: ‘few events in the fashionable world… excited more attention’, and it became one of the great scandals of the age. How the whole thing was accomplished remains obscure, although it is clear from his presence as a witness at the wedding that Ebers must have been involved.

This paper for Dancing Lives returns to these events, examining the circumstances of the elopement and its place in Mercandotti’s career, its position in the history of the King’s theatre and its troupe, and the building of the theatre’s first Green Room for the dancers. It will focus on the work of the caricaturists, to whom this (biographical) event offered a ‘golden’ opportunity to the satirists.

Michael Burden is Fellow in Music at New College, Oxford, and Professor in Opera Studies in the University. He did his undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Adelaide in South Australia, and his PhD at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He has served on the Council of the Royal Musical Association, is a patron member of the American Society for Eighteenth-century Studies, a trustee of Répertoire International des Sources Musicales (RISM), and is currently the Past President of the British Society for 18th-century Studies. He is Dean of the College, and also holds the offices of Chattels Fellow and Portraits Fellow. He served for some years on the University of Oxford Committee for the Museums and Scientific Collections, and is currently a Visitor of the Ashmolean Museum.

seabass creatives


Berto Pasuka: a dancing life of colonialism and diasporic culture

This paper for Dancing Lives looks at the way Berto Pasuka’s dancing embodies his life experiences. Pasuka was born in Jamaica in 1910 or 1911 and moved to London in 1939, founding his company Les Ballets Nègres there in 1946. The performances he gave in his ballets with this company exemplify an opposition to colonialism through re-encountering and restaging of Afro-Caribbean traditions of dance and drumming. This paper explores the ways in which an account of the physicality of Pasuka’s dancing and choreography can be used to show how this embodies his life experiences.

Ramsay Burt is Professor of Dance History at De Montfort University, UK. His publications include The Male Dancer (1995, revised 2007), Alien Bodies (1997), Judson Dance Theater (2006), Writing Dancing Together (2009) with Valerie Briginshaw, Ungoverning Dance (2016) and British dance: Black routes (2016) with Christy Adair. With Susan Foster, he is founder editor of Discourses in Dance. In 1999 he was Visiting Professor at the Department of Performance Studies, New York University. In 2010 he was Professeur Invité at l’Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis, and he is a visiting teacher at PARTS in Brussels.

Tim Gouw

Dancing all night with Aphra Behn: Jeffrey Boys’s Almanack for 1667

Mike Webb (Bodleian Libraries) and Jennifer Thorp (New College Oxford) contribute to Dancing Lives.

The Bodleian Library has recently acquired a Gallen’s Almanack for 1667 which belonged to Jeffery Boyes of Grays Inn, who has been suggested by Janet Todd as a candidate for the ‘Amyntas’ of Aphra Behn’s poems. In the diary section of the volume Boys records aspects of his social life, including attendance at plays at the theatre and at all-night dance parties with Aphra Behn and other acquaintances whose names throw light on the social and political circles in which he moved.

Aphra Behn by Mary Beale.

At the back of the volume he has written down the titles and figures of nineteen English country dances, seemingly as an aide-memoire from the perspective of the first man in the set which suggests that he himself danced them. Some of them are variant in form from the better-known versions published by Playford between 1651 and 1670, and another may be unique to Boys’s diary. They represent the dances popular with Boys’s circle of friends and at Grays Inn, which as one of the Inns of Court continued a long tradition of dancing at its own masques, revels and other feasts.

R1 – An Exploration of Content from the Choreographic Wastebasket

Choreographer Liam Francis is an advocate for rehabilitating discarded creative offerings.

Consequently, R1 is a performance piece composed entirely of rejected choreography banished to the choreographic wastebaskets of creative processes.

In particular, R1 draws from the wastebaskets of five creative processes that Francis was creatively involved in.

R1 is the first in a range of experiments that investigate the recovery of choreography that has been discarded.

The recycled choreography in R1 finds its texture, rhythm and dynamic from research into the idiosyncrasies of human communication.

Simone Damberg Würtz, Liam Francis, and Hannah Rudd will perform R1 at Dancing Lives.

Hailey Kean

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