Encyclopedia of Dance: Quadrille


Quadrille is a pair dance, once a salon dance, which eventually spread among the people, modified in movements and manner of performance, but retaining the compositional features of historical dance

As a folk dance, the square dance has many varieties: Russian and Ukrainian, Belarusian and Lithuanian, and even American (square dance, which means “square dance”). Each of the options is different originality and diversity.

History of occurrence

The name «quadrille» has common roots in French (quadrille), Spanish (cuadrilla), Latin (quadrum). This may raise doubts about which country is the birthplace of the dance. However, historical sources confidently assert that the square dance originated in France as a ballroom dance, formed from the English country dance. The country dance was danced in the 17th century by English peasants, and the square dance spread in the salons of France and other European countries in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Pairs of dancers were arranged in a quadrangle opposite each other and alternately performed their parts. The quadrille consisted of five figures, each of which ended with a general movement that united all the dancers.

At first, the figures were quite complex and were called Le Pantallon (Pants — after the name of a famous song), L’été (Summer), La Poule (Chicken — also in connection with the song), La Pastourelle (Pastoral) and Finale (Finale) with inclusion in him dance master Trainer of a figure named after him La Trénis. Despite the difficulty of mastering the figures, the movements had to be ideally worked out and brought to perfection by salon dancers. Over time, the quadrille changed a lot, the names of the figures were replaced by numbers, some movements disappeared, others were simplified.

Having conquered the visitors of salons and dance halls, the square dance began to spread among the people. This process was especially characteristic for Russia — the square dance was danced even at the assemblies of Peter I at the beginning of the 18th century. Gradually, she went into the folk environment, where she greatly changed, acquired a national character and became one of the favorite folk dances. Old figures were reworked, new ones were composed, which took into account the peculiarities and dance style in each individual locality. These changes, made to the folk dance, provided the square dance with a long life.

quadrilleWhat is a quadrille?

The musical size of the quadrille is 2/4, sometimes 6/8. Performed by an even number of pairs. There can be from 5 to 12 figures in a quadrille and a characteristic composition. However, when describing this dance, one should clearly understand what kind of quadrille is in question.

Types of quadrille and their features

There are many types of quadrille as a folk dance: Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Estonian, Latvian, etc. Within the species, there may be many more local variants, for example, a Russian square dance can be called Moscow, Volga, Ural, or, as in the northern regions of Russia, four, six, eight.

Russian square dance

The Russian quadrille has diverse forms and principles of construction, as well as figures that are quite complex in composition and technique.

According to the form of construction, three groups of quadrilles can be distinguished:

1. Square or corner, where the couples stand on the sides of the square (there are usually four of them) and the movement is carried out crosswise or diagonally.

2. Linear or two-row, in which up to 16 pairs and even more can participate. The composition of a linear quadrille is characterized by the movement of two lines of dancers towards each other.

3. Circular — 4, 6 or 8 couples dance in them. The movement is carried out in a circle, sometimes to the center of the circle and back into a large circle.

The figures in the Russian quadrille may have names associated with the nature of the movement performed or the pattern of the dance: a passage, an acquaintance, a twist, an asterisk, a collar, etc. There are pauses between the figures. The figures are announced as leading or a sign is given for their execution — with a handkerchief or a stomp.

Ukrainian quadrille

The Ukrainian quadrille consists of many figures, reaching up to twelve, differs to a greater extent in the musical compositions under which it is performed. Most often these are song melodies (“Balamute”, “Oh, don’t go, Gritsu”, etc.).

Belarusian quadrille

The Belarusian quadrille is characterized by simplicity of movements and a variety of constructions, the figures can be from 4 to 12. Unlike other types, the Belarusian quadrille can include solo dancers separately or in pairs. There are quadrilles built on the fusion of national dances with the form of a quadrille: “Bull”, “Chizhik”, “Vrubel”, etc.

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