Glossary of French Terms Used in the Quadrille

The Quadrille was a popular square dance that became fashionable in the late 18th century. It was first introduced at Louis XV’s court sometime around 1760 and would have been danced by the Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and her friend, the Princesse de Lamballe. It was first performed with two couples facing each other.

Quadrille Dancers, Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France

Quadrille Dancers. Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France.

In 1816, the Quadrille reached England through Sarah Sophia Child Villiers, Countess of Jersey. The Countess was an aristocrat and well-known patroness of Almack’s, and, because of her, the Quadrille became ultra-fashionable with the upper crust.

Sarah Sophia Child Villiers, Lady Jersey, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Sarah Sophia Child Villiers, Lady Jersey, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Elements of the Quadrille changed over time, and it evolved into the waltz. Additionally, other couples were added to the dance so that the Quadrille included eight persons thereby forming a square and allowing couples to take turns resting and dancing.

Because of its French origins, the terms used for the Quadrille were French, and, over time, some of the terms were done away with or changed. The following list provides the most frequent French terms used for the Quadrille by the mid 1800s, and it includes their English counterparts:

A Droite – To the right.
A Gauche – To the left.
A la Fin – Finish.
Assortiment du Quadrille – A set of quadrilles.
A Vos Places – To your places.

Balancé – Set or setting. It implies that a certain portion of time is to be occupied in the performance of a step or steps, to be danced in one and the same place. In a few Quadrille figures, the balancé is omitted, and a walking or gallop movement to the opposite side and back is substituted.
Balancez en Rond – All join hands and set in a circle.
Ballotez – A setting step of four times in place.

Quadrille Practicing at Home, Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Quadrille Practicing at Home. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library.

Chaine Anglaise – English Chain uses two couples, one to the right and one to the left, who go to opposite sides and back.
Chaine des Dames – Ladies chain. Two opposite ladies advance to the center, give right hands, pass on and turn opposite the gentlemen with left hands, and return to their places in the same manner.
Chaine des Dames Double – Double ladies chain, which is performed by all the ladies commencing at the same time. Thus, four ladies cross right hands, go half round, and turn opposite gentlemen with their left hand; cross right hands again, go half round, and turn partners with left hands.
Chassez à Droite et à Gauche or Chassez et Duchassez – Chassez is a term that frequently occurs in Quadrille dancing and in this case it means to move sideways in a straight line to the right and left.

Demi Chaine Anglaise – Half right and left.
Demi Poussette – Two couples join hands with partners and promenade round each other to their places.
Demi Promenade – A half promenade. Half promenade is performed by the opposite couples moving in a half circle, round to, and taking each others situation; if this circle was continued round to places, it would then be the whole promenade of two couples.
Demi Queue du Chat – Half promenade four.
Demi Rond – Half round.
Demi Tour à Quatre – Four hands half round.
Dos-à-Dos – Back to back. Two opposite people pass round each other, back to back, and then back to their place.
Dos-à-Dos en Quarré – The four couples forward to the center, and turn back to back in the form of a square, each gentleman passing his lady in front of him, and all finishing with their backs to the center.

Emboietté – A step in Quadrille dancing generally used to retire with.
En Avant – Advance forward.
En Arriere – Retire backward.

Figurez Devant – Dance before.
Figurez a Droite – Dance to the right.

First Quadrille at Almacks - left to right: Marquis of Worcester, Lady Jersey, Clanronald MacDonald, and Lady Worcester, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Supposed Illustration of First Quadrille at Almacks – left to right: Marquis of Worcester, Lady Jersey, Clanronald MacDonald, and Lady Worcester, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Grand (or all) Promenade – All the couples, one following the other, move around within the limits of their own set until they have regained their places.
Grande Promenade Tout les Huit – All eight dancers promenade.

La Grande Chaine – Right and left all round. All eight pass round until they regain their respective places, giving alternately their right and left hands, commencing with the right to partners.
Le Grand Quarré – Grand Square. The leading couples advance to center together; at the same time the side couples separate from each other sideways, the ladies to their right corners and the gentlemen to their left corners. They (the sides) move into the places of the leading couples, while the leading couples glide into the vacated sides. The sides then move up to the center, while the leading couples separate, as the sides did, to reach the corners, and so to their own places, while the sides move by the right and left into their places. This figure is effected by four distinct movements for each person; all must move together—each dancer making a square in one corner of the cotillion, and the hole figure makes the Grand Square.
Le Grande Tour de Rond – All join hands in a circle and move to the left around to places.
Le Main – The hand.
La Petit Quarré – The small squares. The first couple described squares, with the lady and gentleman on the right and left.
La Poussette – Performed by holding the lady’s hands and making her retreat, then she does the same by her partner.
Le Premier Cavalier – The first gentleman.
Le Premier Dame – The first lady.
Les Quarrés – The squares.
Les Tiroirs – First couple join hands and cross over between the opposite couples, while the latter separate, pass outside to opposite places; then leading couple separate, and the opposite couple pass between them all regaining their first places.

Dancing the Quadrille, Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Dancing the Quadrille, Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Moulinet – Hands across, or cross hands.

Pas d’Allamande – Pas d’Allamande is quite different from the Allamande figure. The Pas d’Allamande is a movement of the arms, when the gentleman takes either hand of the lady and passes her under his arm on either side; there are a variety of these movement which properly belong to the dance called the Allamande.
Pas de Basque – This step is peculiar to Southern France and bears a strong resemblance to the step of the Redowa.
Promenade or Queue de Chat – Promenade and Queue du Chat are the same.

Retraversez – Return to one’s place.
Rigadoon – A setting step used in Quadrille dancing.

Tour à Coin – Turn the corners.
Tour des Mains – Turn, giving both hands to the opposite person before resuming one’s place.
Tour sur Place – Turn in place.
Traversez – Cross over to opposite place.

Vis-à-Vis – Face to face (opposite).


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