La Boulangere

(Le Boulanger, La Boulanger)

{Mid-18th Century to Present}


Introduction

La Boulangere is an easy mixer that has been danced in various forms for over 250 years.

It is famous for being the only dance that Jane Austen mentioned by name, in Chapter 3 of Pride and Prejudice, as shown in the 1813 first edition above.

Several different versions of La Boulangere are described below.



Landrin's La Boulangere (c. 1760)

In his first Potpourri Francois des Contre-Danse Ancienne (c. 1760), Mr. Landrin of Paris describes the figure of La Boulangere as follows:



Translated:

One man takes his lady's right hand and takes a turn around her, then leaves her.
Give the left hand to the man who is on his right and take a turn with him.
Come back and take a turn with your lady and continue to turn with everyone else and come back to turn your lady.
In other words:
The first Lead offers his right hand to his partner and turns her once around by the right.

Then he offers his left hand to Lead to the right and they turn once around by the left.

Then he offers his right hand to his partner and turns her once around by the right again.

Then he turns that next dancer to the right (a Follow this time) once around by the left hand.

And turns his partner by the right again.

Repeat this pattern until he has danced with everyone.

Landrin doesn't explicitly describe the formation or the number of dancers, but based on other versions of the dance, it's reasonable to assume that this is also a circle for any number of couples. For this version to work as described, the Follows should be on the right, with everyone facing in.


Werner's Le Boulanger (1780)

In his 13th book of dances, for the year 1780, Francis Werner describes Le Boulanger as follows:



In other words:
All circle left, and all circle right back to places.

The first Lead turns the Follow to his left with his right hand.

Then he turns his partner with his left hand.

Repeat this pattern until he has danced with everyone.

Then repeat the circle left and circle right.

Then the Follow turns the Lead to the right with her right hand, and her partner with her left hand, repeating this with all Leads around the circle to place.

After the first couple has done this, every other couple does this in succession.

Note the many differences from Landrin's version:
  1. We've added a grand round to the beginning.
  2. The Lead travels clockwise around the circle, not counterclockwise.
  3. The Lead dances only with the other Follows, not with both Leads and Follows.
  4. The Lead offers his right hand to the other Follows, and his left hand to his partner, which is opposite of Landrin's version.
  5. After the first Lead does it, we repeat the grand round and then the first Follow does it (counterclockwise).
  6. After the first couple does it, every other couple does it in succession.


Campbell's La Boulanger (c. 1789)

In his Fourth Collection, c. 1789, William Campbell describes La Boulanger as follows:



In other words:

All circle left, and all circle right back to places.

The first Follow turns the Lead to her right with her right hand.

Then she turns her partner with her left hand.

Repeat this pattern until she has danced with everyone.

Then every Follow dances the figure.

Then every Lead dances the figure.

Given the structure of the music, there is likely a grand round in between each repeat of the figure. This isn't explicitly stated, but it is strongly implied by the fact that two parts of the tune are mentioned, with the grand round being danced to the first part of the tune, and the figure to the second.

The notable differences between this one and Werner's are:
  1. The first Follow dances first, not the first Lead.
  2. All of the Follows dance in order, then all of the Leads, rather than alternating roles based on the order of the couples.
  3. Though not explicitly stated, the Follows and Leads both appear to travel the same way around the circle (counterclockwise), rather than traveling different directions around the circle.


Howe's La Boulangere (1862)

In his American Dancing Master from 1862 (and several other publications in the 1860s), Elias Howe describes La Boulangere as follows:




In other words:

In a single circle with the Leads facing in and the Follows facing out

All circle clockwise, and all circle counterclockwise back to places (Leads are technically circling left and Follows are technically circling right).

The first Lead turns his partner by the right hand.

Then he turns the next Follow by the left hand.

While he is doing this, his partner "turn[s] by herself inside the circle," while "keeping as far as she can from him."

Then he turns his partner by the right hand.

Repeat this pattern until he has danced with all of the Follows.

Then everyone dances the grand round again.

Then the second Lead dances the figure, then the third, and so on, always doing the grand round in between.

Then all of the Follows dance the figure in succession, always doing the grand round in between.

"When the party is very large, two couples may begin at the same time, one at the top and the other at the bottom of the room."

The notable differences between this version and the previous versions are:
  1. The formation is different, with Leads facing in and Follows facing out.
  2. While the active dancer is away from their partner, their partner turns by themselves in the center of the circle.
  3. The idea that two couples can dance it at the same time is new.


Sources


© 2020 Nick Enge


For more, see our two books on dancing:
Waltzing: A Manual for Dancing and Living (2013) by Richard Powers and Nick Enge,
and Cross-Step Waltz: A Dancer's Guide (2019) by Richard Powers and Nick & Melissa Enge.


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