How to dance quadrille

Cotillon Steps and Quadrille Steps

The Cotillon

A few years ago, I wrote a series of posts about the cotillon steps recorded by London’s dancing masters in the 1760s. In 1762, De la Cuisse (who began the cotillon craze by publishing these dances) listed six steps in his Le Repertoire des bals ou theorie-pratique des contredansesbalancé, rigaudon, contretems, chassé, pirouette and pas de gavotte (the demi-contretems, which he described as ‘un Pas naturel; C’es le Pas fondamental de la Contredanse’). All are familiar from the dance manuals of the early 1700s. Between them, Gallini, Gherardi and Villeneuve added another six – assemblé, glissade, ‘brizè à trois pas’, ‘chassé à trois pas’, double chassé and sissonne.  Three of these were also described in the earlier manuals, while three – the brizé and chassé ‘a trois pas’ and the double chassé were apparently more recent.

The Quadrille

The step vocabulary for the early 19th-century quadrille was more extensive and some of the steps were certainly more challenging than any used in the cotillon. One of the earliest works to deal with the quadrille was Notions élémentaires sur l’art de la danse by J. H. Gourdoux-Daux, published in Paris in 1804. The second edition was titled Principes et notions élémentaires sur l’art de la danse pour la ville and appeared in 1811. It was presumably this edition that was translated into English for publication in Philadelphia in 1817 as Elements and Principles of the Art of Dancing as used in Polite and Fashionable Circles. This translation describes nine steps for use in quadrilles – the ‘change of foot’ (changement de jambe), assemblé, jeté, sissonne, échappé, temps levé, grand coupé, chassé and glissade. Only one, chassé, is among the cotillon steps prescribed by De la Cuisse, while three more appear in the collections published in London – assemblé, glissade and sissonne. The last of these occurs only in Villeneuve’s Collection of Cotillons and he does not describe it. By the time Gourdoux-Daux was writing, the sissonne had become a spring from two feet to one, beginning in third position and ending with the free foot either extended to second or fourth position or brought into the ankle. It is recognisable as the second part of the pas de sissonne recorded in the early 1700s.

Gourdoux-Daux published a third edition of his treatise titled simply De l’art de la danse in 1823, which is accessible digitally. It adds a tems du balonné, pas de bourrée, tems de cuisse, demi-contretems, brisé and entrechat. His third edition is described as ‘revue, corrigé et augmenté’, indicating that it contains new material. However, without access to Gourdoux-Daux’s earlier editions, it is not possible to know whether he included any of these steps before 1823 or whether his American translator simply omitted them as either not generally used or, perhaps, not appropriate for social dancing.

In 1822, Alexander Strathy published his Elements of the Art of Dancing in Edinburgh. His list has twelve quadrille steps – assemblé, jeté, glissade, sissonne, temps levé, chassé, échappé, pirouette, changement de jambe, pas de Zéphyre or pas battu, jeté tendu and jeté du côté. His vocabulary overlaps with that of Gourdoux-Daux, but both have steps not included by the other.

The only other treatise I will look at here is Charles Mason’s A Short Essay on the French Danse de Société published in London in 1827. His vocabulary overlaps with both Gourdoux-Daux and Strathy and also includes steps they do not list. Mason’s list has twenty of what he calls ‘Les Mouvemens’ – changement de jambes, assemblé, jeté, sissonne, tems levé, chassé, glissade, jeté ballonné, tems de Zéphyre, coupé, pas de basque, pas de bourrée, tems de ‘coudepied’, jeté brisé, pas tombé, fouetté, contretems, pirouette, emboîté and petits battemens. Some of these may have been embellishments to steps, rather than steps in their own right, and some may have been used only within the ‘Differens Enchainemens de Pas’ Mason refers to on his title page.

In the following table I have tried to set out the steps recommended for the cotillon and quadrille respectively, with the name of each dancing master to include it listed in order of the date of their first publication in which it appears. For the purposes of this investigation, I have omitted the Allemande step used in so many cotillons – it is probably worth another post of its own (although I did write about it a few years ago). There were, of course, several other works on dancing – and the quadrille – published in the early decades of the 19th century, so my list of steps is probably far from complete and it is certainly not definitive. How and why did the step vocabulary change and expand so much as the cotillon gave way to the quadrille?


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Its Origins and History : Interlude

You might know the Quadrille as a dance from Alice in Wonderland. When she’s speaking with the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon, they tell her about the dance they used to perform at school, when they were learning the fundamentals of Reeling and Writhing and Drawling, Stretching, and Fainting in Coils. The Lobster Quadrille involved all the fish in the sea taking a lobster as a partner, and, at the last part of the dance, throwing them out to sea.

The people’s dance of the quadrille, as opposed to the Lobster Quadrille, was an early version of the American Square Dance. As can be determined from the name, the number ‘4’ was important to this dance. It started in the military, where 4 mounted horsemen would execute square formations. On the dance floor, the quadrille started in France around 1760. Two couples, and then eventually, four couples formed a square, and each couple danced in turn. The head couple would dance a step and the side couples would repeat it.

In 1816, the quadrille hit England, introduced from Paris by Lady Jersey, and it was an instant hit. In his book of reminiscences, the dandy Rees Howell Gronow (1794-1865) found it so memorable that he lists the dancers of the very first quadrille in England: ‘I recollect the persons who formed the very first quadrille that was ever danced at Almack’s: they were Lady Jersey, Lady Harriett Butler, Lady Susan Ryde, and Miss Montgomery; the men being the Count St. Aldegonde, Mr. Montgomery, Mr. Montague, and Charles Standish.’

Joseph Grego: The First Quadrille at Almack’s, introduced by Lady Jersey, from The Reminiscences and Recollections of Captain Gronow, 1862

The quadrille was made up of a series of dances that were performed in sequence, called Le Pantalon (“Trousers”), L’été (“Summer”), La Poule (The Hen”), La Trénis (named for the dance master Trenitz), La Pastourelle (“The Shepherd Girl”), Finale. The music was a series of 8-measure themes, with each part of the sequence being in a different time, alternating between 2/4 and 6/8.

George Cruikshank: Dos à Dos / Accidents in Quadrille Dancing, 1817 (Minneapolis Institute of Art)

The dancing was complicated and the caricaturist George Cruikshank took advantage of the frequent accidents in his pictures from 1817, Dos à Dos and Vis à Vis (Back to Back and Face to Face).

George Cruikshank: Vis à Vis / Accidents in Quadrille Dancing, 1817 (Minneapolis Institute of Art)

He also showed the beauty of the dance in full motion:

Moulinèt: Elegancies of Quadille Dancing, 1817 (Minneapolis Institute of Art)

The dance composers in Austria, Joseph Lanner and the Strauss dynasty quickly brought out quadrilles.

Johann Strauss I: Orpheus-Quadrille, Op. 162 (Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra, Košice; Mika Eichenholz, cond.)

As you can hear, the Quadrille sounds like a series of short dances. As each couple danced out from the corners of the square, they would have a different dance and time signature with each new section.

Johann Strauss II / E. Strauss / Josef Strauss: Schutzen-Quadrille (Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; Zubin Mehta, cond.)

As with all fashions, the quadrille would be sidelined by that even more controversial dance, the Waltz.

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Circular quadrille

Pair dance for children 8-9 years old.

Dance is included in the Rhythm Program for the 2nd grades of St. Petersburg secondary schools.


Time signature 2/4.

Basic dance elements:

  • Dance step
  • Side steps
  • Crossed steps
  • Heel steps
  • Exposing the foot to the side on the heel, or step-heel to the side
  • "Do-for-do" (dos-à-dos - back to back)
  • Stepping over
  • Step-point (step-tap, or step-strike)


Dance recording - Kondratenko G.M. ("Dances and games for children of 6 years of age". Methodological development. Compiled by Kondratenko G.M. St. Petersburg, NOU "Institute for the Development of Education "Change", 2007.)


Dance composition takes 16 measures of musical accompaniment

Starting position:

The dancers stand in pairs in a circle, facing each other: the boy is facing along the line of dance, the girl is standing with her back along the line of dance.

Feet in 1 (natural) position.

Hands raised to 2nd position, hands joined - "by fingers".

1 figure - Side steps to the center and from the center - 8 measures.

1-2 cycles. Count 1-2-3-4

The dancers perform side steps towards the center in pairs.

The boy starts with his left foot. The girl starts on the right foot.

1- Step from the toe to the side, towards the center (boy - left foot to the left, girl - right foot to the right).

2-Step back/cross - place the free leg back, about 3 pos. (boy - right leg, girl - left) and squat slightly on two legs.

3- One more step from the toe to the side, to the center (boy - left foot to the left, girl - right foot to the right).

4- Move the free leg to the side on the heel (the boy puts the right foot on the heel, the girl - the left). Don't lean on the outstretched leg. The supporting leg is slightly softened. The head turns towards the exposed leg (for the boy - to the right, for the girl - to the left). The movement is accompanied by a slight natural inclination of the body in the same direction.

3-4 cycles. Count 5-6-7-8

Dancers in a pair repeat the movements of 1-2 measures, moving now from the center. The boy starts on the left foot, the girl on the right foot. Before the first step to the side, you need to remove the foot from the heel, pull the toe and take a step to the side from the toe.

5-8 strokes. Count 1-2-3-4, 5-6-7-8

Repeat movements 1-4 measures.

2 figure - "C-for-do" - 4 measures.

9-12 bars. Account 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8

Partners separate their arms and lower them down along the body, the hands are raised.

Count 1-2-3-4-5-6-7- In 7 steps, the partners go around each other's backs, moving clockwise, and return to their places. The boy starts on the left foot, the girl on the right foot. Moving forward, partners meet with their right shoulders, moving backward - with their left. On the steps "to-for-do" the boy's hands move forward / backward along the body. The girl with each step makes a slight movement of her shoulders up / down.

On a count of 8, place your free leg next to your skating leg. The boy puts his right leg without weight to his left leg. The girl puts her left foot to her right and transfers her weight to her left foot. (Both partners have their right leg free.)

3 figure - "Window" - 2 cycles.

13-14 bars.

Both dancers start with the right foot.

OPTION-1. Count 1-I-2, 3-I-4

1- Partners take a small step forward with their right foot (towards each other). The knee of the right leg softens. At the same time, they give each other their right hands and raise them in 3 poses. - "window". The left arms are lowered down, the hands are raised.

I-2- Partners step over in place (left foot, right foot), slightly tilting their heads to the left and looking at each other through the "window" from under the joined hands. Stepping is performed from the pad to the entire foot and is accompanied by springy movements in the knees up / down.

3- Both partners take a small step back with their left foot (away from each other). The knee of the left leg softens. The connected right hands go down to level 1 pos.

I-4- Dancers perform a springy stepover in place (right foot, left foot).

OPTION-2. Count 1-2-3-4

Instead of stepping, you can perform a tap with the free leg (soft ball kick) next to the supporting leg:

1-2- Small step with the right foot forward and warm with the left foot next to the right foot.

3-4- Take a small step back with the left foot and tap with the right foot next to the left foot.

On a step forward, the partners may not join hands in 3 poses, but move their right hands to each other from top to bottom, connecting the hands with a handshake ("hello"). On a step back, the hands are separated.

4 figure - Transition to a new partner - 2 measures.

15-16 cycles. Score 5-6-7-8

Both the boy and the girl start with the right foot.

Count 5-6- Two steps forward with the right foot, passing each other and meeting with the right shoulders: the boy moves forward along the line of dance in the inner circle, the girl moves forward against the line of dance in the outer circle. The dancers move on to new partners. On the steps, the boy's hands move forward / backward along the body. The girl with each step makes a slight movement of her shoulders up / down.

Count 7-8- Take a step with the right foot to the side (in front of the new partner) and bring the left foot to the right in 1 pos. The boy puts his left foot to his right foot without weight. The girl, putting her left foot to her right, transfers the weight of the body to her. (The boy's left leg is free, the girl's right.) At the same time, the dancers join their hands in the starting position with a new partner.

The dance composition is repeated with a new partner.


  1. " Dances and games for children 6 years of age ". Methodological development. Compiled by Kondratenko G.M. St. Petersburg, NOU "Institute for the Development of Education" Change ", 2007
  2. Educational and methodological recommendations for organizing work with the whole class in elementary school on rhythm, rhythmoplasty and ballroom dancing . Shutikov Yu.N. St. Petersburg, 2006
  3. " Folk dances ". Series "Everybody dance". Author-compiler O.V. Ivannikov. Moscow - ed. AST, Donetsk - ed. STALKER, 2007
  4. " Rhythm at school, the third lesson of physical culture ". Teaching aid. Zh.E. Firileva, A.I. Ryabchikov, O.V. Zagryadskaya. Publishing House Phoenix, Rostov-on-Don, 2014

Poems for children about the dance "Circular quadrille "

For Russian quadrille, old
Only four pairs are needed.
Everyone will dance with you!

Video for the dance "Circular Quadrille"

Figures of the dance demonstrate KONDRATENKO G. M. - Head of the GMO of ballroom dance teachers at St. Petersburg State Children's and Youth Theater and ZOLOTOVKHAYA T.V. - Lecturer in the choreography department of the Leningrad Regional College of Culture and Art. The recordings were made at seminars for ballroom dance teachers.

The full composition of the dance is presented on video recordings made at the GMO seminar for ballroom dance teachers at St. A.I. Herzen in ballroom dancing among students and youth and at the City competition of dance groups under the program "Rhythmika".

Types of quadrille and their features - Encyclopedia of modern knowledge

Dance creativity of the Russian people

Each nation has its own traditional dances, the features of which are associated with the ethnic character, the system of spiritual and moral values ​​and images - ideals. Folk dances reflect the labor and everyday traditions of the people, the characteristics of the natural environment and its habitation. Folk dance reveals centuries-old traditions to future generations. In ancient times, folk dances existed in close connection with magical rites, rituals, holidays of the folk calendar. Often dances performed incantatory functions. In the language of dance, a person wanted to ask the higher powers for rain in order to get a good harvest or a successful hunt, etc.

The people of the North still have dances of the bear, walrus, deer, which had a ritual meaning and, according to ancient beliefs, contributed to successful hunting, fishing, etc.

Over time, folk dances have lost their magical ceremonial and ritual functions, and began to turn into one of the forms of leisure, recreation and entertainment.

Russian folk dances have a number of characteristic features. The manner of their performance is distinguished by breadth, simplicity and accessibility.

In different territories Russian folk dance is performed differently: in the North - majestically, sedately, proudly; in the central part - sometimes lyrically, sincerely, sometimes cheerfully and playfully; in the south - the manner of performing the dance is perky, daring and mischievous.

The main types of Russian folk dance are round dance and dance.

Round dances are ornamental and playful, linear and circular, etc. Ornamental and play round dances are the most typical for round dance and especially popular.

Ornamental - round dances depicting an ornament, pattern, figures, lace.

The skill of the leading performer is important in them. Songs, under which an ornamental round dance is performed, are called round dance songs.

Game - these are round dances in which actions are played out according to the plot of a round dance song.

Expressive means are used in these round dances:

Shawl - pillow, bed;

Stick - horse, sword, crutches;

Whip - a symbol of obedience; etc.

In the game circle dance, not so much the ability of the ringleader to invent a drawing is valued, but his acting skills and vocal abilities.

Dance is one of the oldest types of Russian folk dance.

The dance happens:

  • Single - a dance performed by one dancer,
  • A pair dance is a dance performed by two guys, two girls, a guy and a girl, etc.
  • Dance - dances are performed in front of each other, or wall to wall, or a girl against a guy.

The purpose of the dance is a competition in dexterity, strength, intelligence, endurance. The winner is the one who danced his opponent, performed the most knees, demonstrated the most difficult tricks (crackers, fractions, spins, jumps).

With the change in the way of life of the people, a woman becomes a more active participant in traditional festivities. Elements of solo dance appear in women's dance, women - performers of the dance bring a new stream to the performance of the dance - a ditty. First, a penetration is performed, then a ditty, and after a knee.

Dances are performed under the Barynya, Kamarinskaya, Polyanka. There are dances: topotush (Arkhangelsk region), Ryazanochka, Yeletsky (Ryazan region), motanechka (Saratov region), loose (Bryansk region), etc.

Recently (since the 19th century) the Russian quadrille has become known.

Quadrille - 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 quadrille 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.


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 to 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 the famous song), L'ete (Summer), La Poule (Chicken - also in connection with the song), La Pastourelle (Pastoral) and Finale (Finale) with the inclusion in it by the dance master Trenits of a figure named after him La Trenis. 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 changed a lot, 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.

What is a square dance?

Quadrille time signature - 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 square dance and their features

There are many types of square dance as a folk dance: Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Estonian, Latvian, etc. Within the species, there may be many more local options, 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

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

Three groups of square dances can be distinguished according to the form of formation:

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, which can include up to 16 pairs and even more. 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.

Figures in the Russian quadrille can 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 square dance

Ukrainian square dance consists of many figures, up to twelve, differs mostly in musical compositions to which it is performed.

Learn more