The rigaudon derives from a folk dance form from the region of Provence, from which it migrated to the French court in the mid-17th century. Danced at court balls and in theatre as a partner dance, the rigaudon is a joyful, lively dance, similar to the gavotte in terms of its tempo and character.
Following its short presence in the ball rooms, the rigaudon made its way to the operatic and ballet repertoire, where it flourished in the first half of the 18th
century, only to wane towards the end of the century. The dance masters at the time described it as a lively dance of divers steps, and animated and joyous character. The fundamental step of the rigaudon is the pas de rigaudon
contained within two bars and featuring the demicontretemps
and the sauté
, i.e. the hop-step in the first position. Despite the disappearance of the rigaudon from the dance repertoire, its steps (pas de rigaudon
) would survive as part of the French contredanses. The rigaudaon compositions present in the 18th
century ballets and operas were to be performed by actors playing rustic, somewhat coarse characters such as peasants and sailors. Perhaps the most famous of such compositions transcribed in the Feuillet notation is Rigaudon des Vaisseaux
Conté Pierre, Danses anciennes de cour et de théâtre en France, Paris, 1974.
Drabecka Maria, Choreografia baletów warszawskich za Sasów [Choreography of Warsaw Ballets During the Saxon Reign of Poland], Cracow, 1988.
Larousse-Bordas, Dictionnaire de la danse, Paris, 1999