(1673—1760) dancer and choreographer
(b Shrewsbury, baptismal date 21 Jul. 1673; d Shrewsbury, 24 Sept. 1760)
British dancer, choreographer, teacher, and dance theorist, regarded as the father of British pantomime and a pioneer of the ballet d'action. The son of a dancing master, he himself was apprenticed to a dancing master in Shrewsbury, probably Edward Dyer, and became a dancing master in Shrewsbury from 1695. From 1700 to 1736 he danced in the London theatres of Drury Lane, Lincoln's Inn Fields, and York Buildings, performing mostly comic and character roles, and he choreographed his first work The Tavern Bilkers (1702/3) at Drury Lane. His seminal work was The Loves of Mars and Venus (mus. Symonds, 1717), in which he attempted to fuse dance and mime into a coherent narrative, rather than presenting ballets as decorative divertissements. He continued his narrative experiment with Orpheus and Eurydice (1718) and The Judgement of Paris (after the masque by Congreve, mus. Seedo, 1733). He wrote his own libretti and in addition notated many court dances, translated Feuillet's Chorégraphie (pub. as Orchesography, 1706), and was author of, among other works, An Essay towards a History of Dancing (1712), Anatomical and Mechanical Lectures upon Dancing (1721), and The History of Mimes and Pantomimes (1728).