Parade (French street entertainment)

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For other uses, see Parade (disambiguation).
A parade being performed on the balcony of Nicolet's theatre at the Foire Saint-Germain (ca. 1763). One of the commedia dell'arte characters is the white-faced clown Gilles.[1]

A parade is a type of French street entertainment which originated during the Renaissance. It consisted of a group of entertainers, which could include actors, singers, dancers, jugglers, and other types of performers, who took part in parades (in the usual sense of the word) and entertained spectators at those times when the procession stopped moving.[2]

In the 18th century the term was applied to short improvisational buffooneries, typically incorporating vulgarities, which were performed either on an outdoor platform or a balcony in order to entice passersby into show-booths and theatres at the fairs or on the Boulevard du Temple. The characters were often drawn from the commedia dell'arte tradition. According to M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet "the humour was of the crudest sort, relying on sexual innuendos or even explicit remarks and actions, obscene gestures and references to defecation and other bodily functions."[2][3]

The parades strongly influenced the 18th-century genre of comédie-parade, a type of play or opéra-comique, usually in one act, which also used characters from the commedia dell'arte. These pieces were a bit more refined and polite, at least when presented in public theatres.[2]


  1. ^ Londré 1991, p. 69.
  2. ^ a b c Bartlet, M. Elizabeth C., "Parade" in Sadie 1992, vol. 3, p. 850.
  3. ^ Londré 1991, p. 58.