Baroque dance

Baroque dance is dance of the Baroque era in Europe (roughly 1600–1750), closely linked with Baroque music, theatre and opera.

English country dance

The majority of surviving choreographies from the period are English country dances, such as those in the many editions of Playford's "The Dancing Master". Playford only gives the floor patterns of the dances, with no indication of the steps. However other sources of the period, such as the writings of the French dancing-masters Feuillet and Lorin, indicate that steps more complicated than simple walking were used at least some of the time.

English country dance survived well beyond the Baroque era and eventually spread in various forms across Europe and its colonies, and to all levels of society. See the article on English country dance for more information.

The French noble style

The great innovations in dance in the 17th century originated at the French court under Louis XIV, and it is here that we see the first clear stylistic ancestor of classical ballet. The same basic technique was used both at social events, and as theatrical dance in court ballets and at public theaters. The style of dance is commonly known to modern scholars as the "French noble style" or "belle danse" (French, literally "beautiful dance"), however it is often referred to casually as "baroque dance" in spite of the existence of other theatrical and social dance styles during the baroque era.

Primary sources include more than three hundred choreographies in Beauchamp-Feuillet notation [Little, Meredith Ellis and Marsh, Carol G. "La Danse Noble, An Inventory of Dances and Sources", (Broude Brothers Ltd, 1992) ISBN 0-8450-0092-6] [Lancelot, Francine, "La Belle Dance: Catalogue Raisonné", (Van Dieren Editeur, 1996) ISBN 2-911087-02-X] , as well as manuals by Raoul Auger Feuillet and Pierre Rameau in France, Kellom Tomlinson and John Weaver in England, and Gottfried Taubert in Germany. This wealth of evidence has allowed modern scholars and dancers to recreate the style, although areas of controversy still exist. The standard modern introduction is Hilton [Hilton, Wendy, "Dance and Music of Court and Theater: Selected Writings of Wendy Hilton" (Pendragon Press, 1997) ISBN 0-945193-98-X] .

French dance types include:
* Bourrée
* Canarie (canary)
* Chaconne
* (French) courante
* Entrée grave
* Forlane (forlana)
* Gavotte
* Gigue
* Loure (slow gigue)
* Menuet (minuet)
* Musette
* Passacaille (passacaglia)
* Passepied
* Rigaudon
* Sarabande
* Tambourin

The English, working in the French style, added their own hornpipe to this list.

Many of these dance types are familiar from classical music, perhaps most spectacularly in the stylized suites of J. S. Bach [Little, Meredith and Jenne, Natalie. "Dance and the Music of J.S. Bach" (Indiana University Press, 1991, 2001) ISBN 0-253-21464-5] . Note however, that the allemandes, that occur in these suites do not correspond to a French dance from the same period.

Theatrical dance

The French noble style was danced both at social events and by professional dancers in theatrical productions such as opera-ballets and court entertainments. However, 18th century theatrical dance had at least two other styles: comic or grotesque, and semi-serious [Fairfax, Edmund. "The Styles of Eighteenth-Century Ballet" (Scarecrow Press, 2003) ISBN 0-8108-4698-5] [Harris-Warrick, Rebecca and Brown, Bruce Alan, editors. "The Grotesque Dancer on the Eighteenth Century Stage" (The University of Wisconsin Press, 2005) ISBN 0-299-20354-9] .

Other social dance styles

Other dance styles, such as the Italian and Spanish dances of the period are much less well studied than either English country dance or the French style. The general picture seems to be that during most of the 17th century, a style close to that of late Renaissance dance was widespread, but as time progressed, French ballroom dances such as the minuet were widely adopted at fashionable courts. Beyond this, the evolution and cross-fertilisation of dance styles is an area of ongoing research.

Modern reconstructions

The revival of baroque music in the 1960s and '70s sparked renewed interest in 17th and 18th century dance styles. While some 300 of these dances had been preserved in Beauchamp-Feuillet notation, it wasn't until the mid-20th century that serious scholarship commenced in deciphering the notation and reconstructing the dances.

Perhaps best known among these pioneers was Britain's Melusine Wood, who published several books on historical dancing in the 1950's. [Wood, Melusine, "More Historical Dances", (Imperial Soc. Dancing, 1956) ISBN 0-900484-12-8] . Miss Wood passed her research on to her student Belinda Quirey, and also to Pavlova Company ballerina & choreographer Mary Skeaping (1902-1984). The latter became well known for her reconstructions of baroque ballets for London's "Ballet for All" company in the 1960s.

The leading figures of the second generation of historical dance research include Wendy Hilton (1931-2002), a student of Belinda Quirey who supplemented the work of Melusine Wood with her own research into original sources. A native of Britain, Hilton arrived in the U.S. in 1969 joining the faculty of the Juilliard School in 1972 and establishing her own baroque dance workshop at Stanford University in 1974 which endured for more than 25 years.

In 1964, French dance historian Francine Lancelot (1929-2003) began her massive research into historical French dance forms. In 1980, at the invitation of the French Minister of Culture, she founded the baroque dance company "Ris et Danceries". Her work in choreographing the landmark 1986 production of Lully's 1686 tragedie-lyrique "Atys" was part of the national celebration of the 300th anniversary of Lully's death. This production propelled the career of William Christie and his ensemble Les Arts Florissants. Since the Ris et Danseries company was disbanded circa 1993, choreographers from the company have continued with their own work. Béatrice Massin with her "Compagnie Fetes Galantes", along with Marie Genevieve Massé and her company "L'Eventail" are among the most prominent. In 1996 Francine Lancelot's catalogue raisonné of baroque dance, entitled "La Belle Dance" was published.

Catherine Turocy (b.1952) (student of dance historian Shirley Wynne) founded The New York Baroque Dance Company in 1976 with Ann Jacoby, and the company has since toured internationally. Turocy choreographed the first production of Jean-Philippe Rameau's "Les Boréades" - it was never performed during the composer's lifetime. This French supported production was the national celebration of Rameau's 300th birthday with John Eliot Gardiner conductor, and his Orchestra playing. Ms. Turocy has been decorated as Chevalier in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government, and received the New York BESSIE award for Sustained Achievement.

References

External links

* [http://baroquedance.info/ BaroqueDance.info] background information, period dancing manuals, and a large collection of links.


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