Dance History Resources
Guides to Historically Informed Performance
Introduction to Baroque Dance
Sarah Lawrence College Dance Dept.
Composition class January 30, 2001
Pat Rader, guest instructor
Composition techniques in Baroque dance -- preparation for choreography project to Lully's music this term
Notated dances of French Baroque choreographers such as Raoul-Auger Feuillet, Louis-Guillaume Pécour, Anthony L'Abbé and Pierre Beauchamp focus on:
Characteristics of Baroque dance which can be seen in paintings, prints, sculpture, and literature:
- Floor patterns -- usually balanced symmetrical paths, most often mirror image figures reminiscent of decorative scrollwork
- Dancers' spatial relationships -- to each other, and to the "presence" (king; modern day proscenium audience)
Most often dances start and finish upstage center
- Step patterns / step groups based on five positions of the feet, including jumps, turns, beats
Learn sequences of steps for Bourée, Courante, Gavotte, Sarabande, Passapied (minuet steps), Passacaille and Gigue
- Relationship of dance to music (the dancer should feel as if part of the music ensemble)
Music for Baroque dances include these types: Bourée, Canary, Chaconne, Courante, Entrée, Forlana, Gavotte, Gigue, Loure, Minuet, Passacaille, Passapied, Rigaudon, Saltarelle, Sarabande, Venitienne. Further information can be found in The International Encyclopedia of Dance and The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.
- Erect or "noble" posture for la danse noble theatrical dances and also for social dances
Arms move following conventions and placement is in "framing" positions; often the raised arm opposes the forward (supporting) leg
- Commedia del arte characters / "grotesque" dances (as seen in Lambranzi's theater dance plates)
[Lully CD track 10, Les Démons, at 1:07 Air de ballet de Thésée]
- Pastoral / national / occupational character dances
Mimic as in Lambranzi, or evocative as Turk's dance, Spanish dances, La Mariée and La Matelotte
- Gesture / narrative
Gesture described in 1717 England by John Weaver for The Loves of Mars and Venus [see Winter, p. 58-60], narrative seen in 1715 France with Françoise Prévost Les Caractères de la Danse [see Winter, p. 50]
If there is time at the end of class, try a composition excercise to Lully's March Royale; musical form: AA B A B A
For future work on Baroque dance with reconstructors/dancers/restagers, see Society of Dance History Scholars Early Dance Working Group, http://www.sdhs.org
Books which may be of help for this project include:
Christout, Marie-Françoise. Le Ballet de Cour au XVIIe Siècle: The Ballet de Cour in the 17th Century. Iconographie Musicale, 8. Genève: Editions Minkoff, 1987.
Feuillet, Raoul-Auger. Chorégraphie, ou l'art de décrire la dance. Paris, 1700. Facsimile reprint published with Recüeil de dances, composées par M. Feuillet and Recüeil de dances, composies par M. Pecour. Monuments of Music and Music Literature in Facsimile, 2nd series, Music Literature, 130. New York: Broude Brothers, 1968.
Harris-Warrick, Rebecca and Carol G. Marsh. Musical Theatre at the Court of Louis XIV: "Le Mariage de la Grosse Cathos". Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
Hilton, Wendy. Dance of Court and Theater: Selected Writings of Wendy Hilton. Labanotation by Mireille Backer. Stuyvesant, N.Y.: Pendragon Press, 1997. Earlier edition without additional writings entitled Dance of Court and Theater, The French Noble Style, 1690-1725. Princeton: Princeton Book Company, 1981.
L'Abbé, Anthony. A New Collection of Dances. Introduction by Carol Marsh. Music for London Entertainment Series D, Pantomime, Ballet & Social Dance, 2. London: Stainer & Bell, 1991.
Lambranzi, Gregorio. Neue und curieuse theatralische Tantz-Schul.... Nurnberg: Johann Jacob Wolrab, 1716. Facsimile reprint with German commentary by Kurt Petermann, English trans. by Michael Talbot, Leipzig: Peters, 1975. Facsimile reprint with introduction and notes by F. Derra de Moroda, New York: Dance Horizons, 1972. English translation by F. Derra de Moroda as New and Curious School of Theatrical Dancing, edited with preface by Cyril W. Beaumont, London: Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing, 1928. Reprint, New York: Dance Horizons, 1966.
Little, Meredith Ellis and Marsh, Carol G. La Danse Noble: An Inventory of Dances and Sources. Williamstown, Mass., New York, Nabburg: Broude Brothers Limited, 1992.
McGowan, Margaret. L'art du ballet de cour en France, 1581-1643. Paris: Editions du Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique, 1963.
Pemberton, E. An Essay for the Further Improvement of Dancing. London: J. Walsh, J. Hare, author, 1711. Facsimile reprint, Westmead, England Gregg International Publishers, 1970; New York: Dance Horizons, 1970.
Rameau, Pierre. Le Maître à Danser. Paris: Jean Villette, 1725. Facsimile reprint, MMMLF, 2nd ser., ML, 45, New York: Broude Brothers, 1967. Translated by Cyril W. Beaumont with G. Bickham's plates from 1731 ed. as The Dancing Master, London: Beaumont, 1931. Reprint Brooklyn, N.Y.: Dance Horizons, 1970.
Weaver, John. The Life and Works of John Weaver: An Account of His Life, Writings and Theatrical Productions with an Annotated Reprint of his Complete Publications. Edited with an introduction by Richard Ralph. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Dance Horizons, 1985.
Winter, Marian Hannah. The Pre-Romantic Ballet. London: Pitman Publishing, 1974. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Dance Horizons, 1975.
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Last updated Februry 8, 2001