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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: March ::
FYInfomation
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0594  Thursday, 27 March 2003

From:           Donna La Rue <
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Date:           Monday, 24 Mar 2003 11:56:36 -0500
Subject:        FYInfomation

Dear All,

I have received this email address second-hand from a friend who thought
I might have some thoughts on the matter of Shakespeare and the dance. I
just have a couple of bits of input to offer, some or all of which may
be known to you already:

1)      You may already know of the CD "Songs and Dances from Shakespeare" by
Saydisc, which includes seven sections: 1) Songs w/music probably used
in the original production; 2) Popular dance types referred to in the
plays; 3) Traditional and speculative matchings of song texts in the
plays w/popular texts dating back to Shkspr;  4) Divisions on a ground:
English dances based on chord sequences from Italy;  5) Original
versions of songs and ballads used or mentioned in the plays; 6) Dances
for the gentry and upper classes; 7) Songs w/music probably dating from
early revivals of the plays. (Saydisc Records is located at Chipping
Manor, Wooton-Under-Edge, in the UK.)

2) I have a copy of a book, "Music in Shakespeare's Time" with
renderings of music and texts, done c. 1967, around the time that people
were starting to look at this material more scientifically (hence it may
have some errors or misattributions in it, but might also be useful..)
It's out of copyright, I'd be glad to send a copy to anyone sending an
SASE and 2.00 for copying costs.

3) Dance historians and dance reconstruction groups have dealt with this
material very specifically in the recent past, also. Alan Brissenden's
book (he was at that time teaching in Mexico City, I believe)
"Shakespeare and the Dance" is out of print but available in libraries,
etc. While he does not define the steps to the dances themselves, those
materials are available in sources like Arbeau and Caroso (see the
Rendance webpages for a start; some of their dances are recently
choreographed works, so be sure to check to see if the dance is cited as
from one of the known sources--i.e., Arbeau, Caroso, et soc.)

4) At least three groups that I am aware of presented reconstructed
dance materials on the topic as programs in the M1980s-E90s-present.

a)      The late Ingrid Brainard's Cambridge Court Dancers presented programs
on the dance as referred to in  Shakespeare's with Patrick Swanson,
(artistic director of Revels, Inc.,
http://www.revels.org/about_revels/revels_people_PS2.htm) as narrator. I
have a program from that event and I believe members of the group who
are still in the Cambridge/Boston area, especially Patri Pugliesi, might
have input on the dances themselves. I believe Ingrid was in contact
with Alan B. and worked from his materials in constructing this
program.  (I was dancing with the group at the time but not in the
production; I costumed two of the female dancers)

  b) A Masque for Elizabeth was performed in NYC by the group then
directed
by Charles Garth and Beth Aldrich; CCD participated as well. I believe a
videotape of that exists and is still available. Beth is dance curator
at the National Library (LoC) in WDC, she can be reached there (see her
card at http://www.museumsusa.org/data/museums/DC/157770.htm)

  c) Charles Garth presented a program with Renaissonics in Cambridge,
MA about three years ago based on quotations from the plays. John Tyson
directs Renaissonics which offers monthly dance events in Cambridge, MA
(http://members.aol.com/TysonPage/index.html); Charles is in NYC at
(
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 ). Programs and a video from that presentation are
extant, I think.

Since there is a fair bit known about dance from this period, but there
are also still areas of uncertainty,  it is important to get in touch
with people (like those I've named above) whose work has been shown to
be reliable and whose reconstructions are based on careful historic
research.
Dance History Scholars, the Committee on Research in Dance, and the
dance historians on the boards of such publications as Dance Magazine
and Dance News are the ones to contact for referrals.

Some university dance programs also have a dance historian on the
faculty; those known to me include Dorrie Olsson, in NYC (formerly,
until budget cuts, at NYU); Angelika Gerbes at Ohio State University;
Barbara Sparti (originally from NYC, now resides in Rome) and Julia
Sutton (ret., Lexington, MA, formerly with New England Conservatory).

Other independent scholars at-large whose work is reliable are also
around.  One must look for people who work directly with the sources
themselves, who try things out on dancers to make sure their
translations are correct, and who do not make wildly enthusiastic claims
for their interpretations of dance "symbolism" or dance meaning which
cannot be substantiated in the sources themselves. (Given that the Celts
in France had been at a low ebb for nearly 1500 years, for example, it
is unlikely that Arbeau's "horses" dance is an animalisitic/animistic
fertility dance....as I heard claimed in a workshop once...)

Also, stylistic sensitivity is an important hallmark of a reliable dance
reconstructionist. While "allemands" and schottisches might seem to have
some resemblances in form and structure, one should not perform the
former as if they were indistinguishable from the latter. Since court
manuals make it very clear that decorum and grace are always to be
observed, even the more energetic dances must be presented in a way that
maintains this sense of more regal styling. Dancers who perform Arbeau
as if it were Breton clogging need to perhaps reconsider what kinds of
shoes were worn in court and whether ladies with multiple sleeves in
light silks and heavy velours and brocades would swing their arms wildly
or stamp their feet in a branle.

Independent scholars known to me whose work is reliable (besides those
named above) include Elizabeth Cain (w/J.Casassa, did translation of
Grocheo on the web), Joe Casassa (with P. Pugliesi, worked on "Dances at
the Inns of Court," and "Why not Dolmetsch?"); Susan diGiordano
(proposed auxilliary course on Shakespeare and the Dance at Yale, TBA if
it's been accepted); each of these people may have others to recommend
as well.

I hope that's useful!

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Hardy M. Cook, 
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