A Tale of Two Cities: Baroque Music and Dance in Paris and London

The Dallas Bach Society

On Baroque Dance

The forerunner of ballet, Baroque Dance has its own vocabulary of movements and expressivity.  Among its characteristics are a relaxed foot, 90-degree turnout of the legs, ornamental hand gestures, vertical carriage of the body, close interplay between music and movement, and the use of symmetrical, complex floor patterns in choreographies.  Whereas the elements of this dance technique were common to both ballroom and theater dances, theatrical choreographies demand a much greater technical ability and expressive range, from the noble style appropriate to gods and pastoral characters to the burlesque movements of peasants and commedia dell’arte characters.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, Paris was the dance capital of Europe.  In the style of opera created at the court of Louis XIV by Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687), dancing was incorporated into each of the five acts as a part of the drama.  Pierre Beauchamps, the choreographer at the Opéra de Paris during Lully’s lifetime, is credited with codifying many of the features of baroque ballet, including the five basic positions of the feet.  The career of his successor, Guillaume Louis Pécour, coincided with the development of a system of dance notation that was exploited commercially by Raoul Auger Feuillet; as a result, approximately 350 dances from the first quarter of the 18th century have been preserved, many of them choreographed by Pécour.

The chief sources of notation for tonight’s concert are the collections of dances published by Raoul-Auger Feuillet in 1700-1709 and Gaudrau in 1713 as well as Mr. Isaac’s dances published in London and Edmund Pemberton’s Essay for the Further Improvement of Dancing, also published in London in 1711. The notation system records the step units, floor patterns, and correlation between music and dance measures.  Although a notation and description of the hand gestures exists, the dances are rarely notated with their corresponding hand gestures. Consequently, the reconstructor must choreograph these gestures into the dances. Theatrical dances which employ contrasts in dynamics and phrasing, and stylized gestures in the development of a character, call even more directly upon the reconstructor’s talents, both as a choreographer and dramatist.

Notes on the Dances

First published in 1704, La Bretagne, consisting of a passepied and a rigaudon, honors the birth of the Duc de Bretagne in 1704 (sadly, he died in 1705).  It was choreographed by Guillaume Louis Pécour for his mother the Duchesse of Bourgogne, Marie-Adélaide, who was also Princess of Savoy and wife of the eldest grandson of Louis XIV.  Pécour was her dancing master, as well as the principal choreographer for the Opera.  The duchess was quite lively, a beautiful dancer and a favorite of Louis XIV. La Bretagne was re-published in many collections and was included as “The French Bretagne” by Mr. Siris in his translation of Chorégraphie by R. A. Feuillet. La Bretagne was danced throughout Europe and the North American and Caribbean colonies, and circulated in the United States through the 1790’s where it was danced in New York, Philadelphia and other major cities. La Royalle, consisting of a sarabande and a bourrée, was also choreographed by Pécour and included in the published collection of Gaudrau (1713).  The sarabande is to the renowned melody Dieu des Enfers of Lully.

About the Artists:

The New York Baroque Dance Company was founded in 1976 by its Artistic Director, Catherine Turocy, and Ann Jacoby. The company specializes in producing seventeenth and eighteenth century programs ranging from street performances to fully staged operas, and has performed over 55 operas as well as hundreds of reconstructed dances and ballets choreographed in period style. Through residencies at educational institutions serving grades K-12 as well as at colleges and universities, the New York Baroque Dance Company instructs both professionals and the general public, thus preserving a unique aspect of our cultural heritage.

The Company has toured North America, Europe and Japan with conductors John Eliot Gardiner, Christopher Hogwood, James Richman, Nicholas McGegan and Wolfgang Katschner. In its home base of New York City, the company produces concerts annually with Concert Royal directed by James Richman, and it also performs regularly around the United States with Opera Lafayette, The Dallas Bach Society, Mercury Baroque, Apollo’s Fire and Philharmonia Baroque.

Groundbreaking productions over the past three decades include the world premiere of Jean Philippe Rameau’s Les Boréades (left unperformed in the eighteenth century after Rameau’s untimely death) and Hippolyte et Aricie,  both at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and the Opéra de Lyon;  Henry Purcell’s Indian Queen performed at the Barbican in London; the award winning Scylla et Glaucus by Jean Marie Leclair performed at the Opéra de Lyon, as well as over 100 performances of a double bill of Rameau’s Pygmalion and George Frederick Handel’s Terpsicore. The company is very proud to have performed in Handel’s Terpsicore, Ariodante, Arianna, Alcina, Atalanta and this spring, Orlando, at the Handel Festival in Goettingen , Germany.

Training professional artists has been an important part of the New York Baroque Dance Company’s activities, and former members Ken Pierce, Thomas Baird, Paige Whitley Bauguess and Carlos Fittante, have all gone on both to start their own companies and to enjoy careers as freelance historical choreographers. The Company is very appreciative of ongoing support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts and its individual contributors. The New York Baroque Dance Company is being archived by the Performing Arts Divison of the New York Public Library at Lincoln Center, and many archival videos of past performances are on file in the Dance Collection and available for scholarly research.

Catherine Turocy, recognized as today’s leading choreographer/reconstructor in the field of 18th century dance, has been decorated by the French Republic as a Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters and has received the prestigious Bessie Award from Dance Theater Workshop in New York City for Sustained Achievement in Choreography. National Endowment for the Arts Exchange Fellowships have supported extended visits abroad where she lived in London and Paris, conducting research and interacting with other artists. A founding member of the Society for Dance History Scholars, Ms. Turocy lectures on period performance practices and has contributed chapters to dance history text books and articles for Opera News and Dance Magazine, several of which have been translated into French, German, Japanese, and Korean.  A chapter in Janet Roseman’s book, Dance Masters: Interviews with Legends of Dance, published by Routledge, is devoted to her work.

As a sought-after period stage director, Ms. Turocy has worked with singers Jessye Norman, Bryn Terfel, Christine Brandes, Howard Crook, Ann Monoyios, Julianne Baird and Drew Minter  She has appeared seven times at the Handel Festival in Goettingen, Germany, and will be staging their production of Orlando this spring.  In New York,  Ms. Turocy has choreographed and directed works including Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, Handel’s Ariodante, Terpsicore and Il Pastor Fido, Rameau’s Pygmalion, Les Indes Galantes, Le Temple de la Gloire and Les Fêtes d’Hébé, among others.

Catherine Turocy began her studies of historical dance as a freshman at Ohio State University with Dr. Shirley Wynne. She is grateful to Lynn Dally, Peter Saul, Kathryn Karipedes and Ruth Currier, Lucy Venable and Alex Martin for their instruction and guidance. Currently Ms. Turocy is artistic director of The Historical Dance Workshop at Goucher College and is a member of the Society of Dance History Scholars, Committee on Research in Dance, CORPS de Ballet International, the Dance Council, and Dance Theater Workshop.

Alexis Silver was born in Copenhagen, Denmark and spent her formative years in Berkeley, CA.  Her serious ballet training and performance experience was nurtured by Ronn Guidi, at Oakland Ballet.  As a teenager Alexis moved to Massachusetts, shifted her focus to include contemporary dance, and advanced this training with Marcus Schulkind. Alexis joined The New York Baroque Dance Company in the summer of 2010.  With NYBDC, she recently performed in the International Händel Festival in Göttingen, Germany.  She has also performed with the Boston Early Music Festival in their production of Dido and Aeneas.  Alexis has performed work by Trisha Brown in “Dance & Art in Dialogue” at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, an original piece by John Jasperse at The Kennedy Center, and a site-specific 9/11 Memorial piece by Sarah Skaggs Dance.  Additionally, she dances with Rebecca Warner, Gregory Nuber Dance, Becky Radway Dance Projects, Enrico Wey, among others.  Alexis contributes writing to Dance and Dance Spirit Magazines and is an accomplished photographer  She holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College and a Certificate of Higher Education from London Contemporary Dance School.

Carly Fox Horton is a New York City based dancer and choreographer who is known for her versatility across movement vocabularies. She has performed Baroque dance in concerts, operas, and theatrical works choreographed and directed by Catherine Turocy, Sean Curran, Thomas Baird, Anuradha Nehru, Ken Pierce, Patricia Forelle, and Caroline Copeland. Carly has collaborated with early music ensembles as part of the NYBDC, such as Opera Lafayette, Anthony Newman, Concert Royal, Dallas Bach Society, and the Gotham Early Music Scene.  She has presented her own work with Aston Magna. She has been a soloist with the New York Baroque Dance Company since 2010. Carly’s choreography has been showcased on film and stage. She reads and reconstructs dances from baroque period notation. She recently collaborated with Catherine Turocy on a solo that she performed in Les Fetes de L’Hymen et l’Amourby Jean Philippe Rameau  at the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center. She is originally from Missouri City, TX and graduated summa cum laude from the University of Kansas with a BFA in dance where she received the Phillips-Stone Award for excellence in dance.

Brynt Beitman, a native of Dallas, Texas, earned his BFA from The Juilliard School. He has worked with Metropolitan Classical Ballet, New York Baroque Dance Company, Contemporary Ballet Dallas, and Bruce Wood Dance Project. Brynt was recently featured in a workshop showing of “49th Street and Other Stories” by Bronwen Carson at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. His own work has been shown in New York City, Montreal, Dallas, and Varna, Bulgaria. Brynt recently premiered his newest work as a part of “With or Without Me”, curated by Jack Ferver at Dance New Amsterdam.

Andrew Trego is currently living in New York City, and is a native Texan. At fourteen, he began his dance training at Houston’s High School for Performing & Visual Arts and Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy. While completing a BFA from The Boston Conservatory, Andrew performed lead roles in works by Jose Limon, Alwin Nikolais, Anna Sokolow, and Anthony Tudor. In Boston, he performed with notable opera companies Opera Boston and Boston Early Music Festival. Andrew came to New York City in 2011 to take a spot in the newly founded Peridance Contemporary Dance Company. In 2012, Andrew had the privilege to perform alongside the Paris Opera Ballet in Bejart’s “Bolero” during their summer season at Lincoln Center. Andrew now performs for The Metropolitan Opera, The People Movers Contemporary Dance Company, New York Baroque Dance Company, and made his debut in the repertoire of BALAM Dance Theatre with this “Icarus” solo.

On the Music

The music for this Saturday’s program is derived primarily, although not exclusively, from dance sources.  It is interesting to note how much Italian music was favored in London, due to the fad for opera which induced Handel to remain in London permanently.  Opera singers were so highly prized (and paid!) that the great Farinelli had the cornerstone of his Venetian mansion engraved “Built by the Folly of the English”.  French music was also in style, having been reintroduced with the Restoration of Charles II, who spent his exile under the Commonwealth as a guest at the French court, in 1660.  It surely represented to the English the kind of license for which the Restoration is in general is renowned.  Henry Purcell, shortly before his death, described how England owed much to both countries – primarily to Italy (“her best master”) but also to France for its stylishness. Paris was of course the most important city in all of Europe at the time, and indeed it was the wealth and political importance of the two cities (abetted by the destruction of most of central Europe in the Thirty Years’ War) that made them such important cultural centers.

The sonatas of Handel and Couperin are very appropriate for this concert, as is the music of Jean Marie Leclair, one of the great but lesser-known composers of the French eighteenth century.  His Trio in D is a lovely piece found among his four books of Violin Sonatas containing 48 very attractive and amazing pieces reflecting his time in Italy. Francois Couperin, known as “Le Grand” (The Great) even during his lifetime, taught harpsichord to the King’s children and was Organist at the church of Saint Gervais, a kind of family position the lasted well into the eighteenth century. He was fascinated by the Italian trio sonata style of the seventeenth century, with many short movements played as one extended piece. He even printed his sonatas under the anagrammatic pseudonym Pernucio, to avoid offending his patriotic patrons! La Sultane, perhaps written upon the visit of the Ottoman envoy Suleiman Agha to the court of Louis XIV (pieces of music are always feminine, as in “La piece intitule Sultan”), exists in a single copy from the library in Lyons. Finally, the important German composer Telemann made two trips to Paris in the 1730’s which he considered to be the highlight of his career, for which he wrote quartets which he played with the very best French musicians, who on their part clearly esteemed the venerable German. You will hear at this concert two exquisite movements from the second volume of quartets.