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In the Mood to Gavotte, Sarabande or Chaconne? Residency by the New York Baroque Dance Company, Oct. 8-12, Offers Lectures, Demonstrations, Dance Classes, Master Classes and Concert.

Story by Claire Chase
Photos by Beatriz Schiller





The Conservatory's Historical Performance program will again host a residency of the internationally renowned New York Baroque Dance Company (NYBDC) - October 8-12- for an extended weekend of lectures, demonstrations, dance classes and master classes on the subject of seventeenth and eighteenth-century dance music. The company's residency will culminate in a concert featuring NYBDC artistic director and co-founder Catherine Turocy, company member Timothy Kasper, and an ensemble of Historical Performance students. All events, including the final concert, are free and open to the public.

"We're thrilled about the company's return this year," remarks professor of harpsichord Lisa Crawford. "This residency will offer students from all disciplines the invaluable opportunity of working with some of the most respected, and truly innovative, artists in this field."

Founded in 1976 by Catherine Turocy and Ann Jacoby, the New York Baroque Dance Company has distinguished itself as the leading company in the field of historical dance. The company's repertoire includes over 300 dances and opera-ballets based on period notations and dance treatises from England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Turocy's choreography and reconstructive interpretations of period theatrical dance have won international acclaim for their originality, and her collaborative work with original-instrument ensembles has been praised across the globe. Turocy also leads summer workshops and master classes at universities throughout the country.

Crawford stresses the relevance of dance study for musicians: "I think when you are playing a piece of music and it says "Gavotte" or "Sarabande" or "Chaconne," if you can actually feel what it is like to dance that dance it'll have an obvious effect on how you play. I believe this is tremendously important for instrumentalists to experience," remarks Crawford. "When you see a piece of music, you often just read it. It's not until it connects with something physical that you start to really play."

Turocy and Kasper will conduct a variety of master class activities designed for singers, instrumentalists, historians and dancers alike:

All Residency Events are Free and Open to the Public.

The Schedule:

Friday, October 8

  • Lecture-demonstration: "Recreating the Spirit of Baroque Dance"
    12:30-1:30 pm, Kulas Recital Hall
  • Baroque Gesture for Vocalists
    4:30-5:30 pm, Conservatory Central Room 21 (Choral Room)
  • Dance Class I
    (Introduction to the Courante, Minuet and Bourée)
    7:00-9:00 pm, Conservatory Central Room 25 (Orchestra Room)

Saturday, October 9

  • Dance Class II
    (Gavotte and Gigue and the English Hornpipe)
    10 am-noon, Conservatory Central Room 21 (Choral Room)
  • Dance Class III
    (Sarabande and Rigaudon)
    7:00-8:30 pm, Dance Studio, Warner Center

Sunday, October 10

  • Dance Class IV
    (Chaconne/Passacaille and wrap-up question period)
    11 am-1 pm, Conservatory Central Room 25 (Orchestra Room)

Tuesday, October 12

  • Concert: "An Evening of Baroque Dance and Music"
    8 pm, Warner Center Main Space

    The Concert Program:

    Two fully-choreographed pieces (performed during the 1997 residency):
    Jean-Ferry Rebel's Les Caracteres de la danse
    Jean-Baptiste Lully's Passacaille d'Armide
    plus, Arcangelo Corelli's La Follia,
    And an eighteenth-century setting of movements from Handel's Water Music suites

Viola da gamba student Thomas Jocks ('00) from Khanawake, Quebec, says, "Nowadays, dance and classical music are two art forms that are rarely presented in tandem. But dance and music are really inseparable historically, and Turocy's choreography made so many musical phrases come to life for me in ways that I hadn't imagined before." Jocks participated in NYBDC's previous Oberlin residency, during the fall of 1997.

"I remember a captivating first dance class in which string players, pianists and vocalists were all engaged from the get-go," reminisced Crawford. "There's something about Catherine's combination of scholarship and simply doing it that speaks to audience members from all walks of life."

That scholarship is the result of close examination of dance treatises from England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. The primary sources of choreographic notation are the collections of ballets published by Auger Feuilliet in 1700-04 and Gaudrau in 1712. Although these collections notate the floor patterns, step units and the correlation between music and dance measures, a great deal of interpretive imagination is required of the choreographer in bringing to life the suggested gestures and poses.

Delicate, graceful, controlled yet deeply emotional, at once mannered and sensual, baroque dance is characterized by ornamental hand gestures, a relaxed foot, a 90-degree turnout of the legs, vertical carriage of the body, close interplay between music and movement, and the choreographic employment of symmetrical, complex floor patterns.

"This seeming scholarly and elitist art form is in fact very experimental, mostly because there is simply so much that we don't know," Crawford explains. "That's what gives it the spark, this hooking up of twentieth century imaginations to eighteenth century conventions, how they speak to us, what we need to add to them to make them work…Catherine is a true collaborator in this respect. She is so sensitive to musical content, and she changes her choreography frequently based on the tempos we have chosen. She never wants to squelch anyone's musical ideas, and she considers the musicians as much a part of the creative process as anyone."

The program for the final concert on Tuesday, October 12, will offer two fully-choreographed pieces -- Jean-Ferry Rebel's Les Caracteres de la danse and Jean-Baptiste Lully's Passacaille d'Armide -- as well as Arcangelo Corelli's La Follia, and an eighteenth-century setting of movements from Handel's Water Music suites.

"Catherine's choreography is just so imaginative, and delightful to watch. In the Rebel that we did last time, for instance, she captured brief gestures so that each of the twelve dances was almost programmatic," adds Crawford. "One of the wonderful things about Catherine is that she always makes clear the drama--if not an actual story line, always the theatrical aspect."

Jocks anticipates that "the most mysterious piece on the program will be the Corelli La Follia. There will be two groups of violin, cello and harpsichord on different sides of the stage that will switch off, in sort of a duel. Catherine has something up her sleeve with this one, so it should be quite a spectacle!"

Although the instrumental ensemble was comprised of both faculty and students during NYBDC's previous visit, the group will be an all-student endeavor this year. "We're very excited about putting together this large of an orchestra. We have a really large and exceptional group of students, including several graduate students, this time around," says Crawford.

Tuesday's program will also offer various instrumental chamber works without choreography.

"And when the musicians play, you ought to want to get up and dance!"

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