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Quodlibet

The Early Music Week faculty share thoughts on the year's program

Ken PierceMarch 18, 2018

Transformative Dance

by Ken Pierce, faculty

As in past years, the dance component of the 2018 Early Music Week will be devoted primarily to Italian dances from circa 1600. The notion of "transformation" pervades the dance of this period, as described in treatises by Caroso, Negri, and others:

- At times the transformation happens in conjunction with the music, as for example in a multipart dance in which the music is treated in different rhythms. (Laura Soave is an example, with its transformations of "Aria del Gran Duca.") Watch it here:

 

- A dance with the same name, music, and overall structure may be transformed into a different dance by tweaking or even significantly altering the choreography. Caroso (in Nobiltà di Dame, 1600) published revised versions of dances he'd published earlier, pointing out perceived imperfections in the earlier versions.

- Dances with the same name, and evidently the same underlying choreographic idea or structure, may be offered by different choreographers. With such dances, it may be that one choreographer took and transformed another's work, or that each choreographer's version is a tranformation/version/edition of an earlier, more generally-known choreography.

- A dance's choreography itself may work with a basic idea and present a set of variations on that idea. The pavaniglie are good examples of this approach.

The boundary between transformation and improvisation is porous: tranformation is an important tool of improvisation, and set dance sequences may have originated in improvisation. Choreographed versions of improvisational dances -- like the passo e mezzo and canario, or like the galliard sections of many choreographies -- may be thought of as transformations of a general set of movement vocabulary and guidelines into specific movement sequences.

Here's a look at the Canario:

 

One can think of any dance as a transformation of steps, customary sequences, societal conventions, and choreographic rules into a specific dance to a chosen piece of music. Some choreographies, notably those from Nobiltà, are heavily constrained by rules; others, less so.

In the dance classes at Early Music Week, we will explore various types of choreographic transformation, while keeping in view the more fundamental transformations that dancers seek: to hone technical skill, to refine understanding of stylistic subtleties, to develop as artists and performers, and to coalesce as a group and learn from one another.

 

Recent posts:

EMW 2019:
Dances of Love and War, by Ken Pierce

EMW 2018:
Transformative Dance, by Ken Pierce

Transformation, by Larry Wallach

Music: A Transformative Art, by Pamela Dellal

EMW 2017:
Music and nature, by Larry Wallach

Images of Nature in Dance, by Ken Pierce

EMW 2016:
Dancing to music, by Ken Pierce

Playing for historical dance, by Jane Hershey

EMW 2015:
Language, by Pamela Dellal

Genre, by Larry Wallach

Legacy, by Larry Wallach

EMW 2014:
The Spanish Golden Age in the Netherlands,
by Anne Legêne

Sephardic Music, by Jay Rosenberg

Ensalada by Salomé Sandoval