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232Re: [OutlandsDance] new and learning

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  • Keith McClune
    Sep 15, 2003
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      Hi there:

      > I participate in many forms of movement. Currently I'm involved with
      > Flamenco, Irish Step Dancing, and playing in 1485, 1770, and 1890 among other
      > "things".

      That's quite a spread!

      I have known people who performed Flamenco or Irish Step Dancing, but I'm not
      otherwise particularly familiar with these. While their roots go back to late
      period, the modern forms of these dances are very different.

      1485 is nearly the earliest time from which we have documentation for how dance
      was done. There are several Italian manuscripts from the 2nd half of the 15th
      century that describe a number of dances with step descriptions. Very shortly
      after 1485 we have manuscripts in Burgundy/France/Belgium that describe
      literally hundreds of Bassa Dances. The Bassa Dance form goes back to the
      fourteenth century, so these may plausibly be projected back that far.

      Most of our best documentation for period dance is from the 16th century. And
      we can see that it was clearly different from 15th century dance, so we cannot
      fairly project these dances back in time.

      1770 is, I think, prime contredanse time. It's way outside of SCA period, but I
      know there are contra dance groups in the NJ area.

      1890 is generally awkward for dance recreation - there aren't many groups that
      do this regularly. There are some, however, mostly in CA and around NYC, I
      think. For this period, look for "Vintage Dance." Susan di Guardiola is in
      your general vicinity (Hartford, which is much closer to NJ than the rocky
      mountains are to either of you). I know she teaches Vintage Dance: Check out
      the Elegant Arts Society at http://www.elegantarts.org/ if you would like to
      investigate this era further. (Their page also has a brief overview of
      Renaissance dance plus info on Regency dance.)

      > I also need to "come up with" a dance that I could do alone as a fine,
      > married Lady of about 1250 - 1350 at a feast gathering where there will be
      > singing, a passion play, and incedental music.

      Well, I know of no documentation for any solo dancing in period, except for some
      very sketchy descriptions of Morris (in Arbeau, 1588). There are descriptions
      of solo sections in couples dances, however, in the 15th c. Italian Balli.
      There are several examples of one dancer leaving the other with a particular
      step sequence, then returning (or the other catching up again). I don't know if
      this is what you are looking for, but it's what we know. I have seen couples
      improvise really cute "chasing" sequences, though, so it is something to look
      at. (Technically, this style cannot be projected back before about 1450, but
      since so little else in known, you can just make do.) Later styles (1580) have
      alternating solo sections designed for improvisation. While the authors clearly
      expected that the man would do the more challenging footwork, our modern selves
      don't mind ignoring this particular convention, although at least part of this
      was because you can't see the woman's feet beneath her gown.

      Bassa dances can reasonably be projected back to around 1350. The Bassa Dance
      is a stately dance for a line of couples, although one could certainly be done
      by a single couple.

      While we have no detailed descriptions for dance before 1445, we do know some
      things about earlier dance. What we mostly see, however, are circle or line
      dances. There are pictures of peasants dancing in an open line at festivals.
      Pictures of court typically show a small circle of dancers. The interesting
      changes in tempo within a dance, very common after 1450, do not seem to have
      been done before that time.

      If you can find a partner, there are many possibilities. If you don't mind some
      humor, you can even turn a couples dance into a solo dance (if you get to
      showing off, for instance, and your partner gets tired of waiting and sits
      down). So a talented partner isn't needed, just somebody to keep it proper.
      Depending on what you are trying to do, a stately Bassa may be just the ticket.
      Note that very few people would consider a Bassa Dance hard - usually they are
      not even remotely challenging. They do look good, though, and would be very
      appropriate for a noblewoman or well to do non-noble. For something more
      energetic, you might consider a Saltarello. This is a lively dance, and seems
      to have been unchoreoraphed.

      I hope this helps, at least to get you started. If you would like to know more
      about anything that I mentioned, just let me know.

      Keith / Guillaume S:}>