Dance Disguised & Obscured, at Goldsmiths, University of London, 21-22 March 2015
The event consisted of a stimulating programme of papers, workshops and discussion led by researchers, teachers and practitioners relating to theatrical, social and traditional dance and performance from the 15th century to now.
A new source for the study of the Spanish baroque dance: Choregraphie figurativa, y demonstrativa del Arte de Danzar, en la forma española de Nicolás Noveli (Madrid, 1708)
Diana Campóo Schelotto
This paper presented the Noveli manuscript, written at the beginning of the eighteenth century. The manuscript has been discovered recently in the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando of Madrid. The text is rather peculiar, as it proposes the Beauchamps-Feuillet chorographical notation system to represent the Spanish dance steps described by Juan de Esquivel in his Discursos sobre el Arte del Danzado of 1642. Apart from that, it contains the verbal description of a collection of dances from the seventeenth century Spanish school.
The study of this manuscript and its comparison with other sources known about the Spanish dance in the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries, allows us to get a deeper knowledge about this school, and to refine our interpretation of these sources. The paper will offer a brief historical contextualization and a comment on its content, with special emphasis on the way the author used the Beauchamps-Feuillet notation to represent Spanish dance.
Workshop: “The Pavana in the Choregraphie figurativa, y demonstrativa del Arte de Danzar, en la forma española by Nicolás Noveli: practical study”
The workshop introduced the practice of Spanish baroque dance, concentrating on the study of some sections of the Pavana conserved in the manuscript of Noveli.
Recreating Lambranzi Dances – a workshop
A workshop recreating some of the dances of Gregorio Lambranzi from the brief sketches set down in his book Neue und curieuse theatralische Tantz-Schul, 1716.
A short talk to introduce the workshop, explaining what these plates represented, where the dances would have been performed, who would have performed them, how we might decide what style of dances they were, the steps they might have used etc.
Dance as disguise and deception: Entrée de Matelot 1706
A paper and workshop.
A very obscure dance: La pavanne a sept passages dont le premier a vingt huict pas (Instruction pour dancer c. 1612)
A paper and workshop.
The identification of dance forms in English mumming and disguising c.1370-1430, with particular reference to the texts of John Lydgate
Introduction. Previous practice and perception of mime, masking and pantomime which in turn provided a framework for the following recording of mummings and disguisings. It then put John Lydgate, poet and monk of St. Edmunds Abbey at Bury St Edmunds into context.
1. Dancers disguised in a mumming. A civic mumming was enacted for the young king Richard II at the palace at Kennington, Christmas 1377. We know who the mummers were and how they were disguised. We are told of the music that accompanied them and the mysterious silent game of mumchance that was played. But then who danced what and with whom?
2. Mummers disguised. Lydgate wrote poetic texts or ballads for five mummings and a disguising c1425-1427, enacted at Windsor, Eltham, Bishopswood and London. Themes were drawn from chivalric, classical, allegorical and biblical sources. Characters depicted values and vices integral to early renaissance cultural representation.They were masked and costumed but the nature of the physical performance is not recorded. How might dance or drama, debate or dumb show have been utilised to convey the enactment of such diverse material?
3. Dance disguised as gesture and expression. Lydgate’s Disguising at Hertford castle was presented as entertainment for the young king Henry VI at Christmas c.1427. It uses the devices of mumming and disguising but incorporates the spoken text of a presenter and broad physical yet silent characterisation in the form of six rustic husbands and wives. Dance games and dances of the 15thc and mid 16thC from Italy and France support the notion of choreographed gesture and music to enhance dramatic characterisation.
Conclusion. The Disguising at Hertford has been defined primarily as the earliest extant English secular comedy. Yet many years into the future John Weaver was to define the history of stage dancing as “first designed for Imitation… by the Gestures and Motions of the Body, and plainly and intelligibly representing Actions, Manners and Passions; so that the Spectator might perfectly understand the Performer by these his Motions tho’ he say not a Word”. This broad spectrum of dance defined by Weaver has already been embraced and utilised within the scope of Lydgate’s texts.
Structured workshop drawin on existing dance and drama practice in Early Renaissance sources.
The interplay between the dances of the gentry and the morris in 17th century England
The English Reformation and Civil War were crucial periods for the development of Morris dancing. Sources of information are few and throw circumstantial light on what happened. Following John Forrest in his ‘History of Morris Dancing 1458-1750’ the paper looked at the visitation articles and the ‘Book of sports’ and examined the relationship between the Morris as recorded by Francis Bacon in the Black Book, and John Playford’s ‘English Dancing Master’. After a short foray into the geography of surviving ‘strands’ of traditional dance, it considered whether those obscure sources which have survived can throw any light on what, why, when and how there was a two way traffic of influence between the dances of the gentry and the traditional parish based dances of the area around Oxford.
Stave Dancing: The Discovery and Revival of a Lost Tradition
A short talk examining West Country Friendly Society stave dancing in its historical and revival context. It explored the people behind the revival, particularly Roy Dommett, the sparse historical sources used to create this distinctive dance style and the context in which stave dancing was revived in the 20th century. The talk summarised by giving particular attention to the contemporary context of the revival and the impact this had upon performances of stave dancing in the late 20th century.
A practical workshop looked at the evolution of stave dancing by focusing on three areas: source, interpretation and creation. Each of these areas was a guided, practical and danced exploration.
- Source: What information was actually collected.
- Interpretation: How stave dancing was interpreted by Roy Dommett.
- Creation: New stave dances created recently by Somerset Morris.
This session ended with a brief discussion amongst participants about their perception of and reaction to Stave Dancing.
Mumming: Disguised and Obscured by Scholarship?
Proposed that mumming scholarship has been over reliant on notions of tradition, survival and revival thereby disguising performances and obscuring our readings of them. A recent conference series (The Mumming Unconvention Bath 2011; 2012; Gloucester 2013; 2014) has encouraged contemporary mumming performers to describe their own ‘embodied ethnography’. The paper drew on these ethnographies to illustrate a wider co-existence of ideas, beliefs, intentions and performance practices than previously acknowledged and questions whether acceptance of this complexity may better help us understand historical practice.
A practical exploration of mumming and related plays, including associated dances
The workshop included a practical exploration of mumming and related plays, including associated dances. It explored the differences and similarities between regional and seasonal variations (Mumming, Pace Egg, Calling On and Plough Plays).
The presenter explained his approach to “tradition” and use of collected material, and the many pitfalls associated with productions for modern audiences.
Participants saw a Pace Egg Play performed and had the opportunity to take part in a Plough Play, focussing on costume, stage craft and adaptation.
They saw see how various dances can be used and how this relates to regional and seasonal variations.