|Terpsichore: A Baroque Dance Mix....Juilliard415 and baroque dancers
A number of Salon/Sanctuary Concerts introduced us to the many pleasures of 17th and 18th c. music and enabled us to appreciate the lovely soft sounds of period instruments. Moreover, we had learned quite a bit about the origins of dance from fencing moves at one of their more original presentations. So it was with great delight that we observed the fleet footwork of the dancers whose radiant expressions were nearly outshown by their lavish costumes.
When the program opened with Henry Purcell's 1691 Dances from King Arthur we immediately recalled the splendid presentation a couple weeks ago by William Remmer's Utopia Opera. The familiar melodies sounded superb played by Juilliar415, the school's principal period-instrument performance group led by the renowned Robert Mealy as concertmaster.
For this part of the program, the dancing was performed by the musicians themselves who seemed to rock in their chairs in choreographed unison. They were feelin' it and we were feelin' it! The galloping rhythm of "Merlin's descent" and the "Hornpipe" were particularly memorable.
The second set comprised Jean-Baptiste Lully's Dances from Thesée in which one of the theorbists switched to guitar. We especially enjoyed the lovely "Saraband" and the featured wind instruments in the graceful "Menuet": a pair of transverse flutes, a pair of hautbois, and a bassoon.
We were glad we attended so carefully to the Purcell and the Lully because once the dancers joined the group our focus shifted. The period costumes (designed by Anna Watkins and provided by the Boston Early Music Festival) added a great deal to the illusion that we were at a French court in the latter part of the 17th c. The graceful hands and delicate footwork of Caroline Copeland and Carlos Fittante captivated us as they performed the stringently documented and recreacted choreography by Guillaume Louis Pécour and Anthony L'Abbe.
Most of the dances were by Lully but in the short piece by André Campra from his 1697 L'Europe galante, Mr. Fittante made good use of castanets!
After the intermission, the two exquisite dancers were joined by another pair--Alexis Silver and Andrew Trego. The music was Handel's 1734 Dances from Terpsichore, and we noticed some interesting evolutions both in the costuming (more luxurious and elaborate with wider paniers) and in the dancing which was more athletic and freer. For this set, Ms. Copeland and Mr. Fittante produced the choreography themselves.
The final set comprised Dances from Pigmalion, Jean-Philippe Rameau's 1748 work. We experienced a radical shift for which we were unprepared. Choreography by Peter Farrow was of the modern dance style and performed by Alysia Johnson, Eoin Robinson, and My'kal Stromile--all four of them members of Juilliard Dance.
Dancers wore street clothes and danced in bare feet. Choreographing modern dance to baroque music is not revolutionary; Paul Taylor has quite a reputation for it. The dancers did a fine job with it and the audience loved it; we ourselves did not relate.
(c) meche kroop