Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Spot the choreographer and dancers from Paris & Atlanta in this plastique animé
A game of musical statues. Can you spot the choreographer and dancers from Paris & Atlanta?

Following on from the theme of being put right by friends, this one concerns a 7-hour argument with Chris which ended up with me having to rethink space and time. Damn!

It all started with a section from Chris’s ballet Canciones, which had elements of flamenco in it. He was explaining how the dancers had to accent certain counts in a phrase of 12 – let’s say it’s 1, 5, 7, 8, 11. “What a bizarre way of explaining it”, I countered. “Why don’t you just teach them to do this?”, proceeding to copy the rhythmic pattern that resulted from the accents he’d just identified, and repeat it with (dare I say it) consummate ease.

“But it’s not the same” he said. “Yes it is”, I argued back, doing my pattern again.

“No it’s not – you’re viewing time like musicians do, as cyclical. But for a dancer, it’s not, it’s linear.”

Bearing in mind that the argument took 7 hours, I probably can’t do it justice here, but the point on which it hinged was that a dancer needed to know where they were and what they were doing on a particular count in a phrase, it wasn’t enough for that count to be a recurring point relative to a repeating cycle of beats. The argument took place on the little balcony at the back of my old flat in Mandrake Road, and I can’t think of problems in space and time without remembering what it felt like to thrash them out there. If you’ve got seven hours, I could go into more detail.

Oddly enough, this is another topic that made even more sense when I read Raymond Monelle’s The Sense of Music, in particular the stuff about Henri Bergson and his theory of duration.  And that’s saying something.

2 thought on “Advent 12: Being & Time”
  1. This makes me think of my sister, who dances flamenco, explaining bulerías rhythm to me…”it’s in 12, but you start on /twelve/, not one… 12 (1 2) 3 (4 5) 6 (7) 8 (9) 10 (11) 12… and so forth.” It made my brain hurt for a bit, but I did eventually figure it out. As a matter of fact an excellent example of this is Albéniz’s fabulous “Asturias,” which (at least in the score I learned it from) had the accents in the theme printed like that, so it was rather like a bar of 6/8 with two accents, and then one of 3/4 with three.

    1. Yes exactly—and this might even have been the precise example that started the conversation. What’s also interesting about this is that it seems to be a parallel of another topic that I find really interesting (I’m writing an article on it right now), Rothstein’s “Franco-Italian” hypermeter, which you find multiple evidence for in ballet scores—briefly, it’s where you are (or could be) counting “1” on the upbeat, as in a tarantella, for example. It’s not directly the same thing, but it does illustrate a parallel example of where dancers are in metric canon with the music, and sometimes, “the music” is in metrical canon with itself, so to speak. Thanks for the great comment!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Jonathan Still, ballet pianist