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Donations needed for The Connection at St Martin in the Fields

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Click to donate to The Connection

The Connection at St-Martin-in-the-Fields which provides so much help to the homeless in the centre of London, has had to close due to the current government guidelines. You can probably imagine the effect this has had on those that are in need of their support, and on those at the Connection who are now doing their best to help clients in different ways. In addition, because fundraising activities have had to be cancelled, the Connection needs donations now.

If you can donate, please do so by going to the “donate” page for The Connection.

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Can’t tell a waltz from a tango? I have just the song for you

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“I can’t tell a waltz from a tango” would be a great title for a ballet-related music course, though in all honesty, “I can’t tell a kujawiak from a redowa” would be more apposite.

Songs that reference what might be going in the class while you’re playing for it are pretty rare, though the best example is perhaps the ballet teacher who described her life to me in song, with a rendition of “Little Girls” from Annie, accompanied by a massive eye-roll. 

Coincidentally, Gordon Burns’s novel Alma Cogan  was one of those books I was expecting to dislike, but I loved it. Anyway, if you need a handy tango for class that will make you and maybe one other person every 20 years laugh, “I can’t tell a waltz from a tango” is the one.

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The Ballet Piano Podcast

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Click to visit the ballet piano podcast

I remember saying to someone a few years ago that the distance between you thinking of an idea for a project, and someone else coming up with the same idea independently and actually  doing it is about twelve months, and today’s find just goes to prove my point. The bastards have only gone and done the thing that I wanted to do more than a year ago, which is to start a podcast series consisting of interviews/discussions with the great and the good in this weird corner of the musical universe, the world of playing for ballet classes. 

The bastards in question are all wonderful colleagues, so I wish The Ballet Piano Podcast the best and warmest of luck with this great venture, and please get on and do some more. The first episode is a roundtable chat with Chris Hobson and his wife Akiko, the lovely Matt Gregory, and equally lovely ballet teacher David Yow. To actually get three pianists AND a teacher talking in the same room, on the record, is a miracle, and it says a lot about  the people involved that they’ve managed to do it. 

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Fille mal Gardée: the Gorsky pas de deux music for piano

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The short version

This post started out as a bit of excitement at finding that the source for the Gorsky Fille mal gardée pas de deux male solo was Czibulka’s Scène de ballet Op. 268 (1882), and that it was available, together with the preceding adagio, online at the national library of Spain. (To get the full pdf from that site, click on the green “download” icon third from the left at the top of the page).

Within 24 hours, though, I had found the whole pas de deux (piano music)  available on IMSLP, where all of it is wrongly (I think) attributed  to Hertel. I say “I think” because who the thing is by is a long, and so far never-ending story. 

The long version: how I found it

The strangest coincidence happened on Friday: on my way out to work in the afternoon, I was idly flicking through a pile of old ballet scores that someone had given me a long time back. The first one I looked at properly (because it had no title page, so I couldn’t see what it was) declared itself to be a pas de deux from La fille mal gardée, with “Cziboulka” at the top, and a copyright notice by William McDermott on the bottom. It didn’t look like anything from Fille that I recognized, until I turned a couple of pages, and found a waltz that seemed familiar. Now where had I heard that before? The galop at the end also seemed familiar. It was time to go, so I put it down and left.

An hour later, I had an email from a colleague asking if I could identify and source the music for a variation, as in the video here (with a Youtube link). I clicked on the link: not only was it exactly the music I had just been looking at, but the video was also the one where I (now I remembered) had first heard the music. Had I not picked up the score that afternoon, I would have had no idea what the music might be.

I wouldn’t have known what the music was from the video either, which says it’s Hérold. I hunted around IMSLP for Czibulka scores, but couldn’t find anything that resembled this music. Then on Wikipedia I saw a list of works by him that included Scène de ballet, and wondered whether that might be it. With an opus number (268) the journey to a result speeded up, via an old recording on archive.org, and finally to a digitized copy of the piano score at the Biblioteca Nacional de España.

Czibulka Scene de ballet, first page of the sheet music

Czibulka Op. 268: Scène de ballet (1882), the source for the Gorsky “Fille mal gardée” pas de deux

This isn’t the source for Lise’s variation that follows (see 7:05 in the clip below). One forum poster suggests that it’s a supplementary variation by Drigo for The Harlem Tulip, and cross-referencing this with the Marius Petipa Society’s page on Harlequinade pas de deux, which contains the same music as an interpolation, and cross-referencing that with the video on YouTube, confirms this as true.  There’s no reason to post the video of Harlequinade here really, but the speed  and élan in Ninel’ Kurgapkina’s performance is so breathtaking, it just has to be seen: 

 

The Petipa Society’s page on Fille is wonderfully informative, but they attribute the adagio to  Hertel and the male variation to Drigo (from La Fôret Enchantée). Either they’re talking about a different solo, or it’s not correct. That leaves only the coda as possibly from Armsheimer’s music for Cavalry Halt.

I have a sneaking suspicion however that Czibulka might have just put his name to the Hertel adagio: it looks and sounds suspiciously not like Czibulka—too early, florid, and harmonically sparse. In American scores of this period, arrangers frequently gave their own name as the composer of the piece they’d arranged.  But is that really likely in this case? Hertel (1817-1899) and Czibulka (1842-1894) were contemporaries, and the Scène de ballet was published in Berlin where Hertel’s ballet was composed. Another possibility—since Hertel’s work was based in part on  Hérold’s (1791-1833) earlier score— is that perhaps both Hertel and Czibulka borrowed the adagio from Hérold. But I can’t find a trace of it in the score for the Hérold Fille at IMSLP, and it still doesn’t explain the waltz. 

So much for the classics. With all the power of Google and the WWW and libraries and public funded companies and so on, these musical details of what one imagines to be the pillars of the repertoire are still more opaque than if the ballets had been done by monks in the 11th century. It’s a classic case of what Pouillaude in Unworking choreography refers to as part of the “ontological weakness” of dance—the fact that a ballet like Swan Lake (his example) or Fille mal gardée (mine here) seems to crumble and disappear into different “productions,” and cannot be pinned down as a “work” in any stable sense. It’s one of the most fundamental truths about ballet classics, yet seems to be part of no-one’s curriculum, at least not from a musical perspective.

Retracing my steps

In the previous post, I wondered just how much detail is too much when you’re documenting sources and how you found them. With things like this, I think it’s valuable to retrace your steps. With all my favourite finds (#1 being the Giraud Franz solo), there’s an element of sheer luck, guesswork, and then the grind of leafing through page after page of score in the hope of finding gold. Of course, I always check Matthew Naughtin first of all (but he doesn’t mention Czibulka). Wikipedia and YouTube, and The Petipa Society are invaluable. Spelling variations and opus numbers unlock doors. IMSLP is the most lovable musical resource ever, but sometimes you have to manually check archive.org and the catalogues at big libraries to find stuff that hasn’t been uploaded there. If you’re lucky, you can take search for images, and see the front cover of a piece of music, and a link to a library site. And lastly, there’s Shazam, which helped me to identify the recording that appears so often in these videos: it’s Ballet Gala, original Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra conducted by Georgi Zhemchushin. Don’t look there for musical references, though—the composer is given as Hérold.

After nearly 24 hours on and off trying to identify and locate the missing music (the non-Czibulka pieces) I did what I should have done earlier, which is check under Hertel at IMSLP, where, under the German title of Das schlecht bewachte Mädchen, the entire pas de deux was waiting all the time. No mention of Czibulka, Drigo, or Armsheimer though, even though it’s a Soviet publisher who must have known better, surely? 

The most curious part of this for me is that the score I had with “Cziboulka” written on is dated 1959, which means that the information has been around for at least 60 years. If you search for Czibulka and “Fille mal gardée” you will find an entry on Suzanne Knosp’s inventory of ballet music publications at the University of Arizona. It’s for William McDermott’s book of Five pas de deux (1985), including this one, with the music correctly attributed to Czibulka, Drigo and Hertel. There’s a lesson to be learned there, though I’m not quite sure how to formulate it, but it just goes to show, there’s a lot to be said for keeping a static HTML list of your ballet treasures. 

 

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Steps in a polonaise rhythm: Rasmussen’s “Experiencing Architecture”

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Rhythm in architecture

A few years ago I was trying to write some study materials about “rhythm,” and tied myself in knots trying to connect all the different ways the word is used in different contexts: art, architecture, poetry, music: rhythm as repetition, rhythm as line, rhythm as flow, and so on. It’s an appealing thought to be able to talk about the rhythm of architecture, but what does that mean? Like many of the people I know working in music and dance, I want to be able to make enriching, useful connections like this, but don’t know where to look.

I was delighted, then, to find a wonderfully clear chapter on “Rhythm in Architecture” (pp. 127-158) in Steen Eiler Rasmussen’s Experiencing Architecture (1959/1964). The clarity comes from  Rasmussen’s honesty about the fact that rhythm is a fuzzy concept, and from a general tendency for scholars in the 1950s and 1960s to write more clearly and accessibly than they do now—in my view, at least. Having described the patterns of doors and windows in terraced houses in London and Venice, he says:

I am quite sure that most people would notice that all of these façades are rhythmically divided. And yet if you were to ask them what rhythm in architecture means it would be difficult for them to explain, let alone define. The term rhythm is borrowed from other arts involving a time element and based on movement, such as music and dancing. (Rasmussen 1964, p. 133)

He goes on to mention the importance of music and rhythm to the architects Eric Mendelsohn and Frank Lloyd Wright, in different ways:

For these two men, then, there is obviously a connection between architecture and music. But it still does not explain what is meant by rhythm in architecture. Architecture itself has no time dimension, no movement, and therefore cannot be rhythm in the same way as music and dancing are. But to experience architecture demands time; it also demands work—though mental, not physical work. . . .If you feel that a line is rhythmic it means that by following it with your eyes you have an experience that can be compared with the experience of rhythmic ice-skating, for instance. (p. 135)

In other words, the time element missing from architecture is supplied by you, the viewer, “reading” the building in time, as you might follow a score, or a dance. He describes the pattern of windows in the 15th century Calle dei Preti near Via Garibaldi in Venice thus:

As you glance across the front, from left to right, you experience something like a complicated dance rhythm; it could be played on four drums. (p. 132)

I can remember seeing either that row of houses, or one very like it in Venice, and being puzzled by the strange arrangement of windows, which he describes later as being “like the harmony of a four-part song.”

The Spanish steps of a polonaise

My favourite bit of all, however, is when he gets on to Piranesi’s Veduta di Piazza di Spagna (c. 1750), a detailed etching that includes a view of the “Spanish steps” in Rome.

Detail of

Detail of “Veduta di Piazza di Spagna” by Piranesi, circa 1750, similar to the one shown in Rasmussen (1964)

With its bends and turns, its design seems to have been based on an old-fashioned, very ceremonial dance—the Polonaise—in which the dancers advance four by four in a straight line and then separate, two going to the right and two to the left; they turn, turn again, curtsy, meet again on the large landing, advance together, separate once more to left and right, and finally meet again at the the topmost terrace where they turn to face the view and see Rome lying at their feet. (p.136)

Even if this is totally fanciful armchair theorizing, it’s a wonderful way to read those steps. The only problem for me is that he reads the dance going up the steps, whereas Piranesi’s drawing is from the bottom. Given that if stages are raked at all, the rake is towards the viewer, it would seem natural to consider the bottom of the steps, not the top, as the end point of the polonaise procession. I don’t think that particularly matters though: I’m quite convinced, now Rasmussen’s said it, that there is something very dancy about those steps, something, indeed, of the polonaise which looks so impressive as its lines divide and reform.

Nonetheless, as much as I love the idea, there’s a trace of what I have referred to elsewhere as they would have: They knew little about walking but so much more about the very ceremonious dancing of the period, and therefore they could move gracefully on those steps. . .” Rasmussen says (p. 136).  It’s a nice thought, and it’s true that that Piranesi’s drawing has lots of gallant looking people in farthingales and frock coats who look like they were made to process elegantly down that magnificent staircase. But Piranesi also shows people doing no such thing: on the left of the steps, there’s what might be a drunk, collapsed at the bottom. On the right, there’s what looks like a massive fight that’s ended in a pile-up. RIght in the middle of the central stairway, directly in the path of the elegant couple about to mount the stairs, a man is gesturing in angry desperation to what looks like a woman who absolutely refuses to move. She looks like she might be drunk and disorderly too, and maybe not even fully dressed, hence the exasperation of her partner. To the left of the piled-up gang on the right hand side is a man who looks like he might be taking a not very discreet piss against the walls. In short, “society” is as variegated in this picture as it would be on the Spanish Steps today (perhaps more so). The occupational hazard of working in dance and music for too long is that you tend to imagine the whole of society like a ballroom. 

How I found Rasmussen 

Sometimes I wonder how much detail is too much when you’re documenting your sources. For me, the route is one of the most important parts: it shows respect to those whose work pointed you in the right direction, but if you’ve found something truly wonderful, it might also provide clues as to how to conjoin the right kind of search terms in future. But where do you stop—how many steps should you retrace? 

In this case, I was re-(skim)reading Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, and noticed his reference to rhythmanalysis (long before Lefebvre) which I hadn’t before, and to the name that I remembered from  Lefebvre’s book, Lúcio Alberto Pinheiro dos Santos—the Portuguese philosopher who first introduced the term rhythmanalysis in 1931. I was wondering how I had managed to miss Bachelard’s reference the first time round, so I googled dos Santos and rhythmanalysis as search terms, and came across Giovanni Campus’s doctoral thesis “The City as Theatre: The Performing Space.”  In the section of the thesis about rhythmanalysis, I found a discussion of Rasmussen, buildings and rhythm which set me on the path to this post. Thank you Giovanni. 

As I said in a recent post, sometimes I wonder how it is that you can fail to discover really useful resources for such a long time: surely, when they’re that good, or that close to your interests, Google will just find them? Well, no. When I tried to find the Campus’s thesis online again, I couldn’t. Then I remembered that when I first googled dos Santos and rhythmanalysis, I had misspelled what I could remember of the first names—Pinero, rather than PInheiro. Only when I googled <pinero dos Santos rhythmanalysis> could I find Campus’s thesis again—why? Because Campus himself misspells the name.  When Google can be so precise about not delivering relevant results to you for the sake of a simple misspelling, you wonder what else you might be missing. 

Footnote on dos Santos and rhythmanalysis

And all of that makes me as suspicious as I ever was about the benefits of Google unless you have something to bring to the search box yourself. Once I’d got Bachelard, Pinheiro dos Santos, Rhythmanalysis, and Lefebvre as search times, the useful results multiplied. Especially useful was this article by Jonas Rutgeerts, where in a footnote he explains what I was already beginning to surmise about dos Santos, from the lack of literature available: 

The Portuguese professor in literature and psychology Lúcio Alberto Pinheiro dos Santos allegedly coined the term rhythmanalysis in 1931, when he wrote La Rythmanalyse. However, up until today the theoretical relevance of this work remains unclear, as the book was never published and the original manuscript is lost. The only in-depth reference to the text can be found in Gaston Bachelard Dialectics of Duration. Moreover, as Bachelard neither intends “to give an over-all view of these nor to describe all the many lines of development,” it is virtually impossible to make claims about dos Santos’s own theory. (p. 99)

In the end, I begin to wonder whether talking about rhythm in architecture is just something refined people do as part of elegant conversation: a kind of linguistic curlicue that is decorative rather than providing useful insights. It seems every time someone wants to use the trope, they have to explain what they mean, at the same time as saying that what they mean is difficult to define. That to me is God telling you to use a different metaphor, or just say what you mean without resorting to metaphor at all. 

References

Steen Eiler, R. (1964). Experiencing architecture. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
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Waltz offences: when to call the police

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A fairground waltzer

A waltzer at Winter Wonderland, 2018. With no competition the most horrible experience (the waltzer) I have ever had. I thought I was going to die or throw up or both.

For no reason except that I love the story, here’s an interesting fact about the waltz in 19th century Innsbruck.

According to Eric McKee (2014) after 1780, the term deutscher Tanz, which until then meant any German spinning dance, began to refer to dances—like the Walzer (waltz)—where couples made circuits around the edge of the dance space, while also turning in their own, smaller circles. If you’ve ever been on a waltzer at a fairground, that’s the principle: a surprising case of a fancy name reliably describing the thing it’s applied to. 

For that reason, McKee refers to the waltz, Walzer, and Deutscher with the collective term Deutscher–Waltzer. The difference between these dances and the later “Viennese waltz” was that in the earlier forms, couples tried to co-ordinate their travel around the room with the other dancers, so that it was in effect a very large group dance. By contrast, in the first decade of the 19th century, couples began to treat the ballroom as a kind of anticlockwise circular motorway, choosing to create other smaller “lanes” inside the space, and varying the length of their stride so they could dawdle or overtake, choosing their own, independent speed. 

And here we come to my favourite bit of McKee’s description: 

However, in some regions an ordered an arrangement of dancers continued to be practiced. As late as 1816 in a dance hall in Innsbruck, upon his second warning a man could be reported to the police commissioner for passing ahead of another waltzing couple of the ballroom dance floor (Fink 1990, p. 39)

[The Fink citation at the end is part of McKee’s text. The quote above is from McKee 2014, p. 175)—see references for details].

Having seen the dirty looks that dancers in open classes can give to someone who fails to get out of the way at the end of a travelling exercise, or who is still working out the steps in their head in the middle of the studio while others are about to crash in to them, I can see the attraction of being able to call the police when you’re beyond narked. I’d be interested to know what the police commissioner thought about this—and what similar dancing crimes would be so heinous as to warrant a call to Cressida Dick? 

References

McKee, E. (2014). Ballroom dances of the late eighteenth century. In D. Mirka (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Topic Theory (pp. 164–193). New York: Oxford University Press. Retrieved from https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199841578.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199841578-e-7
Fink, M. (1990). Tanzveranstaltungen und Bälle. In W. Salmen (Ed.), Mozart in der Tanzkultur seiner Zeit (pp. 33–46). Innsbruck: Helbling.
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Historical dance resources page (Richard Powers)

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Illustration of quadrille formation from Howe’s Drawing Room Dances (1859) available to download from Richard Powers’ site. 

Now and again I come across resources on the web that make me wonder how it was possible to have missed them all this time. Richard Powers’ website about historical dance is one of those.

I was looking for an online translation of Domenico da Piacenza’s 15th century treatise on dance. I might as well say why, while I’m at it. It’s because in Michael Baxandall’s  Painting and Experience in fifteenth century Italy, there is the most wonderful description of maniera, and definition of rhythm: 

Maniera, according to Domenico, is ‘a moderate movement, not too much and not too little, but so smooth that the figure is like a gondola oared by two oars through the little waves of a calm sea, these waves rising slowly and falling quickly.’ Misura is rhythm, but flexible rhythm, ‘slowness compensated by quickness.’  (Baxandall 1988, pg. 78) 

I love this so much,  I wanted to find the original, see the context, and give a more detailed reference to the original work if I could. I didn’t find the translation (eventually I managed to look at one on Google Books), but I did find on Powers’ site a table, in chronological order, of nearly 1600 dance manuals from the years 1425–2000, the first being da Piacenza’s De arte saltandi et choreas ducendi.  He has a private collection of 1,950 such manuals, 108 of which he has made available on his downloads page. These are not the same manuals that are available from the Library of Congress site, or others. 

As it happens, I was also looking for quadrille music for a workshop (on quadrilles) that I did recently at Tring Park School for the RAD, with Nicola Gaines. Although I had plenty of quadrilles from IMSLP, I wanted to make sure I had a different set to the ones I had used last time. On Powers’ site, on the downloads page, I found Elias Howe’s 1859 Drawing Room Dances, which has several quadrilles in it, of many different types. Several other dance manuals or descriptions on the downloads page have sheet music included, so it is well worth looking here. 

Also well worth reading are his teaching guidelines, especially the section on music. It is astonishing how little advice or information there is out there on using music in dance teaching. Although this isn’t specifically about ballet teaching (but about historical dance), everything he says could be usefully applied to ballet teaching. The following observation, for example, is so true, yet I have never seen it written down before: 

Tempo warning: There may come the day when you think to yourself, “That music feels too fast. I think I’ll slow it down for them.”  Or, “I can’t believe I’ve been teaching it that fast all of these years!”  No, the music isn’t too fast; you’re just slowing down.  If your class is comprised of younger people, don’t slow the class down to a tempo which works for an older teacher.

Also well worth reading is his “How to be a better dance DJ“—by which he means selecting and putting on music for social dances. But a lot of what he says is applicable to teachers selecting music for ballet classes, or for pianists preparing music for them. 

Powers is wonderfully generous with his resources, and for my taste, represents the best of the web—it makes me feel a little nostalgic for the early days (I’m talking 20 years ago) when people saw the web as an opportunity to share, rather than monetize. 

References

Baxandall, M. (1988). Painting and experience in fifteenth century Italy: a primer in the social history of pictorial style (2nd ed). Oxford [Oxfordshire] ; New York: Oxford University Press.

 

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Drigo’s “Reveil de Flore” piano score online

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Thanks to Patty Noel who alerted me to the fact that Harvard now have this available online digitally. We’d both previously searched high and low for it without success, but then it seemed to suddenly appear. As always with Drigo, some wonderful music in there that in my view (shhhh don’t tell anyone I said so) eclipses a lot of Tchaikovsky’s ballet music. 

Link to Harvard University’s digital piano score of Le Reveil de Flore (Drigo)

 

 

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Little Humpbacked Horse thesis online

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Great to read Aaron Manela’s masters thesis “Arthur Saint-Léon’s The Little Humpbacked Horse in Context,”  which is available online. Here’s the abstract: 

In this study I examine representations of antisemitism, fantasy, and cultural imperialism in the 1864 ballet The Little Humpbacked Horse, composed by Cesare Pugni and choreographed by Arthur Saint-Léon. As the creative team adapted the story from verse to ballet, they literally morphed the titular character into new fantastical forms. They also added Jewish, Muslim, and other oriental characters and ended the ballet with a parade of the Russian nations. Drawing on the works of Richard S. Wortman, Julie Kalman, and Roger Bartra, I place these transformations in the context of a larger Russian ambivalence around the shift from a rural and woodland economy to an urban one, the inclusion of Eastern provinces in the rapidly expanding nation, and the emancipation – and inclusion of – internal minorities. I then explain how the music, choreography, and focus of the ballet change as the relevance of these mid-nineteenth century concerns fades.

As I’m struggling with a very tricky paragraph about music and representation right now, it’s helpful to read something like this that is so clear about the connection. 

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“. . . And she done the fandango all over the place”

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The Body and Everyday Life by Helen Thomas, the source of the fandango story in this post

The Body and Everyday Life: excellent guide to the field by Helen Thomas.

I’ve just found another beautiful piece of dance research. Beauty might be an odd adjective to use, but there is something deeply attractive about the careful observation, and attention to  social and musical details in this particular study. It resonates strongly with the kind of thing I and my ballet pianist colleagues often see in classes and rehearsals, and the analysis and conclusions throw interesting light on our world too. 

I found it in Helen Thomas’s excellent book, The Body and Everyday Life (Routledge, 2013), on pages 32-33. Thomas refers to Anya Peterson Royce’s description of arguments between members of a Zapotec dance group from Juchitán, Mexico (Royce, The Anthropology of Dance, 1980, pp. 27-31).  The detail is what makes the story, so there’s a lot you can’t skip, but I’ll try to summarize it briefly.

The fandango rehearsal

In Royce’s account, six couples are rehearsing the Fandango, a dance which has alternating fast and slow sections. Four of the couples change place two bars before the new tempo begins, whereas the other two change place right on it. An older dancer from one of the “two-bars-before” couples , considered an expert on dance and a regular performer at the annual dance festival, corrects one of the women from the “right on the tempo change” couples, saying that two bars before is the correct way. She also happens to be the right-on-it woman’s older cousin, as well as being from a distinguished old Zapotec family.

You’d think that the younger cousin, being younger, and being outnumbered and outclassed in terms of dance experience, would have just said “OK, thank you” and taken the correction from her older cousin, especially as there were other relatives from the same family in the rehearsal who sided with the two-bars-before view. But she didn’t. She insisted that her way was right, and what’s more, she’d even learned it  from her older cousin’s grandmother—considered one of the best dancers in Juchitán. She refused to budge, and said that the grandmother should be called on to arbitrate. 

Having seen both versions, the grandmother declared the two-bars-before version to be the correct one. I rather like the sound of the younger cousin, who now says that she’d seen the grandmother moving on the tempo change, not two bars before it, on a recent occasion. When grandmother asked her daughter (i.e. the older cousin) whether that was true, the cousin said, no it wasn’t, she’d moved two bars before, as they’d been saying all along. The younger cousin had finally to bow to pressure and give way in the face of all the odds stacked against her. 

But Royce later performed the fandango with another member of the two-bar-before family, and in keeping with what she had observed in the family drama, made to move two bars before the upcoming tempo change. At this point—and if you work in the dance world, you’ll have guessed this bit already—she was told that she should only move when the music changed! After a lot of questions and further observation, she realized that it was acceptable to do the dance both ways, changing before or on the tempo change—but under the circumstances, family values won the day, not choreographic truth. It reminds me of those rehearsals where everyone does what they’re told if the visiting choreographer or ballet mistress wants a change made, but as soon as they’re on a plane, things get changed back to how they were, at least for those who have sufficient status to get away with it. 

Commentary on the fandango rehearsal

I love the story, but also Thomas’s commentary on it: 

The dancers’ body movement in time and space in the context of the rehearsal became a site of resistance to and an affirmation of the cultural codes of behaviour which almost go unnoticed in everyday life. This case also raises the question as to when a performance event (in the case of a rehearsal) can be said to begin and end, which, in turn, leads to a questioning of the closed-off notion of the ‘performance event’ from everyday life” (Thomas 2013, p. 34). 

As class and rehearsal pianists for ballet you get to see, or hear of, similar altercations about music that are about so much more than just music because they are thoroughly embedded in social structures (for some reason, dance seems to be particularly prone to such things, perhaps precisely because it involves bodies moving together socially). And yet, you absolutely have to have the musical detail for the story to make any sense at all. That’s why I think this is such a beautiful bit of research. It’s about so little and so much at the same time, and music is not accompaniment or background, but part of the cloth from which the whole story is woven. 

She done the fandango

I couldn’t resist calling this She done the fandango all over the place. Years ago I was at a party at house of the wonderful poet, Kit Wright. He’d found a Victorian music hall song with that title in a compendium of such things, and as after-lunch entertainment, sang it, accompanying himself on the guitar, in the style of a Country and Western ballad. Every time I hear fandango I remember that song, and that party. I am certain that Kit’s book had it as She done the fandango, rather than she “did” or “does,” because that was why it sounded so funny, but I’ll have to wait til my copy arrives to find out. Meanwhile, here’s the chorus from Henri Clarke’s 1883 song, “She does the fandango all over the place.” 

She sang like a nightingale, twanged her guitar
Danced the Cachuca, and smoked a cigar
Oh what a form, Oh what a face
And she does the Fandango all over the place.

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