Pas de Terpsichore, Reconstructed by Alan Jones especially for our students
Access to this little known pas de trois reconstructed from the Montargis Manuscript by Alan Jones Alan Jones Biography is of great interest to dance departments and professional dance companies. Technically challenging, yet accessible to intermediate-level ballet students, it debunks the myth of early ballet as being simple in nature. Its length is about four minutes. This dance will be taught at the Santa Barbara Historical Dance Workshop, produced by The New York Baroque Dance Company (NYBDC). Our work on this pas de trois represents the first reconstruction ever performed from the Montargis Manuscript.
Compiled by at least four anonymous French dancing masters between 1790 and 1815, the Montargis Manuscript is preserved at the library of the Paris Opéra, where it is catalogued as C. 515, Chorégraphies de divers ballets réglés sans doute au Collège de Montaigu. This is a little known document on dance training in provincial France during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods. Fragile pages bound in white calfskin include descriptions for numerous hornpipes and other danses de caractère, notes on the allemande and the waltz and a few short ballets of pastoral and noble character. Among these is a Pas de Terpsichore in which the muse of the dance instructs her disciples who obediently repeat her every movement. We will also explore the world of expressive gesture using melodies recommended by the manuscript to evoke various dramatic moods for story ballets: naïve joy, misfortune, threats, etc.
A parallel class will be taught by Catherine Turocy exploring gesture and expressive body postures as seen in period publications of Gilbert Austin and Carlos Blasis. These two classes offered over a 5 day period will inform the dancers on the early ballet style of the 19th century.
The Montargis Manuscript is in the form of verbal instructions, (coupé devant, grand développé, rond de jambe) The tunes are identified by the title. Jones has already completed the musicological project of locating the scores. The ballet music consists mainly of isolated melodies from assorted opéras comiques, plus romances and ariettes, including music from Annette et Lubin, an opéra comique of 1762, which was later made into a ballet by Noverre (then others). The melodies in the manuscript are identified with emotional content. What is fascinating in particular is the “American connection.” Of the half-dozen ballet livrets included, all of these ballets were performed in the US in the 1790’s except one.
The Pas de Terpsichore is in the form of an echo, with Terpsichore demonstrating and her disciples repeating. This dance is an opening movement to a ballet consisting of:
I) Pas de Terpsichore (melody, the sentimental song “Charmantes fleurs” by the Italian-born Antoine Albanese [1729-1800])
2) Lively ensemble dance (melody, “Vive la danse,” a lively dance in 6/8 by Stanislas Champein, a late-18th-c composer of opéras comiques).
3) Allemande, a brief but complex theatrical allemande, a fashionable dance remarkable for its sophisticated use of partnering which had a lasting influence on the Romantic pas de deux.
In the context of the workshop we would like to use the Pas de Terpsichore as a first step in recovering this ballet and in continuing the workshop’s exploration into early 19th century ballet which began with Sandra Noll Hammond in 2012 (funded by Dance Preservation Fund of The Ohio State University). We would like to work intensively on the port de bras as well as step variations which are no longer in use in today’s ballet practice. Both Turocy and Jones will use their expertise with the Genarro Magri treatise from 1779, Trattato Teorico-Prattico di Ballo and the Auguste Ferrère manuscript to guide their interpretation of the Montargis Manuscript. In addition, there are only three generations separating Alan Jones from this period, as he studied ballet mainly with former students of Olga Preobrajenska, who studied with Marius Petipa (among others), who in turn was a student of Auguste Vestris.
If you would like to be a part of this historic event but cannot attend our workshop, kindly Contribute a tax deductible donation to cover the expenses of making a video documentation for the Pas de Terpsichore. (Click the link or scroll to PayPal on the right side bar.)
Thank you for being a part of our dance legacy.