The Early Dance Institute
” As a young student at The Ohio State University in the 1970’s I dreamed of what the early dance field would be in decades to come. Here are my current thoughts. I welcome your feedback – it takes more than one person to make this dream a reality. Feel free to post comments on this blog or to send a letter of support emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org ” Catherine Turocy
Brief Description: The Early Dance Institute would provide a comprehensive program in the study of historical dance performance before 1900, supplementing performance with research and theoretical studies, leading to degrees at the graduate level. The faculty would consist of internationally known performers and dance historians who specialize in the performance of early repertory. The EDI would include university-wide academic support from disciplines as diverse as musicology, computer studies, literature, medieval studies, and fine arts.
EDI would be a unique environment of research and experimentation that does not exist anywhere else in the world. Here, students could delve deeply into the sources of dance from the 15th-early 19th century, and would eventually be able to independently reconstruct dances as well as use their knowledge for new, contemporary creations rooted in the principles of historic performance practice. While classes in early dance that include technique and discussions of period sources exist in a handful of other universities (Université de Nice inFrance and the Danshögskolan inSweden), they are not comprehensive focuses of study, but rather elements of a well-rounded dance education. Most professional dancers working in period styles in Europe expand their knowledge by taking workshops, working on their own, or learning by performing in various short-term projects. The Early Dance Institute would be the only place where students can fully concentrate on early dance and its application in today’s dance world. This extended period of study outside of the pressures of the current dance scene leads to a more profound depth of knowledge that engender exciting experimentations, fresh ideas about reconstructing dances from period sources, and insights into creating new dances in period styles.
Uniqueness of Program: Programs such as EDI are very current in music departments across the country and in Europe. Art History and Theater History programs also exist on the graduate level. The University of California at Riverside at one time carried a Dance History program on the graduate level, but has since changed its focus to world culture. The Early Dance Institute as described in this proposal would be a unique program, drawing international interest from around the globe. This would bring a new era in dance studies and their practical application to dance performance.
The program would include lessons in Western period dance technique with extensive solo and ensemble performance opportunities. The program would offer academic courses designed to provide an understanding of the many practical and theoretical areas essential to performance of medieval, renaissance, baroque, and classical dance (e.g. improvisation, ornamentation, articulation, period movement and gesture, mask work, costume design, historical stage direction, historical notation, bibliography, dance theory, etc.). Research would be encouraged, and opportunities for research provided both in academic courses and in elective special projects. The faculty of the Early Dance Institute would make every effort to accommodate a student’s specialized interests without losing sight of a broader commitment to artistic excellence and scholarship.
The student body would be comprised of graduate students and a smaller number of undergraduate students minoring in early dance from the culturally diverse student population. In addition, all activities of the EDI would be available to the approximately 200 dance students majoring in standard practice areas.
Which classes would be offered/required?
1. Foreign language: choice of French, Italian, German, Spanish, Russian
2. Historical Dance Technique as the daily 2 hour technique class. We could offer a different period each semester. Perhaps it should also be at a different time than the ballet and modern technique, so that they could take those classes in addition.
We could offer a separate, more “survey” course for the minors and non-early dance students in the afternoon.
3. Dance Observation and Writing connected with an investigation of period sources
4. Historical Dance Analysis including cultural perspectives
5. Musical Score Reading from different periods
6. Historical Dance Theory and its application in period repertoire
7. Dance Composition (historical choreographic conventions and how those conventions can, or are, still used today. Choreographing in a period style)
8. Reconstruction and Interpretation of Historical Notations/Texts
9. Repertory Performance
How does the NYBDC interact with the program?
Answer: Teaching technique, composition, notation, early dance repertoire. Acting as advisors. Inviting student dancers to join us in summer projects in European festivals. Working individually with students in applying dance theory to practice in an experimental fashion…this could be a neo-historical effort or an effort to further define a historical style by deepening approaches of “authenticity.” Also, after graduating, for those dancers who wish to continue performing on the stage, we could definitely help to place them in our company or another company they might be interested in.
I think we could make this work in the Midwest. With so many early music programs and dance programs at Oberlin College, Indiana University, Case Western Reserve, Ohio State University and Denison University, a production could be created with students where the production would tour the different universities but the student performers would change, depending upon the needs and strengths of the particular university. This would allow the different institutions to join resources to support period theatrical productions in which their students would gain valuable experience and the early dance and music fields would benefit by seeing productions which are too big for the smaller professional companies to produce. The NYBDC dancers could enhance the educational experience by participating in weekend residencies with the various university departments, preparing the students as needed.
Theater projects would also be very exciting to do. We could alternate music and theater if we want.
We could also collaborate with the Art Department, local Museums, local historical sites and interact with the community on historical projects which would have a dance component.
The performance element of EDI is important. Combining theory and practice is very important to me and important to furthering the field of dance history.
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