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Discover Despréaux

Discover Despréaux and be one of the first students to participate in this first international online workshop dedicated to his work.

This groundbreaking online workshop offered on Fridays from February 17 to March 24 consists of six 75 minute classes and includes a lecture on the life of Jean-Étienne Despréaux, a theory class and classes on the notation system he invented which is no longer in use, early 19th century ballet exercises, samplings of early 19th century ballet repertoire and a presentation of quadrilles from his unpublished manuscript. We are so fortunate to have Alan Jones share his deep research on the early 19th century ballet style and to have Irène Feste take us through her work on the court style as it evolved from the Baroque into the pre-romantic era. This transition period sheds light on what came before and what came after, but perhaps it is its own thing…

This workshop consists of lectures and practical classes. The practical classes can be taken as a regular dance class or simply observed. All classes will be recorded and available for study a day or two after the class so students can study at their own pace and review. Also, because of the time zone, students will be able to attend these online events in real time or at their convenience.

Class 1: Introduction to the life of Jean-Étienne Despréaux (1748-1820). This power point lecture by Irène Feste with additional commentary by Alan Jones, contains rare images from the period, sheds light on this artist who was a French dancer, choreographer, composer, singer and playwright. The lecture includes an introduction to his repertoire and his unpublished manuscript and places his work within a cultural context.

Class 2: Dance Theory Lecture and Discussion.  Alan Jones and Irène Feste present Despréaux’s ballet theory and practice revealing changes in ballet from the end of the 18th century into the beginning of the 19th century.

Classes 3, 4 and 5: Walking, Positions, Ballet Exercises and Notation.  This practical dance class will draw the student into the basics of the ballet style at this time and introduce them to Despréaux ‘s innovative notation system which is quite different from the established Beauchamp-Feuillet system. Taught by Alan Jones and Irène Feste, dance phrases will be drawn from repertoire such as the Gavotte de Vestris, Forlana, Menuet de la Cour, and Les Tricotets.

Class 6: Presentation of Quadrilles. Irene Feste will talk about the evolution of the ballet steps as used in the ballroom emphasizing the origin of the dances, rhythm, measure and cadence.

The dance materials are at the BnF. Both the Terspi-Coro-Graphie and the Quadrilles are part of the Fonds Deshayes, Bibliothèque nationale de France (Bibliothèque-Musée de l’Opéra).

Dates: Fridays from February 17-March 24 from 12-1:15pm Eastern Standard Time

Cost: $130 which includes 6 classes and recordings of each class as well as supplemental materials.

This workshop is of interest to: dancers, choreographers, stage directors, ballet teachers, musicians, actors, Pre-Romantic ballet fans, Baroque ballet enthusiasts, American dance students, dance notation students and teachers and those interested in American/European cultural history of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

To Register for the workshop please contact Jennifer Meller at jenbeast@gmail.com

Tuition for Workshop

Six classes Discover Despreaux


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The Wrap-Up

First of all a big Thankyou to Jennifer Meller for helping me manage Historical Dance at Play. She also acted as our tech person and was a great help to the presenters. This was our 15th multi-era summer workshop and I would like to acknowledge Richard Powers and Joan Walton for being a part of our creative team behind the scenes and helping to form the nature of these workshops.

We had 16 presenters for the 12 sessions and I cannot be more happy with what was brought to light, examined and truly enjoyed, as our eyes, bodies and souls opened to new vistas. Here is the wrap-up I presented yesterday for those who missed it…

“Thank you to all our presenters for sharing your research and artistry these past two weekends. I feel a new energy coming from the historical dance field and that we may be on some sort of edge.

In astronomy, the birth of a new star tells us so much about the universe and creation. In our session with Terrance Smith, he brought to us a new dance form emerging from today’s Memphis. Was this the kind of excitement the galliard created when it first appeared on the scene? His explanation of the history of jookin, the style, the moves, improvisation… Is the “bug jump” so different from the  Renaissance ru de vache or kick of the cow? He deftly taught us the moves of this new urban ballet and it gave us so much to think about as we try to make sense of the past, present and future of dance.

On the same line of thought, Bruno Benne brought us into his dance inspired and emerging from Baroque forms. His class restored a natural weight and swing to Baroque dance steps. He is clearly not making a recreation of an historical style, but taking the style from the Baroque ballroom and stage directly to a minimalist form reminiscent of Merce Cunningham or Lucinda Childs with whom he has collaborated. He is taking what he learned as a dancer with Beatrice Massin and Marie Genevieve Massé further into the future of education for the common pedestrian and mixing, at times, his work with this group and his professional company, much like the court performances where professionals danced with the nobility. Both his classes and his staged work are Historical Dance at Play.

Yesterday we heard from the very articulate Caroline Copeland who is incorporating historical dance ideas from art theory, historical dance treatises, iconography and notations into her ballet, modern and dance history classes. She has made a call to action, encouraging today’s teachers to understand and use the past in their own teaching as a way of giving their students a fuller appreciation of the art and as a path to liberation, honoring the unique intelligence and abilities of the individual.

But what about traditional research, discussion and performance of historical dance with its recreations and new creations in the style? This work is continuing from a fresh perspective. Ana Yepes, Jeannette Acosta-Martinez and Ramon Martinez joined forces in comparing movement in dancing and fencing of the Spanish Golden Age. Their collaborative efforts underscored a necessity for our dance field to see movement in the broader sense, as a part of physical culture from an era. They opened the challenge to see beyond our own discipline into related physical arts.

Deda Cristina Colonna and Sarah Edgar gave insight to the value and process of an artist looking into the dance and music scores to bring past art works to us. With Deda, her research, the details of the notation and questions raised by the nature of the choreography were illuminated by her own experience as a  choreographer. With Sarah, she looked into the life of Joseph Boulogne to create a cultural context which informed her stage direction and choreography. This was in addition to doing her due diligence of research and reconstruction of the late 18th century style. Both women were trained in dance techniques of today and are experienced in making contemporary work. I somehow feel this sharpens their eye in their reconstructions because they are familiar with the creative process in general.

In my own presentation I took our students into my choreographic process involving Baroque aesthetics and theory. How does one create the look of the style from theory and rules? Can these rules be an inspiration, liberating the creative flow of the artist? This practical application of the words of the dancing masters can release a new energy still within the period definitions of art. And as Caroline and Bruno showed us, it can release a new energy into contemporary art as well.

The exploration of Alan Jones into an almost unknown dance notation system took us into the late 18th century and early 19th century shedding light on early ballet technique and choreography. It was a delight to dance the exercises and to really see through Alan’s analysis the art of Despréaux. Alan opened our eyes to how much work still waits to be discovered. He is busy making cross cultural connections in geography and time. His research is original, deeply disciplined and groundbreaking.

How fortunate to experience the work of Edmund Fairfax on the same day as Alan’s presentation. The passion and urgency of Edmund’s video challenged many areas of assumed knowledge. Understanding the importance of researchers/practitioners in the last century such as Wendy Hilton, Shirley Wynne, Francine Lancelot literally breaking the code of the notation system and treatises, Edmund underscored the importance of continuing to challenge our knowledge of the past. What is really known? What has been assumed? In studying books published 30 or 40 years ago on the subject of historical dance, we must understand this was an early dance movement still in its beginning stages, there are mistakes, just as there are mistakes in my own past lectures which I strive to correct. We can only see what we can at that moment. And for Edmund Fairfax, he is unique in striving to really build an encyclopedic knowledge of ballet from its beginnings to today. With great determination and an open mind, he continues to unearth riches. In his presentation we discovered he welcomes questions and uses these challenges as part of his own process.

In today’s presentations we looked into the more recent past of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Talitha Mackenzie brought us the sophistication of social dance and how the latest steps were transmitted in Scotland. Her own work embraces a larger platform for dance outside of social and theatrical forms, including traditional dance. This broader perspective reminds us that multi-era workshops in social, traditional and theatrical dance can be a breeding ground for new thought and discoveries.

With Millicent Hodson’s presentation we began the process of looking at recent history, but history which was and is about to disappear. Is the information documented or gathered from conversations? Is one method of thinking more valid than another? There were so many versions how do you choose and what gives you that right? She and her partner and Husband, Kenneth Archer are brave. They show us how to search out the soul of the work, to appreciate the human struggle at the time the dance was created and to restore a sense of what these lost dances are. The complex exploration of there work brings dignity to dance and does give it a voice. The work of Marcea Daiter, Thomas F. DeFrantz and Loris A. Beckles honor their legacy and also give a voice to the history of African American dance. I am so thankful they shared their experience and showed us how the very heart of history remains with us now and that as we push the art forward we are also affecting its history.

Perhaps Thomas F. DeFrantz  helped to summarize our efforts with this workshop when he said we are “Rendering history as an active process of creativity.”

Catherine Turocy, Artistic Director of The New York Baroque Dance Company and the Historical Dance at Play workshop

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Spotlight on Thomas F. DeFrantz

Thomas F. DeFrantz will be a guest at The New York Baroque Dance Company workshop, Historical Dance at Play: Welcome Home II. Marcea Daiter and Loris Beckles will join Thomas on a dance panel of choreographers who use their experience and understanding of the legacy of their own history as African Americans to create new work.

This short video from Thomas speaks to the place of history and dance history in contemporary choreography with a reflection on social justice.

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Spotlight on Loris Beckles

Loris Anthony Beckles, Artistic director of the Beckles Dance Company, is from Guyana, South America. Loris has studied ballet, modern dance, jazz and a taste of African dance; performed with lots of companies including the Syracuse Ballet Theater, Capitol Ballet, Eleo Pomare Dance Company, Joan Miller Dance Players and the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble (now Ailey II).  He has taught in the U.S., the Caribbean and in Europe; and choreographed just about wherever he stayed long enough.

The New York Baroque Dance Company is excited to have him as part of the panel of choreographers who will talk of their experiences, the legacy of African American dance and how history affects their own new works. Thomas DeFrantz and Marcea Daiter will join Loris on this panel.

Join us in our August workshop and hear more from Loris! Historical Dance at Play: Welcome Home II

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Spotlight on Sarah Edgar

Sarah Edgar, Associate Director of The New York Baroque Dance Company, will be talking about her experience as stage director/choreographer for what may be the only 18th century opera which has come down to us, composed by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Sainte-Georges.

Sarah Edgar speaks about her presentation for our next zoom event, Historical Dance at Play: Welcome Home II

Please join us at Historical Dance at Play this August 20-21-27-28 to hear more from Sarah Edgar and about the latest historical dance activity in our world.

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In the NYBDC Welcome Home II Zoom workshop August 20, 21, 27, 28, 2022, Caroline will be speaking on the topic: Bringing Baroque and earlier concepts into our ballet practice today. In this short video clip she gives us insight to her teaching practice. Enjoy!

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Ann Hutchinson Guest (1918-2022)

“With Turocy Feuillet gift” This is Ann, sending me a photo of the gift I gave her for her 100th birthday. I notated a dance I created for her which followed the pathway of her initials, AHG. This was a standard 18th century way of offering tribute.

I first became aware of Ann Hutchinson Guest as a student of Labanotation under Lucy Venable while attending The Ohio State University. Her Labanotation handbook clearly explained the system and with the help of Lucy Venable, I understood the value of reading and writing in dance notation and the value of movement analysis which goes hand-in-hand with writing. Later, I read Ann’s book, Dance Notation, the process of recording movement on paper. What an incredible discovery to know that over 100 systems exist!

My first in-person meeting with Ann was in the fall of 1980. I was in residence in London for 10 months on the Bicentennial US/UK Bicentennial Exchange Fellowship. Through Lucy Venable I was able to get an introduction to Ann and, sure enough, she invited me to her home in London. We had over an hour long conversation about dance and then Ann invited me to look at her collection of nearly 200 dances in 18th century dance notation developed by Beauchamp, Feuillet and additional dancing masters at the court of Louis XIV. (Of course, this took several visits.) In the 1980’s it was not easy to get into the rare collections of the major libraries of Europe. Ann’s collection represented years dedicated to her research and accumulation of xerox copies and microfiche of notated dances from different countries. I was still at the beginning of my career. To have access to this material was a godsend. She allowed me to take copies of these notations to begin to build my own library. Within a year I had read through all the dances and began to form an idea of Baroque choreographic style. I also used the notations as a springboard for my own choreography. Ann did not realize it at the time, but her generosity catapulted me into the search for answers defining dance theory and practice of the 18th century. I was already established as a performer of historical dance, but her passion inspired me to pursue my own path of practical research as related to performance production. She, too, was a dancer with a strong performance background who embraced the intellectual challenges of dance notation and movement analysis and this was the passion we shared which kept us in touch over 4 decades.

A piece of wisdom I learned from Ann, and am still using in my own company, came from a dance conference where we were both delivering papers. I attended her presentation where she discussed her latest reconstruction. Looking at the video of the dancers, I was impressed by their ability to grasp the style in such a short study session. I asked her how she achieved this and she summed it up in one word: improvisation. She explained that if a dancer can improvise in the style it means they have embodied the basic principles of the dance style and can therefore bring this fluidity of understanding to the performance of the specific dance. So simple, so brilliant and so Ann.

Ann, I will miss you. I am so grateful for our friendship and please know I think of you every time I ask a new dancer in our company to simply “improvise!”

The New York Times published a very good overview of her life and contributions. Here is the link: Ann Hutchinson Guest

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August 20-21 and 27-28, 2022

We are so excited to offer a Welcome Home II zoom workshop this August! Among the teachers on our team are Deda Christina Colonna, Edmund Fairfax, Sam Gosk, Millicent Hodson, Bruno Benne and more. In fact we are literally in the planning stages but have already received a wonderful response from the historical dance field in joining us for Welcome Home II. If you would like to be on our mailing list for this event, please contact me by email at cturocy@gmail.com.


Catherine Turocy

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Nathalie Krassovska and NYBDC

Our focus in this legacy zoom event hosted by Eventbrite on January 22, 2022 at 11 CST will pay tribute to Nathalie Krassovska and her influence on members of the New York Baroque Dance Company (NYBDC) who carry on her inspirational understanding of classical body attitudes and port de bras. Although ballet style has changed its carriage of the arms and tilts of the head from the 18th century to our own time, dancers continue to need sensitive training in complex body placement, imbuing angles of the head with expression and dynamically shifting within a small movement range. It is an artistic effort and responsibility on the teacher’s part to pass on these techniques to the students. Once the subtlety is learned, the dancer can use this tool and apply it to many styles of dance.

Born in St. Petersburg, Krassovska danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, the London Festival Ballet and worked with Bronislava Nijinska, Balanchine, and many more. NYBDC dancers Glenda Norcross and Brynt Beitman and Marci Hall, former NYBDC administrator, are all former students of Krassovska . Hear what they have to say from their first-hand experience with this amazing woman. Using an interview format as well as reading a tribute from Brynt, Catherine Turocy will lead this oral history event.

This is a free event and we invite all to attend. You will be sent the link closer to the event once you have registered. If you are able to contribute, donations are appreciated. The first $800 will go towards the Nathalie Krassovska Memorial Ballet Scholarship fund administered by the Dance Council of North Texas and remaining donations will support NYBDC workshops.


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Julia Sutton

On August 13th, 12-1:30 pm Pacific Time, the first virtual event of our workshop, Historical Dance at Play: Dance Through Time, will honor first generation teachers in early dance in the United States. Wendy Hilton, Shirley Wynne, Julia Sutton, Ingrid Brainard, Angene Feves, Sandra Noll Hammond and Richard Powers will be celebrated by today’s teachers in the field who were introduced to historical dance by these groundbreaking scholars.

Wendy Hilton

Although Wendy Hilton is actually a 3rd generation teacher from England, she was a pioneer in early dance once she moved to the United States in the 1960’s. Linda Tomko will talk about her work with Wendy including the Stanford summer workshop, Pendragon Press and more. Shirley Wynne studied the sources directly in the 1960’s (she choreographed Rameau’s Pygmalion in 1969). Avoiding being mentored by others, she wished to develop a unique perspective. 

Catherine Turocy will speak about her work with Shirley in the 1970’s as a student at The Ohio State University and then as a member of her Baroque Dance Ensemble, the first professional Baroque dance company in the US. 

Sandra Noll Hammond

Sandra Noll Hammond was inspired by the work of these first generation teachers and she, herself, became a pioneer in the research and reconstruction of early 19th century ballet technique and performance. The early dance scene was a small group when it started and there was a lot of interplay between the teachers. Additional speakers for this event are Talitha MacKenzie on Julia Sutton, Debra Sowell on Ingrid Brainard and Carol Teten on Angene Feves and Richard Powers.

We hope to see you at this virtual event! Registration Here

Richard Powers
Ingrid Brainard on left, photo taken by Richard Powers at Castle Hill Festival

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