2—Dance Forms
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10 chapter two Dance Forms1 Dance was an essential element of court life in eighteenth-century Europe, and whereas none of Bach’s Partita movements was intended for use as ballroom accompaniment , we should bear in mind that knowledge of the characteristics and appropriate tempi of the various dances is essential if we seek to approximate their style. As esoteric as this may sound, three centuries later, we now have access to and may profit from the fruits of considerable research by experts in this field in order to have a glimpse of that fascinating social ritual. I recommend to my students that they at least watch videos, if not live performances, of Baroque dances reconstructed by soloists and troupes that specialize in this art, and, better still, that they avail themselves of any opportunity to experience Baroque dance personally in a workshop setting. The physical sensation of Baroque dance can have a remarkable and lasting effect on the way one uses the bow when playing these movements. Allemanda This was one of the most popular of Baroque instrumental dances and a standard movement, along with the Courante, Sarabande, and Gigue, of the suite. The Allemande originated some time in the early or mid-sixteenth century, appearing under such titles as “Teutschertanz” or “Dantz” in Germany and “bal todescho,” “bal francese,” and “Tedesco” in Italy. Originally a moderate duple-metre dance in two or three strains, the Allemande came to be one of the most highly stylized of all Baroque dances. However, because it is more in the nature of an Entrée, an introductory processional piece, and lacks the rhythmic energy and regularity of other dances, I have chosen to categorize it instead as a philosophical movement and discuss it in chapter 9. This is in accord with the opinion of influential eighteenth-century commentators . 1. Much of the description and historical information in this chapter is adapted from Meredith Little and Natalie Jenne’s Dance and the Music of J. S. Bach (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), 35–46, and from various articles in Grove Music Online. 11 Dance Forms Bourée/Borea During the reign of Louis XIV, the Bourée came into fashion both as a social dance at balls and as a theatrical dance. Lully included Bourées in many of his ballets and operas, and composed one for the dancing-lesson scene in Act 1 of Molière’s Le bourgeois gentilhomme (1670). Later French composers for the stage, including Charpentier , Destouches, Campra, and Rameau, continued to use Bourées in dancing scenes and occasionally in overtures. As stylized dance music, the Bourée was characterized by duple metre with an upbeat of a quarter-note, a moderate to fast tempo (half-note = c80–92) and phrases built out of four-bar units. Bourée choreographies are fairly simple in comparison to other dances like the Sarabande, Gigue, and Loure: they are light, carefree, energetic, and fleet. Ciaccona A form of continuous variation similar to the Passacaglia, which became popular during the Baroque era, the Chaconne originated in Latin America in the late sixteenth century as a lively dance which had both instrumental and vocal accompaniment . Although no music for the Latin American type survives, it is most likely that the refrain was constructed on one of a number of typical harmonic patterns. During the early seventeenth century, the Chaconne appeared in Spain and Italy, where it became popular as both a dance and an instrumental form. The Chaconne also became popular in France and, toward the middle of the seventeenth century, in Germany and England. In France, the dance became slower and statelier, as did the Sarabande on its removal to France from Spain. It is interesting to note that Bach subtly transforms his Ciaccona into a Passacaglia at the twenty-fourth measure and proceeds thereafter to go back and forth between the two forms throughout the movement. I shall deal with that feature at length in chapter 6. Corrente A fast triple-metre dance and instrumental form popular from the late sixteenth century until the mid-eighteenth century, it is usually considered by some to be an Italian version of the Courante. However, whereas the normal metre of the elegant Courante is 3 2, Bach’s Corrente is in 3 4, and, as one of the standard dances in a partita, a vehicle for idiomatic display. 12 The Accompaniment in “Unaccompanied” Bach Gavotte Like most Baroque dances, the Gavotte was used as...


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