Dance movements in musical performance
Having acquired an understanding of the Menuet as a dance, the next crucial step is the implementation of the dance experiences into playing movements. The assimilation of dance movements into the playing action is obviously not the final goal in the musical interpretation. The dance movements may inform the body of a violinist in the process of constructing the interpretation, but mastering the dance steps and movements would not cover all the necessary interpretative perspectives leading to a successful performance. However, the assimilation of dance movements can indeed inspire and enrich my expressive vocabulary as a violinist and open up for more spontaneous musical interaction, with other musicians, and with the ecology of the entire performance situation in the moment of performance.
In the previous case study, Don Quichotte (V1), I explored several aspects of body movement in musical performance. The mimetic gesture of throwing Sancho up in the air (V1a) will necessarily affect other simultaneous actions, like the rhythmical coordination between players, the negotiations of musical ideas in rehearsal, or the expressive communication in performance. The mimetic gestures in Sancho, as well as the dance movements in this Menuet, will permeate the musical communication, between the musicians in the ensemble, and outwards, with the audience.
The following video example is a short video essay drawing on an experiment recorded in the motion capture studio at Oslo University. Here, I wished to explore the interrelations between performance intentions, body movement, and sounding outcome in the Menuet. Repeating the first phrase in three different modes, I focus on:
1. good sound
2. dance movements
In the analysis, conducted through comparative juxtaposition of separate video clips, I assess how the intended mode of performance influenced my body movements and further, I assess the 'audibility' of the intention and body movement strategy in the resulting sound.
Vid. 1 A study of a Menuet movement performed with different intentions.
In the study of the Menuet, apart from the assimilation of its 'lively flow' as a new gestural element in my violin movement vocabulary, I also arrived at an important insight concerning the relationship between music and dance. Modernists like Cunningham and Cage, or Lucinda Childs and Philip Glass, despised the close and coherent relationship between music and dance, calling it mimicking or mickey-mousing (Damsholt, 1999). On the contrary, the close relationship between the musical structure and dance choreography in the Baroque period was never questioned. (Arbeau, 1589; Feuillet, 1713; Rameau, 1725; Tomlinson, 1735). But as Inger Damsholt showed in her study (1999), the visualisation of musical structure that defines the choreomusical discourse in the Baroque period was based on a creative correspondence, coherence, and assimilation of shared space between the two art domains prior to the modernist demand of their absolute autonomy .
I will return to this topic in a discussion of how the HIP movement prioritizes an historical reconstruction, which implies that the visualisation of musical structure in dance is the final end, rather than a starting point of a deeper exploration (in Section 4.1 Historical authenticity: body and sound in the Theoretical framework).
The counter rhythm between the step units and musical meter in the Menuet is just one of the more obvious examples of a more sophisticated relationship of baroque music and dance.
Such autonomy could, for instance, result in a dance production where the choreography is devised independently of the intended music, as in the collaborations of Cunningham and Cage; or in choreography constructed as a dance in silence, as in the work of Lucinda Childs.