The Sarabande 'mystery'



Ex. 1 The first four bars of the Sarabande in Rebel’s Les Caractères de la danse (Rebel, 1715).


The musical structure of the Sarabande is traditionally articulated by accentuating the first and second beats of the first bar, which leads to the downbeat of the second bar, thus aligning the two bars in a basic unit.

In the workshop with dancers I noticed that this musical structure is not always obvious in the dance steps and gestures. Dancers would richly ornament the dance step patterns, resulting in a kaleidoscope of passionate gestures, inertial suspensions, and virtuosic leg figurations. Dalen (2013), describes the dance steps coupé à deux mouvements and pas grave as not necessarily accentuating the second beat, but rather changing the velocity. The second beat ‘receives an upward and forward movement, or acceleration as it were, whereas in the pas grave, the gliding part of the step conveys a feeling of resistance and density of texture’ (Dalen, 2013, p. 23).

A Soundist may mark the structure by applying two accents and a crescendo in the first bar leading to the accented downbeat of the second bar, which relaxes in a diminuendo:


Ex. 2 & Aud. 1 The structure of the Sarabande in the Soundist strategy.


As a Gesturist, I attempt to emulate the dancer’s interplay of motion and suspense in my body movements. The successive gestures on the first and second beats 'clash' against each other, which generates the energetic motion towards the second bar.

The kinetic clash in the first bar, and the loaded moment of inertia after the clash, resonate with the dancer’s movements (see vid. 1 below)

Ex. 3 & Aud. 2 The structure of the Sarabande in the Soundist strategy



Vid.1 The Sarabande’s dramatic character and steps demonstrated by Deda Cristina Colonna.






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