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Some beautiful baroque dance: Lully's Atys

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Beautiful indeed!! Thanks for posting that. Many years ago, I took a couple of classes in Baroque dance, and found them probably the most difficult dance classes I ever tried--IMO, much harder than classical ballet. Maybe partly because it was new to me, but also, it took a great deal of ankle control, an extremely resilient and controlled use of pile, a very specific coordination between head, arms and body. (Hands too!). Not to mention the musical issues….. But this clip is probably the most expressive use of Baroque dancing that I've ever seen. Question: two things I've not seen before in Baroque dance were 1. the little turn-in, turn-out gesture of the leg, repeated several times, and 2. the double pirouettes with the leg extended in second. Does anyone know if these were traditional to Baroque dance? I thought double pirouettes didn't develop until the Romantic era?

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Auguste Vestris was famous for multiple pirrouettes and pre-dated the Romantic period (if that dates from La Sylphide, not sure which genre's Romantic period you meant).

Entry in Oxford


"A short dancer, he possessed an extraordinary elevation and technical virtuosity that made him the most famous dancer in Europe. His rapid beats and multiple pirouettes were considered superhuman and they inspired improvements in technique throughout the dance world. In 1807, it is said, Napoleon refused to allow the dancer to leave Paris, saying: ‘Foreigners must come to Paris to see Vestris dance."

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There are double turns a la seconde in notation from the baroque period, but they were certainly a virtuoso skill.

I second your observations about the skills needed to perform this work. I did a workshop with Wendy Hilton and Linda Tomko a number of years ago and I was totally wiped out every night.

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William Christie and Les Arts Florissants brought this opera production of Atys to BAM twice, in 1989 and 1982. I saw it on one of those dates, and it was indeed magnificent. I remember the set being triangular-shaped, with a jury of spectators perched on the second level and commenting on the action to each other. When Atys realizes he has been tricked by the goddess Cybele and has killed his love, he flails about and presses his body against the set and stabs at the walls as he spins about the entire stage, passionately but with perfect regularity.

The choreographer was Francine Lancelot and the dance group was Ris et Danceries. Edward Rothstein, in a 1992 review, remarks that

... Gesture and dance suffuse even the singers' movements. When a character is both attracted by something and wary of it, when desire seeks release but manners forbid it, the character, with hand outstretched as if reaching for something, slowly moves backward.

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