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Dance History Class paper

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I have to write a paper on any aspect of dance history prior to the 18th century. It has to be 8 pages long. I would like to write about anything pertaining to the beginnings of the Russian ballet, but I am not sure I will be able to find a lot of information on the subject. I would like to write about something that interests me, not so much the court ballets and primitive dancing. Does anyone have any suggestions, or what else I could write about regarding the Russian ballet? Thank you very much in advance.

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It's a hard question to answer without writing your paper for you, Lindsay ;) It's also difficult because before the 18th century, western culture including ballet had much less footing in Russia than it did a century later. Do you know anything about the period, or have any idea of what might interest you? If not, you should probably start with one of the general historic surveys to narrow down your topic. I'm sure people can recommend appropriate reference books for you to find at your library.

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Hi Lil Lindsay--

One way to get write about something that interests you would be to ask yourself a question that interests you and then do the research -- it's hard to be interested in something you don't know, but htat's the fun part of research -- all that stuff you find out!!

a question like "what aspects of court ballet are included in a) Sleeping Beauty? B) Agon? C)Swan Lake? D) Apollo? There's really a LOT there.... or what aspects of folk dancing are present in "Swan Lake? Apollo? Sleeping Beauty? there's a lot of THAT there -- for example, Aurora's variation in the wedding pas de deux is a Russian dance set on pointe... and of course , there's always the primitive aspects of the Rite of Spring

Good luck with it; let us know how it turns out.....

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Lindsay, ballet appeared in Russia as part of the violent introduction of the Enlightenment to that nation by Tsar Peter the Great, who was an 18th-century figure. Before him, Russia was still caught in the Late Medieval period, and foreign things like opera and ballet just didn't happen there. So Russia went bang from the Medieval to the Enlightenment, no Renaissance! One of the odd artifacts of this social engineering is that Russian really has no effective word for "Mister, Mrs. or Miss"; the Russian tradition of first name and patronymic was and is used instead.

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Unfortunately, I do think it will be hard to find enough material in English on Russian ballet before 1700.

But in a way, the roots of the Russian ballet WERE in the court ballet. That was what every King and Kingdom wanted way back then. So taking a look at what was going on in France, in the court of the De Medicis, will show you where the Russian ballet comes from.

One aspect of pre-18th century ballet that I've found students are interested in are the dancing manuals. They taught etiquette as well as dancing, and it's fun to find out some of the things they covered -- like dancing wasuseful becuase the boy got to see the girl up close, and tell if she was pockmarked (from smallpox), and if it was a quick rhythm, he could tell if she were lame (since they wore such long skirts, that wasn't visible). It's a very different sensibility -- marriage was so important, and you didn't get to know the person you were marrying very well before you married, so these balls were the only way one got to meet members of the opposite sex. If that interests you, the standard is Thoinot Arbeau's "Orchesographie." It's written in the form of a conversation between a young man and his teacher. (It also includes information on the five positions of the feet and the rhythms of the dancing, and it's good to know, because you'll hear some of those rhythms talked about even today -- the courant, the sarabande.)

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Thank you very much for all of your wonderful responses! I really like the idea of the dancing manuals, and aspects of court dancing, and even primative dancing seen in ballets of today. I will run these ideas by my professor and I will let you know how my paper turns out!

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Guest Ballaweenie5
:( I am studying the Vaganova method and my teacher moved from Russia in 1993, so she enriches us in all Russia's past traditions and feelings. She even told us a story about 2 women that were dancing infront of a king and if they couldn't dance with full glasses of water balanced on their heads, they would lose their lives. I hope this helps!! If you need something else just ask and i'll try to find it out for you!
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Folk dancing would be different from primitive (note spelling for your paper) dance. An example of primitive dance in "modern "choreography would be Nijinsky's Rite of Spring. YOu can find photographs of the Joffrey Ballet revival (supervised by Millicent Hodson and her husband, whose last name is Archer), which was written about extensively at its debut, and also documented by Hodson and Archer. You can also find lots of interesting source material on the ballet itself, which dates from 1919. (The only before 18th century part is the transplanted ritual, so I don't know if your prof will approve this.)

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quoting from the first post above:

"DANCE history" - not BALLET history - "BEFORE the 18th century": that means BEFORE the 1700s...

- just trying to make the topic crystal clear for myself! it always helps, with assignments or tests, to write about what you were actually ASKED to write about!

as a teacher (of dance history, amongst other things) i am NOT impressed if a student fails to even recognise what the topic is, and writes about something else!

in this situation, i might recommend researching and writing about:

- 'prehistoric' dance, such as war dances, medicine dances, fertility dances, line dances, round dances

- greek dance, or english morris dance

- early european FOLK dances (NOT the character or court dances that occur in such ballets as swan lake or sleeping beauty - these are altogether another thing)

- sword dances, or May dances, or the history of the hornpipe (but only as far as the time period you have been allocated - don't write one page about pre C18th, and 7 pages coming up to the present !!!)

- the C16th and C17th century dances such as alexandra mentions. thoinot's 'orchesographie' (alexandra's suggestion)would make for a fascinating topic, which might surprise you, if you can find appropriate material.

- in the 17th century, you can also begin to look at flamenco...

please note that i am not an expert, so if you DO any of the above, you should check first, for yourself, that they are appropriate choices.

good references (books):

ballet & modern dance - a concise history

by jack anderson, 1986 - chapters 1 & 2

let's dance

by peter buckman,

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