Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Beauchamp notation

Lady's Track
A Step with the Right Foot
Sometime in the 1680s Louis XIV (who had founded the Académie Royale de Danse in 1661), ordered the dancing master and choreographer  Pierre Beauchamp to invent a way of making dance understood on paper. 

The king's command provoked a race among dancing masters to devise such a system but Beauchamp prevailed and after years of work presented the King with five volumes of symbols with explanatory notes and complete notated dances. Beauchamp failed to obtain the required permissions to publish his work.

Gentleman's track
His system was taken up and finally published in 1700 by the Parisian ballet master Raoul-Auger Feuillet, who began a programme of publishing notated dances.

A Slide
It was used to record dances for the stage and domestic use throughout the eighteenth century, being modified by Pierre Rameau in 1725 and surviving into at least the 1780s in various modified forms.

Because of Beauchamp and Feuillet's work we now have more than 300 fully notated dances from the 17th and 18th century available to dance today.

In 1706 the English Dancing Master published Orchesography which was the first English Feuillet’s Chorégraphie. Weavers introduction to an English-speaking audience of the Beauchamp-Feuillet notation enabled more widespread communication of dance compositions and promoted a uniform set of standards in dance throughout England. A Small Treatise of Time and Cadence in Dancing (1706) was an expansion of the musical section in Orchesography. In An Essay Towards an History of Dancing (1712) Weaver drew from diverse sources to document the history of dance from its ancient traditions to the 18th century and argued for dance’s importance as a means of expression and a sign of social accomplishment. Weaver also wrote about the physical aspects of dance in Anatomical and Mechanical Lectures upon Dancing (1721), in which he emphasized the need to understand human anatomy in order to use the body as a tool of expression. Weaver’s contributions helped to establish dance in England as a narrative form and a respected method of artistic expression.

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