Feuillet’s Sarabands

Six of the surviving notated sarabands are by Raoul Auger Feuillet. All are solo dances. He included two in his 1700 collection of his own choreographies, both to the ‘Spanish’ saraband in the Ballet des Nations from Le Bourgeois gentilhomme. I’ll look at those later, alongside Feuillet’s versions of the Folie d’Espagne. The other four sarabands are from a manuscript collection possibly compiled between 1710 and 1720. Three are solos for a woman and the fourth is a solo for a man.

As I said in my last post, I’ve been working on one of the sarabands for a woman – the Sarabande de Polixène. I’ve been wondering how the three female solos relate to one another, given that they are all by the same choreographer. I’ve long been interested in the very different choreographies created for male dancers (the complexities of most of these suggest that they were created for male professionals). These four sarabands provide an opportunity for some analysis. Unfortunately, I only have recorded music for the Sarabande de Polixène which makes reconstruction of the other solos difficult. I feel that such reconstruction is always the best basis for any analysis. I’ll just have to see what the notations themselves can tell me.

None of these solos is long. The Sarabande de Mr. Feüillet for a woman, whose music remains unidentified, has 40 bars. The Sarabande de Mr. Feüillet to music from act 1 scene 5 of Gatti’s opera Scylla (1701) has only 36 bars – I’ll refer to this dance as the Sarabande de Scylla. The Sarabande de Mr. Feuillet for a man, also with unidentified music, has 48 bars. The Sarabande de Polixène is the longest, with 64 bars of music taken from act 3 scene 5 of Colasse’s opera Polixène et Pirrhus (1706). All the music for these dances has a basic AABB structure with a B section longer than the A section. However, the Sarabande de Scylla has an AABBB’ structure in which both A and B have 8 bars and B’ has 4.

I find it useful to do some basic analysis to start with, looking at how many steps in a choreography incorporate jumps or beats or turns. Sometimes such ornamentations can point to a dance for the stage rather than the ballroom. In all three of the female solos around one-third of the steps include one or more jumped elements. The inclusion of beats runs from only 3% of steps in the Sarabande de Scylla to 11% in the Sarabande de Polixène. Both the female solo Sarabande de Mr. Feüillet and the Sarabande de Scylla add turns to around 45% of their steps, but the Sarabande de Polixène does this with only 22%. Does this suggest that the last is more presentational than the other two? Well, it might depend on where the dancer most often faces at the end of individual steps. The number of basic, unornamented steps ranges from 35% in the female Sarabande de Mr. Feüillet to 50% in the Sarabande de Scylla. Are there any conclusions that can safely be drawn from this?

The male solo saraband both overlaps with and radically departs from the step vocabulary of the other three dances, so I will devote a separate post to it. I will also look at the pas composés shared by these four solos, by which I mean those steps formed from two or more basic steps with or without further ornamentation.

In the meantime, here is some notation from one of the female solos. Note the pirouette on both feet with a full turn towards the end of this section.

Sarabande de Mr. Feüillet (undated). First plate

Sarabande de Mr. Feüillet (undated). First plate

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