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|As soon as possible I'll put a correctly formated version on the Dansomanie Site too. Thank you very much Katharine!
August Bournonville's Etudes chorégraphiques.
A conversation with Professor Francesca Falcone
Professor Francesca Falcone is one of Italy's most reputed art historians. Since 1981, she has taught Theory of Dance at the National Academy at Rome. Author of a thesis on 'Diaghilev in Italy', many articles and the book 'Danza e metodo', she also acts as consultant to the European Association of Dance Historians (EADH). Over the past several years, alongside Knud Arne Jürgensen of Denmark's Royal Library, she has been occupied with a new, trilingual edition, in French, Italian and English, of the three versions of August Bournonville's Etudes chorégraphiques. On June 9th 2005, during the Bournonville Festival, the Etudes chorégraphiques will be released at Copenhagen to mark the bicentennial celebrations. Dansomanie has the honour of being the first Website to publish a preview of this major editorial achievement.
August Bournonville's Etudes chorégraphiques.
The Etudes chorégraphiques take the form of three quite separate drafts, dated 1848, 1855 and 1861. Below, an overview of the manuscript sources and documents that have appeared to this date.
- Etudes chorégraphiques // by // Auguste Bournonville. // Part One. Dated and signed: "Copenhagen, 30th January 1848". Royal Library, Copenhagen, inv. n° NKS 3285, 4°, 1, C6. Autograph manuscript, 38 pp.
- Chapter 2 :me // Vocabulary of the Dance // with // Abbreviations. S.l., s.d. [Copenhagen, 1855]. Royal Library, Copenhagen, inv. n° NKS 3285, 4°, 1, C7. Autograph manuscript, 30 pp.
- System of the Number Five // adapted to // the // Elements and Genres of the Dance. // x. Chapter 3 :me. Royal Library, Copenhagen, inv. n° NKS 3285, 4°, 1, C7. Autograph manuscript, 10 pp. On the p. marked "70" : "Copenhagen, this 7th day of March 1855".
- The Etudes chorégraphiques // To the artists of the dance, Thiele, Copenhagen 1855.
- Etudes chorégraphiques// To my students and colleagues//by//Auguste Bournonville.//Copenhagen//1861. Royal Library, Copenhagen, inv. n° NKS 3285, 4°, 1, C8. Autograph manuscript, 10 pp., daté and signé "1861". L'ouvrage a été rendu public le 1er juillet 1861.
- Etudes chorégraphiques // To my students and colleagues, Copenhagen, Bianco Luno ; F. S. Mühle 1861
The Etudes chorégraphiques of 1861 have been published twice in modern times, once by Pierre Tugal as an annex to his own book: Initiation à la danse, Paris, Ed. du Grenier à Sel, 1947, p. 271-285. Thereafter, by Ulla Skow, translated into English by Patricia N. McAndrew and illustrated by Mogens Hoff, published at Copenhagen by Rhodos in 1982.
Q/ What is the reason for this new, critical edition?
A/ The fresh edition, for which Knud Arne Jürgensen of the Royal Library of Denmark and I are jointly responsible, and shortly to be published by the Libreria Musicale Italiana at Lucca, is twofold in purpose:
- firstly, earlier editions are either or incomplete, or long out of print. In 1990, Knud Arne Jürgensen and Ann Hutchinson Guest brought out a single section of the 1855 Version, viz. the first notebook, in their volume entitled 'The Bournonville Heritage : A choreographic record, 1829-1875', published by Dance Books at London. It did nonetheless serve to enrich the lexicon with technical terms from four other sources.
- secondly, to collect in one volume, all three versions of the Etudes chorégraphiques, and thus afford both historians and dancers an overview of Bournonville's thoughts as they evolved on the theoretical, stylistic and historical plane.
The idea of a Facsimile publication was quickly dropped, in favour of a modern critical edition, the sources being so very heterogeneous. The 1848 manuscript is hard to read, while the 1855 version, partly manuscript, includes printed sections as well. Seen from an editorial standpoint, a facsimile would have presented too many incoherencies.
Q/ Should one speak of three "versions" of the Etudes chorégraphiques, or rather of three distinct works ?
A/ The three so-called "versions" of the Etudes chorégraphiques are, in point of fact, quite distinct works.
The 1848 Version deals essentially with aesthetics, style, technique and also with the philosophy of the dance.
In the 1855 Version, Bournonville deals with "passing on" the dance, in general, and his own work in particular. For the first time, he sketches out a personal system of dance notation, as well as a "vocabulary". This is also the first appearance of his "theory of the number Five", i.e. studying all manifestations of the number Five in the dance, not only the five positions, but the five choreographic "genres" that he distinguishes, viz.,
- the serious (grave)
- the lively (vif)
- the celebratory or anacreontic (anacréontique)
- the Slavic (slave)
- the voluptuous (lascif)
The theory of the Number Five made quite some headway, corresponding, as it did, to a view then fairly widespread. Another tenet of the theory was, for example, Léopold Adice, a Neapolitan dancer (author of 'Théorie de la gymnastique de la danse théâtrale', Chaix, 1859), studied at the San Carlo Academy and made a career as dancer and teacher at the Paris Opera.
Léopold Adice too was wont to divide the dance into five categories; this may not necessarily reflect any mystical attachment to the Number Five, but rather his intention to systematise dance theory [Cf. L. Adice, 'Grammaire and Théorie chorégraphique/Composition de la gymnastique de la danse théâtrale', 17 mai 1868-17 juillet 1871. Bibliothèque de l'Opéra, Paris, B. 61(1-3)].
Later, these ideas were to influence Enrico Cecchetti, who built his daily lessons around the number Five in his 'Manuel des exercices de danse théâtrale à pratiquer chaque jour de la semaine à l'usage des mes élèves', written in 1894 but never published.
As an aide to memory, Cecchetti divides both the positions of the feet and arms, and the arabesques, into five types. Paradoxical as that might seem at first glance, Agrippina Vaganova herself inherited the theory: whilst Cecchetti lived at Saint-Petersburg, he worked closely alongside Christian Johansson, who had been Bournonville's pupil. It was Johansson who ensured that the Franco-Danish choreographic tradition was passed on through to the days of Vaganova.
A quantity of manuscript leaves are attached to the Etudes chorégraphiques 1855 Version, designed to fill out or amend, the printed text. This made our critical edition all the more daunting, as it was hard to know precisely where those leaves were to be inserted.
The 1861 Version includes exercises and enchaînements, based on the categories that Bournonville had established from 1848 onwards. There are studies of aplomb, of pirouettes and so forth, set out in the manner of the "Old School" i.e. the French School. Besides a description of the steps and enchaînements, one finds much advice for both students and professors. French terms are used to describe the exercises, but there are neither drawings nor musical scores.
The 1861 edition is barely 50 pages long. When, in 1861, Luno printed it in Denmark, he added a bilingual introduction in Danish and in French. Bournonville had set down the exercises all of a heap, without troubling to "grade" the difficulty. Hans Beck, Bournonville's disciple and successor at the Royal Theatre, put in an enormous effort, in terms of methodology, and by 1893, had drafted a series of lessons named for the weekdays, each day's work more exacting than the next. It is a compelling coincidence that Hans Beck's manuscript coincides almost exactly in time with the appearance Cecchetti's 'Manuel des exercices de danse théâtrale'; Cecchetti, too, adopts a week's cycle, and sets out his lessons in increasing order of difficulty.
Q/ What would you describe as the keystone of his theory ?
A class taught by Bournonville or Beck would have lasted between 90 minutes to two hours, with a quarter of an hour's barre. Today, this might strike us as unrealistic, and the class rather on the short side. The dancers no doubt came in already warmed up, so that Bournonville could afford to give a shorter class. Nor does he describe the barre work in any detail, whereas the centre is the subject of elaborate depiction. It is most unlikely that anyone as creative as Bournonville would have slavishly stuck to the exercises set out in the manual – surely, he must have invented them afresh.
Bournonville stresses the quality of giration, that must nonetheless be relegated to the role of a tool, that allows the dancer to "govern" the body.
For Bournonville, the glance (le regard) is of the essence.
As early as the 1848 Version, Bournonville points to the contradiction between the question of en-dehors, that is "mechanics", and placement, that he considers to belong to the spiritual domain, the finality of the exercises being to awaken in the pupil a form of spiritual awareness. Finally, Bournonville insists that one must draw a sharp distinction between the dancing of the man, and that of the woman.
At the present time, deportment is mainly focused on the diaphragm and pelvisn whereas Bournonville and his contemporaries refer to a "firm carriage of the back" (les reins). That being said, Bournonville takes care to avoid using anatomical terms, quite unlike Blasis; the latter was also very fond of illustrating his argument with drawings. Bournonville prefers the word to describe exercises, and in this, might be seen as partly opposing Noverre's theories, notably the latter's remarks on anatomy. Nonetheless, in 1848, Bournonville somewhat cockiily presents himself as successor to Noverre, whose work he will "complete" by introducing principles passed over in silence by the author of 'Lettres sur la danse'.
At the time Bournonville was writing the 1848 Etudes chorégraphiques, and indeed, for some time thereafter, he was scarcely known abroad; his isolated position was a concern, and no doubt pushed him to write so much, and leave a mark on History. Although Carlo Blasis claims that Bournonville first wrote the Etudes in the Danish language, this is almost certainly wrong: Bournonville wrote in French not only through deference to tradition, but because he wanted his works to be very widely read.
Q/ And what of the future prospects for Bournonville's teachings?
Illustrated and beautifully bound, one hopes that this new edition will be extremely successful. Although the publishers are Italian, we were unable to find anyone in Italy to subsidise the project; indeed, all subsidy has come from Denmark, from Queen Margarethe personally, and from and the Prince Henrik Fondation.
The project was launched in 2002, and in recent months the pace has become feverish. Francesca Falcone has a transcript of the 1848 Version, typed up by Patricia McAndrew from the manuscript and kept at the New York Public Library at Lincoln Centre. The manuscript itself comes from the Toscanini collection, and was donated by Arturo Toscanini's daughter-in-law Cia Fornaroli, who had danced at the Scala Theatre. Professor Falcone does not consider Bournonville's teaching methods outdated, and has taught dance students from the American transcript. One hopes that this fresh edition will be welcomed by professors who may wish to instruct their pupils in the stylistic canons of the Danish master.
Interviewed at Paris on April 9th 2005
© Francesca Falcone - Dansomanie