Dance and the fencing or the art to be courtier    

Edith Lalonger


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The artistic fencing and the dance baroque have several technical points and teaching goals jointly: the various ports of the arms and the position of the feet are comparable, both are composed of phrased movements, choreographies which involve the memory of movement, and tries out space. These two fields are also complementary. One brings the self-control in a situation of danger, the other brings the self-control in a gallant or social situation, situation quite as dangerous... The combination of their theatrical qualities constitutes an experiment of more enriching for all that relates to the performing arts (dancers, actors, singers, etc).

Since 1993, I teach the dance baroque, the scenic movement and the improvisation, at the Elisabethbühne in Salzburg. This course that I give to the theatre does not limit indeed to " pure " technique, since my intention is not to train virtuosos of the dance, but relates rather to the means of using this technique for the performing arts, through specific theatrical exercises and the improvisations.

More accessible than the ballet dancing, but at the same time demanding, the dance baroque gives the possibility of hanging conscience of its body, of the insulation of the muscles, and their operation, the concept of balance, the possible or impossible movements, the coordination of the movements, the musical quality of the body, essential tools for the nonverbal communication.

Indeed, the dance baroque is too often regarded as a female and mannered dance. It acts, in fact of a rather male dance (since the women appeared with the theatre only into 1681) and theatrical. The man baroque is a dancer, and the maintenance and the grace of the actor come from the dance. Let us point out it, Molière and several of its actors dance with the theatre.

The dance proved to be essential to the education of the nobility and the middle-class during more than two centuries everywhere in Europe. One was to have recourse to an internal calliper gauge authorized in order to supplement his good education. The dance formed part of an initially social formation, i.e. that one regarded the dance as exercise for the control of his movements in order to act freely, without hesitation in the company.

Another essential element in the " good education " of the young courtier was the fencing, often connected to the dance, to give more skill in the changes of directions, to work the stability of the body, the controlled changes of the weight of the body from one foot to another, to include/understand the relation with the partner (listening, reaction, anticipation, etc.) and finally to have grace in the effort. The courtier fought with elegance in order to be able to convince his adversary which it was above the difficulties.

On the other hand, the dancer was to also subject himself to the exercises of fencing to develop his courage and his firmness. Moreover the port of the arms, and probably the position of the feet come us from the fencing. Just as " the input of the combatants " where the choreographic figures of fencing are very present in the ballets of the XVII and XVIII centuries.

Today, we are not also concerned of our maintenance, our way of sitting down or of walking. The concept of courage, dignity and firmness is not any more the same one. The knowledge of our movements is not a priority subject in our education. But the public of today however remains demanding vis-à-vis with the play of the actor and the simple fact of putting on a XVIII century old dress is not enough to convince it of the interpreted role. The actor must thus in some repetitions become courtier, prince, middle-class man, etc. Often, there is no time for this work, which obliges the director to choose that which gives at the beginning the impression to be more or less a prince or a courtier.

The actors who practise the artistic fencing and the dance baroque are initially astonished to see all that they have to learn. Then, rather quickly, they are delighted by feel this ease and this freedom in the movement and to know this feeling of dignity and pride, this " beautiful pace ", which today must find its direction. They realize especially that this milked dance of universal, applicable elements in all the situations.

mEdith Lalonger comes from Canada. Since 1988 she works in Europe. Between 1990 and 1996 she danced forsets "Derra de Moroda " and " Folia " in Salzburg and was part of the Ballets of the National Theatre of Salzburg. Also in Salzburg, at the Institute Carl Orff, she received are diploma of teaching of the music and dance. By contacts with the companies "Eclat de Muse" and " Ris et Danceries " she finally landed in Paris where she founded in 1996 her own company of dance " the Pleasures of the Nations ". She remains nevertheless well in relationship with the most beautiful town of Austria where she teaches regularly with the Elisabethbühne.

Currently Edith Lalonger prepares a doctorate in aesthetics of the Dance in the Sorbonne of Paris.

©Cie.STICS 1997