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Chatham Baroque builds concert around dance

Thursday, October 10, 2002

By Jane Vranish

Those who can't get enough of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's classical dance milieu, with its oh-so-grand leaps and turns, can see where it all came from at Chatham Baroque's concert series this weekend.


Chatham Baroque

PROGRAM: "Danzas y Bailes: Baroque Dances of Spain and the New World."

WHEN AND WHERE: 8 p.m. tomorrow in the Edgeworth Club, Edgeworth; 8 p.m. Saturday in Synod Hall, Oakland.

TICKETS: $14 to $18; 412-394-3353


The local group will present a rare glimpse of Spanish Baroque dance (divined from the French courts and Italian Renaissance) and, yes, there will be pas de bourrees, jetes and plies to spare. Lead violinist Julie Andrijeski, herself an expert dancer who maintains a faculty position at the annual Stanford Baroque Dance Workshop, assures us that "it's very difficult, but on a subtle level." There are beats and multiple turns aplenty, as well as details she finds "fascinating."

Classical dance today emanates from the French courts, where there was a 40-degree rotation of the legs, as opposed to 120 degrees or more used today. But Baroque dance demanded "controlled, well-defined footwork, all to be performed effortlessly," with precise positions of the arms and a genteel, mannered use of the head and shoulders.

It all sounds familiar.

History will live again when Chatham Baroque, assisted by guest artists Paige Whitley-Bauguess and Thomas Baird (Andrijeski will limit herself to the violin) present a specialized segment of the Baroque tradition in a collection of Spanish dances.

There will be the more formal danzas, featuring the most famous of all, the minuet "L'Aimable Vainqueur." According to Andrijeski, it's "a really lovely ballroom dance to be performed in front of the court."

Also included will be "Folies D'Espangna," the "French idea of what Spanish dance looked like. It's wonderful, with castanets and fancy footwork," she says. Seventeenth-century ballerinas Marie Salle and Marie Camargo would later capitalize on this footwork, with brisk entrechats, during their famous rivalry. Whitley-Bauguess and Baird will conclude with a substantial theater set.

Andrijeski's fascination with Baroque dance came from the Baroque violin repertoire. "Almost all the music we play is dance music," she says. "It was really important to know just how the dances were performed."

Trained in ballet, she began testing the Baroque waters, admittedly after a long layoff. "Luckily it's age-friendly dance that doesn't involve a high extension," she notes. And the research appealed to her -- treatises and accounts that required both intelligence, creativity and imagination to bring these dances back to life.

"It helps to have a background, to know what was out there," says Andrijeski. "There are arguments and questions that arise, but the Spanish treatises are easier to understand. Besides, the dances are really spectacular and the costumes amazing."

Jane Vranish is a freelance dance and music critic.

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