Review: Music and Dance in "Le Gratie d'Amore"

[ This article appeared in volume 3 of the Letter of Dance. ]

by Miklos Sandorfia

The Relation between Music and Dance in Cesare Negri's "Le Gratie d'Amore" (1602). (Volumes I and II), Jones, Pamela Anne, Doctoral Dissertation, 1988, UMI 9230321

The overall aim of this thesis is to show how dance music and corresponding choreography should be studied together in order to better reconstruct either one. Jones uses detailed analysis of Cesare Negri's famous treatise of late-Renaissance Italian dance for the development of her theories. She takes into account and presents a wide variety of information relevant to her source, much of which has not previously been widely available.

Volume One includes a detailed discussion of Negri and the contents of the treatise, as well as a survey of contemporary sources. There is also a critical discussion of modern studies of late Renaissance dance which will prove useful to anyone wondering about the utility and quality of scholarship of common secondary sources. The rest of the volume is composed of three major sections, each of which represents an invaluable resource to anyone interested in reconstruction of 16th century dance, be it from Negri or his contemporaries.

Section IV deals with editions of the treatise and discusses the process by which books were published in Negri's time, and why this is relevant to reconstruction. Jones has examined a large number of copies of the 1602 and 1604 editions of the treatise, and has used her comparisons and knowledge of the period printing process to create a list of Negri's corrections to various editions which can be used to reconstruct a correct version of the treatise from a particular copy. It is worth noting that both commonly available facsimilies have major errors in two dances.

Section V deals with step durations. One of the greatest puzzles in reconstructing the late Italian Renaissance dances is the seemingly impossible riddle of step timings. Descriptions of some steps are available in Negri and both editions of Caroso. The timing information is often inconsistant, missing, conflicting, or in obvious error. Jones performs some ingeneous analysis on the step descriptions and other aspects of the texts to come up with a consistent set of step timings and hints on how to resolve timing ambiguities when they occur.

Negri's treatise was written during a major shift in the standards of musical notation. The treatise's music often includes ambiguous elements from differing styles of notation, and contains copious errors and lacunae. Jones examines the numerous problems and shows how a simultaneous study of music and choreography can resolve many of them, and can in other cases provide a small number of reasonable options.

Volume Two of Jones' work consists of reconstructions of choreography and music based on the theories presented in volume one. She provides six complete dance recontructions, covering a representative range of dance types found in Negri.(1) Modern editions and critical commentary of all the music in Negri are provided. There are three appendices that are probably of interest mainly to the extremely serious Negri student, and a twelve-page bibliography.

In conclusion, Jones' thesis is a well-researched work which will prove indispensible to anyone attempting reconstruction of 16th century Italian choreography or dance music, from any source. From the deadly-serious reconstructor to the casual musician or dancer, this work will be a useful and interesting addition to your dance book collection.

The thesis is available from University Microfilms International, reachable at 1-800-521-0600 (USA) or 1-800-343-5299 (Canada).


1 The dances reconstructed are: Ballo Fatto da sei Dame ("Austria Felice"), Ballo Fatto da sei Cavalieri, Brando di Cales, Alta Mendozza, Caccia d'Amore, and Bassa Imperiale.

Webbed by Gregory Blount of Isenfir (Greg Lindahl) (