[ This article appeared in volume 4 of the Letter of Dance. ]
adapted from Yvonne Kendall's translation/reconstruction of Negri, 1602
by Andrew Vorder Bruegge
When I obtained the Broadside Band recording called "Il Ballarino," I was delighted to find so many Caroso and Negri dance tunes performed on it. I set right to work on reconstructions of a number of them. The reconstruction of Bassa Gioiosa below marks the first fruits of this work. I used Kendall's edition and translation of Negri's Gratie d'Amore as my starting point. Her study of Negri includes a complete facsimile copy of the original 1602 edition of Gratie d'Amore, so that provided the best possible primary source. Also, Kendall's study includes a straightforward transcription of all the dance tunes, so that the Broadside Band recording could be checked for accuracy.
Kendall's translation of Bassa Gioiosa cannot be faulted for any serious inaccuracies. As with so many of his dances, Negri becomes maddeningly vague at several points in his instructions, and Kendall's scholarship does not include very many attempts to clarify or correct, as Barbara Sparti did so well in her edition/translation of Ebreo's De Pratica seu Arte Tripudii. Here is one example of Negri at his most ambiguous: In "Bassa" Negri repeats a sequence of steps several times -- something of a motif -- in the dance. The sequence calls for two passi gravi backwards, then a reprisa to one side or the other, then a cadenza back in the other sideways direction. In itself, this small sequence seems simple enough to execute, and it has a certain charm within a dance that is supposed to be "joyous." At one point in the dance, though, Negri calls for the dancers to do the two passi gravi backwards with the left foot, then do the reprisa with the right foot. This presents a logistical problem. If the dancer starts the passi gravi with the left foot, then she/he will finish those two steps with the left foot in the air. How can the dancer execute a reprisa with the right foot? The dancer, it seems, ought to execute the reprisa with the left foot, the foot ready to take the next step. I suspect either an editorial error or authorial vagueness/inattention. In either case, we are left to massage the dance in order to be able to perform it. (In this case, I call for the dancers to begin the backwards passi gravi with the right foot, so that their right feet will be ready to execute the reprisa.) Wherever I encountered this kind of internal contradiction, I "massaged" as gently as possible.
Negri also remains vague about some of the floor patterns. In step 17 below we see such an instance. The partners are standing apart -- the lady at the top of the set facing away from the music with the man at the bottom of the set facing the music -- but somehow must end up as a proper couple facing the music at the beginning of step 19. Negri gives no instructions to the dancers. In this reconstruction the dancers should use step 17 to come up to each other and align themselves correctly before executing step 18.
The galliard sequence -- verse four -- represents the most "massaged" section of the dance, primarily due to the a flaw in an otherwise faithful recording. The Broadside Band performs only an abbreviated galliard section (the "B" section of the sheet music). Hence, the steps in steps 33 and 34 below have been simplified in order to fit the recorded music, not Negri's original instructions. In original text, Negri calls for extended solo performances by the man and then the lady. In this version, the dancers execute the two exchange sequences that Negri has described (steps 29 through 32), then each partner improvises an all-too-brief (four measures) galliard solo sequence.
Otherwise, the reconstruction represents a most literal rendering of Negri. Because of this, dancers will find themselves initiating some step sequences on the foot that does not seem natural. Moreover, the literal translation brings to light some unusual -- and unexpected -- patterns. For example, in the first verse the dancers exchange places with a very nice sequence (See steps 5, 6 and 7 below). They join right hands and move into each other's places, passing right shoulders, with two fioretti and one ordinario. Negri calls for them to finish the exchange facing each other. Then, the dancers turn around in place over their right shoulders with two ordinarii. Anyone familiar with other Negri or Caroso dances such as Bizzarria d'Amore, Bianca Fiore, Lo Spagnoletto, or So ben mi chi ha buon Tempo, might expect the turn in place to go in the opposite direction -- over the left shoulder -- to complete a counter-turn as an embellishment after the exchange sequence. Overall, Negri seems to be consistent with his internal inconsistencies that require the dancers to invest all their skill in performing this graceful, but whimsical dance.
Terms used in the dance: Reverence; Continence; Puntato; Ordinario; Fioretto; Proper; Trabuchetto; Reprise; Cadence; Passo; Galliard Step; Partner; Facing the Music; Facing Away from the Music; Improper; CW; CCW; Corinthian Step.
Initial arrangement of the set: Any number of proper couples should place themselves about the hall facing the music, with inside hands joined. The steps below apply to all dancers unless noted otherwise. All steps move forward unless noted otherwise.
|2||8||Two continences (left, then right).|
|3||8||Two puntati (begin left).|
|4||8||Two ordinarii(3) (begin left). Partners should turn to face each other and join right hands on the last beat.|
|5||4||Two fioretti(4) (begin left).|
|6||4||Ordinario (left). Partners complete the exchange and drop right hands. They are facing each other.|
|7||8||Turn 360 degrees CW with two ordinarii (begin right). On the last beat partners should be facing each other and should join left hands.|
|8||16||Repeat steps 5, 6 and 7 above, doing all movements in mirror-image fashion. On the last beat, partners should be facing each other with hands at their sides.|
|9||8||Exchange places passing right shoulders with two ordinarii (begin left). Partners should be facing each other on the last beat.|
|10||8||With two ordinarii (begin left) dancers should turn 270 degrees CCW so that the man stands at the bottom of the set facing the music and the woman stands at thetop of the set facing away from the music on the last beat.|
|11||4||Man does two trabuchetti (begin right).|
|12||4||Man does one reprise (right) and a cadence (hopping to the left).|
|13||8||Woman repeats steps 11 and 12 above.|
|14||8||Two fioretti (begin right) and one ordinario (right) turning 360 degrees in place CW. Partners should be facing each other.|
|15||4||Two passi (begin right) backwards.|
|16||4||Reprise (right), moving forward and a cadence (hopping to the left).|
|17||8||Partners move towards each other doing two fioretti (begin left) and one ordinario (left). By the last beat dancers have moved side-by-side to become a proper couple facing the music with inside hands joined.|
|18||8||Repeat steps 15 and 16 above in mirror-image fashion.|
|19||8||Two ordinarii (begin left) moving forward and at an angle to the right. On the last beat, partners should make a quick and small reverence.|
|20||8||Two ordinarii (begin left) moving forward and at an angle to the left. On the last beat, partners should turn to face each other.|
|21||4||Exchange places, passing right shoulders with three passi (begin left) and hold on the fourth beat.|
|22||4||Three passi (begin right) moving backwards to original places. Hold on the fourth beat.|
|23||8||Partners repeat steps 11 and 12 above.|
|24||8||Exchange places, passing right shoulders with two passi (begin left) and one ordinario (left). On last beat partners should be facing each other.|
|25||4||Two passi (begin left) backwards away from each other.|
|26||4||Reprise (left) moving forward and cadence (hopping to the right).|
|27||8||Two fioretti (begin right) and one ordinario (right), turning 360 degrees in place CW.|
|28||8||Repeat steps 15 and 16 above. On last beat partners should be aligned improper in relation to the top of the set, but facing each other.|
|29||6||Exchange places passing right shoulders with two galliard steps (begin left). On the last beat, dancers should be facing each other.|
|30||6||Turn 360 degrees CW in place with two galliard steps (begin left).|
|31||12||Exchange places passing left shoulders with two galliard steps (begin left). On the last beat, dancers should be facing each other.|
|32||24||Turn 360 degrees CCW in place with two galliard steps (begin left).|
|33||24||Man does four galliard steps, improvising the pattern so that he finishes facing the woman on the proper side.|
|34||24||Woman does four galliard steps, improvising so that she finishes facing the music. On her last step, the man should turn to face the music. The dancers should be proper facing the music.|
|36||8||Two continences (left, then right).|
|37||8||One puntato (left) forward and one puntato (right) backwards.|
|38||8||One ordinario (left) moving sideways to the left, and one ordinario (right) moving sideways to the right(6)|
|39||8||Two trabuchetti (left, then right), reprise (left) and cadence (hopping to the right)|
|40||8||Repeat step 39 (same as steps 11 and 12) above in mirror-image fashion.|
|41||8||Turn 360 degrees CCW in place with two ordinarii (begin left).|
|42||8||Repeat step 41 above circling CW.|
|43)||Join inside hands and complete a quick reverence at the end of the music.|
Broadside Band. Il Ballarino: Italian Dances, c1600. London: Hyperion, 1987 CD A66244
Kendall, Gustavia Y., trans. and ed. Le Gratie d'Amore 1602 by Cesare Negri: Translation and Commentary. D.M.A. dissertation, Stanford University, 1985.
Sparti, Barbara, ed. and trans. De Pratica seu Arte Tripudii by Guglielmo Ebreo of Pesaro. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993
1. The dance begins on the first beat of the music in the Broadside Band recording.
2. For readers accustomed to mapping dance steps to modern measures, there are two beats in each measure of music in verses 1,ountry predominated. The change was not universally admired; some readers felt that the Letter of Dance was having less and less of practical value to offer them as dancers and as teachers of dance.
3. Remember that as Negri defines it, an ordinario consists of two passi and one spezzato.
4. In executing a left fioretto, the left foot kicks under the right foot. A right fioretto begins with the right foot kicking under the left.] Partners begin to exchange places.
5. This section diverges markedly from Negri s instructions, which call for extended galliard solos. See the discussion in the introduction.
6. The two ordinarii sideways can also be done as Caroso-type Corinthian steps, that is a combination of two sotte pieds and one trabuchetto to the left, and the same combination back to the right.
Webbed by Gregory Blount of Isenfir (Greg Lindahl) (firstname.lastname@example.org)