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Baroque dance in Napa: exploring historical dance with New York Baroque Dance Company.

Each summer, baroque dancers join Chardonnay grapes as some of Napa, California's, finest products. Now in its third year, the Baroque Ballet Workshop draws amateur and professional dancers from around the world. Three weeks of classes, directed by dance historian Catherine Turocy, culminate in a showcase at the Jarvis Conservatory with students performing alongside members of the New York Baroque Dance Company.

The impetus for a baroque workshop came from William Jarvis, who saw Turocy perform as a soloist at the 1994 Berkeley Early Music Festival. "He was moved by the baroque choreography and presentation, and asked me to come up with a proposal," explains Turocy. A year later, BBW began. Classes and performances take place at the Jarvis Conservatory, a newly renovated cultural center fifty miles northeast of San Francisco. The workshop attracts modern and ballet dancers and choreographers as well as ballroom dancers and ice skaters. Students range from nineteen to sixty years old.

Like baroque dancers of the eighteenth century, the workshop draws on many art forms: technique classes are followed by courses in French culture, baroque choreographic conventions, gesture, mask work, and period improvisation. "There is an element of improvisation in eighteenth-century dance, both in the ballroom and in stage productions," Says Turocy. "How many times you'd do a figure could be improvised at the ball. And in opera productions the dancer was responsible for his or her own solo, which meant a certain amount of improvisation was linked into a structure -- within the limits of the vocabulary, of course."

Turocy designs the course work to provide a broad understanding of baroque dance. "During the first week I teach sixteen measures from a dance; then students look at the notation so they con see how it is written. In the second week they get the next page of the dance to figure out on their own. When we look at the rules and conventions of the choreography, it makes the whole process a little easier. It puts it into perspective. I introduce the material in such a way so students who look at the abstract notation don't find it so overwhelming."

In this summer's workshop, Turocy will explore the theme "The Education of a Gentleman." In addition to military training, Turocy explains, "important parts of the gentleman's education were acting technique, dance and fencing classes, and the martial arts. A lot of dancing masters were employed by the military.... How did a body that was going through military training dance?" Courses will examine typical movement from eighteenth-century theater, opera, and fairs.

Although Turocy teaches the majority of classes, other faculty members include conductor James Richman (who is also Turocy's husband); Arne Zaslove, focusing on commedia dell'arte; and notation instructor Deda Christina Colonna, a graduate of BBW who now works as a movement consultant at La Scala.

After two weeks of intense studies, students perform at the Jarvis Conservatory Mr. Jarvis designed the lighting for last summer's production). "I write a one- or two-character play that creates a context for the dances [learned during the workshop]," says Turocy. Costumes are provided by NYBDC's stock of 200 historically accurate outfits.

In addition to intellectual stimulus, the workshops offer students sensorial ease. "Napa's rolling hills are soft, gentle, and perfectly round. You'd think an artist went out there and sculpted them," says Turocy. "It has a romantic feeling to it.... You wake up in the morning: It's not humid, about 68 or 70 degrees in the morning, high 805 in the afternoon, and cooler in the evening. Fresh air, clear nights. You're surrounded by beautiful mountains, hills of grapevines, and sheep."

For students who wish to receive college credit for the course, many community colleges give credit for the workshop. Scholarships based on talent and need are available.
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Title Annotation:Summer Study: What to Do This Summer; includes contact information; Baroque Ballet Workshop, California
Author:Mattingly, Kate
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jan 1, 1998
Words:629
Previous Article:Moscow International Ballet Competition.
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