The theory of the “Harmony of the Spheres” as it is reflected in early ballet of the 18th century produced some of the most beautiful dances and dance notations over a 100 year period. However, most dancers today are completely ignorant of dance’s connection to math, geometry and the motion of the planets. They are unaware of the link of traditional ballet choreography to a unified aesthetic which produced artworks by Bernini, Le Notre, Watteau and the architect of Versailles, Hardouin-Mansart.
Dancing masters from the Renaissance to the Baroque, especially 18th-century dancing master John Weaver, refer to dance’s role in the theory of the Harmony of the Spheres. In his book L’Harmonie Universelle (1636) Pere Marin Mersenne imagines that one can teach astronomy through the ballet, “a dance of 10 different pas or steps or combinations of steps, can represent for example the distance of Saturn to the Sun.”
Hence, the NYBDC under the guidance of Catherine Turocy, Artistic Director, and Mariel McEwan, the videographer with a background in historical dance, will create an interactive dome show to feature dance’s relationship to the Harmony of the Spheres. We will consult with specialists in the history of both dance and astronomy o to discern what was “true” and what was “believed” in these theories of the Divine Plan.
The re-iterative nature of dance exists on three levels. The music which accompanies the dance is an aural reflection of the subject of the dance. The dance seen on the body is a sculptural manifestation of the subject. The paths in space are a geometrical expression of the subject and are made visible in the period dance notation which was often published and framed for decoration because of its beauty and symmetry as a graphic art. In the art of dance, these levels of experience, especially in the more abstract ballets, were based on ratios between numbers linked to the Harmony of the Spheres.
The show is designed to reach a young audience of dancers and the general public.
Danced by Louis XIV, “Ballet de la Nuit” in 1653 and the “Ballet of the Seven Planets” in 1660, will be our works of art creating a window to discovering how the choreographic theory was joined with the astronomy of the time. Excerpts from published 18th-century dance notation such as the solo dance for Apollo choreographed by Raoul Anger Feuillet as well as published notations for contredanses such as Les Manches Vertes will be danced by members of the NYBDC and local professional dancers trained by Turocy. Local pre-professional dancers will participate in the video and in dance events surrounding the release of the dome show. The 18th century collection of dance notations which Sergei Diaghilev carried with him in order to inspire Nijinsky, Massine, Lifar and Balanchine in their choreography will be a part of the visual images used in the dome show and will link the dance theory from the past to our present.
- Catherine Turocy