SEATTLE EARLY DANCE & ARC DANCE
Spring Dance: A Historical Affair
By Michael Hacker
A performance collaboration presented by ARC School of Ballet, ARC Dance, and Seattle Early Dance on Saturday, March 13, at the ARC performance space in North Seattle.
This collaboration between Seattle Early Dance and the ARC professional company and students provided an enjoyable afternoon of Renaissance and Baroque music and dance. The performance was held at the ARC facilities in Crown Hill, north of Ballard, in a converted elementary school. With the exception of two recorded pieces that the ARC company danced to—Bach and Vivaldi—the music was lovingly performed live on period instruments, woodwind, cello, and violin, led by maestro Charles P. Coldwell.
The ARC professional company, together with students, performed the first piece, the Branles Suite, with movements arranged by Anna Mansbridge, the artistic director of Seattle Early Dance. It was a line dance with a rustic flavor.
Next was Lavolta, an octet performed by members of the ARC company with members of Seattle Early Dance. It was the only gender-integrated dance of the performance. Seattle Early Dance provided the male dancers, dressed in classic Elizabethan costumes: doublets, pumpkin pants, and hose. Music by Praetorius accompanied the dancers. The men returned without the women to perform a sword dance which was artfully and playfully executed.
After a musical interlude by Purcell (beautiful!), Anna Mansbridge performed two solos, the first, Sarabande pour une femme, to music by Lully with choreography by Louis Pecour (1704), then Gigue pour une femme, also choreographed by Pecour to music by Theobaldo Gatti (1701). This was what I had come to see! The grace, the beauty and exquisite attention to every nuanced gesture was impeccable. Anna Mansbridge is a grandmaster of period dance, and she was a joy to behold. Her footwork was wonderful, but she is also an exemplar of “beautiful hands and fingers,” the kind of gestures one sees in paintings by Watteau and Fragonard. Such dance is the dance of courts, palaces ,and grand manors. Believe me, it had the power to affect heads of state.
Wrists, ankles, toes, and forearms were all turned into instruments of allure by Anna Mansbridge’s artistry. Her expression was by turns innocent smiles with bouncing curls, demur shyness, and then razor sharp seductive glances with the power of cruise missiles. This was as vivacious as Rococo can be. Were I an 18th-century gentleman witnessing such a display, I would have been moved to propose matrimony.
Before the break, the ARC Company performed a spring ballet to Bach, which was classical yet playful. It was choreographed by ARC artistic director Marie Chong.
After the intermission, Anna Mansbridge returned with more choreography by Precour to Spanish Baroque music by Andre Campra (1697). Her costume had changed with the addition of a lace mantilla and red, earthy tones to her dress. Her center of gravity was likewise lower, with foot stomps and lowered shoulders.
The ARC company performed a Spanish dance Espagnoleta with music by de Ribayaz and choreography by Ana Yepes. (While I did not have the opportunity to interview Ms. Mansbridge, I assume she studies choreographic notation and recreates these dances based on primary source material.)
There followed Spring Vivaldi by the ARC Company, another traditional ballet.
The performance concluded with the ARC Company and students performing The Maypole Dance, which was an excellent feature in a Spring Dance.