Nevile, Jennifer. The eloquent body : dance and humanist culture in fifteenth-century Italy. Each chapter addresses different philosophical, social, or intellectual aspects of dance during the fifteenth century.
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You must be logged in to Tag Records. Broken link? Introduction Dance and society The dance treatises and humanist ideals Eloquent movement eloquent prose Dance and the intellect Order and virtue Conclusion Appendix 1, transcription and translation of MS from Florence, Biblioteca nazionale Magl.
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VII , f. Online Table of contents Broken link? In the Library Request this item to view in the Library's reading rooms using your library card. In Chapter 3, "Eloquent Movement--Eloquent Prose," Nevile arrives at the heart, the very difficult core of her argument. How did the dancing masters tie their physical activities to the intellectual program of the humanists?
They were, she posits, "acutely aware that for dance to be included as a liberal art, with a claim to true knowledge and wisdom, then it had to be more than just a body of physical skills; it was now essential to be able to talk about dance in addition to being a good practitioner.
Humanists argued that verbal eloquence led to wisdom and to a well-run society. The writers of dance manuals, in turn, insisted on an intellectual or theoretical basis for their art. Just as Valla and Guarini emphasized the need "to understand and to manipulate language" 76 for success in public affairs, dancing masters articulated the elements, the steps, patterns, and movement qualities that made formal description and analysis possible. Theory, as a basis for both practice and teaching, made it possible to elevate dance from the "mechanical" repetitions abhorred by dancing masters to an essential and noble skill for prince and courtier.
Chapter 4, "Dance and the Intellect," is almost entirely taken up with Nevile's discussion of the misure. The categorization of dances by musical proportion, although linked to the theories of Pythagoras and Plato in the minds of dancing masters and humanists alike, is a complex topic and this chapter will primarily interest musicians and dancers. The following chapter, "Order and Virtue," although equally closely related to the humanistic ideals, in this case of geometry, is an essential one for any understanding of Renaissance dance, but particularly for Nevile's purposes.
Physicality is an inherently spatial quality. In order to appreciate dance as a medium of expression at any time , the shapes and moving patterns must be legible. Whereas Chapter 4 may be said to be concerned with time, in Chapter 5, space is the theme. No Rockette was ever more constrained by spatial relationships, by the necessity to be in the right place at the right time, than the Renaissance dancer as he or she moved through triangles especially well explained and diagrammed in The Eloquent Body , circles, and other figures. To attempt to understand these dances without grasping the shapes and their mutations is as superficial as reading a cookbook without tasting food.
It is precisely through the presentational implications of the figures that the dancer achieved performative success. Three appendices complete The Dancing Body.
First, the author provides the entire text of an anonymous poem, written on the occasion of the visit of Galeazzo Maria Sforza and the pope to Florence in Fl, BN, Magl. VII , f. The second appendix, "The Use of Mensuration Signs as Proportion Signs in the Dance Treatises," expands on her discussion of the four misure as they were explained by Domenico da Piacenza. The third contains the "floor tracks" and music for four balli "Anello," "Ingrata," "Pizochara," and "Verceppe," as well as an explanation of the steps used in the dances that she describes.
Although Nevile explains the different types of dances, in particular the popular balli and bassadanze found in the manuals, the dances found in her Appendix 3 are all balli. The addition of an example of a notated bassadanza from one of the treatises would have been helpful to many readers, especially those less familiar with the form.
The Eloquent Body is a very short book, pages from Introduction to Conclusion, expanded with the three appendices, helpful notes, and generous bibliography to almost Many readers would have appreciated one more appendix. Because this book will attract readers unfamiliar with specifics of court festivities, a chronological list of events named would have been a useful addition.
There are many referred to, some cited several times, and they are easily confused. This book is a case of something for everyone, with both rewards and frustrations for every reader. Musicologists will certainly want to examine this book.