Re: undemanding, unambitious, uninformed and uninspired

Sandi Kurtz (
Thu, 19 Aug 1999 20:11:30 -0700 (PDT)

On Fri, 27 Aug 1999, Jeff Miller wrote:

> I have a question for the dance-historians among us:
> Is there a record of the ways in which dance changed (if any) with the advent
> of electrical lighting? Aside from time of performance, that is--did the
> ability to have, for example, a spotlight focusing attention, or the upstage
> area well-lit change the way choreographers made dances? I've had a bit of
> theory in the dramatic theatre on this subject, but dance wasn't addressed...

(big snip)

Indeed, the evolution of dance has been significantly influenced by
developments in theater technology, practically from the beginning of the
art form. Sometimes these changes occur in a traceable sequence, that is
it's clear that a change in one occured as a reaction to a change in
another, but at other times these developments come from a more
cooperative process.

When Louis XIV brought dancing into a theater space (as opposed to the
more 'in-the-round' ballrooms of the court ballets) at the same time he
commissioned Beauchamps to codify the artform, he created a situation that
favored dancing 'turned-out' (observation from a single point of view
rather than several) at the same time that technique was being formalized.

The development of gaslighting for theaters at the beginnings of the
Romantic era in ballet, with its scenarios full of ghostly characters and
otherworldly settings is an example of changes in the technology
supporting changes in the aesthetic. The rapid development in pointe
technique at the same time, although it was specific to dance, was another
factor in this evolution.

And if I remember my general theater history correctly, this was the
period when they began to lower the houselights during performances,
helping to focus audience attention on stage.

I imagine everyone on this list is familiar with Loie Fuller's work, but
she certainly wasn't the first dance artist to take advantage of
contemporary technology.

sandi kurtz