It’s Baroque dance expert Catherine Turocy (left), the artistic director of the New York Baroque Dance Company, who often performs enchantingly with her husband, harpsichordist James Richman, with both the Opera Royal in New York and the Dallas Bach Society. In 1995, the French government named Turocy a Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters for her work in reconstructing the ballets of such composers as Jean-Baptiste Lully and Jean-Philippe Rameau:
“I think here in the States we have more of a dramatic bent,” Ms. Turocy said, adding that European dance historians are too often hung up on printed sources. “Dance notation doesn’t say anything about the drama,” she said.
In search of that drama, Ms. Turocy has started to study treatises on dance, theater and rhetoric, many written by Jesuit priests for whom the purpose of a dramatic ballet was to move the soul. “Ballroom dancing, by contrast, is purely the steps, it’s decorative,” she said.
In workshops and classes, she teaches gesture, the use of masks and martial arts, since most dance masters were also fencing masters. She talks about Baroque theories of the body and the right balance between flow of movement and dramatic storytelling. Even these, she said, are mere techniques that require an individual artist to imbue them with life. “They are the tools that free you for the moment when you want to be the most alive on stage.”