This handout was based on a class given by Dr. Ingrid Brainard, Dance
History Institute Workshop, June 1987, and created for the Isenfir
Dance Event, September 1995.
Work from primary sources in the original language. Get a good dictionary
and make a vocabulary list of common terms. Find translating help
from one who knows the language.
Compare similar sources and take the best. Dance and music found
together should be favored over dance instructions alone.
Don’t mix your sources. Don’t make a dance from a piece
here and a piece there. Respect the integrity of each author’s
unique style and creativity.
Go through the dance, find and list all the steps. Look up step
instructions, especially if included in treatise with the dance.
Compare your reconstruction with reconstructions by others.
Transcribe music. Get help from a musicologist or musician.
Put choreography to music. Work with musicians on timing and emphasis.
Develop the style of the dance based on the manners, clothes and
accessories of the time and place of the dance. Read about how they
behaved, what they did, how they thought.
Get the proper costume. Pay attention to fabric weight, corseting,
heel height and accessories. Fit and construction should be as accurate
as possible since this determines how you move. The period of the
clothes and the dance should be the same.
Try to recreate the dance space. Rent or build an appropriate looking
hall, or use a period hall if one is available.
Stay flexible and keep an open mind. Read other people’s ideas
on dance, but don’t take any one opinion as the whole truth.
- Dance instructions, with or without music, but with no discussion
on how to dance.
- Photocopy, microfilm or an exact reproduction of the original.
- Primary source
- Original work or facsimile only.
- The original text is done in a new typesetting and printed. Although
some reprints try to be faithful to the original, the accuracy can
- Secondary source
- Translations, reprints, interpretations, reconstructions and books
about the original work. I also use it to refer to general works on
dance and dance collections from no particular source.
- The text is rendered into a language other than the original language.
The quality of translations vary greatly.
- Work discussing how to dance. Will often cover dance and music theory,
manners and behavior, and descriptions of how the steps of the dances
are done. Usually includes dance instructions, with or without music.