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Caroline Copeland and Carlos Fittante of the New York Baroque Dance Company greet the class at UD.
and other members of the University of Delaware community took active
part in a recent workshop on campus focused on the history of Baroque
dance, learning such skills as dance steps and fencing salutes.
The workshop was led by Caroline Copeland and Carlos Fittante, members of the New York Baroque Dance Company.
Copeland began her lecture by asking the audience to, “Imagine a
president, current or former, [who] one year after taking office
declares to the citizens of the United States, ‘We need to improve dance
in our country. … The dancing in our culture is really just not up to
par. We need to improve as a culture in this area.’”
This was how Baroque dance was born during the reign of Louis XIV.
This emphasis that the French gave to their dancing allowed them to
be one of the most important cultures of the day, said Deborah
Steinberger, associate professor in the Department of Languages,
Literatures and Cultures, who organized the event and who teaches about
this period in her French Civilization class.
“Baroque dance is one of the jewels in the crown of le grand siècle,
the Great Century, the age of Louis XIV, of which the French are still
proud and which has become a major cultural reference point,”
She said she wanted students to truly experience the Baroque period:
“I really wanted them to get into the skin of somebody from that period
who would have been at court.”
Giving students the opportunity to see Baroque dance up close helps them better understand the period, Steinberger said.
“You can talk or read all you want about how dance was important at
court, but it’s another thing to adopt the postures and do the steps and
see what was involved,” she added.
The students seemed hesitant at first to try the dance moves, but
with coaching from Copeland and Fittante, they became more comfortable
trying the traditional dance.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Students, faculty and staff members learn dance steps of the Baroque period.
Junior Andrew Chapdelaine, a triple language major studying French as
well as Italian and Russian, said he enjoyed the event much more than
he had expected, as he and his fellow students learned a variety of
dance moves and got to test their skills to the soundtrack of Baroque
“I loved the music,” Chapdelaine said. “I loved the elegance of
everything. ... It was really enjoyable and really approachable at the
Copeland, who trained in Baroque, said that this type of dance was one of her favorites.
“[Baroque Dance] enlivens the senses in a way that doing contemporary
dance and ballet doesn’t do,” she said, “because you are acting out a
role in time to live music, and there's something very complete about
What made the workshop experience even more complete were the
costumes that Copeland and Fittante wore. Copeland had a professional
costumer make her dress. She said that she picked out the fabric and
provided the costumer with patterns that were from the Baroque period to
ensure historical accuracy.
While Baroque dance is mostly a historical artifact and art, its popularity remains today.
“You’re partaking in something that really belongs in another
century,” Steinberger said. “But it’s very big in France— Baroque dance,
music and singing.”
Copeland emphasized that Baroque dance has influenced modern dance as well.
“Anybody who does line dancing, square dancing, those forms, they
don’t do the steps [of Baroque dance] anymore,” she said. “But the idea
of a line of women set against a line of men or country line
dancing—those are all vestiges from the social dance from the 17th and
No matter the dance style, Copeland urged everyone, not just
students, to participate in such activities, where people move in time
“It’s usually spirited and about brother- and sisterhood, and I think
we could really use that right now,” she said. “So get out and dance
with your fellow University of Delaware students.”
Article by Anne Grae Martin; photos by Evan Krape