The code of terpsichore the dance theory of Carlo blasis: Mechanics as the matrix of grace

Topoi 24 (1):67-79 (2005)
The essay examines both the dances and the dance notation of renowned nineteenth century choreographer Carlo Blasis. It looks in detail at Blasis major treatise The Code of Terpsichore in an effort to evaluate how Blasis linked a science of movement to a conception of the body oriented around the prevailing aesthetics informing all of the fine arts. Identifying Blasis as both a philosopher and a mechanist, this essay analyzes his approach to teaching basic ballet vocabulary, and in particular the arabesque. Whereas Kleist, with his Marionettentheater, proposes the puppet as a figure of grace, located somewhere between animal and doll, Blasis brings together the movement science of mechanics and the descriptive theory of grace (as mimesis) in a poetics of the arabesque, a synthesis of elevation and evanescence, which we see when we conjure up pictures of nineteenth century Romantic ballet.
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