A dramatic dance workshop led by Darren Royston using early dance sources to bring alive the drama “The Dance of the Deadly Sins”

A participatory practical workshop exploring the recreation of historical dance and drama, focusing on La Spagna baxa danza and creating dramatic dance by responding creatively with historical imagination to the “farsa” – the Spanish medieval morality play of Diego Sanchez de Badajoz. The full play script was published posthumously in Seville, 1554. The script identifies that each character of the Sin has a choreography dancing with the lead character Adam, although the text does not explain any moves or suggest any music. This void needs to be filled by historians of music, dance and art. If the work is to be brought alive for an audience today, then physical choices need to be made to make the work dramatic. This requires the use of historical imagination to physically create performance linked to dance and music research, to produce new music and dance.

This workshop will use the basse danse La Spagna to present a procession of the Sin characters, displaying their distinctive movement qualities. La Spagna is one of the most famous courtly dances, known in many different countries in Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries. Dance steps can be deciphered from the historical sources, although the style of performance needs to be interpreted in the dramatic context. Once we have learnt the basic steps, considered their relationship to the music, we will explore the possibilities of different choreographic combinations and performance styles. Each participant is invited to create their personal version for the procession, performed as a live virtual onscreen display at the end of the session – or you can elect to remain an audience member, watching the Sins as they pass by your screen!

This project was initiated at the 2010 European Association of Historian conference FUSION Y CONFUSION in Seville, supported by the Seville Dance Conservatory, Artefactum, and Junta de Andalucia. The English translation was performed in 2014 with support from the Arts Council of England, BIG Dance, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, the International Medieval Congress in Leeds, and the National Centre for Early Music in York. Presentations were subsequently presented at UNESCO World Dance Congress in Athens 2014 and for the European Association of Dance Historians at Queen’s University Belfast in 2015. The material has been further explored on several Nonsuch courses such as at the Summer School in Harrogate, North Yorkshire in 2016 and as part of the Nonsuch History & Dance Online Club in 2020.  

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