Dances for Deities in Lully's Persée 1682-1710

The 1682 score and livret of Persée indicate three instances of dance performed in honour of, by, or in the presence of, deities: the Jeux Junoniens, choreographic games held to appease Juno in Act I; the unusual (at least in Lully's tragédies en musique) occurrence of gods themselves dancing, in the Entrée for gods of the underworld who present Perseus with Pluto's helmet in Act II; and the celebratory dances in the presence of Venus in Act V of the opera. This paper looks at the nature of these instances of dance, with particular reference to extant choreographies for the Jeux Junoniens, Divinités Infernales and Act V Passacaille which Louis Pecour created for revivals of the opera in 1703 and 1710. It considers the extent to which Pecour's surviving dances (all apparently duets) represent genuine duets or reduced versions of dances by the larger groups of dancers named in the livrets. It also examines the extent to which belle danse (the 'noble' as opposed to 'grotesque' style of dance of the late 17th century) may have been obligatory when deities were present on stage. The paper will include demonstration of relevant dances.

Jennifer Thorp
Ken Pierce
Symposium Title: 
Gods, Men and Monsters – 2001
Author affiliation: 
Regent’s Park College, Oxford, UK
Longy School of Music, Cambridge, USA