The accordance of dance and music in the Beauchamps-Feuillet repertoire is often taken for granted, but some scholars and practitioners have pointed out occasional counter-rhythms and counter-phrasings between the two arts. Even when dance and music constitute the same phrasal structure, the degree of the two arts’ accordance is hardly universal. In her analysis of Pécour’s choreography, Anne Witherell concluded that Pécour ‘consciously’ avoids mirroring striking musical gestures (Louis Pécour’s 1700 Recueil de dances, 1981: 204-205). In some of his dances it is indeed the case yet in some others Pécour meticulously follows irregular musical phrases. In this paper I will focus on the phrasal relationships of dance and music, and illustrate the variety of correlations between the two arts through visual demonstrations, taking examples from notated dances by Pécour, who was the most prolific choreographer of the period.
Firstly, I shall define the ‘choreographic phrase’. Whereas musical phrases are mostly discernible based on contemporary harmonic theory by Jean-Philip Rameau as well as the natural diction, the choreographic phrase is an equivocal notion as was not theorised at the time and a modern definition has not been established. I will take the completion of a floor pattern and directional changes of the dancer[s] into account in addition to the step arrangement; the last is usually the sole factor to define the choreographic phrase among the scholars specialising this period today.
When a choreographic phrase discords with its musical counterpart, I will explore the implication of the conflict. As classical compositions were to represent Neoplatonic harmony, all Pécour dances retrieve concordance of the two media before ending, and the process from discord to concord forms an abstract narrative. In other words, the achievement of the intermedia harmony can thus create an abstract plot, regardless of whether the dance is for the ball or part of a large dramatic composition. Both conflict and harmony of the intermedia relationship was meaningful under the aesthetics of French classicism.