2018, Vercepe Observed, Vercepe Obscured, Vercepe Illuminated.

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We will make a first reconstruction of the ballo directly from its primary source Pd, seeing it through the eyes of the choreographer, the scribe, the dancers and the observers. The clarity of its form and content, its challenging juxtaposition of time, line, space and dynamics present a unique and enigmatic work but its meaning is unclear. Who were these five people? Who or what did they represent? In what context was it first made and performed? How was it first seen and received?

Antonio Cornazano a career courtier, poet, humanist and self appointed dance specialist at the d’Este court seemingly provides a solution. In his “Libro dell’Arte di Danzare 1455 he definesVerceppe as “ a ballo quasi simile ad una scaramuccia”, contemporaneously suggesting a brawl or scuffle, an image seemingly at odds with his intended audience of elite dancers in noble halls. Suggested solutions and practical realisations in the past 30 years have resulted in a range of interpretations, a jostling battle of the sexes, a quasi commedia skirmish possibly masked and maybe involving a braggart capitano, a manifestation of allegorical or classical themes. All perhaps viable as dances but as Andrea Francalanci surmised in 1986, “ Verceppe…. its true meaning is still unclear”.

We will make a second reconstruction of Vercepe drawing upon evidence pertaining to its original context and cited by Dr. Alessandro Pontremoli in his essay “Il ballo Verceppe di Domenico da Piacenza” in Virtute et Arte de Danzare .2011.

Verceppe emerges in its true light. It is a distillation of the chivalric world of Arthurian legend, a world long embraced by the Burgundian court and adopted by the northern Italian courts to secure a credible dynasty and enhance an emergent heritage. In view of this we can reconstruct the ballo at two levels.
Verceppe emerges as a multi layered work,. The dancers embody both codes and ceremony of the daytime tournament and the conflict of power and possesion between the dancing protagonists. Both strands come together to be seen in performance within the exclusive space of the noble hall. But it is within the choreography that its especial source is enacted. Who is looking at whom and why? It emerges from obscurity to see and be seen as originally intended.
“Such visual insights are necessary if historical imagination is to be fed” Michael Baxandall 1988.

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Hazel Dennison
Inspired by Early dance classes whilst studying at the Central School of Speech and Drama Hazel later gained the teaching certificate of the DHDS. Her work draws on a diverse and extensive practice in drama, dance and theatre studies through production, performance, research and choreography. She continues teaching at all levels of education, on summer schools, workshops and heritage programmes. Her current research encompasses the early and late European and English renaissance c.1400-1610, with specific reference to Domenico da Piacenza and the d’Este court in Ferrara.