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Margaret Fleming

The Dilemma: fidelity to historical truth or novelty?

Fleming, Margaret: "The Dilemma: fidelity to historical truth or novelty?", 14th International Conference, International Organization of Folk Art - Greek Section, Dance and History, Aridea, Pella, 13-17 September 2000.


This paper seeks to address the process of separating historical truth from novelty within historical research. It examines the nature of historical source material in general and how it can be evaluated. A more particular examination is explored in relation to the historical truth of source material and dance choreography, differentiating between primary and secondary sources. Using the example of the Breadcrumb Fairy variation in Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty, the principles attached to a search for historical truth are illuminated by the exposition of a strategy for the avoidance of novelty and the building of a true historical picture. The context of the wider historical truth is examined and conclusions are arrived at.

1. Introduction: historical fact, not fiction

A historian’s endeavour to establish historical fact, not fiction, is a challenging adventure and a task that needs to be completed before any critical examination can commence. The history of dance is like any other history in this respect and no exception to procedures, which may reveal historical truth, or pitfalls which can engender novelty.

2. The evidence and its evaluation

One source: when only one source exists concerning a historical phenomenon in whatever form – written, pictorial, archaeological, oral etc… then its contents cannot be proved to be true by other sources. Historical argument based upon it assumes that it is true. If further discoveries, however, disprove that source, then that historical argument becomes invalid.

Two or more independent sources: when two or more independent sources exist and they confirm the same historical data then there can be said to be a certain burden of proof. When two or more independent sources contradict the same historical data, then the historian must evaluate these sources and weigh the argument accordingly. The proof is prima facie less certain. In building a case for historical truth, evidence can be replicated or complementary.

Proximity of historical material to the time of an event is a major factor as human memory is so fragile. Moreover, the type of evidence is crucial as to what can be derived from it and of course its integrity is vital as to whether it bears a true or false reflection.

3. Historical truth and dance

The relationship between dance and history is various and would seem to fall into three broad categories. The first is history with dance as an illustration of that history, e.g. women in society as portrayed in the dance. The second is the history of the circumstance of dance, e.g. the establishment of a ballet company or the biography of a celebrated dancer. The third is the history of the dance itself, e.g. the dance movement, its technique, form and style. It is this latter category that requires investigation directly linked to the nature of dancing in order to illuminate historical truth, and which this paper chooses to address.

3.1. Primary sources for choreographic form

It is obvious from the outset that finding out what dance was really like from contemporaneous sources before the age of the film, is not an easy task. Still pictures (paintings, drawings, photos etc…) can only hint at the movement thus captured and comment on its performance must remain conjecture. Verbal text also, even of technical import, cannot fully describe the nuance of motion, and the meaning of technical jargon can mutate with the passage of time so that original intention can become distorted, if not lost completely. Notation, in the absence of film, or complementary to it, embraces historical truth more closely. However, reading more into the notation than it actually states, becomes conjecture and filling in gaps say, for the purposes of reconstruction, becomes a novelty, albeit in the interests of presentation. This kind of novelty has been known to be paraphrased as ‘the secret signature’, i.e. the point at which the restorer makes a pastiche of what they think something should be. Film, on the other hand, provides visual testimony to the dance and although different performances of the same dance bring different interpretations, each carries its own truth.

The quality of truth rests with the integrity of the source vis-a-vis the dance. Therefore the artist who is painting the dance scene may be contemplating the decorative wall hanging more than the depiction of any truth in the subject matter. The chronicler on dance may state very little about a choreography and more about patrons attending the event and what they were wearing! Truthful accuracy in notation depends on whether it was recorded accurately and can be deciphered accurately. Quality in film is dependant on the viewpoint and cut of the film itself. Moreover the technical standard of the dancers in the film will affect the workmanship of the contents of the document. A higher standard of workmanship usually equates to a better example when discussing the historical evolution of an art form.

3.2. Secondary sources for choreographic form

Sources which are not contemporary with a dance work are secondary and can become affected by the lapse of time: memories can fade, choreographic cuts and additions can be implemented, technical adjustments seep in to suit individual dancers, and characteristics of style gradually shift as the years go by. However, in the absence of primary sources pertaining to a period in question, then a secondary source becomes more valuable. For example, if no film exists of a ballet at the time of its creation, but a film exists of a production that has been passed down by memory from the original, then the later film, like the copy of a lost masterpiece, assumes the position of the original. It is also worth noting here that dance handed down from dancer to dancer may change externally but will retain the inward flow necessary to human execution, some of which may derive from its original creation. But a reconstruction made from say an original notation or other material pieced together, will face the hazard of looking stilted and artificial in its historical correctness.

4. A strategy for the avoidance of novelty

All historical research not only involves a quest for historical truth but also a strategy for the avoidance of novelty. The following example is taken from Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty, one of the most famous ballets in the world. The Sleeping Beauty was choreographed in St. Petersburg in 1890 by the French choreographer Marius Petipa for the Imperial Ballet at the Maryinsky Theatre, with music especially composed for it by Tchaikovsky. It was a successful ballet and it remains to this day in the repertoire of the Kirov, the descendant company of the Imperial Ballet. Its principal choreographic source is a set of notations written in Stepanov which were compiled by different hands, during the period up to 1917, the date of the Russian Revolution. As far as is known, no other set of notations exists and therefore this source is a unique source and, although it does not pertain exactly to the time of the original creation of the ballet, it becomes the principal instrument for research in the absence of any other surviving notational document or film.

Notation Example 1 [1]

The above is an example of a Benesh translation from that Stepanov notation showing a phrase from the variation “Les miettes qui tombent” which means ‘The crumbs which fall’ and is called in English ‘The Breadcrumb Fairy’. We know that this variation was not a later addition because of other evidence, including its presence on programmes of the day, its mention in the choreographer’s notes and photos of that role. The question is why was she called ‘The Breadcrumb Fairy’ at all and is there any association between her designation and choreographic role. Unfortunately the Stepanov notation only shows the steps, and leaves the arms, which usually indicate any demi-caractère element, blank. However, the Russian word which I’m told means ‘to sprinkle water on something’ is written alongside the notation on the original leaf of paper. Does this ‘sprinkling’ refer to the crumbs or perhaps to blessing the baby with sprinklings of water as would happen at a religious ceremony like a christening? Feodor Lopukhov, in his book ”Choreographic reflections on choreography”, tells of “the Breadcrumb Fairy’s tutu being appliqued with little mice, as if gathering breadcrumbs” [2]. But the breadcrumbs in the title ‘fall’, they are not ‘gathered’. He goes on to state that “The second part has special movements of the arms, reminiscent of winding thread”. Are these ‘winding’ movements anything to do with breadcrumbs, or is it an omen of when the princess pricks her finger on the spindle? Substantiation for Petipa selecting a ‘Breadcrumb Fairy’ at all would appear to emanate from the Russian custom whereby crumbs are “sprinkled on a cradle by the godmother to ensure that the child shall never go hungry” [3]. This being the case, then the raison d’être of this fairy’s variation lies in her act of sprinkling the crumbs and “the special movements of the arms, reminiscent of winding thread” [4], could conceivably be the crumb sprinkling.

Following the lead of the Stepanov notation, the strategy to find a proof for this choreographic facet then moved to secondary notations in Benesh. During the turbulent time of the Russian Revolution, the chief regisseur at the Maryinsky, Nicolai Sergueeff, left St. Petersburg with the unique set of Stepanov notations and spent the rest of his life using them in combination with his own memories to mount old ballets. The focus of his work was with English companies, the Sadler’s Wells from 1932-42 and the International Ballet from 1942 till his death in 1951. The International Ballet ceased in 1953, but the Sadler’s Wells, which is now the Royal Ballet, did survive and choreographies handed down within its repertoire, such as Sergueeff’s production of The Sleeping Beauty, were notated in the 1950’s by Joan Benesh and others, in the notation which she and her husband fashioned together and which now bears their name. The following notation is the phrase from that legacy in Benesh equating to example 1.

Notation Example 2 [5]

The steps in this example in Benesh are very similar to the Stepanov but the ‘special movements of the arms’ which go above the head are neither reminiscent of ‘winding thread’ nor ‘crumb sprinkling’. Indeed, in 1939, when the ballet was first staged by the Wells, the title of this variation was changed to the ‘Violet Fairy’ and the title of the ‘Breadcrumb Fairy’ was assigned to another fairy without any seeming explanation. Without any equivalent symbolic tradition of breadcrumb sprinkling in England, the omission of any such reference would go unremarked. Clearly, the notational legacy in Benesh does not provide a proof here for this particular feature, but a very probable novelty.

Failing to find a notational proof, the search took on board an examination of secondary film sources from productions with close links with Russian dancers who passed on the traditional choreography. An obvious starting point might seem to be the Kirov company itself. But the classic ballets, including The Sleeping Beauty, suffered a lot of changes during the post-Revolutionary Soviet period. Feodor Lopukhov himself was the major revivalist, but, as already revealed from his writings, he only saw “special movements of the arms, reminiscent of winding thread” [6], and could not give any precise meaning. In the Kirov production by Konstantin Sergeyev [7], we are given an indication of what Lopukhov meant but it is ambiguous. Is the movement in this production ‘thread winding’ or ‘crumb sprinkling’? Or is this gesture one and the same?

The best proof was to emerge from a film [8] of Col. De Basil’s Ballets Russes company. Col. De Basil’s Ballets Russes was just one company in a line of companies promoting Russian ballet in the first half of the twentieth century, the most famous of which were Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and the Anna Pavlova company. For the 1935-6 season at Covent Garden in London this company presented a shortened version of The Sleeping Beauty, entitled Le Mariage d’Aurore which included the fairy godmothers’ variations and that of the Breadcrumb Fairy. Responsible for the production was Bronislava Nijinska, sister of the famous virtuoso dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. She had been trained in the St. Petersburg Imperial Ballet school in the early 1900’s and in 1921 did some work with Diaghilev on his London production of The Sleeping Beauty, entitled The Sleeping Princess and which Nicolai Sergueeff reconstructed. Film of her production includes a short sequence of the Breadcrumb Fairy. The fragment of film begins with the steps as written in the Stepanov, with a ‘winding’ movement of the arms as illustrated in the following notational example.

Notation Example 3 [9]

However, an obvious ‘thread winding’ arm movement appears in a later phrase when the ballerina moves backwards with tiny steps in couru en arriere [10]. This movement is traceable in the early Benesh notations [11] and in both cases the thread rotates towards the winder as she winds. The ‘thread winding’ arm movements linked to the phrase under scrutiny with the jumps backwards is also rotational, but it rotates away from the dancer with a flick of the wrist as if to throw or sprinkle something. It would appear that these two gestures of ‘winding’ and ‘sprinkling’ may have approximated towards each other over time, as their meaning became obscured and as the memories of dancers faded. But the rotational direction of each idea has remained respectively opposite. Moreover the ‘sprinkling’ is a smaller gesture, more intimate and suited to the height of a raised cradle.

5. Building the true picture

The accuracy of a part of a choreography will, if it is really true, relate to the rest of a choreographer’s output and indeed to the form, style and meaning of a period in general. A novelty will not. Indeed if a case can be made for a choreographic feature but no collateral can be found, then that case may not stand the test of time – or it is waiting for other evidence to testify to its rightness.

Establishing the nature of the choreography of crumb sprinkling by the Breadcrumb Fairy lends credence to a characteristic of Petipa’s style which not only relates to the choreography of the fairy godmothers but which also finds expression throughout his work. This characteristic is the symbolic use of non-balletic movement, usually choreographed on the upper body, moulded together with classical steps into the genre known as demi-caractere. In the role of the Breadcrumb Fairy the non-balletic movement is taken from everyday life, a custom, like for instance, the throwing of money outside the church at weddings, which still goes on today. However, in other variations, for example in the Canari variation, in English entitled the Fairy of the Songbirds, the ‘special arm movements’ describe the wings and beak of a bird, and in the Violente variation, known as the Finger variation, the arms are gestures imitating the flames and sparks of a fire. Each fairy godmother except the Lilac Fairy, who brings a gift to the infant princess, has that gift inculcated into the choreography of her variation.

To discover no evidence of choreographic symbol would be like finding a house without a roof. The knowledge of what the finished structure should be composed, aids the quest to find the part, and each part that can be proved, suffices to add to the vision of the whole. In this respect, the Lilac Fairy has been mentioned as an exception. This is because it is known from contemporary accounts that this part was purely a mime role for Maria Petipa, the choreographer’s daughter. Indeed, photos of the day show a heavy costume of long dress, heeled shoes, plumed helmet and staff. It would have been very difficult to do much of a dance in this outfit. However, a variation for the Lilac Fairy does exist in the Stepanov writings and Nicolai Sergueeff choreographed versions of this variation for both the Sadler’s Wells and the International Ballet. Uncertainty surrounded the authorship of this choreography for some considerable time until Feodor Lopukhov admitted to having created in around 1908 [12]. In relation to the variations of the other fairies it is novel. Although its conception is symbolic in that the Lilac Fairy represents the gift of wisdom, which in Russian folklore a child will acquire if placed under the lilacs [13], there is no choreographic symbolism in it. No doubt Petipa himself found the idea difficult of trying to represent such a symbol in dance terms and stuck to decorating the costume with lilac blooms for meaningful effect. Moreover, Lopukhov chose technical vocabulary in line with the first years of the twentieth century as opposed to the last years of the nineteenth, even if these differences seem small to us today. This vocabulary does not find ready reflection in the role of the Princess Aurora whose dances are composed after the manner of the fairies whose gifts she receives. And just to nail the novelty completely, the balance of the role of the Lilac Fairy is put out of equilibrium, what with the rest of her part being mime only. In addition, her weight as a true counterpart to the purely mime role of the evil fairy Carabosse, is lessened. The Lilac Fairy variation is like a piece of architecture which has been added at a later date. It has obscured what was there originally and people have learnt to live happily with the later addition, juxtaposed as it is to the original structure.

6. The wider historical truth

Because dance is a visual art, it will usually influence or be influenced by other visual arts of its epoque. This kind of reflection deepens the truth in the dance as it takes on a broader significance.

6.1.1 The nature of symbol

The conception of symbols in the nineteenth century mind is eloquently explored by Thomas Carlyle in his writing Sartor Resartus, written and published in the 1830’s. Here he proclaims the characteristics of concealment and revelation to be the essential constituents of any symbol and likens them to speech and silence. The former he sees as of the moment, the latter as eternal, “…the element in which great things fashion themselves together; that at length they may emerge, full-formed and majestic, into the daylight of Life, which they are thenceforth to rule.” [14]. The endorsement of non-verbal criteria to the nature of symbol is a lineament which can be woven without metamorphosis into the fabric of dance, itself endowed with non-verbal qualities. Carlyle goes on to embrace the infinite into the substance of symbol: In the Symbol proper,…there is ever, more or less distinctly or directly, some embodiment and revelation of the Infinite; the Infinite is made to blend itself with the Finite, to stand visible, and as it were attainable, there [15] In Petipa’s ballet The Sleeping Beauty, the fairies’ gifts not only must be ‘visible’ to an audience, but they must also be ‘attainable’, for the Princess Aurora has to be able to assimilate them into her psyche. If the fairies’gifts were to manifest themselves on stage as being beyond the reach of their recipient, then the presence of that symbol would be diminished. It is to Petipa’s credit that the adjunct of symbol to choreography loses nothing and is not strained.

6.1.2 The Symbolist Movement

The term symbolism was first coined by the minor poet, Jean Moreas, in a manifesto which appeared in Le Figaro on 18th September 1886. It was a literary as well as an artistic movement and seen as a reaction to the materialism of the new industrial age. The French writer Emile Zola wrote in the Russian periodical, The Messenger of Europe: It was inevitable that contemporary naturalism and the efforts of art to study nature should call forth a reaction and bring forward artists with an idealistic turn of mind [16].

That idealism encompassed the employment of visual symbols, which, while they themselves remained unchanged, acted as catalysts in the eyes of the beholder. Their external appearance was a trigger inviting a search for a deeper meaning beneath the surface. The recognition of a symbol depends on the extent of its currency. In the nineteenth century for example, the language of flowers carried secret meaning and was tremendously popular as evidenced by the greeting cards with flower imagery and hidden messages. Flowers in painting had inherent symbolic value and the lore of flowers was often connected to fairies. It is therefore, no surprise that Petipa gave floral attributes to some of the fairy godmothers, like the Lilac Fairy. In the case of the Breadcrumb Fairy however, her symbolism attaches to ceremony, a symbolistic ritual. Crumbs themselves are very small things and, having no bright attractive eye-catching colour, are not easily discernible. Unlike a bloom of lilac, their visual representation is negligible. When Petipa names this fairy, he does not call her the ‘Breadcrumb Fairy’ like the ‘Lilac Fairy’, he calls her ‘The Crumbs which fall’, the emphasis being on the word ‘fall’. Her emblem is not picturesque like a flower: it lies in the act of sprinkling in order that the crumbs should fall. The phenomenon that they do fall is echoed in the music. Tchaikovsky responded to Petipa’s phrase (‘Crumbs – which are falling’) with pizzicato strings: the scattering of the crumbs through the air in the violins, and their landing on the ground in the double basses [17].

6.2 The treatment of symbolism in art and dance

Symbolism in art drew on the real world, but was filtered through the imagination of the artist to produce a synthesis of a separate and self-sufficient reality. Albert Aurier wrote: The strict duty for the ideistic painter is, therefore, to realise a rational selection among the multiple elements combined in objectivity, and to use in his work only the lines, forms, the general and distinctive colours serving to describe the ideistic meaning of the object, adding to it those partial symbols which corroborate the general symbol [18]. In the painting by Paul Gauguin, Vision after the Sermon (1888), we see Breton women in the foreground after a sermon, and the vision that they see, Jacob wrestling with the Angel, in the top righthand corner. The two elements are separated by a fallen tree, and set against a background of blazing crimson red. The struggle between Jacob and the Angel symbolises the struggle between heaven and earth, good and evil. In the layout of this painting, Gauguin has compartmentalised the women and the vision into compartments, their form boldly outlined. It resembles the work of Byzantine enamelling or Japanese art where colour is bound by line and is known as cloisonnism.

The analogy of symbolic cloisonnism to the choreography of Petipa would appear direct. First of all, separation of what is classical and what is caractere is clearly defined. In the example of the phrase from the Breadcrumb Fairy variation, the steps remain strictly within the classical vocabulary but the ‘special movements of the arms’ are caractere. The line between the classical and the caractere is not transgressed. This is not to say that the classical vocabulary does not have a symbolic or supporting part. Indeed, in the variation of the fairy called Candide, the classical technicalities of ouverte and en dehors which are open positions, are harnessed to represent the gift of openness which that fairy brings. In the variation for the fairy Violente, the staccato action of her classical releves reinforce the conception of shooting sparks. But mainly, as with the Breadcrumb Fairy, the classical does not reveal obvious symbolism but simply dovetails with the caractere without apparent discord into a convincing synthesis. It is unbelievable that anyone would really sprinkle crumbs in this poetic manner, but then it is unbelievable that Breton peasant women would have a vision of Jacob and the Angel. The symbolism in the artwork defies realism but the very synthesis of composition commands its own reality and a willing suspension of disbelief is induced from the spectator: the fragmentation of cloisonnism is transcended. [19] The texture of Petipa’s demi-caractere might therefore seem at first glance to be a trait peculiar to ballet, but, viewed in relation to painting, it is faithful to the ethos of its time.

7. Conclusion

The pursuit of historical truth and the avoidance of novelty is a painstaking activity wherein pieces of evidence have to be established as being faithful to the history in question. That evidence then has to accrue so that a case can be brought, even if a full picture cannot be constructed. In dance choreography the mode and meaning of that picture will fit into the context of its own dance genre and be capable of reflection in other art forms of the same period. The example of the Breadcrumb Fairy has served to show that although its symbolic choreography was significant when it was created, it did not hold. Like a receding star, when the import of symbol became obscured, then the choreography of that symbol became vulnerable to change. Without an original visually orientated record, then the historical truth of any choreography, can become a lost treasure. The strategy in this paper attempts to outline a historical path for the true recovery of such a treasure.

Benesh Movement Notation © Rudolf Benesh 1955


1. Cf. Appendix notation example 1 for fuller explanation.

2. F. Lopukhov & B. Asafiev: ‘Annals of The Sleeping Beauty I The Choreography, II The Music.’ Ballet Review: Vol. 5, No. 4, pps. 27-8.

3. J. Warrack: Tchaikovsky ballet music. London, BBC, 1979, p. 40.

4. Cf. Note 2.

5. Cf. Appendix notation example 2 for fuller explanation.

6. Cf. Note 2.

7. Video by the National Video Corporation, 1983.

8. This film is held at the National Archive in London.

9. Cf. Appendix notation example 3 for fuller explanation.

10. Cf. Appendix notation example 4.

11. Cf. Appendix notation example 5.

12. Cf. Article by Tony Devereux ‘Legend of a Lost Choreographer. Part One.’ In The Dancing Times: Jan. ’88, pps. 339-41.

13. Cf. J. Warrack; Tchaikovsky ballet music. London, BBC, 1979, p. 40.

14. T. Carlyle quoted in ‘Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881): “Symbols” from Sartor Resartus’ in Art in Theory 18815-1900. Ed. C. Harrison et al. Oxford, Blackwell, 1998, p. 78.

15. Ibid., p. 79.

16. E. Zola quoted in Symbolists and Symbolism. R.L. Delevoy. Geneva, Editions d’Art Albert Skira, p. 40.

17. R.J. Wiley: Tchaikovsky’s ballets. Oxford, Clarendon, 1985, p. 128.

18. A. Aurier quoted in ‘G.-Albert Aurier (1865-1892) from “Symbolism in Painting: Paul Gauguin”’ in Art in Theory 18815-1900. Ed. C. Harrison et al. Oxford, Blackwell, 1998, p. 1027.

19. The strict boundaries of this compartalism were to become blurred in the first decade of the twentieth century, notably in the work of Michael Fokine.


Note: in order to describe the notation verbally, each frame has been boxed for reference. They number from left to right. Each box in examples 1, 2 & 5 has the time value of one crotchet except where indicated. The timing of examples 3 & 4 is uncertain as the film from which the notation is recorded is silent.

Example 1

1. The body faces downstage with the right leg bent in attitude devant ouverte. The left leg is sur la pointe in demi-plie.

2. The body springs backwards so that the left leg takes off into the air and straightens on the half beat.

3-4. This action is repeated on the other side.

5. The action of boxes 1-4 continues ad lib.

Example 2

1. The body faces downstage right. The left leg is sur la pointe in demi-plie. The right leg is in attitude devant ouverte. The right arm moves from 2nd position to 5th as the left arm moves from 5th position to 2nd. The head is turned to look up under the right arm.

2. The head looks down. A spring backwards lands on the right leg sur la pointe. The left leg is extended straight en l’air devant at knee height.

3. The movement of the legs repeats on the other side on the half beat.

4-7. The leg action of boxes 2 & 3 repeats twice, while the head becomes erect and the right arm moves to 2nd position.

8-17. The leg action of boxes 2 & 3 continues to be repeated, with the arms lowering to bras bas from boxes 8-11, then moving through 1st to 5th from boxes 12-15, with the head following the arms.

Example 3

1. The left arm throws outwards from a forward position just below the waist to opposite the shoulder, the wrist flicking outwards with the palm of the hand up. On the same count the left arm moves down into a forward position just below the waist with the wrist bending inwards. The right leg is in attitude devant ouverte, in opposition to the left arm and the left leg is sur la pointe in demi-plie.

2. The action of box 1 is repeated on the other side.

3. The action of boxes 1 & 2 is repeated ad lib.

Example 4

1. With the body facing downstage left, the feet start to couru en arriere sur les pointes. The right arm is in bras bas. The left arm moves forwards and upwards from bras bas to a height just above the top of the head, the wrist of the hand bending forwards. The upper body is lifted and the head looks up to the raised arm.

2. The right arm repeats the movement of the left arm on the other side. The left arm bends inwards and downwards to a height just above the waist, the wrist of the hand bending backwards.

3. The rotational movement of the arms in box 2 is repeated on the other side.

4. The ‘winding’ movement of boxes 2 & 3 is repeated ad lib.

Example 5

1. The body is facing downstage left. The feet start to couru en arriere, sur les pointes which continues throughout the example. The arms are in bras bas with the head looking down.

2. With the palms of the hands facing downwards, the arms lift forwards and upwards till the left hand reaches to a height level with the top of the head and the right arm level with the face. The body lifts with the arms and the head turns right towards the right hand.

3&4. The arms rotate inwards together in a circle returning to the same position as reached in box 2.

5. The arms come down to bras bas as the body turns to face downstage right.

6. The ‘winding movement’ of the arms in boxes 2-5 is repeated twice more on alternating sides.

Biographical information

Margaret Fleming graduated in European History at the University of Edinburgh in her native Scotland in 1970. She then undertook studies at the Benesh Institute of Choreology in London, learning Benesh notation in relation to a wide range of dance disciplines. A teaching career in dance followed spanning over twenty years. Upon retirement from teaching, her interests have focussed upon historical research of the classics, investigating their true format and choreographic meaning. She is a member of the Royal Academy of Dancing.

Margaret Fleming


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