Dallas — The stage at Moody Performance Hall took on a distinct air, with a head-to-toe dressing in light wood panels for Dallas Bach Society’s collaboration with The New York Baroque Dance Company. For one night only, The Baroque Salon delivered a varied evening of music and dance with talented performers and elegant visuals. By staging the music and dance of early 18th -century “salon culture,” DBS artistic director James Richman highlighted the importance of these artistic spaces, away from the royal court, which served as incubators for philosophical and artistic thought. As is his custom, he offered an educational introduction to each work, highlighting its place in history and culture.
With five works on the bill, the concert’s energy and complexity progressed upward with satisfying results. The first featured Tamara Meredith on the flauto traverso playing Sonata No. 2 in D Major by Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre, accompanied by Richman on the beautiful blue harpsichord and Christopher Phillpot on the viola da gamba (similar to the cello). The quality of the flute’s soft, earthy sound in Meredith’s skillful hands set the tone for the entire performance—lively, tastefully understated, and full of delicious subtleties.
The three-person musical ensemble then grew to a heavenly sounding six, as Thane Elliot Isaac and Michelle Brians Hanlon joined on first and second violins, respectively, with MaryAnn Shore on the Baroque oboe. For Jacquet de la Guerre’s Cantata IV: Jonah (referring to the Old Testament story of Jonah and the whale), soprano Julianna Emanski sang an impassioned narrative and commentary on Jonah’s plight and God’s forgiveness.
To close out the first act, dancers joined in with Les Caractères de la danse: Fantaisie, composed by Jean-Féry Rebel in 1715. Musically arranged as a series of dances, the work has been used by choreographers in various ways. For this performance, Catherine Turocy, artistic director of The New York Baroque Dance Company, created a playful duet between Caroline Copeland and Roberto Lara depicting humorous clichés in a courtship. The two not only danced with the grace and dignity inherent in Baroque dancing but also displayed quite a dramatic range.
Act II entertained with the evening’s main event, Divertissement: Apollon, La Nuit et Comus. Nicholas Brenier’s 1715 work was originally performed for and dedicated to the Duchesse du Maine, an essential art patron with a renowned salon. Turocy portrayed the Duchesse in a glistening rose pink gown enjoying the song and dance, which serves as a diversion for her insomniac tendencies. With her courtiers Glenda Norcross and Brynt Beitman, they listen to Emanski as La Nuit (“the Night”) and Hunter Birkhead debate over the need for the natural order of sleep and wakefulness. Comus (Joshua Hughes), the god of festivities, enters with an attitude of “Who cares? Let’s party.”
The multitude of dances sprinkled throughout emphasized the celebratory air with lively allegros. Dancers executed Turocy’s choreography without a single bobble or waver, maintaining impressive control while maintaining their characters. Whether standing in one place with subtle posture shifts or maneuvering through lightning-fast footwork, the attention to detail, not only in choreography but in performance, is astounding.