IN CLASSICAL ANTIQUITY, it seems, music did not exist independently of poetry and dance. The classical music of Europe sometimes accompanied both partners, although usually only one at a time. Many music analysts have written about historical lieder, chansons, and operas, with close attention to the texts that they set. Many fewer have written about historical gigues, waltzes, and Slavonic dances with comparable attention to the dancing bodies that they were intended to set in motion. It is reasonable to ask why.
One hypothesis is that music theorists, so comfortable with the immateriality of tonality and meter, are uncomfortable with the corporeality of dance. Perhaps dance is too low: below the aristocracy, below the neck, below the equator. To the extent that this hypothesis is supportable, it shines light on an unattractive aspect of our field's history.
A more benign explanation is available. Until recently, the image of the dance could be neither reproduced in a form that could be easily circulated nor represented in a form that would be legible to musicians. For the reader, close reading a dance that can be neither seen nor visualized is no more satisfying than close reading a music that can be neither heard nor audiated. Perhaps we did not steer clear of the dance so much as it steered clear of our efforts to capture it.
Modern technology has solved the problem. The moving image can now be reproduced and disseminated easily, within the legal limits of fair use. During the last decade, a new generation of scholars has pioneered remarkable analytic work on music for the dance, and dance for the music, with the assurance that readers can watch and listen alongside the authors, who can teach us to see and hear what they hear and see. In collaboration with Stephanie Jordan, research professor emeritus of dance at the University of Roehampton and guest editor for this issue, the Journal of Music Theory solicited articles from the five young scholars featured in this special issue. The contributors, all experienced dancers and some with extensive training, write about Norwegian telespringar, pan-Latin salsa, French and English contredanse, Russian ballet, and Georgian American modern dance.
This issue of JMT is the first to feature direct links to online audiovisual material and to present edited and archived clips of music and moving images as integral components of the publication. The contributors to this issue have taken full advantage. For these new capacities, the editors are grateful for the collaboration of our publishing partners at Duke University Press.