Sunday, May 19, 2013

Terpsichore Sunday

Terpsichore, the Muse of Dance ~ Jean-Marc Nattier, 1739
I rented the Danish movie "A Royal Affair" (En kongelig affæreto watch online, which I quite liked because it's a terrific example of the genre of romantic, historical costume docudrama, with the inevitable antique dance at a fancy-dress ball which follows, ahem, in the footsteps of noble predecessors like this classic scene:



Another favorite of mine is Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet, the magic of which I've never escaped.  Okay...it was 1968, and I was fifteen years old.  This isn't the original music, but it's all I could find with the visual and it's still pretty darn good.  If the embed vanishes (and due to copyright quirks it well might) you can watch it on youtube.

But I digress.  A Royal Affair was also interesting because it chronicles the slavish conservatism of the Danish court, the arcane rigidity and cruel hypocrisy of which was enough to drive the monarch King Christian VII mad (or maybe he was autistic).  The film draws on an erotic novel based the perspective of the rebellious English Queen, and her affair with the King's most trusted confident, his personal physician from Germany, the radical and ruggedly handsome Dr. Struensee.  He had smuggled in forbidden books, and was much enamored of the writings of the irrepressibly romantic optimist, Jean Jacques Rousseau.  Set during the turbulent social and political upheavals of the Enlightenment period, The doctor and the Queen conspire to encourage the King to insist upon edicts more in line with the rest of contemporary Europe.  They successfully make rapid changes beneficial to the peasants - until the reactionary Danish noblemen discover and reveal the illicit affair.
Needless to say, falling into disgrace does not end at all well for the lovers, and after the coup the country reverts, the new rulers imposing serfdom, torture, and censorship once again, while rescinding such humane institutions as a publicly funded home for orphans.  Eventually though we learn in the epilogue that the Queen's royal children - one by the King and one by the Doctor - grow up and, inspired by the fate of their parents, enact more liberal laws bringing Denmark into the the glorious future envisioned by Rousseau, who famously wrote:
The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said "This is mine," and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.  ~ Discourse on Inequality, 1754
As we all know however, despite that progress, since then it's all gone to shit Hobbesian-style.  To the extent we can even claim a comparative hiatus in civility and freedom, at least for the wealthy nations of the world (I seem to remember a few wars and CIA interventions since then) freedom, equality and liberty have been merely a brief historical aberration at best, if not at worst, a fabrication that continues unabated even though much of it has, at least in the US, most recently been obscured by the greatest invention at brainwashing ever, the television.

Nevertheless, in the spirit of redemptive love and one of it's most glorious expressions, the dance, here is an amateur (meaning, low-quality clips - but excellent sound) but delightful video compilation of Fred & Ginger with Frank Sinatra's most excellent Come Dance With Me...if EMI won't allow it, another click will be necessary to view it on youtube.  Happy dancing!



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