Parterre de Temps

Parterre de Temps

This proposal is for a staging of Kurt Jooss’ 1932 dramatic dance The Green Table, as a partitioning not of the surface of the Earth, but rather of space through time. This is a modern interpretation of the 17th century French parterre, incorporating time as an element, and reinventing parterre as a dynamic rather than static form. Elements still inscribe elaborate patterns, meant to be viewed from above as well as straight on, but they are no longer discrete, fixed, or permanent. The change in emphasis from stasis to movement parallels advances in mathematics – the development of the calculus to describe continuously changing curves in 16 – and physical science in the modern era, where time is understood as a fourth dimension, and position (place) represented by space-time coordinates. There are similar modern concerns in the Arts; photography becomes film with the added dimension of time, as Cubism wrestles with representing three dimensions in two.

Other parterres in this genre are marching band half-time shows, synchronized swimming, musicals (stage and film), parades, and traffic.

Ballet (a form originating in the court of Louis XIV) evolved into modern dance, and The Green Table is noted for its revival of the story ballet, and importantly here for the introduction of extremely stylized movements and gestures, especially intended to emphatically define space, and so communicate meaning.

This dance can be presented wherever a 10’ by 10’ stage fits, but best follows the French tradition of theater in the garden if staged out-of-doors.

Elements in a traditional parterre are plantings, pavings, and objects fixed in space and time. Elements in a parterre de temps are capable of autonomous (prescribed) movement in time scaled to human perception. This can include objects carried by moving agents. The Green Table uses human dancers in costume, a green table, and pistols. The set is usually draped in black cloth. Out-of-doors choices for this production are a grass or moss covered table, and pendulous, darkly colored moss or lichen for the drape.

Music is also an element in this parterre, and can claim its own partitioning of time.

The boards reconstruct the first scene, titled “The Gentlemen in Black”, showing the musical score, and diagrams of directed movement, in plan. These diagrams are similar to animation cells, in that they represent discrete events intended as a successive, continuous, seamlessly connected presentation. The photographs are from productions that cover sixty years.



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