By comparing De Practica, a dance manual written by Guglielmo Ebrea of Pesaro to Dances of the Netherlands by E. Van Der Ven-Ten Bensel, one can note several striking differences and similarities that define them as worthy representations of their art– dance.
Equally as eye-catching as De Practica’s illuminated initials, Dances of the Netherlands’ cover pages display an colorfully-dressed woman lively stepping out a dance, informing the viewer of the vigorous, jubilant dancing within. De Practica’s pages delightfully surprise the viewer with bright colors and great detail, the beauty and near perfectly formed script inspiring wonder and appreciation for the art that calls for glamorous representation.
By simply looking at the delicately etched humanistic script of De Practica and its initial work, one can guess the truth that it was meant for only nobles and the like to perform, reflecting the high value held towards those persons who could move with grace, elegance, and calculated movements– whose movements reflected the man’s true inner virtue expressly, and the more virtuous the man, the more accomplished, and highly esteemed. Similarly, the vibrant colors of the dancers’ costumes of Dances of the Netherlands and Holland, Michigan’s Tulip Time represent a vibrant Dutch dance culture and inform the viewer that the intended audiences and performers are more varied, anything but nobility, and popping colors and flying kicks represent a more spontaneous environment.
When it comes to practicality as dance manuals, the Netherlands manual wins hands-down. Although De Practica details the seven aspects of what it claims creates “perfect” dance- measure, memory, partitioning of the ground, air, manner, and body movement, the language often skirts around the unclear point with flowery language, making confusing references to dances unknown to the reader. Dances of the Netherlands provides the most helpful information, including descriptions of specific dance steps, even displaying diagrams about the formation and gender of some dances’ participants. Because both manuals often use terms of the past the modern-day reader is expected to know, readers are left to wonder what on earth various terms mean. In The Dances of the Netherlands, one is at a loss when it comes to determine the “lively manner” of the skipping step.
Concerning De Practica, reconstructing a dance is near impossible, as a modern-day reader is unable to decipher the meaning of referenced dance terms such as the “bassadanza” or “saltarello”. Although the descriptions of the Netherlands manual still leave much to be offered, they allow the reader to reach an understanding of a dance, whereas De Practica simply does not.
But however vague or descriptive each manual may be, the objective is clear: impress upon the reader a notion of awe and admiration for the art of dancing unique to their respective cultures via their beautiful pages, and through their instructing manner, provide a means for audiences to improve one’s skills or come to a greater understanding of the art of dancing as a reflection of a subdued expression of the virtue and nobility of Italy or the pastime and colorful fun of the Dutch.