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The Virtuality of Premodern Dance
Dance Chronicle  (IF),  Pub Date : 2019-09-02, DOI: 10.1080/01472526.2019.1674072
Kathryn Dickason

There are few studies on medieval dance, let alone studies that illuminate premodern dance with critical theory. Seeta Chaganti’s Strange Footing: Poetic Form and Dance in the Late Middle Ages fills this void. Chaganti focuses on a specific medieval dance form, the carole, which was a m elange of dance, poetry, and music (vocal and instrumental). While previous scholars have isolated the poetic component for rigorous philological scrutiny, Chaganti integrates movement and poetic form in her analysis. As she states in her introduction, “These media occur in situations that more dynamically integrate them” (p. 2). Put differently, a study of dance is necessary to understand how medieval poetry was crafted and experienced. Chaganti’s methodology goes further than comparing the diverse components of the carole: Strange Footing construes poetic form not as analogous to dance, “but rather as constituted within the perceptual habits produced by dance. . . . The form of a poem is not a textual attribute. Rather, it is an experience reliant upon a consciousness of medial multiplicity, an experience generated when an audience familiar with the spectatorship of, and participation in, dance encounters poetic text” (p. 3). Moreover, this book highlights how medieval dance and poetry produced harmony, but also “arrhythmia, disorientation, and strangeness” (p. 3). In other words, because medieval subjects had a keen familiarity with dancing, they experienced poetry differently from modern audiences. Chaganti demonstrates how dance conditioned the medieval mentalit e. In chapter 1, Chaganti introduces several methodological avenues. Among them is the notion of ductus (from the Latin term ducere, to lead), which opens up a space for thinking about poetic engagement: the reader/ viewer’s experience of a work of art is one of being led. As Chaganti continues, she asserts that the ductile experience of medieval dance produces a kind of virtuality. “Virtuality,” Chaganti explains, “describes a complex interaction of material and immaterial components . . . integrated with the real world by occupying another plane, [producing] strangeness for