At long last, the art of dance is beginning to reclaim its history as living performance. Like music before it, which gradually restored the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Baroque to the concert hall, dance--with far scantier and less precise sources to rely on--is now excavating those same eras for the stage. An important pioneer in this effort has been the noted dance and music scholar Ingrid Brainard, who brought her Cambridge Court Dancers troupe from Boston to Goucher College in Towson Saturday night for a program entitled "Shakespeare and the Dance," with the assistance of actor-narrator Patrick Swanson and The Court Musicke instrumental ensemble.

The evening was both fascinating and frustrating--fascinating, because to see the steps and patterns of English, Italian, Spanish and French social and country dances of the Renaissance authentically reproduced is its own reward; frustrating because so much of the staging seemed incomplete or miscalculated. The four couples, in Elizabethan dress, executed the brushes, turns, kicks and lifts engagingly, but the bodily carriage, especially of the men, looked wholly out of key with the period. And Swanson's precious narration--clumsily read from sheets of paper and largely unintelligible--did little to illuminate the dances or the esoteric terminology of the printed program. An incidental delight was the alluringly crisp playing of a suite of Italian dances by harpsichordist Frances Conover Fitch.