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Medieval & Renaissance Dances


Black Almain

Source: Cunningham; Pugliese & Casazza, Eliz. Handbook, Historical Dance v2n5.

Setting: A line of couples.

 1- 8  4 doubles forward.
 9-12  Face partner, drop hands, double back, double forward.
13-16  Quarter-turn left, double forward, turn right around, double
        forward back to place.
17-20  Face partner, Men set and turn in place.
21-24  Women do the same.
25-26  Take both hands, double left into partner's place,
27-28   4 slip steps up hall.
29-32  Double left back to own side, 4 slip steps down hall.
33-36  Drop hands, double backwards, double forwards.

 1-36  Repeat with the women turning in place first, followed by the men.

I have not seen the manuscript for this, and my library claims they can't even get the Historical Dance article for inter-library loan (hmph). Jeffrey Singman (editor of the Elizabethan handbook) says that the dance generally done in the SCA comes from a later Inns of Court manuscript (late 17c). This dance appears in a somewhat different form in a c.1606 manuscript, but it's difficult to get the steps for that one to fit the music.

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Black Nag

Source: Playford (1670)

Setting: sets of 3 couples.

A typical English Country dance, except that all the choruses are different.

Verse:

 1- 4  Double forward, double back.
 5- 8  Repeat.

Chorus:

 9-10  Face partner. First couple slips up hall,
11-12   followed by the second couple,
13-14   and then third,
15-16   all turn.
17-24  Couples slip back to place in reverse order, all turn.

Verse:

 1- 8  Siding.

Chorus:

 9-10  First man and 3rd woman use slip steps to change places,
11-12   first woman and 3rd man do the same,
13-14   followed by 2nd man and 2nd woman,
15-16   all turn.
17-24  Do the slips in reverse order back to place, all turn.

Verse:

 1- 8  Arming.

Chorus:

 9-14  Men's hey,
15-16   men turn.
17-24  Women's hey, women turn.

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Bransle Charlotte

Source: Arbeau (1589)

Setting: Circle of couples

A: Double left, kick left, kick right, double right.
   Repeat.
B: Double left, kick left, kick right, single right, kick l,r,l,
   single left, kick right, l, r, double right.
The B part may or may not repeat. Insert capriole as desired.

The way that I remember which way to kick is as follows: if it's 2 kicks, then you kick with your outside foot first. If it's 3 kicks, kick with your inside foot first. You have always just stepped on your inside foot, so kicking with the outside foot is more natural.

Checked against Dover edition.

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Carolingian Pavane

Source: steps by Baron Patri du Chat Gris in the early 1970's; the music is ``Belle qui tiens ma vie'' (Arbeau, 1589).

Setting: a line of couples.

One set of steps is a single, single, double.

 1- 8  One set forward.
 9-16  One set forward.
17-24  One set backwards.
25-32  One set forwards.
 1-16  Men kneel. Women go around men in 2 sets of steps.
17-32  Men rise. Men go around women in 2 sets of steps.
It is helpful if the men turn to face their partner when kneeling. This keeps their hind leg out of the way. As played in the SCA, there is often a pause of approximately one measure between repetitions of the music.

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Earl of Salisbury Pavane

Source: William Byrd? Rawlinson Manuscript?

Setting: A line of couples.

A1: single left, right, double left,
    branle out, branle in, double right backward (away from music)
A2: single left, right, double left, face partner,
    branle up, branle down, double right backward (away from partner)
B1: single left, right, double left (passing partner by the left)
    double right in place to face partner,
    double left away from partner (backwards).
B2: single left, right, take hands, double left to turn to place,
    branle up, branle down, double right backwards (away from music).
A friend helpfully pointed out that this dance consists of: single left, single right, double left, something taking 2 measures, double right backwards.

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Gathering Peascods

Source: Playford (1651)

Setting: a circle of couples.

Verse: 8 slip steps to the left, turn single
       8 slip steps to the right, turn single.

Chorus: Men go in, take hands, skip left around and go out.
        Women do the same, returning to the appropraite partner.

        Men double forward and clap.
        Women double forward and clap while men go back to place.
        Men double forward and don't clap while women return.
        Men return to place.

        Repeat forward/back with Women going first.

Verse: Side right, turn single, side left, turn single.

Chorus: Women in first, then men.

Verse: Arm right, turn single, arm left, turn single.

Chorus: Men in first, then women.
Checked.

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Bransle Hay

Source: Arbeau (1589); Thomas & Gingell, Fideleco v2.

Setting: A line of 3 (or perhaps 4 or 5) dancers.

This dance uses Coranto singles and doubles, as explained below.

This dance has a chase and a hay. You line up in lines of 3 (or more) and follow the leader around the room for the A and B part of the music (which may or may not repeat; the steps given here assume one repeat of each), and then you hay (using Coranto doubles) for the C part of the music, which is only 2 measures long and repeats until the original leader gets back to the top.

Thomas and Gingell claims the hay is done with hands. I see no sign of that in Arbeau. Arbeau does say that the dancers end up where they started, and that if there are more than 3 people in the hay, the people at the bottom should not move until they have a chance to change places with the dancer who started at the top. T&G suggest that the "odd person out" should turn in place.

A: Single left, single right, double left
   Single right, single left, single right
   Single left, single right, double left
   Single right, single left, single right

B: Single left, single right, double left
   Single right, single left, single right
   Single left, single right, double left
   Single right, single left, single right

C: Hay, using doubles, for N people.
Checked against Dover edition.

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Honeysuckle Almain

Source: Music by Anthony Holborne (1598), steps by Master Robyyan Torr d'Elandris (Dennis Sherman), 1993.

Setting: A line of couples.

The music is in the form A A' B B'. The steps always appear in single, single, double sets, alternating feet.

A: Single left, single right, double left.
   Single right, single left, double right, face partner.
   Single left sideways, single right sideways, double left circle
   to face forward.
A': as A, with left and right reversed.

B: Face partner, hold both hands, turn in a circle clockwise with a
     single left, single right, double left.
   Turn in the opposite direction with a single right, single left, 
     double right, drop hands.
   Single left back, single right back, double left forward to face
     partner.
   Double right forward to change places with partner, passing right
     shoulder.
B': exactly the same as B, not switching left and right.
Dennis Sherman may be contacted at dennis_sherman@unc.edu. Return toMedieval Dance Index.


Hole in the Wall

Source: Playford (1695 edition?); Dixon book 5, 9; Letter of Dance #3.

Setting: A line of couples.

A perennial SCA favorite: hated by musicians, demanded by dancers, used to raise money at Pennsic. Danced by a line of couples, with actives and passives and all that.

First couple casts off around twos, leads up back to place.
Second couple casts up around ones, leads back down to place.
First man and second woman change places.
Second man and first woman change places.
All hands halfway round.
Ones cast down while twos lead up the center to trade places.
The dance repeats with the twos moving up the line and the ones moving down. When you reach the end, wait out one cycle and then come in as the other couple. Some folks dance this dance with a lot of ornamentation, while others claim that it should be danced plainly.

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Horse's Bransle

Source: Arbeau (1589); Thomas & Gingell; Letter of Dance, #13.

Setting: A line of couples, facing each other & holding hands.

Double up the hall, double down, 4 times.
Men paw ground twice, step to right, turn over
left shoulder to move up hall.
Women paw ground twice, step to right, turn over
left shoulder to move back to place.
A mimed bransle. This dance is danced in the SCA with the men moving up the hall one position each repetition, changing partners. The man at the top of the hall must run to the bottom. Occasionally the musicians will insert an extra measure of music to make this easier. See the Letter of Dance article by Master Robyyan for more details of this heresy.

Checked in the Dover edition.

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Jenny Pluck Pears

Source: Playford (1651)

Setting: Circle of 3 couples.

Verse: 8 slip steps to left.
       Set and turn single.
       8 slip steps to right.
       Set and turn single.

Chorus: Man #1 places lady #1 in center, facing him.
        Then man #2, man #3 do the same.
        Reverence.
        Men skip counter-clockwise around circle, outside women.
        Men hand out women in same order.
        Reverence.

Verse: Side right, set and turn single, side left, set and turn
       single.
 
Chorus: Women put men into center.

Verse: Arm right, set and turn single, arm left, set and turn single.

Chorus: Men put women into center.
The Cour d'Or dance notes have "forward a double and back" for the first verse. I suppose this means you would meet your partner and return to place instead of going into the center of the circle.

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Madam Sosilia Almain

Source: Primary?; Cunninhgam; Pugiese & Casazza; Elizabethan Handbook.

Setting: Line of couples, holding hands.

A: Set left & right, double forward, single back. Repeat.

B: Face partner, drop hands, set left & right, reverance.
   Two singles & double forward, passing right shoulders to end
   up in partner's place facing partner. Repeat back to place.

C: Reverance, two singles forward, embrace.
Smut, smut, smut.

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Maltese Bransle

Source: Phalese?, Arbeau (1589).

Setting: Circle of couples.

Double left, double right
Double left, double right
Left, right, left into center, with hands raised, clap 3 times
Left, right, left out to place, clap 3 times
The dance speeds up as time goes on. Sometimes 3 kicks instead of the second 3 claps. SCA folklore will tell you that this dance was done after the Crusades in imitation of what the Crusaders saw in the Middle East.

A dance with the same name is given in Arbeau. It has different music, but somewhat similar steps. There's some SCA history behind all this, and I don't know it... yet.

Checked against Dover edition.

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Bransle de Montarde

Source: Arbeau (1589), Fideleco, d'Or.

Setting: Line of 4 (or 6) dancers.

Take 4 left doubles, playing follow the leader around the room.

First person turns in place with 4 kicks.
Second does likewise, and so on.

Take 4 left doubles, while the first dancer weaves (in front of the
women, behind the men) to the end of the line.

Repeat kick/weave until each dancer has gotten to weave.
Arbeau lists this as one of the miming bransles, with the appropriate step being "little springs" XXX. Note that the Arianna arrangement of the music assumes an even number of dancers.

Checked against the Dover edition.

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Official Bransle (Toss the Dutchess)

Source: Arbeau (1589)

Setting: Circle of couples


Double left, double right, repeat 4 times. 
Eight singles left.
 During 7th single, lady steps in front of her partner.
 During 8th single, lady jumps, and lord moves lady to the left,
  everyone gaining a new partner.

Sometimes there are two tosses per repetition; listen to the music.

Often lords will be overly-enthusiastic about tossing; the object is not to toss ladies into the ceiling. This dance is often seen with swiveling hips during the singles to swirl skirts; I've heard it alleged that this is contra dancing and isn't known to be period.

Arbeau says that this dance is to be danced with little springs with each step. Checked against the Dover Edition.

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Picking Up Sticks

Source: Playford (1651)

Setting: 3 couple set.

Verse: Forward and back a double, and again.

First man changes with second woman, passing right shoulders
  and going back to back.
First man changes with third man.
Forward and back a double.
First woman changes with second man, and then third woman.
Forward and back a double.

Repeat changes with new first couple.

Repeat changes with new first couple.

Verse: Side left, side right.

Couple 1 crosses and skips once around the entire set, while
  Couple 3 sashays up to 2nd position, while
  Couple 2 steps back and down to 3rd position.
  Couple 2 sashays back to place, while
  Couple 3 steps back and down to place.

Repeat with Couple 3 going around the world and Couple 1
sashaying down.

Verse: Arming.

Men sheepshead hey: first man leads men to begin winding around the
women. The men will go down, up, down, and then finish, but the last
man always takes a shortcut around the second woman to become the
leading man. After 3 repetitions the first man is again in front, and
leads out the bottom and back to place.

Women sheepshead hey.
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Rufty Tufty

Source: Playford (1651)

Setting: sets of 2 couples, facing each other.

Verse: Double forward and back, twice.

Chorus: set and turn single, twice
        take partner's hand, double out, turn around,
        double back, turn single.
        take opposite's hand, do the same.

Verse: Siding.

Chorus.

Verse: Arming.

Chorus.
This dance is prone to many variations, perhaps because the instructions in Playford are about as sparse as the ones above, and SCAdians tend to forget things. One variation I've seen is that the first verse involves going towards your partner and back. This is rare and perhaps very wrong. The other main variations have to do with the direction of the set and turn singles. One school has the first set start out, and the second start in. One school has the first set start left, and the second set start right. I believe that the second version is the one considered standard. Return toMedieval Dance Index.


Sellenger's Round

Source: Choreography in Playford (1670). Music used in the SCA by William Byrd (1600). In third Playford edition in simpler form. The music given in Playford is different?

Setting: A circle of couples

An English country dance with 4, or 5, verses.

Verse: Circle left and back.
Chorus: Two singles into center. Double back. Face partner.
Set and turn single. Repeat.
Verse: Beerhall run: Hold hands, walk into center with shout,
walk back out. Repeat.
Chorus.
Verse: Siding.
Chorus.
Verse: Arming.
Chorus.

This dance sometimes ends with an additional first verse, or additional first verse and chorus. One regional variation in the SCA has the men going in on the chorus while the ladies go out, and then the reverse.

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Trenchmore (The Hunting of the Fox)

Source: Playford (1653), Millar, Elizabethan Handbook, which claims that the correct music is `Tomorrow the Fox Will Come to Town.'

Setting: A line of couples.

Up a double and back, two times. The first couple casts off and lead
down the outside, followed by everyone else, back to place.

Arched hey: All take hands, the first couple faces down, and goes
under an arch made by the second couple, then over the third couple,
and so forth all the way down and back, followed by all the other
couples. When each couple reaches the end they turn around.

First couple turns by the right in the center, then by the left with
the twos, then by the right in the center, and so on down the entire
line.

The Elizabethan Handbook claims that this is the most mentioned country dance, and that the first mention is 1551. The steps given above correspond to how my local SCA group dances it. Playford repeats the first section 3 times instead of 2, the arched hey `twice or thrice,' and has the first couple set down the line and turn back up it.

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