The University of Mississippi

Music 301: History of Western Music I

Why dance?

Capriol: I much enjoyed fencing and tennis, and this placed me upon friendly terms with young men. But, without knowledge of dancing, I could not please the damsels, upon whom, it seems to me, the entire reputation of an eligible young man depends.

Arbeau: You are quite right, as naturally the male and female seek one another and nothing does more to stimulate a man to acts of courtesy, honor, and generosity than love. And if you desire to marry you must realize that a mistress in won by the good temper and grace displayed while dancing, because ladies to do not like to be present at fencing or tennis, lest a splintered sword or a blow from a tennis ball cause them injury.... And there is more to it than this, for dancing is practiced to reveal whether lovers are in good health and sound of limb, after which they are permitted to kiss their mistresses in order that they may touch and savor one another thus to ascertain if they are shapely or emit an unpleasant odor as of bad meat. Therefore, from this standpoint, quite apart from the many other advantages to be derived from dancing, it becomes an essential to a well-ordered society....

When you have entered the place where the company is assembled for the dance you will choose some comely damsel who takes your fancy, and, removing your hat or bonnet with your left hand, proffer her your right to lead her out to dance. She, being sensible and well brought up, will offer you her left hand and arise to accompany you. Then, in the sight of all, you will conduct her to the end of the room and give notice to the musicians to play.... And when they begin to play you will begin to dance.

Capriol: If the damsel refused me I should be deeply humiliated.

Arbeau: A well-bred damsel will never refuse him who does her the honour of asking her to dance, and if she did she would be considered stupid, because unless she desires to dance she should not take her place among the others.

Pavan and galliard

Now you are ready to learn the individual steps. There are several types of dances, but they all rely on a few similar steps. The most basic of these are singles and doubles. The single is just stepping onto one foot and closing next to it with the other. A double is three steps and a close.... These steps can be done in any direction, however. The pavan is two singles and one double either forwards or backwards.

The pavan is easy to dance as it is merely two simples and one double forward and two simples and one double backward. It is played in duple time; you will take note that in dancing it the two simples and one double forward are begun with the left foot, and the two simples and one double backward are begun with the right foot.

Capriol: Then the tabor and other instruments play eight bars while the dancers advance and eight bars while they move backwards.

Arbeau: That is so, and if one does not wish to move backwards one may continue to advance all the time.

Capriol: I find these pavans ... charming and dignified, and well suited to honorable persons, particularly ladies and gentlemen.

Arbeau: A cavalier may dance the pavan wearing his cloak and sword, and others, such as you, dressed in your long gowns, walking with decorum and measured gravity. And the damsels with demure mien, their eyes lowered save to cast an occasional glance of virginal modesty at the onlookers. On solemn feast days the pavan is employed by kings, princes, and great noblemen to display themselves in their fine mantles and ceremonial robes. They are accompanied by queens, princesses and great ladies, the long trains of their dresses loosened and sweeping behind them, sometimes borne by damsels. And it is the said pavans, played by shawms and sackbuts, that announce the grand ball and are arranged to last until the dancers have circled the hall two or three times, unless they prefer to dance it by advancing and retreating. Pavans are also used in masquerades to herald the entrance of the gods and goddesses in their triumphal chariots or emperors and kings in full majesty.

The dance that is best known for its kicks is the galliard. In French it is called the cinquepace because it has five steps: four kicks and a large jump and cadenza which switches feet. The five steps occur in six counts of music which gives galliard music its particular rhythm. There are many variations on the galliard step involving beats and turns and other fancy touches, and the dancer can improvise combinations as long as he lands with the cadenza on the sixth count.

Oftentimes galliard steps will be part of other dance suites or ballets where they are marked by the change in music to the distinctive six counts. Other times it will be coupled with a pavan in which case the slow, graceful pavan proceeds and complements the rapid, energetic galliard and gives the dancers some time to catch their breath. Lastly, lavolta is a particular type of galliard step that involves lifting the lady high off of the floor. In all of the galliard steps and variations, you must not forget to be careful of your partner.

--Orchesographie, 1589.

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