Links to dances on other pages
This is a very readable book. “Thoinot Arbeau” is an anagram of Jehan Tabourot (1520-1595) provided you replace “J” by “I”. He was quite a high-up cleric at Langres Cathedral in Dijon and at the time there was a lot of discussion about whether dancing was immoral so he probably didn't want to use his real name, but he was all in favour of dancing and obviously knew a great deal about it. In fact the book contains references to the church which only someone involved in that would know. I don't believe for a moment the dedication which says “such things as he had scribbled merely to kill time did not merit printing” — this was a beautifully produced manuscript complete with tablature and drawings to elaborate on the words. It's written as a dialogue between Arbeau, a Dancing Master, and Capriol, a former pupil who left Langres to go to Paris and then Orleans, and has now returned to Langres. He comes to “pay his respects” to Arbeau but actually to ask his advice. He complains that “I have found myself in society, where, to put it briefly, I was tongue-tied and awkward, and regarded as little more than a block of wood”. Arbeau suggests that he learn fencing, dancing and tennis, and Capriol replies, “I much enjoyed fencing and tennis and this put me on friendly terms with young men. But without a 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 then teaches him all manner of dances — I'm concentrating on the brawls here, but he also covers Basse Dance, Pavan, Galliard and several others. In the book each dance has a Tabulation — the music is laid out down the side of the page with the moves next to it, so that we're in no doubt which moves fit which music, and the descriptions are usually very clear. In the 20th century Peter Warlock used several of the tunes in his Capriol Suite.
So here are some of the brawls — there are many more.
If you want the music for others, there's an ABC file at anamnese.online.fr/site2/abc/arbeau_ps.abc which you might find useful though it's not totally reliable. And if you're looking at the music in the original or the facsimile, be aware that the bottom line of the stave isn't necessarily an E as it would be in the modern treble clef.
You need to teach singles (which Arbeau calls “simples”) and doubles, moving sideways. By Playford's time we had progressed to doing these forwards and backwards, though it seems International dancers haven't reached that level yet!
The dance is usually done in a long line, with the leader on the left, though as Arbeau points out,
When you commence a brawl, several others will join you, as many young men as do damsels [i.e. in couples], and sometimes the damsel who is the last to arrive will take your left hand and it will become a round dance.
So that's why I've put these brawls on my Circle Dances page. And please don't teach them from behind a microphone — get out there on the floor and be the leader, whether in a line or a circle.
It always starts moving to the left, because the man is on the lady's left so when he leads her that's the way he'll go. Dances were still being done with a left foot lead in Playford's day, so a Playford “set” would be left and right, not right and left as we do it today, and then at some point dancing changed to a right foot lead. It's conjectured that this was a decision by the French dancing masters, who standardised and complicated the steps to form the basis of ballet dancing and RSCDS Scottish dancing.
A single to the left is just step to the left with your left foot and then close the right to it. A double to the left is step to the left, bring the right foot close to the left foot and slightly behind it, step to the left again and close the right foot to it. If you didn't do the step behind, a double would just be two singles and we want to show that the move isn't finished after the first move of the right foot. I have to admit that Arbeau doesn't actually say the right foot goes behind the left; he says “bringing the right foot near to the left which will make a pieds largis that is almost a pieds joints”. See the drawings above, presumably his own, and decide for yourself — I learnt it this way at a Dolmetsch Historical Dance Society Summer School in 1980. They've now changed their name to The Historical Dance Society, and for all I know they may have changed their minds on some of these dances — research is always subject to revision.
Capriol observes that if you alternate moving left and right you never move from one place, and Arbeau explains that they make double to the right shorter and thus move gradually towards the left. He also says,
All musicians are in the habit of opening the dancing at a festival by a double brawl which they call the common brawl, and afterwards they play the single brawl and the gay brawl and at the end the brawls of Burgundy, which some people call brawls of Champagne. The order of these four varieties of brawl is determined by the three different groups taking part in a dance: the elderly who dance the double and the single brawl sedately, the young married folk who dance the gay brawl and the youngest of all, like yourself, who nimbly trip the brawls of Burgundy. And every dancer acquits himself to the best of his ability, each according to his years and his degree of skill.
I'm abandoning my usual approach of listing the dances in alphabetical order because I would hate you to start with Charlotte! And in the musical notation I've halved the length of all the notes — a minim in Arbeau's day was a lot quicker than it is now! See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mensural_notation for more information.
The Double Brawl is just a double to the left followed by a double to the right, which may be good practice in doing doubles but doesn't sound very interesting, though I recommend teaching it this way until everybody is comfortable with the figure. Capriol is apparently of the same opinion, and asks if he can make divisions (which Arbeau has already explained in an earlier dance), so then Arbeau admits (perhaps somewhat grudgingly):
It has always been held that the more sedately and slowly double brawls were danced the better. All the same, it is not improper to make a pied en l'air gauche on the first minim of the seventh bar, and on the second minim of the seventh bar a pied el l'air droit. And on the first minim of the eighth and last bar a pied en l'air gauche in readiness to resume and repeat from the beginning, holding the said pied en l'air gauche through the last minim beat.
In the diagrams Arbeau's bars are twice as long as mine — 4 minims to a bar and only 4 bars in total, but he can't mean that because he refers to the seventh and eighth bars, and even then it seems to me that it's just in bar 8 that the division occurs. My version of the tune is 8 bars long which is what I think he meant. My description of the 8-bar sequence is:
|A:||(4 bars): Double left (Left, Right behind, Left, Together); double right (Right, Left behind, Right, Together).|
|B:||(4 bars): Double left; step Right, Left behind, kick Left, Right, Left and hold the left foot in the air, ready to start again with a double left.|
Just be aware that the first two kicks are twice the speed. After the final double left, the timing is: Right and Left and Kick, Kick, Kick. International dancers will have no problem with this, but English dancers will suddenly find that a simple dance has become a lot more complicated! Note that after you've put your left foot close to the right (and not too far behind — it's not a grapevine step) it's that same foot for the first kick.
Capriol then asks,
Are there no other divisions made in double brawls?
and Arbeau replies:
Young men of exceptional agility make divisions at their pleasure but I advise you to dance them soberly.
|A1:||(4 bars): Double left; double right.|
|B1:||(3 bars): Single left, single right; men stamp right foot 3 times.|
|B2:||Same but the women stamp.|
If one wishes, in this Clog brawl the men can make the first three taps and in the meantime the women should not move, and in the repetition the women will make the three taps and the men remain still. Then they all recommence the brawl together, those who wish introducing new miming.
I've incorporated the alternation in my instructions. You could start it with everyone doing both lots of tapping and then switch to the alternation and see who goes wrong! I'm not sure what other miming you might introduce other than clapping, but the dancers may have their own ideas.
I've changed the key from one flat to two because I don't like the E natural in bar 3, but maybe I'm wrong.
|A1:||(4 bars): Double left; double right.|
|B1:||(4 bars): Men jump, women jump; men step to left (touching next woman) and do three small jumps.|
|B2:||Same started by the women.|
Arbeau classes this as one of the mimed brawls, like the Clog brawl, though I don't know where the miming comes in. There can be significant interaction, first with neighbour then with partner, in the three small jumps, and maybe this refers to peas popping out of the pod.
|A:||(2½ bars): Double Left. Kick Left foot in the air.|
|B:||(3½ bars): Double Left. Kick Left, Right, Left.|
|C:||(4 bars): Double Left. Double Right.|
Slightly trickier for both band and dancers because of the fractional bars, but surely not difficult — the kicks occur on the “diddle-dum” each time.
|A1:||(4 bars): Double left (hopped); double right.|
|Double left: Step Left, hop Left, step Right behind, hop Right, step Left, hop Left, step Right behind, hop Left. The vital part is that final hop on the Left foot which means the right foot is ready to start the double right — for which you reverse all this.|
|B1:||Six singles left, with a hop after each step except the last (6 bars). Face partner, kick L and R, man holds woman by the waist and lifts her into the air as she jumps.|
Now things get more energetic, with hopped doubles and singles. Arbeau says,
This brawl, which has only recently received recognition [or “which has only recently been devised”, depending on your translation], is danced in duple time with little springs like the Haut Barrois and it commences with a double à gauche and a double à droite. Then the dancers move continuously to the left for six singles at the end of which the musicians make the cadence. Whereupon the men take the women by the waist and assist them to leap into the air and alight upon the said cadence. Meanwhile the men remain firmly upon both feet to support their partners and are much hindered in these circumstances if they perforce must lift a damsel who will make no effort herself.
at which Capriol observes,
I quite understand that this brawl is continued by repeating from the beginning but it seems to me very toilsome. Besides which, its proper execution depends partly upon the dexterity and agility of the damsel whom one must assist to jump and some damsels would attempt to dance it who lacked the requisite proficiency.
I agree with Capriol that you need to choose your partner wisely, but I'm surprised that a young man like him would consider the dance toilsome. (The French phrase is “grand peine” which I take to mean “great pain”.)
The Haut Barrois Brawl has exactly the same tablature as the Double brawl except that after each step there is a little jump. Arbeau says (somewhat dismissively, I feel),
This brawl is danced by valets and chambermaids, and sometimes by young men and damsels of gentle birth in a masquerade, disguised as peasants or shepherds, or for their private enjoyment.
The Evans translation of the double left begins:
spring sideways off both feet, moving towards the left, and alight pied largi gauche. Then spring sideways off both feet again moving to the left, and alight pied droit approché.
But this doesn't tie up with the tabulation which says: step, jump, step, jump. And on an SCA thread, lists.andrew.cmu.edu/pipermail/sca-dance/2007-January/000209.html I read that the Evans translation wasn't always accurate and indeed the French is “de” meaning “of both feet” rather than “off both feet” and thus both feet in the air rather than jumping off with both of them. Though surely any kind of jump involves both feet being in the air, so why would Arbeau mention that? After studying the matter in some detail, I'm sticking to the way I learnt it from Anne Cottis in 1980!
Mabel Dolmetsch, in “Dances of England and France” also had trouble understanding Arbeau, and adds,
It appears unlikely that Arbeau had ever tried out his tablature for this branle, which was one of the latest of the “branles couppés”; and as he has informed us, he had by now grown old and heavy.
And yes, I know the tune was later used for the Christmas Carol “Ding dong merrily on high”, but Arbeau had it first! The words were added in the 20th century — don't let the pseudo-medieval lines like “And Io, io, io! By priest and people sungen” fool you that it's medieval.
Some people do this as a mixer, so that instead of puttling the woman down where he found her, the man transports her across to his left side. This certainly shares out the “damsel who will make no effort herself”, but I don't believe they did mixers in Arbeau's day.
|A1/2:||8 Doubles left.|
|B1-8:||Leader (on left) does a turn single left (kick Left, kick Right, kick Left, close Right). Each in turn does the same.|
|During the next A-music the leader faces the line and does doubles to the left and right, while they travel as before (dropping hands as necessary) until he becomes the last person in the line. Continue until the last person has done the hey. That's why it's 8½ times through the tune, finishing on the A-music.|
There's a dance you may have come across at ceilidhs called “The Horse's Brawl”. Yes, Arbeau does have a brawl of this name, with a great tune, though melodeon-led bands can't manage the change from G major to G minor in the third part so they lose that effective contrast. Gary Roodman has also written a dance “Horseplay” to this tune, though unfortunately he's missed out the third part even though his bands can certainly play in G minor! But I think someone has confused this with Montarde (which is the next one in the book) and has invented something Montard-ish to go to this tune.
|A1:||(5 bars): Double Left. Kick Left foot in the air, kick Right foot in the air (1 bar). Double Right.|
|A2:||All that again.|
|B1:||(9 bars): Double Left. Kick Left, kick Right (1 bar). Single Right, kick Left, kick Right, kick Left (1 bar of 3-time). Single Left, kick Right (1 bar of 3-time). Kick Left, kick Right. Double Right.|
|B2:||All that again.|
Now you know why I didn't want you to see this one first! I can cope with the A part because the two kicks occur on the two long notes, but the timing of the three kicks in the B part is very tricky and I don't think the music helps me. Yes the second and third kicks are on the two long notes, but the first one sneaks in before I'm expecting it! If you're going to teach this, make sure you have a firm grasp of the timing — it isn't something you can dance while holding a card.
As I've said, there are many others in the book, and maybe one day I'll go through them all and decide whether there are any real gems, but I think that's enough for now.
|A1:||Join hands in one circle, all lead forward and back. Forward again; twos fall back while ones turn as a couple to face them (man moving forward, finishing with backs to the middle).|
|A2:||Do-si-do opposite. Do-si-do as a couple (inside hand with partner, ladies passing right shoulder to start).|
|B1:||Right-hand star. Ladies chain across to new partner.|
|B2:||Right and left through (half-way). Circle four left half-way; then the second man lets go with his left hand and leads the line back into one big circle.|
|Instead of the end lady being whirled backwards, the first man raises his right hand to make an arch and she moves forwards through this.|
Progression: A change-partner dance. The men keep original numbers but the ladies alternate.
Second Prize in the Dance Search '86 Competition. The book says:
Beth is Ken's third grandchild, the other two being Amy (for whom he wrote “The Easter Chick”) and Jenny (for whom he wrote “Jenny's Waltz”.)
The dance has since been published in Ken's book “Home Brewed”, with a great tune by his daughter (and Beth's mother) Heather Bexon.
Dance: Jim Billson.
Format: Circle, Men on the outside Music: 16 bar hornpipes.
|A:||Give two hands to partner: four chassées to the man's right; four to the left. Two chasseés to the right, two to the left, clap: own hands together, right with partner, together, left, together, cross on (own) chest, both hands with partner.|
|B:||Right-forearm turn partner twice around (or as many times as you wish) with a step-hop. Left-forearm turn with the next person to the left, who becomes new partner.|
Jim Billson hasn't been involved in Folk Dancing for many years now, but dancers in the Midlands will remember him. He used to dance with Jockey Morris in Birmingham, and was one of the founders of Giffard Morris and the Giffard Folk Dance Group. He's written a number of dances, and I've been calling this one for many years, though when I phoned to ask permission to publish it I found that it had been through the Folk Process — I do it with the men on the inside, but this is how he wrote it. You can call it at a barn dance, but it also goes down well with experienced dancers if they've just done a slow difficult Playford dance. I've included links to a couple of tunes, particularly for bands in North America who probably won't have a repertoire of hornpipes.
|A1:||Join hands, all to middle and back. To middle again; ladies fall back, men turn and give right hand to partner, left hand to the next (new partner).|
|A2:||All balance forward and back; left-hand turn new partner half-way and give right to the next (men facing in, ladies facing out). Balance forward and back again; left-hand turn new partner a quarter to face original partner.|
|B1:||Gipsy right shoulder round partner. Gipsy left shoulder round new partner.|
|B2:||Balance to new partner. Swing.|
Dance: Jim Gregory, 1982.
Format: Circle, man on right. Music: 32 bar jigs.
|A1:||Circle left 8 steps. Single file right.|
|A2:||Lady taps man on shoulder, he turns round: do-si-do. Swing (new partner).|
|B1:||Promenade 8 steps. Promenade 4 steps into the middle; fall back.|
|B2:||Ladies in 4 steps; fall back. Men in two steps, turn right, go clockwise round partner to finish again on her left.|
The story of the writing of this dance is given in the pamphlet/collection “Live, from the Spanish Ballroom”, and it was also published in CDSS News, March 1980. I suggest having the man on the right so that you swing your original partner the first time.
|A1:||Circle left. Circle right.|
|A2:||Right-hand turn partner (3 bars), move on passing right shoulder. Left-hand turn the next, move on passing left shoulder.|
|B1:||Give right to number 3: balance forward and back; box the gnat. Balance again; do a wide Petronella turn single so men have backs to centre, ladies are on the outside facing this partner, flowing into…|
|B2:||Do-si-do new partner. Waltz around in ballroom direction, finishing back in the circle.|
Lisa Greenleaf was calling a “Contra Holiday in Medieval England” in Ely, Cambridgeshire. The crowd were Americans, so there was no problem about people being left out because they didn't have a regular partner — except when it came to the final waltz. George Marshall had got round this the previous year by ending with a circle mixer in waltz time, to share the men around somewhat amongst the spare ladies. Lisa wanted to do the same, so she contacted me and I sent her all the waltz-time circle mixers in my repertoire. A couple of days later I decided I ought to write one specifically for the group, which I did. But Lisa didn't call it — she said they were too tired to think by the end of the week so she stuck with easier dances. She has since called it in the States however, and noticed that those who dance English are much better at the wide Petronella turn single. In fact she called it at Chippenham Folk Festival in 2015 and afterwards eight people told me how much they had enjoyed it — then the following weekend she called it at a dance weekend in the States and people said the same to me — I must call it more often myself!
I start by pointing out as they face their partner that this is the way they move on, and I emphasise that the turn is three waltz steps and the passing on is the fourth step. If you don't do this, some people will take all four bars for the right-hand turn and then go to their corner for the left-hand turn, with resulting chaos. Don't say “right-hand turn 1½” — that will leave them in their partner's place but facing their partner and they won't know what you're talking about!
I've deliberately not written a tune for the dance, since whether bands play for Contra or English they all have a good selection of waltzes they enjoy playing. I called it in the States with Calliope and they played Amy Cann's beautiful House by the Lake so you might consider that.
|A1:||Do-si-do your partner. Give right hand to your partner, left to the left-hand person: set right and left (smiling at each as you do so); change places with your partner, the man turning the lady under.|
|A2:||All that again, but the lady turns the man under (and you'd be surprised how awkward the men find that).|
|B1:||Figure eight movement: pass your partner right shoulder (men moving out, ladies in), turn right, go right shoulder all the way round the next. Pass your partner left shoulder, turn left, go left shoulder all the way round the next.|
|B2:||Wave to your partner and pass left shoulder (men on the inside), walk past the next two; swing the fourth.|
Written for a session at Eastbourne Folk Festival which had been labelled “Good Humour (or so)” — no doubt meant as an insult. It's a fun dance — and if you're not enjoying your dancing, what on earth are you doing it for?
There is another tune called “Good Humour” given in CDM 1 as the suggested tune for “Circassian Circle”.
|A1:||Set; turn single. Pass your partner by, two-hand turn the next, finish in partner's place facing partner.|
|A2:||That again in opposite direction, finishing in original place.|
|B1:||Right-hand turn partner (dance). Left-hand turn.|
|B2:||Back-to-back partner. Three changes of a grand chain (dance) and start again with number four.|
I'd written the tune several years before, as a second tune to Playford's “Indian Queen”. In 1982 I decided to write a cut-down version of this as a circle mixer (of which there are very few in the Playford style) — see this section in my Composing Dances notes for the full story. I prefer a skip-change step for the turns and the three changes, but I don't insist on it!
The music is recorded on the Spring Blossom CD.Men on the inside
|A1:||Circle left. Circle right.|
|A2:||Do-si-do partner. Right-hand turn.|
|B1:||Left-shoulder do-si-do. Left hand turn.|
|B2:||Kick-balance twice to partner. Swing the one diagonally on your left See note and finish with men on the outside, ladies on the inside.|
|Note: On alternate turns you swing the one diagonally on your right, and finish in the original circles.|
This is great fun — particularly for the caller! Brian says he already knew the tune, and when he called the dance with Blue Mountain Band this is what they played, so he named the dance after it. It's a great driving American reel, which means some people want to swing for just that much too long, and then find themselves in the wrong circle moving rapidly away from where they ought to be!
Brian Jones is a caller from Reading in Berkshire, and the dance was originally published in his booklet “The Berkshire Bundle”. Brian says,
The sexes alternate from inside to outside of the circle, which is deliberately disorientating. Somebody inevitably goes into the wrong ring to the amusement of everyone, including themselves. Whilst there is great pleasure in dancing faultlessly, we must never forget the fun of the social dance.
Berks Bundle was typed up on a Commodore PET computer, and the covers were printed on an Adana hand printing press that I used to print tickets for the EFDSS and RUUFDS (Reading University Union Folk Dance Society) dances
|A1:||Circle left 6 steps; man cast, lady follow, man loop inwards and turn left to pick up partner with inside hand so that you are both facing anti-clockwise. Lead back 6 steps; two-hand turn ¾ (home).|
|A2:||Circle right; lady cast, man follow, lady loop inwards and turn right to pick up partner with inside hand, facing clockwise. Lead back; two-hand turn ¾ and face the next (new partner — the one who was beyond your original partner at the start).|
|B:||Pass new partner left shoulder, go right shoulder all the way round the next, go back past new partner left shoulder to face around the circle to original partner (11 steps). On the anacrusis, step right and honour partner, then left; wide Petronella (turn single right while moving diagonally right) to finish with the man on the inside.|
|C:||On the left diagonal (new partner), left-hand turn. On the right diagonal (previous partner), right-hand turn. Current partner back-to-back; men gipsy left ¾ around partner while ladies move forward (towards the centre) and back, to meet new partner, back in the circle.|
This won't work with a small circle — you need at least 12 couples.
I lead a House Party Weekend every November, organised by Mike and Gill Swash and now by John and Liz Felton, and for many years this has been at The Paddocks Hotel in Symonds Yat, near Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire. The food and service are excellent, and there's a fine ballroom just down the stairs from the dining room. The hotel is used by all kinds of dance groups.
The hotel is now under new management, so things are a bit different. At the 2018 House Party we heard that the lease has been sold again, but in 2019 we were told that hadn't gone through. and in 2020 of course the event didn't happen, so I don't know what things will be like in 2021!
|A:||All join hands, in to the middle and back. Two-hand turn corner (gazing adoringly into his/her eyes).|
|B:||In to the middle and back. Two-hand turn partner (gazing even more adoringly).|
|C:||Clap with partner Right, Left while turning single Right; clap Right, Left, pass on left shoulder to the next. Clap with this one Left, Right while turning single Left; clap Left, Right, pass on right shoulder to the next.|
|D:||Balance and swing (new partner).|
Written on Valentine's Day 1986. I was booked to call a dance for the Beckenham and Croydon Folk Dance Club that evening, and two people independently challenged me to write a dance with this title. The first half is slow and Playford-ish; the second half (the massacre) is faster and more violent. People have great difficulty clapping while turning single, and even more problems in passing by the correct shoulder!