~  Katherine's Renaissance Dance Pages  ~


Mimed branles:

Maltese, Washerwomen, Pease, Hermits, Shoes, Horses


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Step abbreviations

Dl     double sideways to the left;     similarly Dr

Sl     simple, or single sideways to the left;     similarly Sr

kl     small kick with your left foot (pied en l'air);     Kl    large kick left (grve)

j       little jump (petit saut), often done as an ornament within other steps

J      large jump, straight up, landing on both feet (saut majeur);     Jc   a large jump with a capriole

-       pause


These branles contain various miming gestures, as well as doubles, singles, and kicks. Arbeau thinks that mimed branles were usually composed for masques, then taken up as social dances. In some the gestures are the same for every repetition, in others they change each time; alas! Arbeau rarely gives us more than one 'verse'.

With the possible exception of the Horses' Branles, these all begin with couples in a line or circle, holding hands. He who has his left hand free leads the dance.

 Maltese  A:  Dl Sr   

 B: moving into the circle: 2 slow steps forwards, 3 faster steps forwards, ending Kr;

 turning back to place: drop hands, step R, Kl, step L, Kr, kl kr kl, close.

Different gestures are added to the B section in each repetition of the dance ('as if a crowd goes to parley'; twisting the body; various facial expressions; touching hands; raising hands; throwing back head to look at sky, etc).


AAB, or AABB. Note that this is NOT the dance commonly called "the Maltese Branle" in New Zealand. That dance is an SCA invention, commonly called the "Turkish Branle" elsewhere. The timing of Arbeau's Maltese branle is a little tricky - check Orchesography or learn it at dance practice.
 Washerwomen's  A: Dl Dr 

 B: Sl Sr, women place hands on hips, men shake their fingers, repeat reversing roles,

 C: Dl clapping, Dr,   Dl clapping, kl kr kl J, turning to the left with the kicks.


AABBC. We usually turn to face our partners during the B section, but Arbeau doesn't mention it. The claps represent the noise of women beating clothes on the banks of the Seine.
 Pease, or the  Margueritotte  A: Dl Dr 

 B: men J, women J, men step left, j, close, j, j  

 Repeat with roles reversed

Danced AABB. Note that the B section is not quite as we usually dance it. May be danced as the Haut Barrois.




 A: Dl Dr 

 B: kr kl kr close, turning 180 degrees;

 tap right foot, tap left, tap right, crossing arms and bowing heads like novices,

 Repeat B, turning back into circle.




Sabots / Shoes / Clogs  A:  Dl Dr  

 B:  Sl Sr, tap three times with right foot


AABB. Variations: men tap the first time, women the second; other mimings in repeats of dance.




 A: Dl Dr   

 B: man:tap right foot twice, Sr, Dl turning to left

 The woman alone dances when B repeats.

AAAA BB. This dance is a source of great confusion, because Arbeau says clearly that you take both hands with your partner (which is not what you usually do in a branle). Perhaps he was mistaken, perhaps it isn't a normal branle. I like to try a different solution at every dance practice.


        return to 16thC France page, for other dances from Orchesography

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