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What Arbeau has to say:

Translated from Arbeau's Orchesography (1589), by Katherine Davies, 2005. Nicolas Graner has transcribed the French text here. The Library of Congress has a facsimile here (the description of the Gavotte begins on page 93).

 

GAVOTES.


The Gavotte is a collection of several double branles, that the minstrels have chosen from amongst the others and arranged in a suite, that you may learn from them and from your companions, and this suite is given the name Gavottes. It’s danced in binary measure, with petits saults, in the manner of the hault barrois, and consists of double right and double left like the common branle, but the dancers cut those doubles both right and left with passages taken at will from galliards. When the dancers have danced a little, one of them, with his damsel, draws apart, and does some passages in the middle of the dance in the sight of the others, then he goes to kiss all the other damsels, and his damsel, all the young men, and then they return to their place. This done, the second dancer does similarly, and all the others in sequence. Alternatively, they give this right of kissing only to he who is head of the feast, and her whom he leads, and at the end the that damsel, who has a chaplet or posy, presents it to the dancer who must pay the musicians and be head of the feast at the next gathering - he who will the then use the same right, and so it goes on.

I will give you the tune of the first branle, and some divisions, which you may change at will.

             [Arbeau then gives a tune, with one division]

Here is the rest of the tune of the first branle of the suite of Gavottes, as played by the musicians of Langres.

Adapt the divisions above, or such others as it pleases you to choose or invent, or to copy from good, lively dancers. If this sort of dance was done when my legs were young, I would not have failed to make note of it.

 

ARBEAU'S    GAVOTTE   VARIATION

Passage of four steps, equivalent to a double left:

1- step left with the left foot (pied largy gaulche)

& petit sault

2 -  bring your right foot next to your left (pied droit approché.)

& petit sault

3 -  tap right toes in front of left foot (marque-pied droit croisé)

&  petit sault

4 –  kick right foot across to the left (greve droicte croisée)

& petit sault

 

Passage of five steps, contained in the time of four steps, equivalent to a double right:

1 – rest with feet together

& - petit sault

2 – tap left toe in front of right foot (marque-pied g. croisé)

& -  tap right toe in front of left foot (marque pied droit croisé)

3 –  kick right foot across to left (greve droicte croisee)

& - petit sault

4 – capriol , & land with your feet together (pieds joincts avec capriole)

 

Now how do we dance this?

The trick is in working out how to learn a style of improvisation from one example. There are many clues in Arbeau's descriptions of the dances which he says are related: the Double branle, the branle de Haut Barrois, and the galliard.

Variations derived from the Double Branle:

1. In the Gavotte, as in the double branle, the dance is more pleasing if the doubles(or sets of variations equivalent ot a double) to the right are smaller than those to the left so that the dance progresses slowly.

2. Arbeau says that in some regions the doubles right are replaced by reprises or branles. I have not found this to be useful in Gavottes (but others might). He also permits the introduction of three kicks to the second half of the double right.

Plain Double Right

Ornamented Double

1 step right 1 step right
  &    &  
2 bring left foot near right 2 bring left foot near right
 &    &  
3 step right 3 kick left
 &    & kick right
4 bring left foot next to right 4 kick left
 &    &  

Here is our first variation.

3. Arbeau comments that some agile young men introduce kicks in other parts of the double branle. Either half of the double can be replaced by three kicks (starting on the left foot if your next move is to be to the left, so in the first half of a double left, or the second half of a double right, as above).

 Double left, ornamented throughout  Double right, ornamented at beginning
1 kick left 1 kick right
 & kick right  & kick left
2 kick left 2 kick right
 &    &  
3 kick right 3 step right
 & kick left  &  
4 kick right 4 bring left foot next to right.
 &    &  

Here we have more possible variations.

4. In practice, it can be hard to remember which foot to kick with first. Including a fourth kick, or leaving our the second will correct this (and the change of rhythm can make them pleasing variations in their own right). You can also make a saut majeur (large jump) with a capriole at the end of a double - it looks spectacular, is an effective way to end a variation, and as you land on both feet, it doesn't matter which foot you started on.

Passage equivalent to a double left, ornamented with four kicks Passage equivalent to a double right, with two kicks and a capriole.
1 step left 1 kick left
 &    &  
2 bring right foot near left 2 kick right
 &    &  
3 kick left 3 capriole
 & kick right  &  
4 kick left 4 land with feet together
 & kick right  &  

Here are many more variations.

5. You can get yet more variety into the variations above by doing some of the kicks backwards (making a ruade), and some across in front of the other leg (greve croisee), as in the Burgundian branle (itself an ornamented Double branle). Here are the variations given in the last table, altered with kicks croisee and ruade:

Passage equivalent to a double left Passage equivalent to a double right
1 step left 1 kick left across right
 &    &  
2 bring you right foot near your left 2 kick right backwards
 &    &  
3 kick left forwards 3 capriole
 & kick right backwards  &  
4 kick left forwards 4 land with feet together
 & kick right across to left  &  

These are beginning to look like galliard variations!

Dancing these variations with petits saults, in the manner of the Hault Barrois:

In the Hault Barrois branle, there is a petit sault - a small jump - after every motion of the double branle. If you count the doubles as in the tables above, there is a petit sault on every "&". In Arbeau's gavotte variations there is a petit sault on every "&", unless there is something else (suck as a kick) there.

 Double left in the Haut Barrois Passage equivalent to a double left, with kicks and petits saults
1 step left 1 step left
 &    petit sault  &   petit sault
2 bring right foot near left 2 bring right foot near left
 &    petit sault  &   petit sault
3 step left 3 kick right
 &    petit sault  & kick left
4 bring right foot next to left 4 kick right
 &    petit sault  &    petit sault

Sometimes it is convenient to leave off the final petit sault, in order to prepare for the next passage.

Variations derived from Galliards:

To be added.

Putting the dance together:

To be added.

           

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