~  Katherine's Renaissance Dance Pages  ~


Italy, around 1500

The dances of Domenico, Cornazano, and Guglielmo, described in various MSS from the mid-fifteenth century to the early decades of the 16th century. I might eventually add dances from the early 16thC MS known as "Il Papa".

The best discussion of 15thC Italian balli that I have found on the web is undoubtedly Joy and Jealousy. It contains reconstructions of all the balli, with music, and much more complete discussions of steps, style, and alternative interpretations than you will find here.

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Contents: Alesandresca bassadanza for a couple, by Guglielmo
  Amoroso ballo francese for a couple, probably by Guglielmo
  Anello ballo for four, by Domenico
Belfiore ballo for three, by Domenico
Caterva bassadanza for a three, by Guglielmo
Colonnese ballo for three couples, by Guglielmo
  Gelosia ballo for three couples, by Domenico
  Lauro bassadanza for a couple, attributed to Lorenzo di Medici
  Mercantia ballo for one woman and three men, by Domenico
  Petite Rinense ballo francese for a couple, by Ambrosio (Guglielmo)
  Pizochara/Pinzochera ballo for four couples, by Domenico
  Presonera ballo for two by Domenico
  Reale bassadanza for a couple, by Domenico
  Rostiboli Gioioso ballo for a couple, attributed to Domenico
       Gioioso in Tre Giovanni Ambrosio's adaptation of Rostiboli Gioioso for three


Step abbreviations:

s   single step (passo, sempio);    d doppio;    p piva;    r  riprese;    R reverentia;    V volta tonda;  

m   movimento (or scosso);  c   continentia



A Bassadanza for two by Guglielmo. It has its own page, as I was garrulous when writing the notes.



Ballo Francese for a couple. Start holding usual hands.

A:  pive     (8 or 12)

B:  Man  leaves, then woman catches up, each using: ss p sss

Man leaves, then woman catches up, each using: ppp s

C: Man leaves with: ss p sss,  turns to face partner,  both R

Man returns to woman with: ppp s

Repeat C with woman leaving man and returning.

    - repeat whole dance, with woman doing everything first -

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 Four people (two couples). One couple starts four steps behind the other (according to one MS).


8 tempi of saltarello (one MS says eight saltarelli in piva misura; the speed of my music seems more like quadernaria)

drop hands and make a square, facing inward (during the last tempo of saltarello)

Swap places

       men movimento, then women movimento

men swap places with two saltarelli, beginning left, then a meza volta (no extra time) (alternatives: 2 doppii, riverentia)

       women movimento, men movimento

women swap places, as above

Turn in place

        men movimento, women movimento (or women posa, or everyone movimento/squasseto together)

men voltatonda with a doppio left.

        women movimento, men movimento,

women voltatonda as above

Around your partner

men 4 pive, swapping places, going to right, behind partner

women 4 pive, as above

        men movimento, women movimento

        men movimento, women movimento (or all voltatonda with 2 doppii)


men ripresa from right (optional - with a riverentia)

join hands as at beginning (optional - repeat with women leading)

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 Three people in a column.  All but one of the 15thC texts call for two men with a woman in the middle; the dance doesn't suffer for choosing another arrangement.

all together:  12 p - twelve tempi of piva in quadernaria misura

one by one:  d  - doppio left in quadernaria misura, closing right foot to left at and

                    m - movimento

                    V - turn in place with, according to your MS, 4 small sempii, a doppio or piva

                    3d to end of set - 3 doppii, or 2 doppii and a sempio, turning to the right (one MS says left), looking at the second person, and going to the end of the line. These seem to be in piva misura.

re-arrange the set:  d, first and third swap places - the person at the end goes to the right side of the person in the middle, the person at the front to the left; then middle person circles last and goes to front (passing throught he middle again) with 4 tempi of pive, or three pive and a sempio.

 - dance three times, each time with a different leader -

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Reconstruction by Patrick Bowman (Ludwig von Regensburg), to music composed by him, on the tenor Il Ferrarese.

Ludwig's handout for Lauro and Reale (pdf),    music (score),     music (midi)

For three people, side by side

ss cc d, Volta del Gioioso, R

all dancers turn 90 degrees to left, so they are in single file

ss dd r(right) R

6 saltarelli tedeschi, r(left)

all dancers turn to right - side by side again, they take hands

3 riprese in gallone (diagonally forwards) to right; 3 to left;  volta del gioioso, cc

4 saltarelli tedeschi, meza volta, rr, R

4 tempi of saltarelli (4 slow or 8 fast), meza volta, r left, volta del gioioso, R

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The couples in a column, start holding ordinary hands.

A:    16 tempi of saltarello

B:    each couple does something different, all at the same time . . .

The front couple stands still.

The middle couple take right hands and circle with ssd, then left hands and return to place with ssdriverentia.

The back couple weave to the front, with ss dddd. That is, the man leads the woman, and they go above the middle couple, from left to right, then around the top couple. The man stops at the top of the women's line (on the right side), and leads the woman round so that she stops at the top of  the men's line (on the left side).

The B section is done three times, at the end of which each couple will have danced in each position, and all the couples will be 'improper' (ie. the women will be on the left, the men on the right.

C:    This section done facing your partner.

Each man circles his partner with three tempi of piva. Our convention is to go first 'above' your partner, then 'below'.

Then the women circle their partners, similarly.

Men movimento. Women respond.

All dd, backwards then forwards, then turn to face front (sources say to turn to left).

~ repeat from the start, with the women leading ~

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 Three couples in a column, start holding usual hands.

8 saltarelli tedesci     (some music has 6 or 12)

First man three fast doubles (or three contrapassi) around partner to second woman;

First man Riverentia to second woman, taking her right hand, while second man saltarello to first woman

First man three fast doubles (or three contrapassi) to third woman;

First man Riverentia to third woman, while third man saltarello to second woman

First man 2 pive, to end at left of third woman, and take ordinary hands.

All face up. 8 pive (with new partners)

V - turn in place with a double, one couple at a time

take right hands with partner, sss, changing places

take left hand with partner, sss changing back, end facing up

 - Repeat with new partners, until each man has been leader.

 Once source suggests dancing another three times with the women leading  -

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a basssadanza for a couple, attributed to Lorenzo de Medici

c  ssdd R rr

    ssd r c(c)  

    ssd                 (holding right hands, circling)

    ssd                 (holding left hands, circling)  

rr ssddd V R      (the turn is a Volta del gioioso - s right, s left, r right)

 - repeat from the beginning with the woman leading -

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One couple, holding ordinary hands, followed (about 4 paces behind), by another two men, also holding hands. You can also dance it with one man and three women (though this is not described in any 15thC text). In this case I have the first couple stand improper, to avoid having to "mirror image" the entire dance.

Initial positions (dancers are facing the top of the screen, X is the woman / odd-gendered dancer)

A  X

(four paces)

B  C


1.    All dancers perform 11 tempi of saltarelli, beginning with an initial movimento

(music: 12 tempi of saltarello. Dancers stay still until end of first tempo)

2.    B and C separate with 6 riprese (keep them small)                                                (music: 6 tempi of quadernaria)

3.    X mezavolta, A 3 doppii forwards                                                                                   (music: 4 T bassadanza)

4.    C approaches X with ssd, touching X's right hand at end of doppio

       C returns to place with ssd, while X does volta del gioioso 

       B  approaches X with ssd, touching X's right hand at end of doppio

       B  returns to place with ssd, while X does volta del gioioso                                                       (8 T bassadanza)

5.    A mezavolta                                                                                                                           (1/2 T bassadanza)

        B and C change places with ssd, taking hands as they pass                                                        (2 T bassadanza)

6.    A returns with 2 saltarelli (tedeschi), beginning with a salto. Ends behind X, at left.                     (2 T quadernaria)

       X  meza volta, while A ripresa to right                                                                                   (1/2 T bassadanza)

7.    All Riverentia, 2 continenzia, A touching X's right hand                                                            (2 T bassadanza)

8.    A and C change places with ssd, passing to left of X, while X and B volta del gioioso               (2 T bassadanza)

 - return to beginning, with new A; dance three times -

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Petit Riense

three people in a line, holding hands; person with left hand free leads

all together:   16 pive

one by one:   4 pive,


                    R   (first to second, then second to first, the third to second)

all together:    d back, d forwards, 2 riprese, V

        - take hands and repeat, with new leader if you desire (there is no mention of repeating the dance in our sole source, but repeats are called for in other similar dances)  -   

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Reconstruction by Rosina, from Joy and Jealousy.

For four couples in a column; stand close to your partner, but with about 3 steps between couples.

Intro: 12 pive

 men only: 4 pive, around your partner, heading towards the top of the column first (i.e. clockwise)

 women only:  4 pive, around you partner, heading towards the top of the column first (i.e. anti-clockwise)

men only: take partner's right hand, R right; all riprese right

men weave: follow lead man; do 2s, 11d, going above first woman, weaving around women to bottom of set ("like a snake"), around last woman, then past all four women on other side, so everyone ends with his partner, but on the wrong side.

women only: take partner's right hand, R left; all riprese left

women weave; first woman follows same path as first man did, weaving among men with 9 saltarelli, other women follow. Each woman ends beside her partner, on the usual side again.

first couple: separate with 2 short riprese (i.e. man goes ll, woman rr)

last three couples: 4 pive, going forwards, between couple who have separated

new first couple (couple 2): separate with 2 short riprese (i.e. man goes ll, woman rr)

last two couples: 4 pive, going forwards, between couples who have separated

new first couple (couple 3): separate with 2 short riprese (i.e. man goes ll, woman rr)

last couple: 4 pive, going forwards, between couples who have separated

 - repeat dance from beginning; male and female roles appear to  remain the same, but the order of the couples is reversed -


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There are seven sources for this dance, and their intructions are rather varied. This version is mostly based on Domenico's version, but sometimes another source is used if it fits better with the music I have (from Musica Subterranea's 'Incantare'), or if we found we preferred it in classes. Alternative steps, from other MSS, are included in notes (and could be used to 'improvise' ornaments).

For a couple: begin side by side, holding hands.

First section: bassadanza

             together: cc (lr), sss (lrl), d (l), R (l)

Second section: bassadanza

             man only: ss (lr), 3 contrapassi (lll)

             woman only: ss (rl), 3 contrapassi (rrr); man does mv as woman approaches

             both: ss (lr), to change places, man going 'below', woman 'above' (take left hands if you like)

             both: R(l)

Repeat second section, with woman leading.

Third section: piva

            8 pive, together, holding hands

Fourth section:

            man m, woman m, both ripresa, separating;

            woman m, man m, both ripresa, separating.

Fifth section:

            4 tempi of saltarello, 1 to approach (changing sides if you want to repeat), 3 together.

- repeat whole dance, if you like, with the woman leading -


First section: The version above requires a weight-change before and after the doppio (a doppio on the right would be more natural here). Domenico only specifies starting on the left for the continetie and the riverenza, but all the other sources specify that the doppio is done on the left (some say 'beginning with the left and ending with the right). Possibly the weight-change happens before the simples, but I think the attention given to the description of this double in the later sources suggests that anything odd happens here. I do the third single in the usual way (stepping with the left foot, and leaving the right trailing not far behind), then quickly transfer my weight back on to my right foot during the vuodo (perhaps this is the ornamental move called the cambiamento? - thanks Patrick, for this insight), perform the doppio in the usual time, and again, transfer my weight to during the vuodo.

Second section: Most sources say the man should turn as the end of his contrapassi, only Domenico says that he should suddenly turn in the vuodo of the woman's last step. I think Domenico's version is more dramatic.

Domenico makes no reference to contrapassi here, but has the man leave with two simples and two doubles (on the right). Other sources have two doubles (on the left) or two or three contrapassi. Any of these will work; I use three contrapassi because Musica Subterranea's recording makes contrapassi so easy and pleasant here.

When the couple change places, Domenico only says that they may take hands if they wish. Three sources say they should take right hands, but we found this uncomfortable and so took left hands. Another three sources say they move together (no mention of circling). I'd like to find a solution that uses right hands but otherwise complies with Domenico's instructions; until then, we take left hands, or none (but still pass by left shoulders).

Third section: Domenico has eight tempi of piva, but all the other sources give four tempi of saltarallo tedesco instead (specifying further than each tempo contains a doppio and a ripresa). Either will work, but you should make sure your partner knows what you intend to do (or is comfortable with variation), and that you have compatible interpretations of saltarello tedesco, if necessary.

Fourth section: Domenico calls for movimenti, the other sources variously for movimenti, schosseti, and passecti; I assume they are all the same movement.

Domenico has the couple separate with four passiti traverso. The other sources call variously for the couple to face and make passeti (three or four) drawing back, or to stand side by side and draw apart with riprese. The common element is that the couple separate, and in practice (if you commonly use three movements in a riprese) the difference between three or four steps backwards or sideways, separating, and a ripresa separating, is not large. I used riprese in class, because we'd learned enough new steps that evening.

Fifth section: Domenico calls for the couple to make a movimento together. As there is no extra time in the music, I take this to be the introductory movimento that begins the upcoming saltarelli

Domenico has the dance end after the four tempi of saltarello. One source includes a final pair of continenzie after this (which wouldn't fit my music).  Three sources call for a repeat of the dance "with the woman going above/forwards". This might mean simply that the woman does everything first on the repeat, and takes the leading role. It might also mean that she does this from the man's position, in which case the couple will have to change sides. The solutions that occur to me are to head in the opposite direction after the first saltarello, or for the woman to cross in front of the man during the first saltarello. We've been doing the latter. It's good, because the woman ends up a little in front of the man, as well as to his left, and so is ready to take the lead; however, it might not work well with a trained skirt.

The Musica Subterranea recording plays the entire dance twice, and then plays the first section again. I treat the repeat of the first section as a pleasant musical coda, and an opportunity to chat to my partner, but you could - of course - dance to it. 

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Reconstruction by Patrick Bowman (Ludwig von Regensburg), to music composed by him, on the tenor Il Ferrarese.

Ludwig's handout for Lauro and Reale (pdf),    music (score),     music (midi)

For a couple, holding ordinary hands

ss dddd r

ss d  rr

ss d  R

ss(backwards)  rr  cccc

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        Rostiboli Gioioso

For a couple, holding ordinary hands

Part A, in bassadanza misura

    Together: 2r

    Man alone (leaving woman): ss dd

    Together: 2r

    Man Alone (returning to woman): ss dd

    repeat part A, with woman leaving and returning.

Part B, in Bassadanza misura:

    Together: rr ss ddd V,    repeat

Part C, in saltarello misura: 16 tempi of saltarelli

Part D, in piva misura: Man  m, woman m, man d; woman m, man m, woman d (end near man); repeat.

The dance may be repeated from the beginning, in which case the man and woman may exchange roles. 


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Gioioso in tre

Rostiboli Gioioso for three people, in a line, holding hands. The instructions below assume that there are two men with a woman in the middle, as in Giovanni Ambrosio's description; the dnace can easily be adapted to other arrangements. The steps  and music are as in Rostiboli,  but the floor pattern is a little different.

Part A, in bassadanza misura

    All: rr  (holding hands)

    Woman alone: ss (stepping forward and turning to man at left)

    Woman and left-hand man: dd (holding left hands, circling)

     All:  rr  (holding hands)

    Woman alone: ss (stepping forward and turning to man at right)

    Woman and right-hand man: dd (holding right hands, circling)

     All:  rr  (holding hands)

     Men: ss dd  (exchanging places, passing in front of woman, man at left passing closer to woman).

     All: rr  (holding hands)

     Men: ss dd  (exchanging places, passing in front of woman, man now at left passing closer to woman).

Part B, in Bassadanza misura:

    All: rr ss d

    Men V  (with dd, turning right),     while woman does rr (right then left).

    All: V   (volta del gioioso - turn left using s right, s left, r right)

        repeat part B

Part C, in saltarello misura: 16 tempi of saltarelli   (note: the MSS call for  8 or 12  tempi, but the music has 16)

Part D, in piva misura:

Woman  m, men m, woman d; Men m, woman m, men d (ending in line, with woman in middle).

Repeat part D, but both woman and men make a meza volta at the end of their second doppio, so that they end in a line as they began, but with the men having exchanged places.

The dance may be repeated from the beginning. The woman will still turn first to the left, but the men will have swapped places, and so, roles. 


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