The Canary


Il Canario

Il Canario or the Canary was also a popular dance style. Both Negri and Caroso have given their “canary of the author” containing variations that they have personally written (or selected) and choreographed. Caroso had one version in Il Ballarino, and a different one in Nobilta di Dame.

There are several sources for this dance other than Caroso and Negri. Livio Lupi di Caravaggio published a book titled Libro di gagliarda, tordiglione, passo e mezzo, cannarii e passeggi... in 1607, which contained a large section on galliards and tourdions, many of the steps of which were taken from the canary dances, as well as a section on the canaries itself.

I have reconstructed Negri’s Il Canario in this book, and I’ve also listed the some other choreographies of Il Canario that are popular around Lochac.

The Canario is thought to have originated from Spain, where it was purportedly derived from a dance done by the natives of the Canary Islands. The Spanish explorers thought that the native dance looked like a canary hopping on its perch, hence they named the dance the "Canary", and subsequently named the islands the "Canary Islands". It is more likely, however, that the dance as shown here was a highly stylised version of what the original explorers had seen, and probably bears very little resemblance to what the Atlantic Islanders actually danced.



Like the galliard, the canaries were done as improvised dances – dancers were encouraged to either choreograph their own variations and perform them, or to perform impromptu variations during a ball either using existing galliard sequences or their own inventions. Emphasis was placed on showing vigour and athleticism in performing these dances.


Il Canario choreography

There are a few important rules to remember when choreographing canaries:

  • Find a pattern and stick to it. Develop a plan for a floor pattern first, and then fit your mutanze or variations to the available space.

  • Use only the steps that are specific to the dance style. It was probably unusual to find a seguito battuto al canario in any place other than a canario dance, and it was probably unusual to find a canario without this step. Similarly, an English Country set and turn has no place in a canario.

Remember the rules about styles and accoutrements. This restricts what the dancers can do at any point in time, especially given that the man has a hat and is wearing a sword (get used to wearing a sword before you begin your own choreography).

  • The man cannot take both hands with the lady without putting his hat back on first.

  • The man cannot make any turn or other fast maneuver close to the lady while doing anything with his left hand other than hold the sword in place.


Il Canario Steps


SsL -- Sliding step

Also called seguito spezzato schisciato al canario; seguito spezzato al canario; fioretto spezzato schisciato; canary step.

Begin the step by sliding the left foot forward such that the heel comes to rest beside the toes of the right. Move then the right foot along the ground until it ends level with the instep of the other. Complete the movement by again projecting the left foot out and further along the ground.


BsL -- Beaten sequences (seguito battuto; seguito battuto al canario)

On the first count, with the weight on the right foot, slide the left heel forward, finishing slightly above the ground. Then brush the foot back, once again audibly scuffing the ground. Finish with a stamp of the left foot, coming to rest beside the heel of the right.


CbL -- Cambiamento Left

This is just a shift of weight onto the left foot. It usually takes less than a beat.


Cp -- Capriole

A capriole is a jump into the air, crossing the feet backwards and forwards. The feet can be crossed 2, 3, 4, or 5 times, depending on the height of the jump, and the skill of the dancer. Caprioles are used regularly in galliards, where the choreography for a galliard sequence usually identifies the number of crosses required. In the canaries, the number of crosses is performed as best fits the required closing position of the feet.


RcL -- Recacciate Left

Kick the left foot forwards, then backwards, then forwards under the right foot, kicking the right foot ahead on the last beat. This is like a campanella with a sottopiede at the end, and takes one beat.


RmL -- Reprise Minuta

A reprise minuta can be done in either four or two motions -- done in four beats, two beats or one beat. It is a small shuffling motion to the left, done by alternatively twisting on the toes and heels, so that in one movement the toes are brought together and the heels are separated, and in the second movement the heels are brought together and the toes are separated. In the Canaries, I normally do this step with a slight hopping or lifting motion -- this is not strictly part of Negri's step description, but it fits in character with the rest of the dance, and makes the step easier to execute in the short space of time allowed for it in this dance.


Leaped heel steps

These steps require quite a deal of concentration and practice. Begin with a leap into the air - travelling left. Bring your heels together, then land firmly on the right foot, almost as quickly transferring the weight to the other. Only steps to the left occur in this variation.

These steps don't appear in any of Caroso's or Negri's books, but they have been put in one place in the Lochac Canary.