Section II.B -- Sixteenth Century French Sources


Thoinot Arbeau

Thoinot Arbeau (Anagram for Jehan Tabourot). Orchesographie (Lengres: 1589; 2nd ed. 1596). Translated by Cyril W. Beaumont (London: 1925; reprinted by Dance Horizons, New York: 1968). Translated by Mary S. Evans (Kamin Dance Pub., 1948; reprinted with introduction and notes by Julia Sutton and labanotation by M. Becker and J. Sutton by Dover Pub., New York: 1967).


This manual is the best known original source within the SCA, because of its wide availability. It contains a wide variety of dances, many fairly simple in description and therefore easy to reconstruct. As with most manuals of the time, the more complicated instructions are open to multiple interpretations, and are often very confusing. Attempts to reconstruct these dances are best done with reference to the original French, since there are many nuances lost in translation. This is a work worthy of being re-examined from time to time, as one will often rediscover some detail which had been forgotten. Persons interested in learning about reconstructions may want to start with this work, since it offers the opportunity to examine descriptions of dances which one already knows, and see how other people have reconstructed dances.


Francois de Lauze

Francois de Lauze. Apologie de la Danse (n.p.: 1623). Facsimile reprint by Minkoff (Geneva: 1977). Modern reprint with translation and notes by Joan Wildeblood (London: Frederick Muller Ltd, 1952).


This manual describes in great detail a number of the dances popular in the early seventeenth century, including the courante, several different bransles, the galliard, as well as a few words on the gavotte. One interesting feature is that the work is composed of two separate manuals, one for gentlemen, and the other for ladies. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first dance manual which indicates that the man is doing steps (other than the bow) which are significantly different from those which the woman is doing. The manual is dedicated to George Villiers, then Marquis of Buckingham.

The descriptions are probably meant to discuss the same movements which Arbeau and others describe (de Lauze actually refers the reader to Arbeau in one instance), but de Lauze's descriptions are so detailed and involved that it is difficult to understand what he is trying to get across. Thus, while this is a valuable work, it is very difficult to make definitive interpretations of the descriptions. One cannot help but feel, however, that careful reading of the manual and much work would yield some very valuable insights. In short, this manual offers a lot of promise, but ought not to be tackled unless one is willing to exert a great deal of effort.


B. de Montagut

B. de Montagut. "Lovange de la Dance" (c.1623). Ms. in London, British Museum (MS Royal 16E, 37-39). Unpublished.


Like the above manual by de Lauze, this describes early seventeenth century court dancing, in which one can see the beginnings of what will become baroque dance in the next century. It begins with a discussion of the "principles" of dance, continues with a section on the reverence, followed by detailed discussions of the courante, bransles and galliardes (with a specific section discussing the capriole).

This work is similar in many ways to that of de Lauze, even being dedicated to the same gentleman, George Villiers, Marquis of Buckingham, who was apparently an avid dancer. Like de Lauze, Montagut also gives very detailed instructions, and like de Lauze, his instructions are difficult to follow. Nevertheless, they contain considerably more information on the courante than any other sources, and they go into considerable detail on the fine points of the dances they describe, which cannot be said of many other manuals of the time.