Learn Renaissance Dances


Maltese Bransle

Source: Phalese?, Arbeau (1589).

Setting: Circle of couples.

Double left, double right
Double left, double right
Left, right, left into center, with hands raised, clap 3 times
Left, right, left out to place, clap 3 times

The dance speeds up as time goes on. Sometimes 3 kicks instead of the second 3 claps. SCA folklore will tell you that this dance was done after the Crusades in imitation of what the Crusaders saw in the Middle East.

A dance with the same name is given in Arbeau. It has different music, but somewhat similar steps. There’s some SCA history behind all this, and I don’t know it… yet.

Hole in the Wall

Source: Playford (1695 edition?); Dixon book 5, 9; Letter of Dance #3.

Setting: A line of couples.

A perennial SCA favorite: hated by musicians, demanded by dancers, used to raise money at Pennsic. Danced by a line of couples, with actives and passives and all that.

First couple casts off around twos, leads up back to place.
Second couple casts up around ones, leads back down to place.
First man and second woman change places.
Second man and first woman change places.
All hands halfway round.
Ones cast down while twos lead up the center to trade places.

The dance repeats with the twos moving up the line and the ones moving down. When you reach the end, wait out one cycle and then come in as the other couple. Some folks dance this dance with a lot of ornamentation, while others claim that it should be danced plainly.

Brandsle de l’ Official Toss the Duchess

Source: Arbeau (1589)

Setting: Circle of couples

Double left, double right, repeat 4 times. 
Eight singles left.
 During 7th single, lady steps in front of her partner.
 During 8th single, lady jumps, and lord moves lady to the left,
  everyone gaining a new partner.

Sometimes there are two tosses per repetition; listen to the music.

Often lords will be overly-enthusiastic about tossing; the object is not to toss ladies into the ceiling. This dance is often seen with swiveling hips during the singles to swirl skirts; I’ve heard it alleged that this is contra dancing and isn’t known to be period.

Arbeau says that this dance is to be danced with little springs with each step. Checked against the Dover Edition.

Bransle Charlotte
Source: Arbeau (1589)
Setting: Circle of couples

A: Double left, kick left, kick right, double right.
B: Double left, kick left, kick right, single right, kick l,r,l,
single left, kick right, l, r, double right.
The B part may or may not repeat. Insert capriole as desired.
The way that I remember which way to kick is as follows: if it’s 2 kicks, then you kick with your outside foot first. If it’s 3 kicks, kick with your inside foot first. You have always just stepped on your inside foot, so kicking with the outside foot is more natural.

Gathering Peascods

Source: Playford (1651)

Setting: a circle of couples.

Verse: 8 slip steps to the left, turn single
       8 slip steps to the right, turn single.

Chorus: Men go in, take hands, skip left around and go out.
        Women do the same, returning to the appropraite partner.

        Men double forward and clap.
        Women double forward and clap while men go back to place.
        Men double forward and don't clap while women return.
        Men return to place.

        Repeat forward/back with Women going first.

Verse: Side right, turn single, side left, turn single.

Chorus: Women in first, then men.

Verse: Arm right, turn single, arm left, turn single.

Chorus: Men in first, then women.

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