Susan and Ken Reed’s Life, Universe and Everything

Some 15th-Century Dance Steps

This is a partial list created for a 1995 workshop in Charlottesville, Virginia. This lists includes only those steps used for dance reconstructions used at that workshop (these will be published later on this web site). If you wish to know more about 15th century dance, you may refer to The Art of Courtly Dance in the Early Renaissance, by Dr. Ingrid Brainard.

Continenza (c)

A small step to the left (or right) side. Rising up on the toes, step sideways on the left foot only about the width of the foot. As the right foot is brought over to close with the left, lower the heels. One German source describes it as “treading the bellows.” There are usually two steps in one measure of music.

Double (D)

Three steps starting on the left (or right) foot. The first step is made bending the knee slightly, the second step is made rising up on the toes and the third step is made with the foot flat. Doubles can also be done entirely on the flat of the foot.

Mezavolta (mV)

A half turn in place, in one step. Turn can be over the right shoulder or the left.Movimento (M)A movement or gesture, the exact nature of which was not specified. Can be a movement of the foot or leg, the shoulders, or the arm.

Piva (P)

A quick double. Original descriptions are vague, but the following are possible: Starting on the left (or right) foot make three quick steps rising up on the toes on the third step.

Alternate Piva:

Starting on the left foot, take a step and on the second beat of the measure, rise up onto the toe while bringing right foot up slowly. Then step right and left with a flat foot.Positura, posata (po)A pose or posture, usually pausing in place.

Ripresa (r)

A step to the left (or right) side. Step sideways on the left foot, bending the knees slightly. As the right foot is brought over to close with the left, straighten the knees. One source describes it as “wave -like.” The step usually takes one measure of music.

Reverance (R)

Stepping back on the left (or right) foot, bend both knees until the knee of the rear foot touches the ground. Then stand up, straightening the knees. Keep the body upright.

Alternate Reverance — Men: 

On the first beat, move the left foot slightly forward. On the second beat, move the left foot behind the right, bending the knees slightly. On the third beat, straighten the knees and start moving the body forward, coming up on the toes. On the fourth beat, close the feet together and lower the heels. All this can be done removing and replacing the hat.

Alternate Reverance — Ladies: 

On the first beat, wait in place. On the second, bend the knees slightly. On the third, straighten the knees and rise up on the toes. On the fourth, lower the heels.

Saltarello (Sal)

A double with a hop. One version: starting on the left (or right) foot, step with a flat foot, on the second beat hop on that foot and on the third and fourth beats take two more steps on the flat of the foot. As the timing of the hop was not originally specified, it could occur anywhere in the sequence.

Single (S)

A single step on the left (or right) foot. Singles can end by bringing the other foot up to close the feet together, or pausing to keep the feet apart. In the Bassadanza, two singles occur in one measure, with a steps on the first and third beats of the measure.

Volta tonda, volta Gioso (Vt)

A full turn around in place. Do two singles, the first stepping across in front of the left foot with the right and the second with the left almost in place to turn most of the way around. Then do a ripresa on the right to finish the turn and to set you back where you began. The Volta tonda could also be entirely with single steps.