westdance: Thoughts on 15c Italian for KWDS?

Matthew Larsen matt1.larsen at gmail.com
Tue May 8 13:54:13 PDT 2007

> One is extrapolating a couple of years, the other is extrapolating
> 100+ years. That makes them very different. For an improvised
> saltarello and piva, we can be pretty sure that the steps are the same
> as the ones a couple of years later. For estampies, we have no clue
> beyond iconography.

Yes...  but while we have more current descriptions of pivas and
saltarellos than of estampi steps, it's not like we have descriptions
that give the kind of detail that you get for galliard steps in the
later sources.

> You are correct that we don't have much of a clue of the kinds of
> patterns people make, but we don't know that for the improvised
> galliard, either.  Or the improvised Almain, Pavane, or Coranto. We
> only know the steps and a vague philosophy.

That's a good point.  I should go back and look at what (if anything)
Caroso and Negri say about stringing galliard patterns together.  It's
not much, that's for sure.

I guess I feel like we have a good idea about the kind of patterns
people would have improvised just because we have so many variations
that were written down.  Of course, what people write down is often
more refined and complex than what they improvise, but it at least
gives an idea of what they were aiming at.  With the 15th c. stuff, we
don't even have unequivocal descriptions of the basic steps, much less
what people were improvising off of the basic.

Even with Pavans, we at least have Arbeau's discussion of several
things you can do, even if it's not completely clear how it would have
been practiced on the dance floor.  With Almans, we have a number of
complete choreographies, so if I wanted to do an improvised Alman I at
least have a model that I can shoot for, and something I could offer
as evidence that a particular improvised set was or was not like what
they might have done.  As far as I know, there's nothing even close to
that for the 15th c. stuff.

> The great thing about the improvised piva and saltarello is that
> they're accessible to non-dancers. If we want to get the mass public
> dancing without having gone to class, we need a good selection of
> arrows in our quivers.

I like the goal...  I like that part a lot!  But... I also like to
imagine that if someone were miraculously brought forward from the
15th c. they might
look at what we were doing and at least be able to identify it as
something related to the dances that they know.  I just don't have any
level of confidence in that for the saltarello.

Sorry for getting all stuffy purist on your parade, Greg.  I wish I
had an answer I liked. :-(


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