Basse Dance Project

The image above is taken from the Brussels MS, a book of dances that once belonged to Margrite d'Autriche. The music is just the tenor line (the musicians of the day would have improvised a melody around it) and the steps of the dance appear below. These dances have always intrigued me, and as the step vocabulary is so simple, they should be simple for dancers of modest ability.

Unfortunately, most modern musicians (especially amateurs) cannot improvise easily in a 15th Century style. For that reason, I began thinking about producing settings for these dances in a style which mimics 15th Century settings of these dances. Thus began a several year project to research the 15th Century style and create counterpoint for the basse dance tenors.

This is still very much a work in progress. I have only produced settings I am happy with for a handful of dances. However, as I want these settings to be available for dancers, I am making them available in this work-in-progress version. (For terms of use, see the Copyright Notice). You can download (or play on your browser) MIDI versions of the tenor lines and the complete settings, or you can download Adobe Acrobat (R) versions of the settings (Note Formats). Check back from time to time, for updates and corrections.

This site contains (or will contain eventually):

List by length
A complete list by length of the tenor of all of the dances (with hyperlinks to tenors and settings). [Draft version]
An alphabetical index
An alphabetical index to the above. [Not available yet]
Some notes about the steps of the basse dance.
Some notes about the sources for the basse dance tunes and choreographies.
Musical Problems
Some notes about musical issues in the reconstruction of this music and why I solved it in the particular way that I did.
La Spagna
Sources and recordings for the basse dance La Spagna and the possible basse dance Tandernaken.
A paper I wrote on the basse dance music, including notes on 15th Century Counterpoint. (Warning: I wrote this In Persona for an SCA contest, so it sounds annoyingly like a 15th Century Latin manuscript translated literally into English. [Not available yet, email me for a postscript version.]
Annotated list of primary and secondary sources for both dance and music.

As you can see, there is still a lot I want to do with this site. It will probably outgrow its current home, so be careful when linking to it. I will try and leave pointers to it when it moves.

Here are some other sites related to basse dances:

Basse dance, Brussels ms. 9085
On-line transcription of Brussels, one of the two most important source for Basse Dances.
Salisbury Manuscript
Transcription of the basse dances (steps only) found in this manuscript.
Ellisef's Music and Dance Page
Another SCA musician producing dance music settings free for use in the SCA and other educational purposes, including basse dances and 15th Century balli.
Jim Cartmell And Oldham Capriol Site
Another musician writing settings of early dance music, including some basse dances (15th Century Italian style).

Russell Almond
13 Merritt Drive, Lawrenceville, NJ 08648
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These pages designed and maintained by Russell Almond
Last modified: Sun March 16 17:39:38 1997