Dances From The Inns Of Court


Throughout this work, we will be examining a suite of dances known as the Old Measures, which were taught and danced in England between the times of Elizabeth I and Charles II. To help gain a more thorough understanding of these dances and their social context, we will examine their role within the Inns of Court in London. Surviving manuscripts from this period provide us with information about dancing within this culture of upper-class gentlemen, in an environment bound by tradition. These sources indicate a knowledge of dances such as branles and galliards which are detailed in French and Italian manuals of the period, providing verification of the widespread knowledge of these dances. And, more interestingly, they provide detailed choreographies of a set of eight English measures which were danced for a period of over 100 years.

About the Sources

There are a variety of sources surviving from the Inns during this period. They describe all aspects of life at the Inns, and provide a fair amount of information about the social context in which the dances were performed. We will draw on these to gain an understanding of the place of dance within this culture. Although there are several references to dances by name, the majority of these sources contain no information about how the dances were performed.(1) We do not include any specific information about these sources, but will footnote all quotes drawn from them to allow the reader to explore these sources on his own.

Of primary interest to us are the seven extant manuscripts(2) that include choreographies of the Old Measures. These manuscripts are not formal works, like the dance manuals of the contemporary dancemasters such as Caroso, Negri, and Arbeau. They do not contain descriptions of steps, of dance etiquette, or other details. Instead, they are simply notes found in the personal documents of people associated with the Inns, containing only brief listings of the steps composing each dance. Most appear to be `crib sheets', written down to aid in remembering dances the author has learned.

The Manuscripts(3)

  1. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Rawlinson Poet. 108, folios 10r-11r.(4) Choreographies for 15 dances, including seven, or possibly eight(5), of the dances which would come to be known as the Old Measures. These dances appear in their standard order, but with the other 8 dances interspersed.(6) The dance descriptions are bound into a personal notebook of love poems, songs, copies of orations, and doodles. Folios 45-64 are folded to create columns, which appear to be an index to a medical book, with entries like `Bone ache 72, 156' and `To make a man slepe.' This book belonged to Eliner Gunter, and/or Edward Gunter(7). ` Edward was admitted to Lincoln's Inn in February 1563; the book is dated c. 1570. [RP]

  2. Somerset Records Office, DD/WO 55/7, item 36.(8) A list entitled `The olde Measures', which includes choreography for all eight Old Measures, and concludes with a mention of The Galliarde, and the signature `1594 John willoughbye.' The list is written on a paper bifolium, 300mm by 200 mm, which is preserved in a bundle of 60 loose papers (letters, inventories, other notes concerning domestic life) in the Trevelyan collection. John Willoughby, who was 23 when this list was written, was a lifelong resident of Devon. Willoughby certainly had personal and legal connections to the Inns of Court(9); however, his knowledge of these dances may indicate that they were performed in venues far removed from the Inns, possibly in a country house setting. [SRO]

  3. London, British Library, MS Harleian 367, folios 178-179.(10) An untitled list of dances, by an unidentified writer, comprised of the choreography of the eight Old Measures and no other information. The description of Black Alman is written in a different hand than the other dances. These two leaves (each 8'x12') are found in collection of miscellaneous papers and fragments written by antiquary J. Stowe (d. 1605) and others in the period 1575-1625. The dance descriptions are written in a different hand than any of the other items in the collection, and have no discernible connection to these other items. [HA]

  4. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 280, folio 66av-66bv(11). A sheet entitled `Practise for Dauncinge', which begins with the eight dances entitled `The ould Measures'. It also includes 13 other dances, which may represent fashionable `Post Revels'. The presence of such dances as The Spanish Pavin, The French Levolto, and the French Brawles indicates the author's familiarity with contemporary European dances(12). These dances are part of a plan devised in 1607 for the education of a future son. The plan for educating a 7-10 year old also included music, Greek, and Latin. This plan appears in John Ramsey's collection of notes, essays, translations, etc. Ramsey was admitted to the Middle Temple on 23 March 1605/6, at the age of 26. [DO]

  5. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Rawlinson D .864, folio 199r-199v(13). A sheet with A `copye of the oulde measures' written by Elias Ashmole when he was a boy. Includes choreography for the first seven Old Measures, and the title for The blacke Almane, and states `Rowland Osborne taught me to dance these measures.' May be classroom notes made while the dances were being learned; they include childish scribbles in the margins and blank spaces on the page. May be dated around 1630-1633. Two additional dances appear on folios 203r-204r. The first is untitled, the second is titled `the first Coranto'; each has an accompanying diagram, which may indicate the pattern of the dance on the floor.(14) These descriptions are in a different hand than the oulde measures, and probably from a later date. Both appear in the miscellaneous papers of Elias Ashmole, who was born in 1617, admitted to the Middle Temple on a special admission in 1657. [RD]

  6. London, Inner Temple Records, `Revels, Foundlings, and Unclassified, Miscellanea, Undated, &c.' vol. 27, folios 3r-6v(15). A list of `The Measures as they are Danced in the Inner Temple Hall', which includes choreographies of the 8 Old Measures. It also includes a mention of the Sinke a pace, and choreography for the Argulius Measure(16) `to be Danct about the Middle of the Measures.' Folios 5 and 6 include a short description of `The Ceremonye' surrounding the dancing of the Old Measures at a Revel. The text includes corrections, additions, and deletions that indicate that it may have been used on multiple occasions. These directions (ca. 1640-1675) were written and signed by Butler Buggins, who was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1634, and served as Master of Revels in 1672-5. They are bound with other miscellaneous documents from the Inner Temple, and are not related to these other documents. [IT]

  7. London, Royal College of Music, MS 1119, folios 1r-2v(17). Folios 1r, 1v, and 2v [RCM1] include a description of `The Old Measures of the Inner Temple London as they were first begun and taught by Robert Holeman a Dancing-Master before 1640 and continu'd ever since in the Inner Temple Hall.' Each of the eight Old Measures is described; there are musical staves above each choreography, but the music was never written in. It is signed by Butler Buggins, and perhaps written by him, although the hand is somewhat different than that of the manuscript described above. Folio 2r [RCM2] is written in a slightly different hand, and on paper with a different watermark than folio 1(18). It includes a brief description of the ceremony, and summary descriptions of the Quadrian pavin, Essex Measure, and Black Almain. Music for five of the dances (The House Measure, the Quadrian Pavin, Essex Measure, The Black Almaine, Argulius) appears on ff 23-24. RCM 1119 is primarily a collection of songs in manuscript.

Social Context

The Inns of Court are four groups of buildings in London (Gray's Inn, Lincoln's Inn, Middle Temple, and Inner Temple) where English trial lawyers lived, studied, taught, and held court. In 1574, there were 769 members of the Inns; by the end of the 16(th) century, the membership had risen to 1040 men.(19)

Gerard Legh, in 1562, presented this image of the Inns: `A place priviliged by the most excellent princes' wherein are the store of gentlemen of the whole realm, that repair thither to learn to rule, and obey by law, to yield their fleece to their prince and commonwealth: as also to use all other exercises of body and mind whereunto nature most aptly serveth to adorn by speaking, countenance, gesture, and use of apparel, the person of a gentleman. Whereby amity is obtained and continued, that gentlemen of all countries in their young years, nourished together in one place, with such comely order and daily conference, are knit by continual acquaintance in such unity of minds and manners as lightly never after is severed, than which is nothing more profitable to the common weal.'(20)

Study of Law

Young men from throughout England gathered at the Inns to study law. There were no professional teachers; the Utter Barristers were qualified, active practitioners who used their chambers as law offices, and whose duties included teaching younger members of the Inns. Students also attended courts at Parliament, and participated in moots (mock trials) and bolting (debates).

Although records indicate that some wealthy merchants were able to send their sons to the Inns, the majority of students were sons of the landed gentry. The average age at admission was 17, and 70% of the membership was between 17 and 30. About half of the students had previously attended University at either Oxford or Cambridge.(21) Students began as Inner Barristers. After 7 years, they could be confirmed as an Utter Barrister, or qualified member of the Bar. The benchers, or governing members of the Inns, were chosen from the Utter Barristers. Readers, who lectured formally during the intervals between legal terms, were also chosen from the Utter Barrister.

The majority of the gentlemen who attended the Inns apparently did not intend to pursue a legal career. During the last 30 years of the 16(th) century, only 15% of students pursued studies long enough to be admitted to the bar.(22) For the rest, as indicated by Legh, the Inns served as a sort of `finishing school'. They were a place for noblemen to meet and mingle with their peers from throughout the country, to take advantage of the opportunities found in London, and to acquire some knowledge of a variety of useful subjects.(23)

Place of Dancing

Within this culture of educated, upper-class gentlemen, knowledge of dancing was considered an important skill, and was pursued along with education in law. Circa 1470, a member of Lincoln's Inn described the opportunity at the Inns of Court, to `beside the study of laws as is were an university or schoole of all commendable qualities requisite for gentlemen of quality. There the learn to sing, and to exercise' and also they practise dauncing and other noblemen's pastimes as they use to doe which are brought up in the King's house'.(24) During the Christmas revels of 1584, members of Lincoln's Inn were instructed to `carry yourselves courtiously' shewing yourselves forward and able to lead a measure in peace as a march in wars.'(25) In 1631, a Middle Temple bencher stated: `The measures were wont to be trulie danced, it being accounted a shame for any inns of court man not to have learned to dance, especially the measures'.(26) In 1666, Sir William Dugdale wrote: `Nor were these Exercises of Dancing merely permitted; but thought very necessary (as it seems) and much conducing to the making of gentlemen more fit for their Books at other times'.(27)

Study of Dancing

However, the Inns themselves did not provide any instruction outside of common law. Members who wished to learn fencing, music, and dance attended special academies or hired private tutors.(28)

Evidence of this can be found in contemporary records. John Petre joined Currance's dancing school in April 1568 during his 3(rd) term at the Middle Temple, and also purchased daggers and foils. In 1586, George Manners wrote from the Inner Temple, `for exercises' I use the dancing scole, tenise, runing, and leapinge and such like in the fields.' William Fitzwilliam, admitted to Gray's Inn in 1594, paid 20 shillings a month to Rowland, a London dancemaster. This price was almost as much as he paid for a month's commons (meals). He also studied singing and fencing. In the 1620's, another Middle Templar paid only 6 shillings a month for viol lessons, but paid fifteen shillings for entrance fees and tips alone at a dancing school. Simonds D'Ewes was admitted to both fencing and dancing schools. John Hutchinson of Lincoln's Inn, hired tutors for dancing, fencing, and music. In 1635, John Green of Lincoln's Inn, noted that he and three colleagues attended dancing school.(29)

There were several professional dancemasters in London at the time, so many that in the 1560s, the mayor and aldermen felt the need to limit their numbers, and ordered several to cease instruction. In 1574, the Crown granted three dancing masters a monopoly within London.Ward (1993) discusses these instructors in more detail. The Old Measures manuscripts also name two dancemasters, Robert Holeman (RCM), and Rowland Osborne (RD).

Revels at the Inns

Members had a chance to practice their dancing at revels held throughout the winter. Throughout this time period, it was customary to hold revels with `dancing, dicing, and gaming' in the society's hall every Saturday between All Saint's Eve (October 31(st) and Candlemas (February 2(nd). According to Prynne, festivities usually lasted till midnight and sometimes until four in the morning.(30)

It's clear that dancing was not the only pastime at Revels. In January of 1661, `According to costome, his Majesty opened the revells of that night, by throwing the dice himselfe in the privy chamber, where was a table set on purpose, and lost his 100£ (the year before, he won 1500£) The ladies also plaid very deepe' Sorry I am that such a wretched costome as play to that excesse should be countenanced in a court which ought to be an example of virtue to the rest of the kingdom'.(31)

Documentation survives detailing the festivities and pageantry of the grandest of the Christmas Revels. The most detailed account is of the Gray's Inn Christmas celebration in 1594; this was after a period of several years in which Christmas Revels had not been held because of the Plague. The Prince of Purpoole was chosen on December 12(th); he selected a court of mock royalty, which remained in place throughout the Christmas season. On the First Grand Night, `his Highness [the Prince of Purpoole] called for the Master of Revels, and willed him to pass the time in dancing: so his gentlemen-pensioners and attendants, very gallantly appointed, in thirty couples, danced the old measures, and then galliards, and other kinds of dances, revelling until it was very late.' The other evenings of the Christmas revels were filled with masques, additional dancing, feasts, and festivities. The funds for all this were raised from old members of Gray's Inn, and friends. The text for the events' ceremonies includes the names of 90 participants, designates parts for 40 others, and numerous extras. Whether by decree or choice, almost every member of the Inn participated.(32)

During the Christmas season of 1635, John Greene of Lincoln's Inn, described the festivities in his diary.(33) On October 31, All Saint's Eve: We had fire in the hall, noe gameing, noe revells. We had musicke and mirth and solace and the measures.' On November 1, All Saint's Day: the `solemn revels' were performed, `solace was song and measures danst.' On Saturday, November 7: `We had revells.' On Saturday, November 21, he again watched the revels. On Saturday, December 4, `after supper wee had noe mirth and solace, but Mr. Chamber and 4 couples danst the mesaure.'

Dance by Choice or Dance because of Tradition?

Several references to dance at the Inns of Court seem to imply that dance was quite popular and enjoyed by many. At the Middle Temple in Christmas 1628, `they began with the old masques [measures]; after that they danced the Brautes and then the master took his seat whilst the revellers flaunted through galliards, corantoes, French and country dances, till it grew very late'.(34) However, there are a few references which indicate that dance may have been mandatory, and that punishments were meted out against those who did not wish to participate.

`In Michaelmas term, 21 Henry VIII (i.e. 1530), order made that all the fellows of Gray's Inn, who should be present upon any Saturday at supper, betwixt the feasts of all Saints and the Purification of our Lady; or upon any other day, at dinner or supper, when there are revels, should not depart out of the hall until the said revels were ended, upon the penalty of 12 d'.(35)

In 1610, `the Under Barristers were by Decimation put out of Commons, for examples sake, because the whole Bar offended by not dancing on Candlemas day preceding, according to the antient Order of the Society, when the Judges were present: with this, that if the like fault were committed afterwards, they should be fined or disbarred'.(36)

Ward (1993) posits that the Old Measures were ritual dances that all members were required (or expected) to participate in, and the post revels were for those who enjoyed recreational dancing and were skilled at it.

Women at the Inns

The members of the Inns of Court were all male,(37) and Prest in 1972 asserted that `the formal `grave measures' [were] danced around the hall by men alone'.(38) He supports this statement with a quote from 1631, in which a Middle Temple bencher complains that `the yonger gentleman, ignorant of the auncient and usuall formes,' entertained ladies at the revels without compunction.(39) However, it appears that he has misinterpreted the sources, or made some incorrect assumptions, because multiple primary sources make clear that women did participate in the dancing at revels.(40)

At the Christmas revels of 1594, `The Prince' arose from his seat, and took that occasion of revelling; so he made choice of a lady to dance withal; and so likewise did the Lord Ambassador, the Pensioners and Courtiers attending the Prince'.(41) At revels in 1651, `many ladyes and persons of quality were present'.(42) In 1682, records from Gray's Inn note that they invited `the King and the Queen, the Duke and Dutchesse' who danced in the Hall and afterwards were entertained with a splendid banquet'.(43)

Within the text of the dances, several references clearly indicate that the dances were done with female partners. The earliest of these references is in Coranto Dyspayne in Rawlinson Poet. 108 (c. 1570), which states `honor everye man to hys woman'.(44) Douce 280 specifically notes women's presence in Black Alman, Robertoes Galliard, Bodkin Galliard, the French Levolto, and the Spanioletta. In Inner Temple vol. 27, Tenternayle, Black Almaine, and Argulius Measure mention women, and in RCM 1119, Tenternayle, and the Black Almayne include women. It seems reasonable to assume that in the other dances, where the gender of the partner is not specifically called out, women also participated. There are not any explicit references to gentlemen dancing with male partners.


Many kinds of dance are described in the Inns of Court manuscripts. Of primary interest here is the group of dances appears to have been known as the Old Measures(45). Four of the manuscripts (SRO, HA, RD, and RCM) only include these eight dances. RP includes 8 other dances, DO has an additional 13, and IT contains 2 additional dances.

The Old Measures

The seven sources for dance choreographies each begin with eight dances always in the prescribed order: The Quadran Pavan(46), Turkelone, The Earl of Essex Measure, Tinternell, The Old Alman, The Queens Alman, Madam Sosilia Alman, and The Black Alman(47).

This choreographic suite of eight dances is unusual, and interesting, for several reasons: the consistent order in which the dances always appear, the stability of the choreography over a period of 100 years,(48) and the fact that the order of the dances shows an increasing complexity. The first three dances are very simple, with only singles and doubles in various directions. Numbers 4-6 add double rounds, take hands, changing places, and casting off. Madam Sosilia, number seven, adds singles face to face (sets), change places, honor, and embrace. Black Alman is the longest and most complicated of the Measures, adding slides to the repertoire, and adding the concept of the gentleman and lady taking turns doing the sets.(49)

As said above, the dance sources are not formal treatises, but rather memory aids, apparently written by the authors to help them remember dances they had learned. Although it is possible that the dances were learned in informal social settings, this is less likely than the conclusion that they are classroom notes from formal dance instruction. This may well account for the consistency of the descriptions over such an extended period of time. This conclusion is strongly supported by the fact that the dances are always shown in this order of increasing complexity, as if they are a curriculum of dances, with skills that build on each other from dance to dance. Ward (1993) includes a detailed analysis of this question, with supporting information regarding professional dance teachers within London at this time.

Almans and Measures

Of the Old Measures, one is titled Pavan, one is called a Measure, four are called Almans, and two are not explicitly categorized. Several modern scholars(50) have examined the question of what the difference was between almans and measures during this period. Wilson states that a measure is any dance with a set step-sequence done to a set tune. Pugliese and Casazza state that `measure' is a general term referring to a class of dances (which includes almans), and support this assertion with the fact that RD, IT, and RCM all describe themselves as collections of measures. RD, after the description of the eight dances, ends with `Rowland Osborne taught me to dance these measures,' which implies that all eight dances, including the quadran pavan, were considered measures. However, `measures' do not apparently include all dance types, since both IT and RCM state `after all the measures be done hold hands and dance the Sinke a pace'.'

We would agree with the conclusions in Ward (1993). He states that `measure' began (pre-1560) as the name of a choreographic principle, based on the basse dance mesures, which determined how almans and pavans were constructed. Around 1570, the name measure displaced almans and pavans, and became recognized as a genre in its own right. The measure remained a characteristic English dance.

We have assumed that all the Old Measures were of a similar style, and that the alman step described below is appropriate for each of them. The only exception we might make to this is for the Quadran Pavan, which parallels the typical pavan figure of single-single-double. This could presumably be performed as a pavan in the style of Arbeau.

Other Dance Forms

The sources also include references to dances that are familiar from other contemporary sources from Europe. Widespread knowledge of these dances is indicated in several of the anecdotal records from the Inns of Court, as represented by several references which state that the measures were followed by `Galliards, Corantoes, the Branles, etc.'(51) Some specific information can be found in the six primary manuscripts, which include vague choreographies of a variety of dance styles, but little detail on how these dances were performed.

French Brawles appear in DO, where they are described as `Tacke handes & goe rounde to ye lefte hande, rounde againe to ye right hande, slip twoe togither, afterwards three to ye lefte hands, three more to ye right hande, all a .d. rounde, the same againe.'

Galliards appear in DO, IT, and RCM. They do not detail the steps beyond DO's description of the galliard as `One, two, three, four, & five'. However, they do indicate that the galliard was typically done after the Old Measures, and indicate that dancers moved about the room until returning to their original place to complete the dance.

The caranto dyspayne in RP and the Temple Coranto in DO include some information about the pattern of the choreography, but none about the coranto steps.

The lack of details about these dances may indicate that the authors of the notes believed these dances could only be learned by observation. DO says that the Spanish Pavan `must be learnd by practise & demonstration,' and Buggins writes in IT: `This is as plaine as I can Express it & with the Musick may be easily understood and practised.'

Country Dances

While country dances are not mentioned in the seven manuscripts discussed here, there are references to them in other sources from the Inns. Sources from 1628, 1662, and 1733 speak of ending the evening's dancing with `country dances'.(52) Descriptions of four country dances can be found in a lawyer's memorandum book from 1648.(53) Although the dances are not titled, one can be compared to Hunsdon House, found in Playford's 3(rd) Edition; one to Spring Garden, also in the 3rd edition; and one to Lulle me beyond thee, in Playford's 1(st) edition. Playford himself also dedicates his first edition to the `Gentlemen of the Innes of Court' and includes a variety of dances that make reference to the Inns (e.g. Graies Inn Maske 1651, The Temple 1701, and Lincoln's Inn 1703).

Ward (1993) concludes that the country dances is `nothing but a measure by another name'. He supports this statement by noting the similarity of vocabulary between the dances (merely enlarged to serve ensemble figures of round and longways sets), the similar organizing principle of measures, and the practice of matching each choreography with a unique melody.

Reconstructing the Dances

Character of the Dances

Some contemporary references indicate that these measures were intended to be `grave and solemn'.(54) Morley, in 1597 says `the Alman is a more heavy dance than this (fitly representing the nature of the people whose name it carrieth) so that no extraordinary motions are used in dancing of it'.(55) In 1600, Shakespeare equates the measure with a wedding: `mannerly modest, as a measure, full of state and ancientry.'(56) Justinian Pagitt notes the importance of taking `care not to daunce loftily, as to carry yr body sweetly & smoothly away with a gracefull comportment'.(57) In 1633, William Prynne described `grave, simple, chaste, and sober measures' much like to walking.'(58)

However, other sources imply a livelier dance. Florio's 1611 dictionary entry seems to compare the alman to a lively dance called Chiarintána: `a kinde of Caroll or song full of leapings like a Scotish gigge, some take it for the Almaine-leape'.(59) Also in 1611, in Cotgrave's French to English dictionary, the definition for pas implies that the alman step ended with a jump of some sort: `Trois pas, & un saut. The Almond, or Alman, leape'.(60)

The Inns of Court sources do little to clear up this ambiguity. RP, the earliest source, includes 6 dances with hopping steps, 2 of these dances later appear in the Old Measures of all the sources, but without the hops. IT and RCM, the two latest sources, frequently use the term `slide', as in `slide 4 doubles round about the hall' and `slide two singles and a Double round'. The other three sources do not mention the use of hops or slides. None give any indications about the tempo of the dances, or their overall character.

Arbeau's alman is a simple processional dance composed of steps moving forwards or backwards. Arbeau states that it is a `simple, rather sedate dance'. He describes it as being in three parts, with the third being danced `to a quicker, more lively duple time with the same steps but introducing little springs as in the coranto'.(61) Perhaps the almans danced at the Inns of Court had a similar degree of variation: some sections solemn, and others more lively.

Form within the Hall

There is no explicit discussion in these sources of the exact form the dances would take; however, it is clear that couples danced them, and that multiple couples participated simultaneously. `His gentlemen-pensioners and attendants' in thirty couples, danced the old measures'.(62) The text of the dances often refer to men and women (note the plurals) doing the dance, and include phrases such as `all on the Women syde stand still'.(63) This seems to imply lines of couples, with the gentlemen to one side of the hall, and their partners on the other side. This is supported by Arbeau's description of the alman, where he says: `You can dance it in company, because when you have joined hands with a damsel, several others may fall into line behind you, each with his partner'.(64) A stage direction in a play by Marston(65) states `to the conspirators, as they stand in ranke for measure.' They appear to have been danced by any number of couples who chose to join in. Dolmetsch's interpretation of New Alman requires three couples, but there is not any basis for this choice within the texts.

The sources do not give a clear indication of where the lady should stand in relation to her partner, or how they are to `take hands'. We have assumed that when partners take hands for processional doubles, the lady is on the gentleman's right, with her hand in his, and both hands are held comfortably low at waist level. Again, this is based on Arbeau's work. We perform these dances in long lines of couples, curving the line around to form a circle when we are limited by the size of the room.

Variations between Sources

Several of the dances are included in all of the manuscripts, and although most of the elements are the same between sources, the exact style of describing the dances varies a good deal. For example, the first figure of The Old Alman is described in RP as `ij singles a duble rownd bothe ways'. In HA, the same figure is described as `Tacke both hands & goe to singles & a double to your wright hand round in your places & as much to the left'.

In DO, a figure in Queens Alman is `a .d. forwarde & a .d. | backe .2. S. syde & a .d. round on your right hande.' In IT, it's written as `A Double forward and a double back with | the Right legg turne face to face and sett and | Turne with the right legg.'

Clearly, there are significant differences in the style and phrasing with which the dances are notated in the various sources,(66) and there are some detailed variations regarding the style of the double steps. However, in general, the dances are inherently the same dance throughout.

Reconstruction Process

For each of these dances, we created a concordance, placing all the texts describing a dance into tabular form for easy cross-comparison. In general, we searched for the common ground amongst the versions, and based the reconstruction on the agreement between the sources. The available recordings also influenced the process, as did common practice for the dances that are more widely known amongst modern dancers. See reconstruction notes for specific dances on the dance tabulations. The original text that appears on each page is the one that best represents our basis for the reconstruction.

A different way of handling the reconstruction would have been to choose one source as the definitive source of the dances, and only use the others as backup information for ambiguous issues. We have done this with other collections of sources, where there was a clear evolution to the dance over time. However, because the structure of these dances remained fairly similar over time, probably due to being `tradition', we felt it was reasonable to combine them all into a final reconstruction.

We typically omitted the stylistic variations in the oldest and most recent sources' Since the hops only appear in the RP, they were omitted, except for in Lorayne Alman and New Alman, which only appear in this source. The two latest sources frequently describe steps as `slides round about the hall' that were simply `doubles' in earlier sources. Since it's unclear whether this is an evolution over time or simply the style of the Inner Temple specifically, we have chosen not to use slides.

We attempted to examine these dances with a fresh eye, `forgetting' our prior knowledge of the reconstructions of other scholars. However, it is certain that there are some very basic core assumptions we followed which were derived from our knowledge of the work of Pugliese and Casazza. In a few cases, we were not able to develop a reconstruction which we were completely satisfied with, and in these cases, have followed their reconstructions directly.

Reconstructing the Steps

The Inns of Court sources do not include descriptions of the steps to be used. They call for doubles, doubles with hops, singles, set & turns, slides and honours, but never detail how these steps are to be executed. Some modern researchers have chosen to use steps from the Italian repertoire of this period, but we prefer to adopt the steps described in Arbeau's Orchesography. This work is contemporary to the earlier Inns of Court sources, and includes a section on a form of dance called almans.

Double and Single

Arbeau describes an alman step as composed of three steps (forward or backward) and one grève or pied en l'air sans saut, and sometimes one step and one grève, or pied en l'air.(67) A grève `results when the dancer transfers his weight from one foot to the other while the foot previously on the ground in raised in the air in front of him'.(68) A pied en l'air sans saut (without jump) is a smaller movement: `the foot is only raised slightly off the ground, and moved little, if at all, forward'.(69)

Thus, a single left, for example, is a step on the left foot, followed by a graceful raising of the right foot into the air. The right foot remains hanging above the ground, until it comes down to begin the next step. This interpretation is supported by Justinian Pagitt of the Middle Temple (c. 1628), `In some places hanging steps are very gracefull & whill give you much ease & time to breath'.(70)

A double with hop can be executed by ending with a grève, accentuated by a small hop(71). Doubles and singles may move forwards, backwards, or to the side.(72)

Set and Turn

This step is described in some cases as `2 singles side and turn a double round' and elsewhere (particularly in IT and RCM) as a set and turn. The sources do not all specify which direction the steps should take; however, there are a few clear indications. Madame Sosilia has steps referred to as `sets' in RD, described in IT and RCM as `two singles sides: the first with the left legg, the second with the right'. Also, in the first edition of Playford, set and turn is clearly defined as `a single to one hand, and a single to the other, and turne single'.(73) Clearly, this step can be done to the left or to the right: the Queens Alman says `sett and turne with the Left Legg' and sett and Turne with the right legg'(IT).


Black Alman includes a step with numerous names. RP states `advance forwards iij tymes', SRO states `traverse :4: on your left hande,', DO says `slide upwardes .4.,' IT and RCM1 say `slide four french slydes to the mans right hand', and RCM2 says `3 slides up.' Since this step is not defined, we have followed Ingrid Brainard's recommendation(74) of using a simple sideways skip. Partners hold both hands, as is clearly indicated in the descriptions. The direction the slides travel in is defined as the direction the man is moving (i.e. his right hand, up from his perspective, etc.); the woman mirrors her partner's movement.

Other Steps

There are no clear indications in the sources regarding how to execute `embrace' or `honour'. We interpret the `embrace' in a modern context, and details are left to the choice of the dancers; an embrace may include a kiss of the hand, a brief hug, or a kiss, depending on a dancer's degree of familiarity with his partner.

For the Honour step, we have used the Reverence as described in Arbeau.

Which Foot?

The sources do not often include directions as to which foot to begin steps on. We have assumed starting each dance with the left foot (as is common in other early dance sources, which do call out such details), and alternating from there. This is supported by the varying texts of Queens Alman.

DO specifies that the first turn is "rounde on your lefte hande" the second on the right. RD specifies that the second double forward is on the right, followed by a double back with the left, then a set and turn (no direction specified). The foot for the first double forward is not specified, but you could postulate that it was on the left, and that the second one was called as being on the right because these deviated from the basic assumption of starting on the left.

IT and RCM both say "a double forward and a double back with the left leg... set and turn with the left legg" then call out the same on the right. This makes clear the alternation between the first group on the left and the second group on the right. There is some ambiguity whether it means the "double forward and back" starts with the left leg (thus the double back would be on the right leg) or if the double forward is on an unspecified foot (the right) and the double back is with the left leg.


Of the seven primary sources, only one includes music, and even that one manuscript (RCM) gives music only for five dances (including Quadran Pavan, Earl of Essex, and the Black Alman). However, there are several contemporary sources that include settings for these dances, which can be adapted for use with the choreographies here. These include works of Pierre Phalese from 1570 and 1571; the Dallis Lute Book, c. 1583; Francis Willoughby's Lute Book, c. 1585; Holborne's Cittarn Schoole from 1597, and others. Both Wilson and Casazza have detailed information regarding appropriate music for each dance. No music for Madam Sosilia has been found in contemporary sources, therefore Pugliese and Casazza include modern music composed in a period style for this dance.(75)

The sources also do not indicate instrumentation, but Thomas Morley's work from the same period would indicate that a consort of violin, flute or recorder, bass viol, lute, cittern, and bandora would be appropriate. Other sources are for solo lute, cittern, or keyboard. Mullally (1994) concludes that period references are primarily to bowed strings for ordinary social dancing: bass viol, treble viols and violins, and kits. Alman music is typically in moderate imperfect time.(76)

Dancing was also sometimes performed to vocal accompaniment. In a letter from 1618, the author states `Some of the dances danct by the voices of boyes instead of musick which songe excellently well, and which gave more content then musicke.'(77)

In our tabulations, we include information about the timing of the steps based on `counts' of music, where a double takes 4 counts. We have chosen this, rather than the more common modern system of timing based on musical measures, where a double takes two measures. Our decision was made because most of the dancers we work with are not musically trained, and find it easy to intuitively grasp the idea that on each count of music, they move one of their feet.


Arbeau, Thoinot. Orchesography. Translated by Mary Stewart Evans. With introduction and notes by Julia Sutton. New York, Dover, 1967.

Bland, D.S. Three Revels from the Inns of Court. Avebury Publishing, 1984.

Cunningham, James P. Dancing in the Inns of Court. London, Jordan & Sons, 1965. Includes transcriptions of the six manuscripts, and additional information about dancing and Revels in the Inns of Court, with several primary source quotations.

Douthwaite, W.R. Gray's Inn: Notes illustrative of its History and Antiquities. 1876.

Finkelpearl, Philip J. John Marston of the Inner Temple: An Elizabethan Dramatist in his Social Setting. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1969.

Herbert, W. Antiquities of the Inns of Court and Chancery. London, Vernor and Hood, 1804.

Mullally, Robert. More about the Measures. Early Music, May 1994, pp 417-438.

Prest, Wilfrid R. The Inns of Court Under Elizabeth I and the Early Stuarts. Longman, 1972.

Pugliese, Patri J., and Joseph Casazza. Practise for Dauncinge: Some Almans and a Pavan, England 1570-1650, A Manual for Dance Instruction. Self-published, Cambridge MA, 1980. Eleven dances are reconstructed, with an original text for each, a modern tabulation, discussion of the reconstruction process, and music in four parts. Some historical background information as well.

Records of the Honorable Society of Lincoln's Inn. The Black Books, volume 1, from 1422-1586, volume 2, from 1586-1660. Lincoln's Inn, 1897.

Stokes, James and Ingrid Brainard. ``The olde measures' in the West Country: John Willoughby's manuscript.' Records of Early English Drama, volume 17, number 2, 1992. Page 1-10.

Ward, John M. `The English Measure.' In Early Music, February 1986.

Ward, John M. `Apropos `The olde Measures.'' Records of Early English Drama, volume 18, number 1, 1993. Page 2-21.

Williamson, J. Bruce. The History of the Temple, London. John Murray, 1924.

Wilson, D. R. `Dancing in the Inns of Court.' In Historical Dance, vol. 2, No.5, 1986-87. A new transcription of the six manuscripts, which corrects some inaccuracies found in Cunningham.


Jouissance. Dances from the Inns of Court: London 1570-1675. This CD recording was developed in association with the research paper and dance tabulations contained herein. It contains music for all eight dances of the Old Measures, Lorayne Alman, and the New Alman. There are four repeats of each dance, and we endeavored to find a comfortable tempo for each and nice sound overall.

Musick for Dauncinge. Companion to Practise for Dauncinge. Out of print. The music is very useable, fairly pretty, and the major source for these dances; including 11 dances from the mss.

Jaravellir Music Guild. Rose and Nefr Dance Tape. This tape and accompanying book can be ordered through an ad in Tournaments Illuminated. Includes Black Alman and Queen's Alman.

The Tape of Dance. Available for $8.00 from Dani Zweig and Monica Cellio, 7634 Westmoreland Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15218. Includes Black Alman.

Nonsuch. Dances from the Courts of Europe. Eglinton Productions, 1986. Cassettes tapes are £4 each. Volume 4: Elizabethan Dances, 16(th) c. Part II. Includes: Black, Queen's, Cecilia.

The Broadside Band. Revels for 1588. Dolmetsch Historical Dance Society, 1988. Available from DHDS for £8 plus £1.25 shipping. Includes Spanioletta, Turcke Loene, Black Almaine, The Longe Pavian, and The Ladye Laytons' Measure.


1 There is one additional source that should be mentioned, although we do not discuss it in detail here. The Lincoln's Inn Moot Book, Cambridge University Library MS Ll.1.11, c. 1485-1547 contains this description: `The howe of the howse. [a 17th century hand adds the note: "or the old meas[ure]"] Fyrst half turn and undo yt agayn, flower, iij forth, the fyrst man and the second folowe, flower and roll into other placys, hole turn, flower, and then roll into other placys.' (Transcribed in J.H. Baker, The Legal Profession and the Common Law, 1986.) This dance has some similarities to those found in MS Derbyshire Record Office, D77 box 38, pp. 51-79. (transcribed in Fallows, David, `The Gresley Dance Collection, c. 1500.' Research Chronicle, 29, 1996. Pages 1-20.)

2 A 19(th) c. editor of Shakespeare, John Payne Collier, claimed to have a manuscript of choreographies which gave slightly different readings than any of these sources. It is not known whether Collier actually had such a MS, as he was known for other literary forgeries, and this MS is not referenced anywhere else. See J.P. Collier's `Illustration of a passage in Twelfth Night: the passing measure pavin,' The Shakespeare Society's Papers, i., 1984. Choreographies are summarized in Mullally.

3 Background information on the sources is compiled from Wilson, Cunningham, Stokes, and our own examination of the manuscripts.

4 Transcription in Cunningham, and in Wilson. Facsimile of folio 10r appears in Mabel Dolmetsch, Dances of England and France, 1450-1600, 1949, page 144. Facsimile of folio 10v and 11r appears in Historical Dance, vol. 3, no. 2, 1993, page 28.

5 See the concordance for Black Alman. The new cycillia allemaine may be a predecessor of Black Alman as the eighth dance of the Old Measures.

6 Also includes lorayne Allemayne, Brownswycke, The newe allemayne, The longe pavian, Cycyllya pavyan, Quanto Dyspagne, and the Nine Muses. For discussion of Quanto Dyspagne, see Ward's `Apropos `The olde Measures'' and the reconstruction by Ann Kent, `Caranto Dyspayne' in Historical Dance, vol. 3, no. 2, 1993. For a reconstruction of the Nine Muses, see J.M. Ward, `Newly Devis'd Measures for Jacobean Masques', Acta Musicologica, 60, 1988, pp. 111-42.

7 A full account of the contents of this manuscript appears in The British Bibliographer, volume 2, page 609. Cunningham and other authors believe that this book belonged to Eliner Gunter (daughter of Geoffrey Gunter of Milton, Wilts), whose name appears on the cover. Ward (1993) argues that the inclusion of the medical index indicates that it may have belonged to her brother Edward, since this is `information Eliner is not likely to have made notes of.' However, our examination of the text indicates that the medical index is written in a different (possibly later) hand than the dances and other contents, indicating multiple authors.

8 Transcribed in Stokes and Brainard.

9 See Stokes and Brainard for a discussion of Willoughby's connections to the Inns of Court.

10 Transcription in Cunningham, and in Wilson.

11 Transcription in Cunningham, and in Wilson.

12 The thirteen additional dances are The cinque pace, Robertoes Galliard, `The Bodkin Galliard./Marke williams his Galliard. Passemeasurs Galliard', The Temple Coranta, The Spanish Pavin (cf. Arbeau), The French Levolto (cf. Arbeau), The Ladye Laytons Measures, The Spanioletta (which has little connection with Caroso or Negri's versions of this dance), The Measures of Heaven & Earth/Ma peur, Basilina (mentioned in a list of 16(th) c. dances - Sloane 3501, and in Nashe in 1596), Lesters Galliard (only the title appears, no description), The French Galliarde, and The French Brawles (cf. Arbeau).

13 Transcription in Cunningham, and in Wilson. Facsimile in Historical Dance, vol. 2, no. 3, 1983.

14 See Priska Frank, `A Coranto with a Diagram', Historical Dance, vol. 2, no. 3, 1983. And D.R. Wilson, `A Coranto with a Diagram: A Note on the Text', Historical Dance, vol. 2, no. 4, 1984/5. The first dance is also transcribed in Ward (1993)

15 Transcription in Cunningham, and in Wilson.

16 Ward also references two additional copies of this source. Inner Temple MS Misc. 28, f 11 was written byJoshua Blew, butler of the Inner Temple, c. 1700. Inner Temple MS Misc 29, ff 16-19, was written by Blew c. 1713. In each copy, he has inserted Argulius Measure between Tenternayle and the old Almayne.

17 Text is transcribed in Cunningham, and in Wilson. Cunningham includes a facsimile of the musical notations.

18 It is possible that folio 2r was written at an earlier date, then folded up. Then, at a later date, Butler Buggins wrote folio 2v on the outside of this folded sheet. We have not been able to verify this hypothesis, but the different hands and the method of folding of the original document suggest this possibility.

19 Finkelpearl, 4

20 Gerard Legh, Accedance of Armorie, 1562. Bland, 27.

21 Finkelpearl, 5

22 Finkelpearl, 10

23 Finkelpearl, 11

24 Sir John Fortescue, in Williamson, 98.

25 Gesta Grayorum, in D.S. Bland, Three Revels from the Inns of Court, p 82.

26 Brerewood manuscript, written c. 1635/8 in Prest, 113

27 Dugdale's Origines Judicales, Cunningham, 4

28 Prest, 154

29 Prest, 154. Ward (1993), page 7.

30 Quoted in Prest, 216

31 Evelyn, in Douthwaite

32 Finkelpearl, 38

33 Brerewood MS 82. Quoted in Ward (1993), page 18.

34 Bulstrode Whitelocke, in Cunningham, 8

35 Herbert, 1804

36 The Black Books of Lincoln's Inn, volume 2, page 131. This passage is quoted in Dugdale, Origines Judicales, in Finkelpearl, 246.

37 Women were present as servants. In 1581, it was ordered `that no laundress, nor women called victuallers hereafter shall come into any gentleman's chamber unless they were full 40 years of age' upon penalty, for the first offense of him that should admit of any such, to be put out of commons, for the second to be expelled.' Quoted in Douthwaite, 33 and Herbert 337.

38 Prest, 113

39 Prest, 113. It is possible that the concern was about younger gentlemen dancing with ladies when the older gentlemen of the bench were absent. The order states `that noe gentleman of the house presume to' bring downe any Ladye or Gentlewoman to see their ordinary revells, or at anye such time to daunce with any such in the hall in the absence of the Bench.' Williamson, 356.

40 Additional arguments for this observation appear in Cunningham, 17-19

41 Gesta Grayorum, in Cunningham, 5

42 British Museum E.791.20 in Cunningham, 10

43 Douthwaite

44 Wilson, 4

45 After 1675, Argulius Measure appears to have been part of the standard Old Measure repertoire, at least in the Inner Temple.

46 Whenever a dance is referred to in general, we have standardized the spelling of the name, as seen here. Whenever a reference is to a specific version of the dance in a specific source, we have used the spelling found in that source. Optional systems we considered using to standardize names were: using the most common denominator (a combination of the most common elements from all six sources), all the names from a single manuscript (either the oldest or the most recent would have been logical), or the one from the original text which was chosen to appear with the tabulation of each dance. In the end, we chose to use modernized versions that were the simplest for a modern reader to read and to spell.

47 Black Alman does not appear, by that title, in Rawlinson Poet. 108. This source also has other dances interspersed with the Old Measures.

48 There is very similar wording throughout, which indicates consistent choreography; however, the wording is varied enough amongst the manuscripts to make it unlikely that all were copied from a single source.

49 It is interesting that when other dances are inserted into the Old Measure repertoire (in Rawlinson Poet. 108, and with the late addition of Argulius into the suite), they maintain this system of increasing difficulty.

50 See especially Ward, John M. `The English Measure.' In Early Music, February 1986, pp. 15-21. Also Ward (1993) and Mullally.

51 From a masque written by William Browne, c. 1613, quoted in Cunningham, 6

52 Cunningham, various references

53 British Museum's Lansdowne 1115; a transcription of the dances appears in Cunningham, 42-43. The dances appear amidst copies of `moots, boltings, bench table cases' and other legal matters.

54 Sir John Davies, Orchestra, or a Poem of Dancing, 1594. Quoted in several modern sources.

55 Thomas Morley, A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke, R. Alec Harman, ed.

56 Much Ado About Nothing, II, i. Wooing is equated to a hot and hasty Scotch jig, wedding to the measure, and repenting to the cinquepace.

57 British Museum Harleian 1026, c. 1628, in Cunningham, 8

58 William Prynne, Histrio-Mastix: The Player's Scourge. Quoted in Ward, 1993.

59 John Florio's Queen Anna's New World of Words, printed in London in 1611. Facsimile edition by Scolar Press Limited, 1968.

60 Cotgrave, R. 1611 A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues.

61 Evans, 125.

62 Gesta Grayorum, 1594, Cunningham 4

63 IT - Black Alman.

64 Evans, 125

65 Antonio's Revenge, V.v.

66 See concordances for more examples.

67 Evans, 125

68 Evans, 87

69 Evans, 86

70 British Museum Harleian 1026, in Cunningham, 8

71 Only RP calls for hopped steps. This may be an earlier stage in the development of measures, or may be a regional variant.

72 Rawlinson Poet. 108 includes a step called `reprynce back.' This is equivalent to `double back' in the other sources. There may possibly be a connection between the term reprynce and the reprise of the basses dances.

73 In Playford, John. The English Dancing Master. Modern edition edited by Hugh Mellor. London, Dance Books Ltd., 1984.

74 Pugliese and Casazza, 32.

75 In Holborne's cittern collection, the music titled `The old Allmain' is similar to music that is elsewhere titled Queen's Alman. In DO, the author seems to have confused Tinternell and Turkelone, and Black Alman and Sosilia Alman. See also notes on Black Alman concordance about the tune of Black Alman being based upon Sosilia. These may be coincidental errors, or they may indicate an intentional pairing of the dance tunes.

76 Rooley, Dance and Dance Music of the 16(th) century. Early Music, April 1974.

77 Letter from Sir Gerard Herbert to Dudley Carleton, calendared in State Papers Domestic, James I, 1611-1618, 1858. Quoted in D.S. Bland, Three Revels from the Inns of Court.

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Gregory Blount of Isenfir (Greg Lindahl)