Pre-15th Century Dances

The Renaissance dances that we have choreographies for are only traceable back to about 1450 or after.

Before that date, there is plenty of evidence for dancing, and some theories about what the dances that were done in various periods were. There is also a good amount of dance music available from the medieval period.

This section contains some attempts to recreated dances that may have existed before 1450, based on what little evidence we have.


Dance styles before 1450

Some of the dances that were known to exist in period are:

  • Saltarello (Italy, Hungary)

  • Estampie (France, Italy)

  • Ductia (France, England, Italy)

  • Piva (Italy)

  • Farandole

  • Chanson

  • Ronde

The popularity of these dances varied widely from place to place and from time period to time period.


Steps and choreographies

Farandoles, Chansons, Ductia, and Estampies are amongst the earliest dances for which there is music available, but very little is known about the steps and there are no surviving choreographies. For some of the other dances (Saltarellos, Pive) we have a fair idea about what the steps were but still no choreographies.


Other evidence

It is possible to take a guess at some of the dance styles based on the available music and other evidence available (eg: woodcuts or paintings of the period, or descriptions of dance in literature or other records). Using these guesses, various people have constructed dances of pre-15th century style. It must be stressed, though, that any dance constructed from the evidence available is based on guesswork at best, however well documented the music happens to be. Some of the guesswork I have seen is pure baloney, some of it seems fairly reasonable from what we have been able to understand.



There is one good source for music and discussion of these dances, which is Timothy McGee's Medieval Instrumental Dances, published by Indiana University Press.