Book Review: Arena's "Rules for Dancing"

by Gwynedd Morgant O Cantref Mawr

[ This article appeared in volume 2 of the Letter of Dance. ]

I recently got my hands on a copy of Antonius Arena's "Rules for Dancing" . This is a 1529 French dance treatise from Avignon. It touches on the basic steps of the time (giving alternatives to the boring reprise and "bransle step" done in bassedances in the SCA). At the end, he gives cheat notes for 19 bassedances. Tossed in amongst this are instructions for deportment. This is the best part: I did a reading at a local dance event for the beginners' class, and several of the dancers asked for a copy of the treatise. Seems that beginning dancers, like Arena, are concerned about controlling one's gastro-intestinal system while dancing.

I would recommend these rules for dancing over the more popular Arbeau and Caroso as a) they are not interspersed between music and dances and are therefore easier to retain in memory, and b) deal more with the social interaction than with the act of sitting down in a hoop skirt, etc., and will therefore be of more interest to the average SCA dancer.

This particular translation (by John Guthrie and Marino Zorzi) is accompanied by the original Latin [actually, I believe that it's Catalan -- Justin] text. While I do not pretend to be completely literate in Latin, I have not seen major errors in the translation. The text is clear and sufficiently modern that the average person will have no difficulty in reading it. Footnotes elaborate on any subjects not common to the modern dancer.

Webbed by Gregory Blount of Isenfir (Greg Lindahl) (