Il Canario: The Canary of Cesare Negri with its Variations

[ This article appeared in volume 3 of the Letter of Dance. ]

reconstructed by Delbert von Straßburg

Introduction

Il Canario is a dance form of its own. It is one of the most complex dances in Cesare Negri's book Le Gratie d'Amore. While it is basically similar to some of Negri's more complex balli, it has a number of steps and step sequences that are unique to the Canary dance form.

There are several other sources for this dance. Marco Fabritio Caroso had a version in his book Il Ballarino, and a different one in Nobilta di Dame. Livio Lupi di Caravaggio published a book titled Libro di gagliarda, tordiglione, passo e mezzo, cannarii e passeggi... in 1607, which contained a large section on galliards and tourdions, many of the steps of which were taken from the canary dances, as well as a section on the canaries itself.

The dance is thought to have originated from Spain, where it was purportedly derived from a dance done by the natives of the Canary Islands. The Spanish explorers thought that the native dance looked like a canary hopping on its perch, hence they named the dance the "Canary", and subsequently named the islands the "Canary Islands". It is more likely, however, that the dance as shown here was a highly stylised version of what the original explorers had seen, and probably bears very little resemblance to what the Atlantic Islanders actually danced.

This is a reconstruction of the dance by Delbert von Straßburg, from Negri's Le Gratie d'Amore. It is a dance for two people, a man and a woman, although it can be done by couples, as many as will.

Music

For the music, I am using a recording by The Broadside Band, from their "Il Ballarino" CD. The music is a continual repetition of 17 bars, played 42 times through. It is an interesting piece of music, being highly syncopated, complementing the steps in the dance. The Broadside Band provides enough variations in its repetitions of the dance to make the music highly listenable.

The melody line of the music is listed below, from Negri. This is not the same interpretation as Kendall used in her translation, but the last two bars are ambiguously notated by Negri. This is the solution used by The Broadside Band in their rendition of the music, with the exception that they have used a change that Praetorius made in bar 10 of the music below.

[music]

A possible form for repetitions of this tune which would coincide with the reconstruction of the dance is as follows:

repeats

description

dance steps

3

all instruments

opening passegio

2

alto, tenor recorders

man's first passegio

1

recorders & lute

turning passegio

2

tenor & soprano recorders

lady's first passegio

1

recorders & lute

turning passegio

4

lute solo

man's 2nd passegio

1

recorders & lute

turning passegio

4

soprano recorder solo

lady's 2nd passegio

2

all instruments

passage together

4

all recorders

man's 3rd passegio

1

recorders & lute

turning passegio

4

all recorders

lady's 3rd passegio

1

recorders & lute

turning passegio

4

2 recorders & drum

man's 4th passegio

1

recorders & lute

turning passegio

4

2 recorders & drum

lady's 4th passegio

1

recorders & lute

turning passegio

2

all instruments

closing passegio

Original Source

The following is the first section from the Canary of the dance master Cesare Negri, as set out in his book Le Gratie d'Amore, published in 1602. The text was extracted from the facsimile and translation by G Y Kendall, Stanford University, 1985 (UMI publication 8602570).

I've made some changes to Kendall's translation, as noted. Copyright reasons prevent me from reproducing the entire facsimile and translation, but some idea of the problems involved in working from such a book can be obtained by reading this section.

IL CANARIO DEL L'AVTORRE CON le sue mutanze

The Canary of the author with its variations

In gratia della Illustriuss Signore la Signora a Marche Sa Guilia de Vecchi, e Cusana.

Dedicated to the most illustrious signora, the Signora Marquise Guila of Vecchi and Cusona

Nel principiare questo balle, il caualiero picliara la mano della dame, come si vede nella figura, & insieme faranno la Rv graue don due Cn alla sinistra, & alla destra. poi faranno dodeci fioretti .SP. schisciati quattro, andando innanzi fino a mezo il ballo, pigliaranno poi'l braccio destro, & se ne faranno altri quattro attorno alla destra con vna meza Rv si lascieranno, i faranno gl'altri quartro .SP. intorno alla sinistra. il caualiero va a pie del ballo, e la dama ritorna a capo, voltandnosi a facci, e fanno insieme la Rv la dama si ferma, il caualiero fa quarttro .SP. in saltino inotorno alla sinistra, & due .P. presti andando innanzi, e la cadenza a pie pari. questo e'l passeggio che farranno insieme amendue e poi si farancore innanzi, che si facciano le mintanze auuertendo che come si faranno questi .P. si fa'l medesimo passeggio, come di sopra, voltandosi del far le mutanze, e l'altre attione sempre all'incontro a dritte linea.

At the beginning of this dance, the man will take the hand of the woman, as it is seen in the figure, and together they will do the riverenza grave with two continenze to the left, and to the right. Then they will do twelve fioretti spezzati schisciati(1) four, going forward up to the middle of the dance floor. They will then take the right arm, and will do another four of them around to the right with one half riverenza. They will let go, and will do the other four fioretti spezzati going around to the left. The man goes to the front of the dance floor and the woman returns to the head, turning themselves to face, and they do together the riverenza. The woman stands still, the man does four fioretti spezatti in saltino going around to the left, and two fast passi(2) going forward, and the cadenza a pie pari. This is the passage that they will both do together and then will do again, before they do the variations, being aware that as they do this passage, as above, they will turn themselves in order to do the variations, and the other actions, so that they face each other in a straight line.(3)

Steps

The following steps are used in the dance. Many of these steps are unique to the canaries, or to canary sequences in other dances. In most of these steps I have given just the left foot variation of the step the right foot variation is the same with the feet reversed.

BsL: Beaten sequences; seguito battuto; seguito battuto al canario

On the first count, with the weight on the right foot, slide the left heel forward, finishing slightly above the ground. Then brush the foot back, once again audibly scuffing the ground. Finish with a stamp of the left foot, coming to rest beside the heel of the right.

CbL: Cambiamento Left

This is just a shift of weight onto the left foot. It usually takes less than a beat.

CdL: Cadenza

Kick the left foot forwards, a little in advance of the beat, and spring into the air. While in the air, bring the left foot back in line with the right foot. Land on both feet, feet together. This is usually done at the end of a sequence of galliard type steps (eg: sottopiedi), and the time taken to do it is highly variable, but usually in the order of half of a beat.

CnL/R: Continenza Grave Left then Right

To do these as a pair of steps, the dancers take a single step to the left, join feet together, and then step back towards the right, joining feet together again. The steps are done with a sort of rising and falling movement, sort of like stepping over a brick. Each step takes 4 beats.

Cp: Capriole

A capriole is a jump into the air, crossing the feet backwards and forwards. The feet can be crossed 2, 3, 4, or 5 times, depending on the height of the jump, and the skill of the dancer. Caprioles are used regularly in galliards, where the choreography for a galliard sequence usually identifies the number of crosses required. In the canaries, the number of crosses is performed as best fits the required closing position of the feet.

FL: Fioretto

This step is done in very much the same way as a trabuchetto, but much more ornamented. It starts by kicking the left foot forward and around to the left, and leaping onto the toes of the foot as it is placed a short distance away to the left. Then, bring the right foot across and land lightly on the flats of both feet. This takes one beat.

PsL: Passo

This step takes one beat. Step forward with the left foot. The right foot should not be moved. This is similar to a puntata, although without closing the feet.

PsGL: Passo Grave

This is the same as a Passo, except that it takes two beats, or occasionally four beats. These passi are usually done forward, but where the text indicates they can be done backwards, or occasionally even sideways.

RcL: Recacciate Left

Kick the left foot forward, then backward, then forward under the right foot, kicking the right foot ahead on the last beat. This is like a campanella with a sottopiede at the end, and takes one beat.

RmL: Reprise Minuta

A reprise minuta can be done in either four or two motions -- done in four beats, two beats or one beat. It is a small shuffling motion to the left, done by alternatively twisting on the toes and heels, so that in one movement the toes are brought together and the heels are separated, and in the second movement the heels are brought together and the toes are separated. In the Canaries, I normally do this step with a slight hopping or lifting motion -- this is not strictly part of Negri's step description, but it fits in character with the rest of the dance, and makes the step easier to execute in the short space of time allowed for it in this dance.

RvL: Riverenza (Grave) Left

Slide the left foot forward, then bring the left leg around behind the right and, placing the weight on the left foot, bend the left knee and sink lightly, keeping the head forward and upright, and the body erect. This takes 8 beats.

RvML: Meza Riverenza Left

The Meza Riverenza is done as a short bend of the knees, and rise again. This takes one beat. It is sort of like the last half of a riverenza grave, except done very quickly.

Sc: Seguito Scorsi

This is a small forward shuffling motion done to a specified number of counts and normally to execute some pattern. 8 small forward steps should be taken in 4 beats.

SsL: Sliding step; seguito spezzato schisciato al canario; seguito spezzato al canario; fioretto spezzato schisciato; canary step

Begin the step by sliding the left foot forward such that the heel comes to rest beside the toes of the right. Move then the right foot along the ground until it ends level with the instep of the other. Complete the movement by again projecting the left foot out and further along the ground.

SpL: Sottopiedi

This step is done very quickly - In La Nizzarda and Lo Spagnoletto, 3 of these are done in one bar (the same time it takes to do a SL). Spring to the left onto the toes of the left foot, and then place the right foot behind and slightly under the heel of the left foot. Don't lose your balance here, or you'll step on your own toes.

TbL: Trabuchetto

This step takes one beat. Leap slightly to the left, landing on the left foot, and closing with the right foot so that the right heel is closest to the left instep. This should be done lightly, on the toes of the feet, with legs well extended.

Reconstruction

I have reconstructed the dance, commencing with the above section, as follows.

The dance commences with the couple standing facing toward the front of the hall, with the man on the left and the lady on the right. At the end of the opening passegio, they will be facing each other, across the hall, about 2 or 3 paces apart.

The diagrams show the floor pattern for the passegios of the dance. The light circles show the starting position after each section, and the dark circles show the ending position.

Figure 1: Opening Passegio

The Passegio Together

The diagram shows the path the man takes in this passegio only. The lady takes an identical but opposite path.

[figure]

Repeat 1
Bar Steps Description.
1-8 RvL Riverenza grave.
9-16 CnL/R Two continenze, left then right.
17 pause

Repeat 2

1-8 2x SsL SsR Four fioretti spezzati schisciati (sliding canary steps), advancing, commencing on the left foot.
9-16 2x SsL SsR Taking right arms, turn around each other to the left, leading with the left shoulder.
17 RvML Quickly make a meza riverenza.

Repeat 3

1-8 2x SsL SsR Change hands and turn around each other, leading with the left shoulder. End up facing each other. Finish with a quick reverenza.

Turning Passegio

9-16

2x SsL SsR The man circles to the left in place. Finish each canary step "in saltino" with a small hop.

Conclusion

17 PsL PsR The man does two passi presti, ending with the feet together, facing towards the lady.

At the end of this passegio the couple will be facing each other across the width of the dance floor. The rest of the dance is performed from this position. During each of the following passegios, the active dancer advances towards his or her partner with an "advancing" sequence of steps, and then retreats away again with a ritarata", or retreating sequence.

Figure 2: Man's First Variation

[figure]

Advancing Passegio [Repeat 4]

1-2 Stamp L R L R Moving forwards towards the lady.
3 Stamp L L Precede the first stamp by turning the left shoulder forwards, and raising the left foot up to about knee level.
4 Stamp L L Repeat.
5 - 6 BsL BsL Two seguiti battuti.
7 RmL Reprise minuta to the left (2 movements only).
8 BsL Seguito battuto left.
9 - 16 repeat Repeat 1 - 8 above, on the right foot.
17 pause

Ritarata [Repeat 5]

1 - 4 Stamp L, RmL With the right shoulder still facing forward, stamp the left foot, and retreat away from the lady with a double reprise minuta (4 movements).
5 - 8 Stamp R, RmR As above, but retreating with the right foot.
9 - 10 Stamp L R Take two stamping steps backward, first by stamping the left foot behind the right foot, then the right foot behind the left.
11 - 12 Stamp L R L As 9 - 10, but quicker with 3 stamps.
13 - 16 repeat Repeat 9 - 12 above, starting with the right foot.
17 pause

Turning Passegio [Repeat 6]

1 - 8 2x SsL SsR The man does the turning passegio, as above.

Figure 3: Lady's First Variation

[figure]

Turning Passegio

9 - 16 2x SsL SsR The lady does the turning passegio.
17 pause

Advancing Passegio [Repeat 7]

1 - 8 4x BsL BsR The lady does 8 beaten sequences, advancing slightly on each one.
9 - 12 RmL RmR Two reprise minute, left then right.
13 - 16 ScL ScR Two scorsi sequences. These are done quickly, running through the steps, around in a circle, ending up back in place.
17 pause

Ritarata [Repeat 8]

1 - 16 2x PsGL PsGR 4 Passi Gravi backwards, stamping the foot after each one (the stamping motion is the foot-down part of the passo).
17 pause Close feet

Turning Passegio [Repeat 9]

1 - 8 2x SsL SsR The lady does the turning passegio, as above.

Figure 4: Man's Second Variation

Turning Passegio

9 - 16 2x SsL SsR The man does the turning passegio.
17 pause

Advancing Passegio

Repeat 10

1 Tap L L L Tap with left foot: heel, toe, heel.
2 Tap L L Tap with left foot: toe, heel.
3 BkL Kick backward with the left foot.
4 CdL Left Cadenza.
5 - 6 PsL PsR Two passi forward, left then right.
7 - 8 BsL BsR Two seguiti battuti, left then right.
9 - 12 RmR RmL Two reprise minuti, right then left.
13 - 14 RcL RcR 2 recacciate, left then right.
15 - 16 BsL BsR Two seguiti battuti.
17 pause

Repeat 11

1 - 17 repeat Repeat #10, starting with the right foot.

Ritarata

Repeat 12

1 - 2 Tap L L L Tap with left foot: heel, toe, heel.
3 - 4 TbL TbR Trabuchetti, left then right.
5 - 6 Jump L Jump backward onto both feet.
7 - 8 PsGL Step backward onto the left foot.
9 - 16 repeat Repeat 1 - 8 above, leading with the right foot.
17 pause

Repeat 13

1 - 17 repeat Repeat #12.

Turning Passegio [Repeat 14]

1 - 8 2x SsL SsR The man does the turning passegio.

Figure 5: Lady's Second Variation

[figure]

Turning Passegio

9 - 16 2x SsL SsR The lady does the turning passegio.
17 pause

Advancing Passegio

Repeat 15

1 - 3 TbL TbR TbL The lady turns her left shoulder to the man, then does three trabuchetti.
4 close close feet and pause.
5 - 8 RmR RmL Reprise Minuta right, moving away from the man, then left moving towards the man.
9 - 16 repeat Repeat the above, starting by turning the right shoulder toward the man, and leading with the right foot.
17 pause

Repeat 16

1 - 17 repeat repeat the above

Ritarata

[figure]

Repeat 17

1 - 8 4x ScL Four seguiti scorsi, travelling in a circle to the left.
9 - 16 4x ScR Four seguiti scorsi, travelling in a circle to the right.
17 pause

Repeat 18

1 - 16 2x RmL RmR Four reprise minutae, first with the left foot while facing the right shoulder towards the man, thus moving away from him. Then turn the left shoulder to the man and do the second one with the right foot, moving away from him again; then again with the left, and again with the right.
17 pause

The passage does not end with the turning passegio, because that is the first part of the next passage, which is the passage together.

Figure 6: The Passage Together

The couple have now completed their first two variations to each other. In this passegio, the man and the lady exchange places.

[figure]

Turning Passegio [Repeat 19]

1 - 8 2x SsL SsR Both do the turning passegio.

Advancing Passegio

9 - 16 2x SsL SsR Both do four sliding steps forward to meet, touching right hands.
17 RvML Meza riverenza, touching right hands.

Repeat 20

1 - 8 2x SsL SsR Both do four sliding steps into each others' original places.

Turning Passegio

9 - 16 2x SsL SsR The man does the turning passegio.
17 RvML Both do a meza riverenza.

Now having completed the exchange of positions, the dancers each do the final two variations from each others' former positions.

Figure 7: Man's Third Variation

Advancing Passegio

[Repeat 21]

1 - 3 BsL BsR BsR Three beaten sequences, left, right, right.
4 Stamp L L Stamp left forward, then backward.
5 Stamp L R Stamp left forward, then (stepping forward), stamp right forward.
6 Stamp R R Stamp right backward then forward.
7 Stamp L L Stamp left backward then forward
8 Stamp L CdL Stamp left backward then Cadenza left
9 - 10 PsGR Passo Grave sideways to the right.
11 - 12 Hop Hop Two hops on the right foot, ending with feet side by side.
13 Hop PsR Hop forward onto the left foot, then step onto the right foot.
14 BsL Beaten sequence on the left foot.
15 - 16 Hop PsR BsL repeat 13 - 14.
17 pause

Repeat 22

1 - 17 repeat Repeat #21 above, leading with the right foot.

Ritirata

[Repeat 23]

1 - 4 PsGL PsGR Two slow steps backward, left then right, stamping the foot after each step.
5 - 8 Hop R Hop L Change to the right foot and hop on it, then close feet, change to the left foot, and hop, moving backward with each hop.
9 - 12 RmL Reprisa Minuta, left.
13 - 14 BsR BsL Two beaten sequences, right then left.
15 - 16 CdL Left Cadenza
17 Pause

Repeat 24

1 - 16 repeat Repeat 1 - 16 above, leading with the right foot.
17 RvML Meza Riverenza.

Turning Passegio [Repeat 25]

1 - 8 2x SsL SsR The man does the turning passegio.

Figure 8: Lady's Third Variation

[figure]

Turning Passegio

9 - 16 2x SsL SsR The lady does the turning passegio.
17 pause

Advancing Passegio [Repeat 26]

1 - 4 RmL Turn L shoulder to partner, reprise minuta (4 movements).
5 - 7 TbL TbR TbL Three trabuchetti, still with the left shoulder turned to the partner.
8 pause
9 - 16 repeat Repeat 1 - 8 above, starting with the right foot.
17 pause

Ritirata [Repeat 27]

1 - 16 4x PsGL PsGR 8 passi gravi, going around to the left in an S curve, returning to the place that the lady started the variation.
17 pause

Advancing Passegio [Repeat 28]

1 - 17 repeat Repeat #26, above, commencing on the right foot and finishing on the left foot.

Ritirata

Repeat 29

1 - 16 PsGR PsGL x2 8 passi gravi, going around to the right in an S curve, returning to the place that the lady started the variation.
17 pause

Repeat 30

1 - 4 RmL RmR Two reprise minutae, the first to the left, facing the R shoulder to the man, retreating, then with the R facing the left shoulder to the man, retreating again.
5 - 8 RvL Both do a Riverenza.

Figure 9: Man's Fourth Variation

Turning Passegio

9 - 16 SsL SsR x2 The man does the turning passegio.
17 pause

Advancing Passegio [Repeat 31]

1 FL(R) Fioretti "contratempo", that is a Fioretti done with the left foot moving to the right.
2 Stamp R R Two beats with the right foot, one forwards and one to the side.
3 Stamp R, SpR Stamp backward with the right foot, then do a sottopiede to the right.
4 CpL Capriole spezatta to the left.
5 - 8 RmR RmL Two reprise minutae
9 PsL stamping Step onto the left foot stamping it 3 times.
10 PsR stamping as above, with the right foot.
11 PsL stamping as above, with the left foot.
12 CdL Left cadenza
13 PsR Passo backward, stamping the right foot once.
14 PsL as above, with the left foot.
15 - 16 PsR L R Three faster steps backward R, L, R.
17 CdR Right cadenza

Ritirata

Repeat 32

1 - 3 CbR CbL CbR Three cambiamente R, L, R.
4 CdL Left Cadenza
5 Stamp R R Raise the right foot high, then stamp it level with the left foot, then behind it (with the middle of the right foot level with the left heel).
6 Stamp R R repeat the above.
7 - 8 SpR CpL Right sottopiede, left capriole with a cadenza
9 - 10 RmR Turning the left shoulder to partner, right reprisa minuta.
11 - 12 SpL CpR Left Sottopiede, right capriole with a cadenza
13 - 14 RmR Right reprisa minuta.
15 Stamp L L Beat left foot beside, then in front of, right foot.
16 Stamp L L Beat left foot in front of, then behind, right foot.
17 CdL Left cadenza.

Repeat 33

1 - 17 repeat Repeat #31 with opposite feet.

Repeat 34

1 - 17 repeat Repeat #32 with opposite feet.

Turning Passegio [Repeat 35]

1 - 8 2x SsL SsR The man does the turning passegio.

Figure 10: Lady's Fourth Variation

Turning Passegio

9 - 16 2x SsL SsR The lady does the turning passegio.
17 pause

Advancing Passegio

[figure]

Repeat 36

1 Stamp L Beat left heel beside right foot.
2 Stamp L Beat left toe in front of right foot.
3 Stamp L Beat left heel in front of right foot.
4 Stamp L Beat left heel behind right foot, then close feet.
5 - 6 BsR BsL Two beaten sequences
7 - 8 RmR RmL Reprise minutae R, L.
9 - 16 repeat Repeat 1 - 8 above, leading with the right foot.
17 pause

Repeat 37

1 - 17 repeat Repeat the above.

Ritarata

[figure]

Repeat 38

1 Stamp L Stamp L, backward.
2 Stamp R Stamp R, backward.
3 - 4 Stamp L L L Three stamps behind with the left foot.
5 - 8 repeat Repeat 1 - 4 above, starting with the right foot.
9 - 12 PsGL Turn right shoulder to partner, then step to the left with the left foot, stamping the foot.
13 - 16 RmL Reprise minuta away from partner.
17 pause

Repeat 39

1 - 17 repeat Repeat #38 above, starting with the right foot, and turning the left shoulder.

Figure 11: Closing Passage

In this final passegio, the dancers advance to meet each other in the middle of the dance floor. They then circle around each other, and riverenza to each other and then the audience to conclude the dance.

[figure]

Turning Passegio [Repeat 40]

1 - 8 2x SsL SsR Both dancers do the turning passegio.
9 - 16 2x SsL SsR Both dancers do the turning passegio again.
17 pause

Exchanging Passegio

Repeat 41

1 - 4 SsL SsR Two sliding steps forward to meet.
5 - 16 3x SsL SsR 6 steps linking arms, and circling 1 times around to the left to change places.
17 pause

Repeat 42

1 - 12 3x SsL SsR 6 steps linking arms, and circling around to the right to change places.
13 - 16 RvL Riverenza to end the dance.
17 RvL Riverenza to the audience.

Notes

1 Kendall refers to these as "fioretti spezzatti jumped briskly". I prefer to leave the step names in Italian.

2 Kendall has "two fast passi grave". I can't see a reason for this in the Italian text.

3 I have completely re-arranged the translation of the last two sentences to make more sense.


Webbed by Gregory Blount of Isenfir (Greg Lindahl) (lindahl@pbm.com)