Two Sixteenth-Century Dance Games

[ This article appeared in volume 4 of the Letter of Dance. ]

by Mistress Rosina del Bosco Chiaro

In October 1995 I attended a workshop of Il Pomo Verde (a non-SCA renaissance dance group), and learned two dances from Cynthia Campbell. These dances incorporate two dance games. The dances themselves are relatively complex, but the games are easily played by anyone. This article gives the instructions for the games.

The two original dances containing the games are "Caccia" from 1559, which has the hunt game, and Negri's "Caccia d'Amore" from 1602, which has both the hunt and poaching games.

The Hunt

Three couples line up and reverence to their partners. Then the first couple cast off, the man turning to the left and the woman to the right, and go to the bottom of the set. There the man tries to take the hand of the woman, but she runs off. The two play tag, until she allows herself to be caught. They can go anywhere around the set, including down the middle of the set, but neither of them can pass between the other two men, or between the other two women. Once the man has recovered his partner, he parades her up and down the set, and brings her back to the bottom, placing her on the man's side and himself on the woman's. They reverence. Then it is the turn of the second couple, who do the same thing (except that they can't pass between the two people on the men's side, who are the third man and the first woman, or between the two dancers on the woman's side.) The third couple then has a turn. Then the dance is repeated, but with the women doing the chasing, everyone ending on the correct side again when finished.

Since there is no specific amount of time for the dance, it is hard to have music that matches. For recorded music, I use any long piece of sixteenth-century music. A live musician could play something fast while the chase is happening, and then switch to something slow and stately while the dancers are reverencing, casting off or parading.

The outline of the game given above follows the earlier version. The later version is for as many couples as wish, but only the men have a turn to chase, so they do not switch sides once they deposit their partners at the bottom of the set.

The Poaching Game

The second game is for as many as will. A line of couples, holding hands, forms a clockwise circle, so the women are on the inside. One extra man waits on the outside. The dancers walk forward around the circle. One man is the leader, and he calls out "One forward!", "Two forward!", "One back!" or "Two back!" Then the men have to drop their partner's hand and move forward or back the requisite number of places, as the extra man tries to take a woman's hand. If he succeeds, the man he replaced is the new poacher (unless he can move fast enough and take a woman's hand before everyone else has managed to). If the poacher takes the leader's place, he is the new leader. This continues as long as people want.

Any regular piece of music will work for this dance, such as a pavan, and it could be done with pavan steps instead of just walking.

When I taught this game recently in Thescorre, the dancers there came up with a variation on this game which makes it a bit more interesting for the women. Another command is added, being "Switch!". When this is called, everyone switches place with his partner, so the women are on the outside, and the partner of the leader is the new leader. She does the calling and the women move forward or back as directed. This version necessitates that there be two poachers, one of each gender.


"La Caccia" from Firenze, Archivo di Stato: Carte Strozziane Serie I, 22 (1559).

Corti, Gino. "Cinque Balli Toscani Del Cinquecento." Rivista Italiana Di Musicologia 12, no. 1 (1977): 73-82. (This article contains a transcription of the source for "La Caccia.")

Kendall, Gustavia Yvonne. ""Le Gratie D'amore" 1602 By Cesare Negri: Translation and Commentary." dissertation (Stanford University), University Microfilms International, 1985.

Negri, Cesare. Le Gratie D'amore. Milan: 1602; reprint, New York: Broude Brothers, 1969.

Webbed by Gregory Blount of Isenfir (Greg Lindahl) (