Voltate in Ça Rosina

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

By Fiammetta di Antonio di Donato Adimari


Voltate in ça Rosina is a fifteenth-century Italian ballo for two men and one woman. It appears in one of Giovanni Ambrosio / Guglielmo Ebreo da Pesaro's manuscripts, and a very similar dance, Rossina, appears in another. Rossina calls for two women and one man; for the purposes of dancing in the SCA, I encourage either gender to take the middle position. Dances for three like this help deal with uneven gender balances, as you can almost always make a place, either on the outside or the middle, for everyone who wants to dance.

This reconstruction was done using the two-volume set Fifteenth Century Dance and Music: Twelve Transcribed Italian Treatises and Collection in the Tradition of Domenico da Piacenza, by A. William Smith, which contains the original choreographic description in Italian together with a translation, and Guglielmo Ebreo of Pesaro: De Pratica Seu Arte Tripudii by Barbara Sparti, wich also has facing-page Italian transcription and translation from some of the Ebreo manuscripts. These two sources are invaluable to anyone who wants to work with this repetoire.

The reconstruction fits the music on "Mesura et Arte del Danzare", by Accademia Viscontea i Musicanti.


Most of the steps descibed below are descendants of those reconstructed and taught by Dr. Ingrid Brainard. Step descriptions in the Italian 15th-century sources are sketchy at best; this is a subject ripe for reconstruction. Here, then, with little attempt at justification, are the steps I use. I've given the "standard" number of beats for each step, which is the way they appear in this dance; they may well appear in other dances and need to be stuffed or stretched to fit a different number of beats. (We often see salterelli and pive in three beats, and doubles in four.)

Single: These come in pairs, and usually take one bassadanza measure of three or six beats. A pair of singles is simply two steps forward.

Double: This is a three- or six-beat step. A double left is 1: step down on the left foot, bending the left knee slightly. 2: step up on the ball of the right foot. 3: step flat onto the left foot. The "up" step is more important to the look of the dance than the "down," and should preferably be the stressed step.

Ripresa: This step takes up one measure, and is simply a step sideways followed by a close. For a ripresa left, the left foot steps to the left and then the right foot closes to it; the feet and direction switch for a ripresa right.

Salterello: The salterello takes one measure. I am leaning towards the interpretation of three steps forward, followed by a small hop. A salterello left is 1: step left 2: step right 3: step left 4: hop on the left foot, with the right foot in the air. This differs from Dr. Brainard's version, where the hop is on the second beat.

Continenza: This step takes half a measure. A continenza left is a small step to the left; I do it with an arching step, instead of the flat ripresa.

Riverenza: This dance specifies a riverenza "low to the ground"; this takes a measure and is a deep kneel, bringing the left knee to the ground and keeping the body straight. When the "low to the ground" is not specified, I use a simple riverenza, with the woman doing a small knee-bend and the man putting the left foot behind and bending both knees. This is a good alternative for dancers who are not comfortable with the full knee-bend. (There is also a much more complicated man's riverenza that Dr. Brainard uses which I do not feel comfortable describing in print.)

Piva: This is a quick step in four beats, and is essentially a half-time double. Like the salterello (and all of the traveling steps in this repertoire, for that matter), it ought to change feet. A piva left is:

beat 1: step down on the left foot (i.e. with slightly bended front knee)
beat 2: hold
beat 3: step onto the right foot on the ball of the toe
beat 4: step onto the left foot
You are then ready to begin a piva right, which is the same step with the feet switched.


The dance begins with the three people side by side, the man in the middle. They do two doubles forward, and then individually turn all the way around over left shoulders with another two doubles. The middle dancer then goes forward with two singles, starting on the left foot, and a double left; he closes this double with the right foot. The outside dancers then catch up to him with the same step pattern. While they do their double, he also does a double step to turn half-way around, over his left shoulder. All three dancers end up in a line again, with the middle one facing the opposite direction.

Now the dancers move away from one another with two salterello steps. They then turn around (there is no time in the music for this) and do two riprese, left and then right. They then each turn all the way around in place with a double step, and end with four continenze, alternating left, right, left, right. While this source simply says they do them "on the left foot", a number of other dances explicitly have them alternating feet, which I find fits better here. If all the continenze were to the left, the dancers would end up with the middle person off center, instead of remaining aligned with the other two dancers.

The dancers then approach one another with two singles and a double, starting on the left, and then back up with a double on the right. This double back should be fairly small, as comes naturally when people are walking backwards. The dancers should end up able to take right hands. They turn all the way around with a double, begining on the left foot, and all do a deep riverenza to one another. (The source specifies that the riverenza should be "down to the ground".) Again, they all do four continenze starting on the left foot. The man in the middle takes right hands with the lady on his right, and they circle around their joined hands with four piva steps to return to place. He then takes left hands with the lady on his left, and they also circle with four piva steps. Finally, they have eight piva steps to walk a hey. The man starts by passing right shoulders with the woman on his right; this sequence is quite fast, so there is no time for extra circles in the hey. The source only specifies that they "go in piva in a snake-like manner". In the dance Giove, Domenico describes in detail a figure which also takes eight piva steps and looks like a hey; I have chosen to do this figure similarly.

This is the end of the dance; in the music we have, it then repeats.

In short:

1-2 Two doubles forward
3-4 Two doubles, making a full turn over left shoulder
5-6 Middle person does two singles and a double forward
7 Outsides do two singles forward
8 Outsides double forward, while middle does a double turning half-way around(1)
9-10 Two salterello steps away from one another, and turn half-way around
11-12 Ripresas left and right
13 Turn all the way around with a double
14-15 Four continenze, left, right, left, right
16-17 All approach with two singles and a double
18 All back up with a double right
19-20 A double to turn all the way around, and a ripresa right
21 Low riverenza
22-23 Four continenze, left, right, left, right
24-27 Middle takes right hands with right dancer; four piva steps to circle
28-31 Middle takes left hands with left dancer; four piva steps to circle
32-39 Eight piva steps for a hey


The following music is taken from Smith:

[Music for Voltata In Ca Rosina]

[ Correction from Issue 28: The music we printed for Vita di Cholino last issue should have been notated in half as many bars as it was. The dance reconstruction assumes a 7-bar piece of music; we printed a 14-bar piece. The note durations should be halved to produce a 7-bar melody. We apologize for the error. ]


Barbara Sparti, ed., De Practica Seu Arte Tripudii, Guglielmo Ebreo, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

A. William Smith. Fifteenth-Century Dance and Music, Pendragon Press, Stuyvesane, NY 1995.


"Mesure et Arte del Danzare: Balli Italiani del Quattrocento". Accademia Viscontea i Musicanti. Ducale CDL 002. The music here works with this reconstruction, and is quite easy to dance to.

"Forse Che Si, Forse Che Non. Musique de Danse du Quattrocento". Ferrara Ensemble. Fonti Musicali. fmd.1882, 1989. The music works with this reconstruction, also repeated twice. There is an extensive introduction at the beginning.

About the Author: Fiammetta di Antonio di Donato Adimari lives in late fifteenth-century Florence, and can't believe that anyone she knows wouldn't be able to dance Domenico's balli. Jessica Polito (polito@math.berkeley.edu), a graduate student in math at U. C. Berkeley, wishes this were the case, and is thus spreading these dances as far as she can. They both (along with her husband) teach a bi-weekly dance class in the West Kingdom, and teach at many events.


1 In order to fit the steps to the music, we suggest taking 1 measure for the mezzavolta. This would become meaure 11, and subsequent steps would be numbered 1 higher.

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