The Reconstruction Process


To illustrate the reconstruction process, I'm going to work through part of a dance from Negri (one of the more complex sources) to show you exactly how the various bits fit together.

Reconstructing from Negri is not something I'd advise for a beginner, but the source is fairly easy to get hold of (ask any university library for a UMI order form), and it is available in Italian with the English translation.


Lo Spagnoletto

Lo Spagnoletto is the first dance in Negri's book, starting at page 209 in Kendall's translation available from UMI, with a starting position illustrated on the previous page.


Music and Timing

The music for Lo Spagnoletto is fairly easy – it is in duple time (Kendall has transcribed it into modern notation in 4/4), and appears to have 3 separate parts – A, B, and C. There are some words above the music that say “it is 3 parts of music and must be done 2 times per part until the end of the dance.”

In a lot of cases the sources don't give repeat instructions like that, in particular Caroso doesn't often include them, so we have to do a bit of guesswork. Having the music sorted out beforehand helps a lot.


How long is the music?

Reading the music and counting the bars is easy – each of the “parts” of music has 4 bars, and is repeated, so that makes 8.

Of course we still don't know how many times the music is to be played. Looking at the dance description briefly, there are 5 parts to the dance, so it could be that the music is played 5 times, or it could be that it is played one and two-thirds through – this would make 5 parts because each repeat of the music is 3 parts, as Negri says.

Looking at the dance description a bit more closely, it seems that parts 2 and 4 are repeated. So now we have the option of 7 times through the music, or 2 1/3 times through.

So, each of the “parts” of the dance will either be 8 bars of music, or 24 bars of music.



Start reading through the first part of the dance, which says (from the translation):

All four place themselves in the middle of the dance floor in a square, as you see in the present figure; together they do the riverenza breve with a jump, one seguito, two fioretti spezzati, and one seguito going around to the left hand side; ...

So far, we have a riverenza breve, some fioretti spezzati, and some seguiti.


Step length and timing

Negri's step descriptions for the balli (in his third treatise) begin on page 188 of the Kendall translation, and so far it's all bad. The riverenza breve is not described, the fioretto spezzato is mentioned but not described, but we do have a description for the seguito.


Riverenza breve

The riverenza gravi and minima are described, and although I won't repeat the descriptions here, they are fairly straight forwards. The riverenza grave takes 8 “perfect beats” or 16 “ordinary beats”, and the riverenza minima takes 4 “beats” or 4 “half measures”. Well, so far we have a couple of options – either it's about the same length as a riverenza grave, or the same length as a riverenza minima. I'm guessing the latter, since “breve” and “minima” both mean relatively short, and “grave” means long.

So, it's probable that the riverenza minima takes 4 half measures, or 2 bars. It seems the music for this dance has 2 beats per bar anyway.


In saltino

An additional instruction at the end of the riverenza says “in saltino”. Pulling out an Italian dictionary, I find that this means something along the lines of “small jump”. So, it's a riverenza with a small jump at the end.


Fioretti Spezzati

OK, people have been arguing about this for a while. Negri doesn't describe a fioretto spezzato, so it's either the same as a seguito spezzato, or the same as a fioretto but a bit different. Since Negri uses the term “spezzato” later in the dance to mean something different, I assume that this is not the same as a seguito spezzato.

I'll put a fioretto in instead, which takes one “beat” according to Negri. Let's assume for the time being that he means one bar.



Negri's seguito ordinario is described as two steps, and a seguito spezzato. He says to take 4 “ordinary beats” to do this. Well, we seem to have a clue from the riverenza description that an ordinary beat is half the length of a perfect beat, so let's say that this takes 2 bars – the same length as our riverenza.


So far

So far, we have a riverenza (2 bars), 2 fioretti (2 bars) and 2 seguiti ordinari (2 bars each, total 4 bars). So we have used 8 bars of music. That makes two repeats of the first part of the music (Negri did tell us to play each part twice, remember?).

Take this onto the dance floor and see if it fits. Yes, so it seems that 2 bars is about the right length of time for a quick riverenza, and the rest of the steps seem to fit into the allotted time so far.

We haven't got through the description of the first part of the dance yet. Looking at the rest of it, it says:

... and turning face to face, they do together three sottopiedi sideways to the left, and the cadenza on this foot; one trabuchetto to the right, one seguito turning to the left; three sottopiedi, one trabuchetto and one seguito going around to the right with this foot. Together they do two passi backwards turning the right side and the left, one seguito forward with the left, two passi backwards with the right, as at first; one seguito with said [foot], all stopping in their places.

These sottopiedi sideways and trabuchetto and seguito going around, are done in all parts of the dance, along with the two steps backwards, and the seguito forward, as above.



Well, it looks like we have a chorus. According to the second paragraph above, the whole of the first paragraph is repeated in every part of the dance.

So, now it would make sense that we do what we have done in the two repeats of the A part of the music, then do the chorus in the B and C parts (also repeated), and play the music 7 times through for the whole dance – thus throwing out our earlier theory that we were perhaps going to only play it 2 1/3 times through (which sounded silly anyway).

So, each repeat of the music is 24 bars. We have used 8 so far, and so we have another 16 to use up with the chorus.


Passi Gravi

I'm going to work backwards for a minute – it looks like the bit starting with the two passi backwards is going to be relatively easy to reconstruct. We know that a seguito is 2 bars, and if we take a passo = 1 bar then we have 2 x passi + 1 x seguito = 4 bars, repeat that and we have 8 bars.

This neatly fits into our C section of the music (repeated), so we just have the B section to fit in everything between “three sottopiedi” and “one seguito going around to the right.

Well, it looks like the section is repeated, once to the left and once to the right. Each repeat will take the same time, therefore each repeat of 3 sottopiedi, cadenza, trabuchetto, and seguito turning will take 4 bars.

The seguito must take 2 bars, so we have 3 sottopiedi, a cadenza, and a trabuchetto in 2 bars. The sottopiedi are fairly quick steps anyway, so we should be able to squeeze this in.


Layout so far

So, we have the first full part of the dance, in one repeat of the music, all figured out. It goes like this:


Part A

Bar 1 – 2


3 – 4


5 – 6

Fioretto, left and right

7 – 8


Part B

Bar 1 – 2

3 sottopiedi going left, cadenza, trabuchetto.

3 – 4

Seguito, turning over the left shoulder.

5 – 6

3 sottopiedi going right, cadenza, trabuchetto

7 – 8

Seguito, turning over the right shoulder.

Part C

Bar 1 – 2

Passi backwards, left then right, turning shoulders.

3 – 4

Seguito forwards on the left

5 – 6

Passi backwards, right then left, turning shoulders.

7 – 8

Seguito forwards on the right


Direction of travel, etc

Negri doesn't say a lot about the direction of travel in this dance. In the first part he's talking about “going around to the left hand side”. This could mean all doing a circle over your left shoulder, or it could be going around the circle (as you've started the dance facing in a square, facing inwards) to your left. Since he begins the second part by saying “and turning face to face”, I rather suspect it's the latter, because that would normally have each dancer turning to face their own left to walk around the circle.

The seguiti “turning to the left” I have decided to interpret as turning over your left shoulder, similarly for “going around to the right”.


Part C

Part C is a little odd, because he doesn't say which feet to use.

I've decided to interpret it as starting on the left foot. Negri says “turning the right side and the left”, so I interpret that as stepping backwards on the left foot, turning the right shoulder forwards (and the left backwards) in a sweeping kind of motion as you step backwards.

A clue here is that the two passi backwards are followed by two passi and a spezzato forwards – so obviously if you were to end up in the same place, the backwards steps would have to be slightly larger than the forwards steps otherwise you'd end up moving forwards by a spezzato in each half of part C.

On the repeat of part C he says “two passi backwards with the right”. Obviously you don't do both passi with the right foot, so this must mean that the first one is done with the right and the second one with the left – which makes starting the first pair of passi left then right a bit more sensible.


Closing position

At the end of the description of this part, Negri says “all stopping in their places”. This makes me believe that you end part C in the same place that you started part A. Just another small clue.

Unfortunately he doesn't provide any diagrams. Of course, a videotape would have been even nicer!


Where to from

Well, that is part 1 of 7, obviously. There are 6 more parts of this dance (well, 4 more parts, 2 of which are repeated).

Part 2 looks simple enough, it's just a description to the ladies, saying that they come forwards with 2 passi, one seguito, two spezzati, and one seguito (turning), so that appears to fit the same 8 bars that we did part A in previously (beginning with the riverenza in saltino and ending with the seguito). Another small sanity check.

Part 2 is even more hairy in terms of direction of travel, because all Negri says is “forwards” and “going around to the right”. Obviously, if the two ladies dance directly forwards they will collide with each other, so I've decided to interpret this as coming forwards, passing right shoulders, then turning over the right shoulder to return to place. Other people have interpreted this differently.

Once you've done this a few times, you'll be able to look at other people's reconstructions that differ from yours and say “but that's so wrong!”. By the time you've done this 50 times, you won't be so sure any more.

My reconstruction of this dance is given elsewhere in Del's Dance Book. I expect at least a few letters telling me what I've done wrong, and how to fix it.