Proceedings of the Known World Dance Symposium 2007

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Dance Videos

Janelle Durham

There are several commercially available videos and DVD’s of historical dance. When you read the marketing blurb in the catalog or on the website, it may be hard to tell what, if any, use the video would be to you as a dancer, researcher, or instructor. In this article, I will summarize information about each video, including availability, style of the video, contents, dances included, and whether it’s helpful.

Early Dance: Part 1 – from the Greeks to the Renaissance

Dance Horizons Video, 1995. 22 minutes

Available from for $39.95.

Dance history: Isa Partsch-Bergsohn. Reconstructed by Angene Feves. Danced by Angene Feves and Charles Perrier. Music by: The Court Revels of the Consortium Antiquum.

Style: Lecture on history of dance, with a huge array of period illustrations shown to accompany discussion. Dance segments are of a couple in elaborate Caroso-era costume performing on a stage with musicians using period style instruments. In narration, definite bias to ‘how all this historic dance led up to modern ballet’. For example, Arbeau’s step illustrations are shown, and the narrator says that Arbeau was the first to describe “first, second, third and fourth positions.”

Camera work: Video of them performing on stage… occasionally when the choreography calls for them to separate to far sides of the stage, one will go off screen, and they use a split-screen sort of effect, with the faded image of one superimposed, so you can see both dancers at once

Contents: First segment is on dance from Ancient Greece. Then jumps to Renaissance.

Brief intro to Renaissance dance, and the role of dance in Medici era. Shows multiple period illustrations.

Dances: Introductory dance, Pavan & Sciolto. Saltarello and Canarie. Volta and Galliard.

What is it useful for: discussion of history of dance. This video could be useful as a collection of illustrations, though many of them appear in secondary source books that are available. The dance illustrations are interesting, but you could not learn dances by watching this video.

[Shown In class: intro to the Renaissance section, up through the Pavan and Sciolto. 5 or so minutes]

Dancetime! 500 years of Social Dance. Volume 1: 15th – 19th centuries

Dance through Time. Dancetime Publications, 1998. 45 minutes.

$44.95 for one DVD. $74.95 for two volume set from  May be cheaper from

Choreography and Dance History: Carol Teten

Style: Theatrical performance. Beautiful stage costumes, done on a stage with blank background. Professional quality video.

Contents: Each genre of dance is introduced by a dancer saying/singing brief information about the style of dance to a piece of period music. The dance is done with no description of the steps or choreography, but brief tidbits of information are sub-titled across the bottom of the screen (e.g. “Volta – Queen Elizabeth’s favorite dance” and “Canari – a dialog with the feet.”) 

Dances done:

·         “15th c. Balli” to Attaignant’s Au Pres de Vous / A Florence / Helas la Fille / Ma Chambre. 3 couples. Steps used: Saltarello, movimento, reverence and others. Not a choreography I am familiar with. Style: very theatrical, flowing… women leaning way back as they dance – look unbalanced to me.

·         So Ben Mi Chi Ha Buon Tempo from Negri, La Volta to Praetorius La Volta, Galliard to Franck’s Galliarde.

·         Video also includes Baroque, Regency, Romantic, and Victorian dances.

What is it useful for: This video provides an introduction to the look and feel of period dance, but it would be difficult to learn a dance from viewing it.

[Shown In class: 15th c. Balli, 16th c intro and dances. 7 minutes.]

Le Gratie d’Amore: European Court Dances of the Late Renaissance

Historical Dance Foundation, 1992. 30 minutes. May be available (call or email first): for $39.95 plus $3 shipping.  (212) 255-5545. Historical Dance Foundation / Charles Garth, 31 Union Square W., Suite 15D, New York NY 10003.

Performed by Taller de Danzas Antiguas & The Court Dance Company of New York.

Choreography: Charles Garth

Style: Filmed on an estate in Chile. Alternates between dimly lit period-feeling room with candles and lovely outdoor areas. Lovely period costumes. Filmed from across the room, or closer up.

Content: Alternates between a man quoting period sources (speaking in Spanish? Italian? It’s sub-titled.) and dancers performing.

Dances: Indoors: Pavan and Galliard. (Galliard feels like a choreographed dance, with dancers changing partners, etc.)  Branle suite outdoors: Horses Branle (in a circle), Pease, Aridan, Washerwomens, Official (with Haut Barrois style steps, serpentined). Il Canario (Suttons choreography), La Caccia d’Amore. Adda Felice. So Ben Mi Chi Ha Bon Tempo (Sutton’s choreography), Passo e Mezzo, La Galliarde de la Garde (Garth, based on Arbeau, Negri, and Caroso)

What is it useful for: enjoyable to watch, good overview of historical dances, done well.

[Shown in class: from Aridan through La Caccia]

Library of Congress Video Clips  Free, and downloadable anytime. MPEG, QuickTime, and RealMedia formats.

Video clips to illustrate portions of the historic dance manuals available in facsimile online from the Library of Congress.

Reconstructions by Elizabeth Aldrich.

Performed by Cheryl Stafford & Thomas Baird, violin by Susan Manus. Taped in 1998.

Style: Plain room, with dancers in modern dance rehearsal clothes.

Contents: There are 19 clips from the Renaissance period. Clips are very brief, many around 20 seconds. Longest is pavan at 1:18. Illustrate how a single step is done.

Dance steps: sample steps from Italian repertoire, pavan steps, conversion, double, single, reverence.

Dances: pavan, galliard variations, double branle, single branle, washerwomen’s

What is it useful for: You could learn branles and pavans from watching these mini-videos and cross-referencing with your Arbeau. (You could NOT learn late Italian steps by watching this, as they are strung together in four step sequences, and it is hard to tell where one step ends and another begins)

[shown in class: galliard, pavan, single, washerwomen’s, Italian steps]

Renaissance Dance, volume 1. English Country Dances

School for Scoundrels. No longer available??

Dancemaster: Paul Giles (Master Giles)

Style: SCA production. Sound and video quality varies. Shot from two camera angles, to the side of the dancers, and just above. Foot close-ups for teaching of the double step. Shot in a Tudor-style building and outdoors. Some theatrical schtick in and amongst the dancing. Costumes: SCA for the period (i.e. range of historical accuracy and quality of construction.) Slow version of Peascods done in modern clothing.

Content: Teaches the steps: double, slipping right and left, siding (Cecil Sharp style), arming with hooked arms, turn single, sets (with bounces), honor.

Dances done slowly indoors, with dancemaster describing the steps as they are done. Then dances are done outdoors at revel speed, as the dancemaster calls steps. When a hey is done in the slow version, a drawn line is sketched in over the dancers to show the pattern they take while weaving.

Dances included: Sellenger’s Round, Goddesses, Gathering Peascods, Black Nag, Newcastle.

What is it useful for: Good basic dance instruction video. It would be possible to learn these dances and perform these dances after watching the video.

[in class: Begin partway through Goddesses. Final 5 figures of Goddesses at slow speed, all of Goddesses at revel speed. Time: 5:30]

Il Ballarino: The Art of Renaissance Dance

Dance Horizons, 1990. 33 minutes.

Available from for $44.95 (In the dance instruction videos section of website)

16th century step vocabulary and dances, interpreted by Julia Sutton.

Style: step glossary section is done in “modified rehearsal clothes” with drum rhythms so it’s clear how steps align to rhythm (drum is not used in performance). Performances: on stage, with single musician playing renaissance recorder, and dancers in nice period costume. Camera straight on (as if you were watching from the front row). As they dance, the steps they are using are listed across the top of the screen.

Contents: Introduction to the sources. Demonstration of steps. 3 dances.

Steps and step patterns illustrated: shown at a distance, close-up, and from the side. Done slowly so can be learned well. Then done faster in step sequence combination so you can see how it flows.

Riverenza, Continenza, passo puntato, si pavonneggiare, fiancheggiato, seguito ordinario, seguito spezzato, ripresa minutia, seguita semidoppio ornate, seguito scorso, seguiti battuti al canario, seguito spezzato schisciato al Canario, trabuchetto, ripresa sottopiede, suffice, corinto, 5 step galliard, fioretto.

Each dance begins with an introduction to the dance.

Dances: So Ben Mi Chi Ha Buon Tempo. Allegrezza d’Amore, La Caccia d’Amore.

What is it useful for: Great for learning all the details of Sutton’s reconstruction of the steps, and seeing the dancers do them from multiple angles. It would be possible to learn the dances from the video if you also had Sutton’s book with the choreography details.

[Shown in class: part of step glossary, starting with 14. Saffice, then go through So Ben...]

How to Dance through Time: Volume 3 – the Majesty of Renaissance Dance

Dancetime Publications, 2003. 40 minutes. Available from and elsewhere. $39.95. Music CD: $15. Very nice preview available at

Instructor and dance historian: Carol Teten.

Style: performers in period costume (skirts short enough to see feet well) on a black stage. Camera angles close-up on feet, from behind, at a distance, from above.  Final performance is filmed mostly from above… you can see their faces somewhat, see feet well, see pattern of dance well.


Introduction on Italian dance, dancemasters, and social context of dances: Carol Teten lecturing while video shows period illustrations of dance. Then teaches Nido d’Amore in detail.

For each segment of the dance, goes through steps in detail, then shows full segment to music. Ends with performance of dance to music, with the subtext of how to make it an interesting performance with the flirtation, etc.

Example. During the Opening segment, it teaches:

Riverenza (close up of feet). First shows feet, then shows how to add kiss, then shows how to add hat, then shows it to a count.

Continenze: Close up of feet (front view and rear view), then it shows full body view with subtext of where eyes look, then shows it to music, with riverenze then continenze together.

Continues with Pavonnegiare, seguito ordinario ornate, fioretto, saffice, sottopiede, etc.

Dance: Nido d’Amore (Nest of Love)

What it is useful for: Learning how to perform one late Italian dance in detail.

[shown in class: part of the Opening segment of learning steps (chapter 3) and then the final performance segment (track 7)]