Proceedings of the Known World Dance Symposium 2007

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Triple Terpsichore

Sara Bonneville
(Sara de Bonneville)

“What do you do when only three people show up for dance practice?”

Triple Terpsichore is the answer.  Dust off all the period dances that are done with a triple set (three people) instead of the usual couples.   There are more than you might expect!  And if you run out, get creative!  Several dances can be modified to be done with a set of three dancers.

This class will introduce (or re-introduce) you to some of these dances for three, and its purpose is to more than just teach the steps of the dance.  You are invited to explore performance dynamics and the subtle nuances of the dance-for-three. 

bd06294_There is a difference dynamic to dances with three.  Unlike a dance for two, where you always know where your attention should be focused, you can change the “story” you are telling by changing the focus among the dancers, even changing the leader.  So explore opportunities to add layers of mood and emotion to your performance, and to play with the dancers in your set.

Dances in this curriculum include:

·         Petit Riense (15th C Italian)

·         Gioioso in Tre (15th C Italian)

·         Belfiore  (15th C Italian)

·         Beaulte de Castille (15th C Basse Dance)

·         Esperans (15th C English “Gresley”)

·         Ballo del Fiore for 3 (16th C Caroso)

·         Bella Gioiosa (16th C Caroso)

·         Galway Reel (Irish Set-Dance)

Additional Dances for three include:

·         15th C Dance Italian:  Ingrata,  Jupiter, Spero, Vita di Cholina, Volante in ca Rosina.

·         16th C Italian:   Leggiadria d'Amore, Il Gratioso, Allegrezza d’Amore, Fedelta d’Amore.

·         15th C English “Gresley”: Prenes a Garde de tribus, Northumberland, Tempersans, Eglamowr.

·         Other:   Irish Set-Dance “Fairy Reel” (for 2 sets of 3)

This is not a definitive list; find or invent your own dances for three! Other dances not actually set for three can be adapted and danced with three persons.  Try Dance de Cleves and Dargason with three.  

This class has been taught at

·         Northern An Tir Ithra, March 2004

·         Rivers Music & Dance Ithra, October 2005

·         Wastekeep, 2006


15th C Italian Bassadanze and Balli

Primary sources

Guglielmo Ebreo/Giovanni Ambroso, various ms. (c. 1460-1510);

Antonio Cornazano, Libro dell’arte del danzare, (1455-1465); 

Domenico da Piacenza, De arte saltandi & choreas ducendi, (c. 1450);

Glossary & Key

(L) Left ;  (R) Right;  (fwd) Forward’; (m) man/men; (w) = woman/women;

Sempio – ‘single’ (S), step forward (two sempii to each measure).

Doppio – ‘double’ (D), three steps (one doppii for each measure).

Salterellodoppio with a hop: ‘step, step, step, hop’ (alternately step, hop, step, step).

Piva – fast double on the toes, “up, up, flat”, or may be done as ‘cutting’ step.  Piva left: (1) step fwd L “up”, (2) place toe of R foot behind L heel, (3) step fwd flat w/ L.

Ripresa – single or double step to the side (as in ballet “pas de bouree”).  Ripresa left: (1a) step to left, rising onto toes, (1b) close w/ R, staying up on toes, (2a) step to left again, (2b) lower to flat (weight is on left, R foot is free).

Continenza – ‘arching’ step to the side, usually done in pairs (two continenze to ea measure).  Continenze left: rise up on toes, small step to left, sinking flat as right foot closes.              

Volta Tonda – turn (360 degrees) in a circle.

Volta del Gioioso – full turn in 2 measures w/ two sempii and a ripresa.  Beginning w/ R foot: (1) step to left w/ R foot (crossing over left) turning ¼ turn, (2) step L continuing turn, (3-4) complete turn w/ ripresa to the right.

Movimento(half measure) rising movement with body, head or eyes.

Riverenza/Reverenza – ‘Reverance’, ‘honor’,  bow or curtsey.

Petit Riense 

15th C  Italian Ballo for three (side by side, or single-file)

             A    1 -32      (16) Piva fwd w/ partners, traveling about the room;

             B    1 -24      1st dancer: (4) piva fwd; 2nd: the same (to catch up); 3rd: the same;

              C    1 -12      1st dancer: Double fwd; 2nd : the same (to catch up); 3rd : the same;

             D    1 -8        1st & 2nd dancers: Riverenza to each other; 2nd & 3rd dancer: the same;

                    9 -12         all Riverenza each other;

             E    1 -8        Double back (on angle away from each other); double fwd;

                    9 -16      Ripresa left and right, Double left, turning in a circle (set & turn).

                 Repeat from (A).

Petit Riense (“Little Nothings”) is such a staple of SCA dance that you might not recognize all the opportunities for “play” between the three dancers.  This 15th C Italian chase dance can be great fun for experienced dancers to trade the lead role.  Personally, I feel that it is more civilized for the leader to pass that role to another, rather than have it stolen.  Accordingly, my favorite way to trade is for the leader to join hands with the 3rd dancer and form a circle during the Pivas, then release #2’s hand, making him/her the leader.  Any type of trading requires quick wits on the part of dancers 2 and 3.  Ultimately it is dancer #3 that must make sure the group is back together in time to perfume the “D” and “E” parts of the dance credibly. 



Domenico da Piacenza, 1450 

 15th C Italian Ballo for three, reconstruction by Rosina del Bosco Chiaro

Ballo, called Bel Fiore, for three, composed by Messere Domenico

To begin twelve tempi of piva, all three together, and the first halts and then leaves and does a double step, beginning with the left foot, and in the end of the double step "reduca" the right foot to the "stanco" and halts and then the second does the same, and the third; and then the first does a scossetto, and then the second responds, and also the third; and then the first does a turn around, that is to say a double step, beginning with the left foot, and the same then does the second, and again the third, the one after the other; and then the first does two double steps, beginning with the left foot and a single step on the right foot, going to the behind* side of the company, and finding him/herself thus at the back part of the companions, and halts like the other; and then the third moves himself with four double steps on the left foot,  also to the side of the underneath, and then the one who remains near to to one who do the said four double steps, does one double step to the side of the underneath also, behind* remaining also likewise, and then the one who did the four double steps at the end of the four goes to the place of  him, and halts all the two; and then the one of the middle does three tempi of piva and one single step, going around the one of the right hand, going behind and passing by the middle of the two companions and remaining behind.  Finish is: then they redo it another time.


Begin with Man 1 on left, Woman in middle, Man 2 on right, all holding hands.

    First half is in 4/4.
           12 Pive, starting Left. (These pive are slower than usual.)
           Man 1 Doppio Left, then Woman the same to catch up, then Man 2 the same.
           Man 1 Movimento, then Woman Movimento, then Man 2 Movimento.
           Man 1 Voltatonda, then Woman Voltatonda, then Man 2 Voltatonda.
    Second half is in 6/8, so the pive are faster.
           Man 1 does (3) Piva LRL, going behind the others, ending to the right of Man 2;
                Woman does the same, ending beside Man 1; Man 2 does the same.
          Men Doppio R changing places, M 2 going in front of Woman, M 1 behind.
                Woman does (3) Piva LRL & single R, doing a "figure-6” going to the right
          around Man 1 (clockwise), behind both, ending to L of Man 2.
    Repeat the dance w/ Woman leading; repeat 3rd time, ending as began.

This adorable little dance seems straight off the playground.  You can find yourself singing “Heigh Ho the Merry-o” and “Not-it, Not-it, Not-it” along with the tune. 


Gioioso in Tre

Guglielmo Ebreo  -- Note: same music as Rosibolli Gioioso

15th C Itallian Ballo for three (2 men & 1 woman)

  Start side-by side; man 1 is on left, man 2 on right

             A 1   1 -4        (all): Ripresa left & right; (drop hands)

                    5 -10      (w):  Single (L-R); (2) Doubles (L-R), arming w/ m1;

             A 2  1 -10      -- repeat A1, woman arming w/ m2;

             B 1   1 -4        (all): Ripresa left & right; (drop hands)

                    5 -10      (m): (2) s (L-R), (2) d (L-R), - pass in front of W to change

                                       places, man #1 passes between woman & man #2;

             B 2  1 -10      -- repeat B1, w/man #2 passing btwn woman & man #1;

              C 1   1 -8        (all): Ripresa left, right; Single left, right; Double left;

                    9 -12      (w): ripresa R, L, as (m) volta tonda (turning double (L-R));

                  13 -16      (all): volta del gioiosa (turning single R-L, ripresa R);

              C 2    1 -16      repeat C1;

             D    1 -64      (16) Salterelli;

             E 1   1 -8        (m): movimento;   (w): movimento;  (m): double fwd on L;

                    9 -16      (w): movimento;   (m): movimento;  (w): double fwd;

             E 2  1 -16      -- repeat, doing doubles on the R;

                                   (if music allows - mezavolta R);

                Repeat from (A), reversing roles for man #1 and man #2.

Gioioso in Tre use the same beautiful music and basic dance steps as Rostiboli Gioioso.  In this version for three, there is a emotional “story” that can be told: the two gentlemen are vie-ing for the lady’s attention, and is she paying attention?  Is she ignoring them?  The story can change when two ladies dance with one man.  Are they competing for his attention?  Are they instead conspiring to ignore him to increase his ardor?  The “bar-bell” figure (section “C”) where the center slides between the dancers on either side can reflect attraction, … or guilt.  Tell the story with subtle glances, the way you take or hold hands, where you focus your gaze; and you can change the story as you repeat the dance. 


French/Burgundian Basse Dance

Primary sources

“Brussles Manuscript”, Le manuscrit dit des basses, est. 1490’s

Michel Toulouze (pub.), L’Art et Instruction de Bien Dancer, c. 1488-1496;

Other Sources: Moderne, Jacques, c. 1532-1533;  Arena, Antonius de, c. 1520; Arbeau, Thoinot, Orchesographie, 1589.


3 beats to each measure/step (sometimes counted as 6)

(R) Reverance

(b) Branle – step sideways, shift weight, then back & close.          

(s) Single – single step, done in pairs,  two singles = one 3 beat measure.

(d) Double – three steps, done in one 3 beat measure.

(r) Demarche (or reprise) – step back, rock forward, then back again.

Underlined steps are generally done traveling backwards. 

Basse Beaulte de Castille

per Brussels Ms.,(26 bars)

reconstrution: Dr. Ingrid Brainard; set as triple, holding hands

                 ss  d  R  d        

                 ss  d  R  d         

                 ss  d  R  d

                 ss  ddd  rrr                                                                                                      

                 ss  d  rrr  ss  d  R

Somehow, the Burgundian Basse Dances seem more restrained, more controlled, than their Italian counterparts.  This makes the by-play between the three more subtle.  The demarches give the middle dancer a good chance to shade to one side then the other.


“Gresley Dances” - English Dances, 15th – 16th C

Primary source

the “Gresley Manuscript”, circa 1500, a listing of 26 dances (choreographies), 91 dance titles, and 13 tunes, found in the Gresley family papers held in the Derbyshire Records Office. 

A secondary source used in reconstruction is the companion booklette for the CD “Eschewynge of Ydlenesse” by Misericordia and gaita, © Cait Webb & Gaita 2003. 


Trace - traveling part of the dance; no descriptions given.  Piva, salterelli, or doubles can used in the reconstructions, according to tempi.

Doblis -  double, three steps.                                                       Singlis – single step.

Trett – “tread”(?) forward, closed.                                             Retrett – “retreat,” go backwards, closed.

Lepe -  Jump.                                                                                     Rakis / Rak /  Rake -  Angled step.

Brawle – sideways step.                                                                Stop -  stop (?).

Obeysaunce – Reverance.                                                             Flowerdelice – Flower figure (fleur des lys)
      pattern -OR- a flourish.

Esperans de tribus 

for 3 dancers in a single line

“Al the 6 single with a trett.  Then he first man goo compas til he come behind, whil the medill retrett thre, and the last 3 single, and them medil 3 single, levyng the last on the left hand, and the last 3 retrettes.  Thus the medill endyth before the last in the meddist and the ferst behynd.  Thus daunce 3 tymes, calling every man as he standdith.  After the end of the trace, the ferst 3 furth outward turning ayen his face.  Then the last contur hym, and the medill to the first; and then the first to his place.  Then the last to the medyll and the medyll to the last mans place.  The first and last chance place whil the medyll tornyth.  Al at onys retrett 3 bake.  Bak al at ons.  Then the first turne whill the last turne in his own place.  Then al togeder thre furth.”


  (A1)             Trace: 6 single & a trett (closed single);

                                   1st does 2 doblis around (to the left) and to back of line ,

                                   as 2nd does 3 singles & close back while 3rd does 3 singles fwd,

                                   and then reverse (to trade places and then trade back);

  (A2)                         -- repeat w/ 2nd as leader.

  (A3)                         -- repeat w/ 3rd as leader, all end back in original places.

  (B)         Hey-type figure*: 6  “trades”, closed double for each trade,

                                   1st turn L in place to face “down”, 3rd turn in place to face up,

                                   2nd moves to 1st place, 1st moves down to 2nd place,

                                   3rd moves up to 2nd place, 1st moves down to 3rd place.

  (C)         2nd & 3rd trade (now in 1st & 2nd places),

                                    while 1st (now in 3rd place) turns (line now inverted). *

  (D-E)                      all do (3) S back; all do 3 steps fwd.

  (F)         1st & 3rd (3) S to turn in place;  all (3) S fwd.

  -- repeat from (A) if music repeats.

*Webb has 4 different reconstructions of the trading fig. (B) & (C); shown here is SLB’s version, where the line ends up inverted.

As danced music I have heard, this is a fairly stately dance, which reminds me of Alessandresca for some reason.  Scholars are still debating the proper tempo and character of these dances, as well as the nature of the steps themselves, so reconstructions of Gresely dances will no doubt continue to evolve.  Also interesting to note the Gresely dance called “Eglamowr”, seems remarkably similar to “Belfiore”.


16th C Italian Dance

Primary sources

 Caroso, M. Fabrito, Il Ballarino (Venice, 1581); Nobilta di Dame, c 1600;

 Negri, Cesare, Le Gratie D’Amore.

Glossary & Key to abbreviations

(note: although step names similar to 15th C steps, descriptions differ for 16th C)

Cadenza – jump in the air kicking one foot forward, end on both feet (ensemblé).               

Continenza – Step to the left (about 4 inches), bringing heel of right foot to touch left instep.  While stepping sideways, lower the body a little, then rise up, "peacocking", and lower flat.

Fioretto – Usually travels forward in one tempo, the first foot swings forward and around onto ball of foot behind the second foot, forcing second foot up pied en air.

Passo –  Traveling step in one temp; a simple step or pace forward, usually.

Puntato – “Punctuated” step/pace (forward), close with second foot (lightly, with elevee).

Ripresa – Sideways step in one tempo, rising up as you step to the side, close  up on toes with the other foot, and then lower flat (“arching” steps).

Scambiata – Exchange-the-feet step in four tempi, (1) step to one side; (2) join second foot to the first (cutting under behind the first) swinging first foot forward and (3) around slightly in back to join (assemblé, with slight lift or jump); (4) hold position.

Seguito ordinario (Caroso) – A double in two tempi (three steps and close).

Sequito semidoppio (Caroso) – as in Negri’s seguito ordinario (single, single, spetz).

Spezzato or Seguito spezzato – In two beats, (1) step forward flat; (2-a) rising onto toes, bring second foot behind heel of the first; (2b) lower first heel, leaving other raised.

Seguito scorso – Eight small steps in four beats, very quickly with body straight.

Trabuchetto – A small jump to the left, landing on the toe of the left foot, bringing the right foot next to it without touching the right foot to the ground.

Ballo del Fiore (the Dance of the Flower) for Three

16th C Balletto, F Caroso, 1581 – per Joanna of the Beechwoods, KWDS 2005

For one trio each repeat, or as many as will;

Begin as with verion for 2, with one man (or all men) on the dance floor holding a flower, Ladies seated around edge of floor.

  I         A    1 -4     man/men only: Riverenza grave;  (2) Continenze LR;

                    5 -8     (move twrd ladies) (2) Passi LR, Ordinari L; same to the R;

             B    1 -4     (arrive in front of partner) (2) Contenenzi LR,  Riverenza;

                    5 -8     (in count for 2 Cont) Lady rises & takes man’s hand; Rivrza;

              C    1 -4     (4) Ordinarii, moving out onto the dance floor, end facing;

                    5 -8        (Both) (2) Continenze LR & Riverenza;


  II        A    1 -4     man/men only: Riverenza grave;  (2) Continenze LR;

                    5 -8     (move twrd ladies) (2) Passi LR, Ordinari L; same to the R;

             B    1 -8     -- repeat I.B. (selecting a new partner)

             C    1 -8     -- repeat I.C. (place 2nd lady beside first, all do Riverenza)


  III       A    1 -4     (Group stands in triangle) (2) Continenze LR, Riverenza;

                    5 -8     (2) Ordinari over L shoulder; (2) Ord.. flanking fwd (to cntr);        

             B    1 -4     (2) Contenenza LR,  Riverenza;

                    5 -8     (All, man passing btwn ladies) (2) Ord, end in meza Riv.;

                                    (2) Seguiiti scorsi, turning L so that all end facing again;

              C    1 -4     (2) Puntate L fwd, R back; Riverenza;

                    5 -8     (2) Seg. Ordinarii LR, moving fwd to center; Riverenza;


  IV       A    1 -4     (Man takes R hand w 1st Lady) circle w/(2) Passi LR, Ord L;

                                   (Take L hands) (2) Passi RL, Ord.R, circling back;

                    5 -8     -- Man does the same w/ 2nd Lady, circling by L, then R;

             B    1 -4     (All do) (2) Continenze LR, Riverenza;

                     5 -8     (Intrecciata or “Hey”) (4) Seguiti Scorsi or ordinarii, in fig-8

                                    (Man goes btwn Ladies & passing R  w/ 1st Lady to start)

                                    (trades: M&L1, L1&L2, L2 & M, M&L1, L1 & L2);

              C    1 -4     (2) Continenze LR, Riv; man kisses flower & gives to L1;

                    5 -8     Man leads Lady 2 off the floor w/ (4) Seg. Ordinario LRLR;


  Repeat from beginning (part I), with Lady 1 going  in search of partners,               

          -AS- Man  & Lady 2 do (2) Continenze LR, Riverenza. *

ADAPTATIONS: If dance done 1 time thru only, man would lead both ladies off at the end of part VIII.         The 1st Man could start with 2 flowers, one for each lady.  A cumulative version could be done with all 3 dancers are going in search of new partners.  A bunch of flowers could be used, divided each time the dance ends.

* Final continenze & riverenza not mentioned in Caroso, part of reconstruction

Fully half of this dance is spent “fetching” the gentleman’s partners to the floor.  Like a good novel which spends time establishing its characters, this can be productive time in evolving the emotional component of this dance. 


Bella Gioiosa (Beautiful Joyousness)

for 3 (three) people

16th C Cascarde, Fabrito Caroso, 1581 - per Etienne de Clermont (KWDS 2001)

Bella Gioiosa (Beautiful Joyous) Cascarda
In Praise Of The Most Illustrious Lady
The Lady Guiliasavella Orsini

  Beginning in a circle.

  I         A    1 -8     (take hands) Riverenza; Trab. L R L R (drop hands);

                    9 -16   Turn single L w/ (2) Spez L&R, Passi L&R, Cadenza;

             B    1 -8     (face L in wheel) (4) Spez L R L R;

                    9 -16   Scambiate left & right;

    Ch          1 -4     Leader only: Turn single L w/Spez, Cadenza;

                    5 -12   Dancer #2 the same; Dancer #3 the same.                         


  II        A    1 -8     Leader: Passi L&R, Cadenza, Trab (or Canario) LRLR;

                    9 -16   Leader: Riprese L&L, Trab L&R, turn L w/ Spez L, Cadenza;

             B    1 -8     (Joust: L side in) Spez L fwd, R back, L&R to switch;

                    9 -16   (L side in) Spez L fwd, R back, L&R to switch;

    Ch           1 -12   -- Repeat Chorus as in I.


  III      A    1 -16   As in (II-A) above, with Dancer #2 as leader;

             B    1 -16   (Joust) as in (II-B), with Dancer#2 going  between #1 & #3;

    Ch          1 -12   -- Repeat Chorus as in I, with Dancer #2 as leader.


  IV      A    1 -16   As in (II-A) above, with Dancer #3 as leader;

             B    1 -16   (Joust) as in (II-B), with Dancer#3 going  between #1 & #2;

    Ch          1 -12   -- Repeat Chorus as in I, with Dancer #3 as leader.


  V        A    1 -8     (face L in wheel) (2) Seguido semidoppio L&R;

                    9 -16   (2) Riprese L&L; Trab L&R; turn L w/ Spez L, Cadenza;

             B    1 -8     (same as (A), to the right);

    Ch           1 -12   -- Repeat Chorus as in I.


  VI      A    1 -4     (2) Fioretti (a pie pari) L&R; (2) Passi back L&R;

                    5 -8     (2) Spez L&R (change places, leader passing btwn #2 & #3);

                    9 -16   (2) Fioretti R&L; (2) Passi back R&L; Spez R&L to change;

             B    1 -12   (Chain/Hey) (6) Spez (leader between then L)

                  14 -16   (2) Passi L&R, Cadenza;

    Ch          1 -12   -- Repeat Chorus as in I.


  VII     A    1 -8     (4) Trab LRLR; (4) Seguitti Battuti del Canario LRLR;

                    9 -16   Ripese L&L; Trab L&R; turn L w/ Spez L, Cadenza;

             B    1 -8     (4) Trab RLRL; (4) Seguitti Battuti del Canario RLRL;

                    9 -16   Ripese R&R; Trab R&L; turn R w/ Spez R, Cadenza;

    Ch          1 -12   -- Repeat Chorus as in I.

Irish Set-Dancing

This is an Irish social dance that is currently done.  While most agree that these are not documented period dances, many like to consider this a successor to dance as it may have been done in period.  … And, it’s fun!

Almost all of my instruction in Irish Set-Dance steps, as well as the tabulation for this dance, is courtesy of Scott MacTiere (Scott MacHaffie), who has taught many classes for Ithra in the Three Mountains area.  All mistakes in this description are my own.


Basic steps used in Irish Reels:

“Threes” – basic irish dance step that involves changing your weigh (“stepping”) three times: as in “right, left, right”, or “step, touch, step”; can be done advancing forward, or retiring backwards, or in place.   Similar to ballet step “ballencee”, or the 60’s dance step “the pony.”

“Sevens” – traveling step, moves laterally to the side.  To travel to the left, begin by (1) hopping on the right foot, lifting the left foot in front; then (2) step to the left on the left foot; next (3) place the right foot behind left foot; (4) step left; (5) right foot behind again; (6) step left again; (7) right foot behind.  End with weight on right foot, left foot free (unweighted).  Seven’s are usually followed by two “Three’s”.

The Galway Reel                                                                                  

Irish reel for three people, starting in a line.

Take hands  

1st 8 bars       (Threes)     Advance for 2, turn around for 2, return for 2, turn around for 2.

2nd 8 bars     (7’s & 3’s)   Side-step right and back with 7’s and 3’s.

3rd 8 bars      (Threes)     End people turn w/ right hand for 2 to make arch, center dances under for 2, ends turn back w/2, center dances back to place for 2.

4th 8 bars      (Threes)     Center faces right-hand partner for a reel of 3 (figure-eight).

5th 8 bars      (7’s & 3’s)   CIRCLES: take hands in a circle, sidestep to right w/ 7’s-&-3’s, right-hand partner dances under arch made by other two on the “threes”.  Reform the circle, and dance back to left w/ 7’s-&-3’s, “throwing-out” the left-hand partner under the arch on the three’s.

6th 8 bars      (7’s & 3’s)   CIRCLES: Reform circle and dance 7’s-&-3’s to the right, throw the center person out on the 3’s.  Then back to the left with 7’s-&-3’s to form a line to start again.

                          The two ends will have changed place for the 2nd repeat of the dance.

1015DT                                              1016DT                                              1015DT