Age of the Galliard
Curt Sachs first coined the term "Age of the Galliard" to describe the style of dance performed in Italy from the early sixteenth through the mid-seventeenth centuries. Herein, I present my work - translations, notations, and teaching resources - of this era of dance.
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The Basic Steps of Il Ballarino
by Margaret Roe

In examining the dances of Il Ballarino, it quickly becomes apparent that a selection of the forty-seven steps Caroso uses or defines are more common than the rest. Statistical analysis of these steps reveals seventeen steps to be most common. Those steps, in order by frequency, are the Riverenza, Passo, Ripresa, Trabuchetto, Seguito spezzato, Continenza, Seguito ordinario, Puntata, Cadenza, Seguito scorso, Passo trangato, Scambiata, Seguito semidoppio Fioretto à piedi pari, Trabuchetto à piedi pari, Doppio and Fioretto. By mastering just these “Basic” steps, any dancer can perform nearly two-thirds (50 out of 82) dances of Il Ballarino.

The execution directions for each these basic steps are below. A translation of the original explanations given by Caroso, as well as directions for the other thirty steps, can be found in my book, Il Ballarino: Steps and Dances.


Cadenza (Cadence)
Beat 1: First, raise the left foot forward. Then jump into the air while pulling the left foot behind, landing on both feet with the right foot forward.
* This step is titled Cadenza in Gagliarda (Cadence in Galliard), but Caroso most often only refers to it as a Candenza in his dances.

Continenza (Continence)
Beat 1: Step to the left about four finger-widths from the right.
Beat 2: Close the right to the left, either by stepping on the right foot parallel to the left or by drawing the right heel to the arch of the left foot, while bending the knees a little.
Half beat: Rise again gracefully, keeping your weight mostly on the left to begin the next movement on the right foot.

Doppio (Double)
Beat 1: Step left.
Beat 2: Step right.
Beat 3: Step left again.
Half beat: Close by stepping on the right next to the left, bending the knees a little.
Beat 4: Raise the heels, straightening the legs and keeping the body straight.
Half beat: Lower the heels.

Fioretto (Flourish)
Beat 1: Raise the left foot forwad, two finger-widths to the side of the right, two finger-widths from the ground, and one finger-width in front of the right, keeping the legs straight.
Half beat: Jump up into the air, landing on the toes of the feet with the left foot where it began and the right foot is forward so that the right heel is in line with the left toes.
Beat 2: Hop onto the left foot in place of the right and raise the right as the left was raised in Beat 1.

Fioretto à piedi pari (Flourish on even feet)
Begin: Stand on both feet about two finger-widths apart, with the toes even.
Beat 1: Raise the left foot to the side one hand-width from the right, then stamp on the left toes back in place.
Half beat: Raise the right foot in the same manner, and stamp on the right toes back in place.
Beat 2: Raise the left foot again and stamp on the left toes again while raising the right foot.

Passo (Step)
Beat 1: Step forward onto the left foot, four or five finger-widths in front of the right.

Passo trangato or Trangho (Gulped or Swallowed Step)
Beat 1: Step on the left foot, diagonally forward almost one hand-width from the right foot and bend your knees.
Beat 2: Raise your right heel and straighten your knees.
Beat 3: Raise your left heel and right foot at the same time.
Beat 4: Lower the left heel in place.
Note: Caroso is unclear if the right foot should be lowered at the end as well, but he is clear that it should be the next foot to move. Thus, if you do lower the right foot, do not put any weight on it.

Puntata (Pointed, Spurred, Set Against, or Resisted)
Puntata made in four beats*:
Beat 1: Step on the left four or five finger-widths in front of the right, strutting a little.
Beat 2: Close with the right foot.
Beat 3: Rise up onto the toes.
Beat 4: Lower the heels.

Puntata made in two beats*:
Beat 1: Step on the left four or five finger-widths in front of the right, strutting a little.
Beat 2: Close with the right foot, bending the knees.
Half beat: Straighten the legs.
Note: Do not raise the heels while bending or straightening the knees.
* Caroso does not always identify whether the Puntata is to be made in two or four beats, and sometimes misidentifies the step when he does. As a result, all indication of step length has been removed from the name in the dance reconstructions, and the type of Puntata to be made should be dictated by the counts available.

Ripresa (Taken or begun again)
Ripresa made in two beats:
Begin: Feet even, so neither is in front.
Beat 1: Step fully on the left to the left side, four finger-widths from the right.
Half beat: Raise both heels.
Beat 2: Close with the right foot.
Half beat: Lower both heels.

Ripresa made in one beat:
Begin: The left foot should be two or three finger-widths forward of the right and one finger-width to the side of it, with both feet flat on the ground.
Beat 1: Move both heels to the left.
Half beat: Move both toes to the left.
Note: Caroso directs the dancers to keep the legs and body straight and not to make gestures with the hands or head.
* Caroso does not always identify whether the Ripresa is to be made in one or two beats, and sometimes misidentifies the step when he does. As a result, all indication of step length has been removed from the name in the dance reconstructions, and the type of Ripresa to be made should be dictated by the counts available.

Riverenza (Reverence)
Beat 1: Stand facing your partner, with half of the left foot forward of the right and four finger-widths to the side of it, with the body and head erect and the feet pointing straight forward.
Beat 2: Pull the left foot behind in a straight line so that the toes are even with the right heel and the foot is flat on the ground.
Beat 3: Bend the knees, spreading them apart a little and lower the head and body a little.
Beat 4: Rise again, pulling the left foot forward next to the right, straightening the knees and the body and raising the head.
Note: The Riverenza that opens a dance should be made to your partner, not to the bystanders, because to make it to the bystanders would appear disrespectful to your partner. Also, the Riverenza grave is made in eight counts rather than four. To do this, simply double the counts for each movement.

Scambiate (Changing)
Beat 1: Step forward on the left in front of the right toes and half a hand-width from the right.
Beat 2: Cross the right foot outside of the left heel.
Beat 3: Raise the left three finger-widths off of the ground and in front of the right.
Beat 4: Pull the left back next to the right while jumping into the air, land on both feet evenly next to each other.
Note: The instructions given by Caroso in Il Ballarino are the only instructions for a Cambio or Scambiate in any contemporary source that direct the dancer to “move the right foot…outside of the heel of the left.” This action seems awkward, and in his second volume of dances, Caroso changes this to behind. The explanation given in the Chigi manuscripts directs the dancer to move the right foot near the left, whereas the explanations by Negri and Santucci change the nature of the step such that the right foot no longer makes such a movement.

Seguito ordinario (Ordinary Following)
Beat 1: Step forward with the left so that the heel is in line with the right toes.*
Beat 2: Step similarly with the right.*
Beat 3: Step similarly with the left again.*
Beat 4: Pause with both feet level on the ground.
* This step makes two unusual specifications: to push forward with the toes for the first three movements, and then to “rest with both of the feet level on the ground” in the fourth beat. In most other steps, Caroso simply directs the dancer to step, specifically directs the dancer to step on the toes, or specifically directs the dancer to thrust the foot forward so that the heel ends in line with the toes of the other foot. The unusual and vague explanation in this step, coupled with the instruction to pause in the fourth beat with the feet flat on the ground, would seem to suggest that this step is performed on the toes. However, in his second volume, Caroso changes his instructions so that the steps are made by putting weight on the toes first, followed by the heel, and raising the just heel of the back foot in the fourth beat. Santucci defines his Seguito ordinario in a similar manner, having the dancer rise onto the toes in the fourth beat and then lower back down onto flat feet. Considering these explanations, two conclusions may be drawn: either the step itself changed over three decades, or Caroso’s explanation of this step in his first volume was too vague and had to be corrected. Since no further evidence is currently available to determine which conclusion is correct, this step may be interpreted in one of two ways: stepping forward onto the toes and then lowering the heels in the fourth beat, or stepping flat on the feet and not raising the right foot or heel in the final beat.

Seguito scorso (Scurried Following)
Beat 1: Step left on the toes about two finger-widths to the side of the right and half the length of your foot forward of it.
Half beat: Step forward on the right toes in the same manner as the left.
Beat 2: Step forward on the left toes in the same manner.
Half beat: Step forward on the right toes in the same manner.
Beat 3: Step forward on the left toes in the same manner.
Half beat: Step forward on the right toes in the same manner.
Beat 4: Step forward on the left toes in the same manner.
Half beat: Step forward on the right toes in the same manner.
Note: Caroso directs the dancers to keep the body straight and strut a little with each step, yet making no noise with the shoes. In other words, the dancer is to make small steps, not to shuffle the feet.

Seguito semidoppio (Following half-doubled)
Beat 1: Step forward on the left.
Beat 2: Step forward on the right.
Beat 3: Step forward fully on the left, half a hand-width forward and two finger-widths from the right.
Half beat: Raising the heel first, step onto the right so that the toes are in line with the left heel.
Beat 4: Raise both heels.
Half beat: Finally, lower the body and the left heel.

Seguito spezzato (Broken Following)
Beat 1: Step forward fully on the left, half a hand-width forward and two finger-widths from the right.
Half beat: Raising the heel first, step onto the right so that the toes are in line with the left heel.
Beat 2: Raise both heels.
Half beat: Finally, lower the body and the left heel.

Trabuchetto (Pitfalls)
Beat 1: Hop on the left toes about half a hand-width to the left, while raising the right a little.
Beat 2: Bring the right foot next to the left, about two fingers away, but without touching the ground.
Note: Caroso is careful to note that the right foot should not end up behind the left.

Trabuchetto à piedi pari (Pitfalls on even feet)
* No definition is available in any available period book for the Trabuchetto à piedi pari, including in Il Ballarino. As a result, the step can be interpreted in a variety of ways, as long as it continues to fit into the allotted counts of the music. “À piedi pari” translates as “on equal or even feet.” In most cases, the step following this one is begun on the same foot. It is therefore likely that this step is done the same as a Trabuchetto, by hopping to the left with the left foot, then bringing the right next to it and putting it down, so that the left can be moved again for the next step.
Beat 1: Hop on the left toes about half a hand-width to the left, while raising the right a little.
Beat 2: Step on the right about two fingers from the left, putting your weight on it so the left can be moved next.

Copyright © 2009-2011, Margaret Roe