[SCA-Dance] La Volta questions
katherine_list at sbcglobal.net
Mon Feb 6 13:20:19 EST 2006
A few things to add to Eoin's excellent post . . .
On sources for La Volte:
The only other source I know of that explicitly
describes La Volta is this one (I'd love to hear of
more, if they're out there):
J. Kamsey on Lavolta (MS Douce 280, c. 1605; transcipt
from D.R. Wilson, Dancing in the Inns of Court,
Historical Dance 2 no.5, 1986-7, p7.)
" The French Levolto.
By demonstration likewise [hes just said that the
Spanish Pavin must be learned by practise and
demonstration], falinge in to your pace, holdinge
handes, & conveyinge ye gentlewoman with your right
arme and legg by boundes in to .4. severall places.
honor & ende."
He specifies turns going in the opposite direction to
Arbeaus. I suspect that it varied from place to
place, and person to person, especially as Arbeau
allows turning in the opposite direction to relieve
The Spanioletta from the same MS (two dances after
Levolto) also refers to lifting a partner:
Take handes, fall in to your pace, parte with your
pace, traverse sydewayes, meete with your pace, &
heave vpp ye woman in your armes, part againe, pace,
traverse meete againe, the woman heave vp ye man,
honor & soe ende."
Negri's "La nizzarda" is quite a lot like Arbeau's La
it has galliard-like music, it's from the same region
("La nizzarda" means "from Nice", and Negri says it's
popular in Piedmont; Arbeau says La volta is from
Provence, which is right next to Piedmont; Nice has
been sometimes in one, sometimes in the other, with
the change of centuries); it alternates passages where
the couple walk about together with passages where
they perform fancy foot-work and jumps in place. The
position described for the turn is rather different,
and Negri mentions steps (sottopiede, reccaciate) that
Arbeau doesn't, but which are not out of place in a
I think at the least they're related dances, and
perhaps even "the same" dance, made to seem different
by being described in the language of different
Finally: there are a number of English/French images
that show couples dancing in a position very like that
Arbeau describes for La volte, but there is at elast
one English painting which shows a man lifting a woman
in a position more like that in La Nizzarda (i.e. they
face each other, he has a hand on either side of her
waist and she has a hand on each of his shoulders).
Perhaps there were several types of late 16th C dance
in which the man lifted the woman and turned her
around, or perhaps there was much more variation in
the way La Volte was performed than we realise, having
only one decent description of it.
On "La Volte" as a whole dance, independant of the
Elizabeth might have asked musicians for a Volta, as
it seems to have been considered, in England at least,
a separate musical form (not that I can tell WHAT the
difference was, beyond the name). Dowland's "Varietie
of Lute Lessons" consists of "Fantasies, Pavins,
Galliards, Almaines, Corantoes and Volts", each type
grouped together, and appearing in that order. He's
not treating Voltas as a subset of galliards.
I often dance a volta as just another galliard
variation ('cause I get tired after a few turns), but
I'm sure it could sometimes stand alone in the 16thC,
and perhaps it usually did.
Katherine von Regensburg
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