[SCA-Dance] Haut Barrois branle

Alex Clark alexbclark at pennswoods.net
Wed Jan 10 18:52:24 EST 2007

At 10:32 PM 1/8/2007 +0000, Barbara Webb wrote:
>I've recently been re-reading Arbeau's bransle instructions and I would be 
>interested in other people's opinions on how to dance the Haut Barrois 
>branle. I don't think I've ever seen anyone teach it explicitly. Even if 
>this dance not so interesting in itself I noticed that the tabulation of 
>both the Montarde and Official Branle call explicitly for them to be done 
>in 'Haut Barrois style', and it is also stated that Pease, Cassandra and 
>Pinagay can optionally be danced this way. The simple solution seems to be 
>to dance them as a 'skipped' version i.e. bouncing/hopping between each 
>step. However that isn't what Arbeau describes...
>I'm working from the Dover edition, translated by Mary Stewart Evans, 
>though I've also had a look at the original and can't spot anything that I 
>(not expert in French) would translate differently.

I had that same problem for years, until I studied some French. I even 
wrote and published a book that contained an inaccurate version of this 
step, based on Evans' translation.

>Arbeau says Haut Barrois is like a double branle except "the shoulders and 
>arms, as well as the feet, must be made to move with the petit sauts 
>[little jumps] to a light vivacious duple time". The 'jumping' is then 
>described as follows:
>"spring sideways off both feet, moving towards the left, and alight pied 
>largi gauche [i.e. as in a step left]. Then spring sideways off both feet 
>again, moving towards the left, and alight pied droit approche [i.e. with 
>right foot near left, the second step of a normal sideways double]. Then 
>spring sideways to the left off both feet again and alight pied largi 
>gauche. Then spring sideways off both feet, moving to the left, and alight 
>pieds joints [feet together] or else upon the left foot followed by a 
>greve droit or pied en l'air droit [raised right foot] and then the double 
>a gauche [double to the left] will be completed"

This translation would be better with one "f" deducted from each "off". You 
might think that would make no difference, until you reread Arbeau's 
definition of "saut".

Also, the original French would be better represented by moving each 
"sideways" to a place a few words later, as in: "spring of both feet, 
moving sideways . . .", which keeps the descriptive phrases in the same 
order. And each "alight" should have "on" or "upon" after it.

These are not random imprecisions in the translation. They add up to a 
consistent pattern of bias against a meaning that the original text seems 
to indicate, or at best a lack of awareness of that meaning. You see, each 
of these omitted or obfuscated details supports or is consistent with an 
interpretation of the "saut" as an elevation, where both feet are involved 
by being elevated, followed by a landing only on the foot or feet indicated 
for the landing.

>In the tabulation the jumps follow the steps i.e. for the 8 notes of a bar 
>to do a double left:
>Note    1: step left
>         2: jump
>         3: bring right foot close
>         4: jump
>         5: step left
>         6: jump
>         7: feet together
>         8: jump
>I've tried occasionally over the years to do what Arbeau describes, i.e. 
>jumping off both feet between each step of a double, and I cannot seem to 
>find a way to do it that feels plausible, let alone can be done smoothly 
>and at speed as a simple variation on a double. Should we conclude that 
>the description of jumping off both feet is just mistaken - which seems 
>strange for the usually very clear Arbeau - or at best only applies to the 
>beginning/end of the double? The original French is "saulterez des deux 
>pieds" - which seems pretty clearly to mean a two-footed jump, not just a 
>bounce or skip - but is another intepretation possible? And does anyone 
>have thoughts about the shoulder and arm movements?

As I indicated above, the translation does not say exactly what Arbeau 
said. Your doubts based on the feeling of the movement happen to be 
supported by the original text. Arbeau didn't say that you should jump 
*off* both feet between steps, just that you should jump using both feet. 
In context, this seems to mean simply a jump with both feet off the ground, 
as he explicitly described in his definition of "saut":

". . . les deux pieds sont hors de terre esleuez en l'air": both feet are 
away from the ground elevated in the air.

This, together with his comments contrasting the saut with 
movements/positions in which one or both feet are on the ground, makes it 
clear that for Arbeau the most distinctive and definitive feature of the 
saut is that both feet are off the ground. So, in the absence of any 
indication that he meant something else about both feet, he probably meant 
that both feet are simultaneously elevated. This also suggests that on the 
notes where his tabulation calls for a "saut", that is probably supposed to 
be a moment at which the feet are elevated, not the moment at which they 
leave the ground.

The original French also makes a closer connection between the landing and 
the resulting position than the above translation does, giving more 
emphasis to the role played in the landing by the specified foot or feet. 
It seems to me that when it describes the landing position with reference 
to one foot (i. e. "pied largi gauche"), it is indicating that the landing 
is done *only* on that foot.

So feel free to disregard any guesses that are informed by that translation 
rather than the original French. The translation has practically done away 
with all the clues from the original French as to which foot/feet to spring 
off from or onto.

My conclusion is that the original meaning was that the first three steps 
of each double are done by springing off the ground and landing on one 
foot, and the last by springing off the ground and landing on both feet. 
For example, the left double goes:

1. Spring (off from both feet) with both feet off the ground, and land on 
the left foot out to the side.
2. Spring (off from the left foot) with both feet off the ground, and land 
on the right foot approaching the left foot.
3. Spring (off from the right foot) with both feet off the ground, and land 
on the left foot out to the side.
4. Spring (off from the left foot) with both feet off the ground, and land 
on both feet joined.
(This is done with a net leftward motion on every step.)

Put more simply, with less reference to Arbeau's terms and definitions:

1. Spring to left onto left foot.
2. Spring onto right foot near where the left foot was.
3. Spring to left onto left foot.
4. Spring onto both feet together.

I hope that this has helped to shed some light on the problem.

Henry of Maldon/Alex Clark 

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