[SCA-Dance] Haut Barrois branle

Alex Clark alexbclark at pennswoods.net
Thu Jan 11 16:42:25 EST 2007

At 10:48 AM 1/11/2007 +0100, Mikuláš wrote:
>>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.
>>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.
>I find this quite an interesting interpretation. I very much agree that 
>both feet have to be off the ground when moving sideways with jumping step.
>On the other hand personaly I still tend to believe, that when Arbeau says 
>"tumbant sur pied largy gaulche", he wants you to land in the position of 
>pieds largis - he defines them as "pieds largis, qui se font quand les 
>deux pieds sont a terre, portans tous deux esgallement la pesanteur du 
>corps" (rougly translated: they are made with both feet on the ground, 
>taking both the same body weight). Pide gaulche largy is the very same 
>term he uses in the tabulature describing the "ordinary" double in branle 
>double. I hesitate to believe that this one was done with standing only on 
>one foot most of the time - although it is not impossible.
>I believe that to agree with landing on just one foot would mean to 
>interpretate the position of "pieds largyz" differently in branle double 
>nad branle du hault Barrois.
>Hope it helps to bring in more confusion ;)

I suspect that it does. But if so, I was confused in a similar way a few 
years ago. Then I figured out that in the branle tabulations, Arbeau most 
often uses the singular "pied", reserving the plural "pieds" for the "pieds 
joincts". In contrast with this, he uses the plural for his definitions of 
both "pieds joincts" and "pieds largis", including the "pieds largis oblique".

Based on his uses of singular and plural, I now think that in the branle 
tabulations he meant that a "pied . . . largi" or "pied . . . approche" 
is  a step onto the designated foot, taking all weight onto that foot in 
readiness to move the other foot to make the next foot placement. So "pied 
gaulche largi" would be a step onto the left foot, "pied droit largi" would 
be a step onto the right foot, while "pieds largis" is a stance with weight 
on both feet. This would give "pied . . . largi" the same meaning in all 
the branles, with the only difference being the moment at which weight is 
taken off the other foot, before or after the new foot placement.

This leaves weight on the other foot from where it is in the "pieds largis 
oblique droict" and its "gauche" counterpart, but I don't see that as a 
problem. I don't see Arbeau using the latter terms in dance tabulations, so 
he might have seen them as static positions which do not necessarily lead 
to any specific kind of transfer of weight. So one dances a "pied gaulche 
largi" by putting the left foot out to the side and shifting all weight 
onto it, but one stands "pieds largis oblique gaulche" by going into a 
similar position but not following through with a transfer of weight.

Wouldn't Arbeau be delighted to know how people are splitting hairs over 
his work more than four hundred years later?

Henry of Maldon/Alex Clark 

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