[SCA-Dance] Branle de l'Official

Alex Clark alexbclark at pennswoods.net
Fri Jan 19 23:49:02 EST 2007

At 06:53 PM 1/19/2007 -0500, spanogle at excite.com wrote:
>   I've been asked to teach Branle de l'Official at an event.  I normally 
> don't teach this, because the SCA version has deviated too far from the 
> original.  I went back to the sources, and found an issue that I'd love 
> some help on. The last four steps of the tabulation are:  pied en l'air 
> left, pied en l'air right, pieds joincts, pause.  This happens during the 
> leap by the ladies.  The notes in the English translation have a brief 
> discussion that this contradicts a previous statement by Arbeau that the 
> men stand firmly while helping the ladies jump.

The exact phrase was "seem to contradict", which dances along the edge of 
the truth without quite crossing the line. These two points cannot actually 
contradict each other unless one makes an unnecessary assumption, such as 
that the pieds en l'air must be for both the woman and the man. The 
assumption that all steps are for both would be acceptable as a *default* 
assumption, but in this case it must be overridden by Arbeau's statement 
that the men keep their feet on the ground. So Sutton's concern about this 
seeming contradiction is much ado about nothing.

OTOH, I think that her comment at the end of that note that "The exact 
timing of the lift is not given" is really mistaken, unless one requires a 
very strict sort of exactness in timing. The note saying that the men grasp 
and lift their partners is clearly lined up beside "pieds joincts, pied en 
l'air gaulche, pied en l'air droit, pieds joincts", and it says that it 
should be done during these four steps here ("ces quatre pas icy"). There 
is no indication that the grasping and the lifting begin and end at 
different times, except that in practical terms it is necessary to grasp at 
least a little fraction of a second before lifting. From this I feel that I 
should conclude that the lift begins at the first "pieds joincts" (or as 
soon after as it may) and ends at the second one.

>I think it
>would be possible but risky (and very tiring) for the men to do the kicks 
>while helping the ladies jump.  A possible solution is that the ladies 
>actually jump once for each kick by the men.  A solution that fits better 
>with the instruction that the man stands firmly is that they jump only on 
>the pause, but the tabulation says the lady jumps during the last four steps.

But it is unnecessary for the men to jump at all after the singles, because 
the only steps where there was a question of whether they are done by the 
woman only, or by both, are the pieds en l'air. It seems clear that the 
jumping after the last single is done by the woman only, while the man 
participates in jumping only by assisting the woman (and by keeping his own 
feet on the ground).

By analogy with my own sad experiences, I suspect that the above version 
with a man's jump at the end results from something like specification 
creep due to brainstorming.

>It is possible that this footwork is for the lady
>while she is in the air.  Trying to envision this using the typical hold 
>with the lord and lady facing, I think that the lady would only choose to 
>dance this with someone she REALLY doesn't like.

Tee-hee. Or should I say, "Eek!" Fortunately for the men, Arbeau only tells 
them to face to the right (towards their partners) and does not tell the 
women to face to their partners. I suppose that it's easier to lift what 
you're facing towards, and easier for forward kicks to miss what you aren't 
facing towards. (Though there can also be a pied en l'air where the foot 
doesn't move forward at all.)

So, to bring together my conclusions into a unified whole, I figure that:

The men should turn right towards their partners as they close the last of 
the six singles.

The jump (by women facing in) and lift (by men facing their partners and 
standing pieds joincts) begin just after the closing of that last single, 
and continue until the next "pieds joincts". (For the men, the second 
"pieds joincts" is just a continuation of the first.)

The two pieds en l'air are done by the woman only, and are done as small 
kicks of the feet which the woman already has up in the air throughout 
these "pieds en l'air", because the lift begins before and ends after the 
pieds en l'air. The pieds en l'air are done forward in a direction that is 
approximately perpendicular to the man.

This is the only version that I know of for which I do not believe that any 
necessary supporting assumptions can be decisively knocked down (except 
perhaps for minor points without which the remainder of this version would 
still stand).

>If anyone has thoughts on this I would greatly appreciate the help. Teleri

Always happy to inflict my opinions about this dance on hapless victims. 
:-) Or even not-so-hapless, as the case may be.

BTW, as I explained in the recent discussion of the branle du Haut Barrois, 
I believe that when a branle is done with petits sauts only the pieds 
joincts (in the plural) at the end of a double or single should be done on 
both feet, while a pied largi or pied approche (in the singular) should be 
done onto one foot only, so that the only part of the petit saut that is 
always done with both feet ("des deux pieds") is the elevation -- the same 
part of the saut that Arbeau emphasized in his definition of "saut".

Henry of Maldon/Alex Clark 

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