[SCA-Dance] Throwing out assumptions about Arbeau

Andrew Draskoy pub at andrew.draskoy.net
Fri Oct 24 10:12:15 EDT 2008

This is a reply to the discussion about double steps in Arbeau, but
I'm taking the discussion to a broader look at how we interpret
Arbeau, hence a new subject.

I find it very rewarding to throw occasionally throw out everything I
know about Arbeau and start from a direct reading of the text.
Reconstructions are necessarily interpretations,and Arbeau requires a
lot of interpretation.  I try to make new ones sometimes, rather than
sticking with the comfortable ones I've had for years or learned from

Here's a recent example:  Reading through Branle des Chevaulx, I once
again was faced with the old conundrum of what is the overall
formation?  A line?  A circle?  Two circles (men and women) facing
each other? Etc.  Having always seen and learned interpretations where
it's a big group of couples in a double-circle doing this, that's the
way I always approached it too.  Arbeau doesn't mention this at all.
In fact, he only mentions a single couple.  Going through the other
dances in his section on branles, there are clearly others that aren't
supposed to be in a circle, and at least one is just for a couple, as
I recall.  (No notes in front of me now, sorry.)  So, perhaps Bransle
des Chevaulx is just for a single couple.  Of all the possibilites,
this is the one that is most true to what he writes in the description
of the dance.  I've taught it this way, and it makes for a beautiful
dance.  I'd never have found it if I hadn't learned to throw away what
I "knew" and re-examine what's actually written.

This is just one example, and many won't agree with my interpretation.
 It doesn't matter.  What matters is that we can find new
interpretations and new beauty in this material if we look at it
freshly.  I hope to see lots of discussions about this here!

Miklos, mka Andrew Draskoy

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