[SCA-Dance] being picky about Arbeau's double step

Alex Clark alexbclark at pennswoods.net
Fri Oct 24 18:42:48 EDT 2008

At 07:38 PM 10/23/2008 -0400, Jane & Mark Waks wrote:
>Jen Kennedy wrote:
> > Relatedly, when's the last time someone brought up the special
> > kicky/bouncy doubles in a few Arbeau dances--like Official Bransle, and
> > maybe Montarde?
>*Blink*. That's how we've always done them -- I've been teaching the
>"jumping jack steps" (an imprecise but convenient approximation) for
>twenty years. It hadn't occurred to me that that wasn't the usual case.

I used to think that these springing steps like the branle du haut barrois 
were done with landings on both feet throughout, like this "jumping jack" 
description. But on a subsequent analysis a few years ago, I concluded that 
this was incorrect. The argument for this version was not valid, while a 
different version was indicated by the original description.

The reason why I used to believe in this version was that I assumed that 
the Evans translation, backed up by Sutton's note to p. 123, was accurate. 
But when I examined the original French ("saulterez des deux pieds"), I saw 
that it doesn't mean "spring off both feet". It means "spring *with* both 
feet", apparently referring to Arbeau's own definition of /sault/ as a 
movement in which both feet are away from the ground, elevated in the air, 
which is even more /gaillard/ than movements with one foot in the air. 
Arbeau put such a repeated emphasis on the fact that both feet are off the 
ground that I cannot suppose that these springs with both feet need to be 
done with both feet on the ground. Since this supposition was (AFAIK) the 
only support for this version, I find it to be unsupported.

However, there is a different version that is positively indicated, both by 
the original, and by the French terms retained in the Evans translation. 
Each landing except the final /pieds joincts/ specifies a foot in the 
singular, and the /pieds joincts/, in the plural, is followed by a 
variation that begins with landing on the left foot only. To me, this means 
that there is a distinction between the intermediate landings, each done on 
one foot, and the /pieds joincts/, done on both feet. So the step would be 
properly done with springs from one foot onto the other, only going onto 
both feet when closing the feet at the end of a double (or single).

This apparently correct technique sharpens the distinction between singles 
and doubles, which may help to explain why Arbeau found it worthwhile to 
distinguish between a series of doubles to the left in Montarde and a 
series of singles to the left in Official. BTW, it is also more akin to the 
courante than some other versions are.

Henry of Maldon/Alex Clark 

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