A French court dance of the Baroque period, the courante was predominantly a solo and theatre dance, tremendously challenging in terms of technique. As the most popular court dance, it was performed at courts across Europe, including Poland. Danced at court balls as a partner dance performed by a single pair, it would mark the beginning of dancing events. Referred to as a “low” dance on account of being devoid of hop-steps, the courante was performed in a slow and dignified fashion.
Peaking in the second half of the 17th century, the courante was widely featured in Ballet de cour and Comedie Ballet performances, and was considered as the showpiece dance of Louis XIV. Superseded by the minuet, the courante waned in the first half of the 18th century, and was used mainly as an exercise in technique and style, and a drill performed before other dance forms. Despite losing its status in France, the courante did not disappear from other European courts (Germany, Poland), where it developed into local variants. Regardless of its declining popularity, dance masters continuously stressed the importance of the courante as a majestic and solemn dance, full of grace and nonchalance at the same time.
Pierre Rameau describes the fundamental step in the courante as the temps de courante (pas grave). The pas de courante appears in two variants: the pas court (short step), and the pas long (long step). The former comprises the temps de courante and the jetté, while the latter combines the coupé and the demijetté.
Danced in the 3-measure metre, the courant uses characteristic hand movement, sometimes adding the high port de bras. In the surviving original choreographies, the lines of the courant are straight, and their gliding steps indicate dignity – a testament to the royal status of the dance.
Agnel Romana, Podstawowe formy tańca dworskiego w okresie Baroku [Basic Forms of Court Dances in the Baroque Period], [in:] W kręgu tańca barokowego [In the Circle of Baroque Dance], ed. P. Grajter, Lodz, 2007.
Conté Pierre, Danses anciennes de cour et de théâtre en France, Paris, 1974.
Drabecka Maria, Tańce historyczne [Historical Dances], vol. I, Warsaw, 1975.
Larousse-Bordas, Dictionnaire de la danse, Paris, 1999.
Rameau Pierre, LeMaitre á danser, Paris, 1725.