basse dansehistorical dances
A court dance performed at court balls and ceremonies by pairs in a parade arrangement, the basse danse derives from the word bassedanse, which literally means a “low dance” devoid of leaping steps, serious and dignified. Having peaked in the 15th century, the basse danse declined towards the mid-16th century.
The basse danse was particularly prevalent in the 15th century thanks to its popularity at the courts of France and Burgundy. Intended as a courtly entertainment, the basse danse provided performers with ample opportunities for self-presentation and self-creation. Referred to as the “queen of dances”, the basse danse commanded a dignified, proud and elegant approach. The steps and choreographies of 59 basse danses of various titles referring to names of different localities can be found in The Manuscript of Margaret of Austria published in the late 15th century. Performed in a 3-measure metre, the dance structure comprises three forms of double steps of different length and number, i.e. the petitemesure, the moyenmesure, and the grandemesure. Among the basic steps listed in The Manuscript of Margaret of Austria are simple (single) steps, double steps, reprise steps, as well as branle reverance steps, i.e. courteous bows of various length occurring at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of the dance. Most of the above are gliding steps which lend the dance an air of particular lightness and elegance.
Conté Pierre, Danses Anciennes de cour et de théâtre en France, Paris, 1974.
Larousse-Bordas, Dictionnaire de la danse, Paris, 1999.
The Manuscript of Margaret of Austria, Brussels, 1495-1501.
Toulouse Michel, L’Art et instruction de bien danser, Paris, 1482.