The Branle [Brahn-lee] is a French (Renaissance dance) that was well documented in the Festival of Nance in 1445, however it was called the Conje' (End) and was also performed on the Field of the Cloth of Gold" in 1520 and was a very gay and quick dance (generally danced outdoors) by a group, either in line or circle.
It was considered a Court Dance sometimes being referred to as a carole. The name comes from Branler (Shake) and Brander (Brandish). The English called the Branle "the Brawl" and described it as "a winging step
and anterior kick and swing, the lifting of the leg, the twisting of the feet and the side fling of the foot are frills of past dances". The dance was said to be based on the Kick of a Cow ("rû de vache").
Every French province had its own Branle; the Bretons called theirs 'Passepied' or 'Trihoris'. The Branle du Haut Barrois was specially reserved for attendants and waiting-maids, but was indulged in by the gentry when they disguised themselves as shepherds and shepherdesses as a pastime. There were also Branles mimés, such as the Branle des lavandières (above clip), where the movement of washing clothes was imitated by hand gestures, and the Branle des eremites, for which monks' attire was donned. The ronde and game 'sur le Pont d'Avignon ' is a survival of this dance, which was given in two files, the performers crossing their hands over the chest, and bowing in cadence.
The Branle of the Torch was said to have been danced admirably by Marguerite de Valois and the Alençon, François, duc d'. Also, the Branle des Brandens was danced on the first Sunday in Lent with a lighted torch in the dancer's hand. Probably this was a remnant of an old superstitious practice of the ancient Gauls.
During the month of February, which was the last of the solar year, the ancient inhabitants of France ran about the forests at night with lighted torches and danced a rite which was supposed to be one of purification, and also a ceremony which was meant to bring rest to their departed relatives and friends. This custom was founded in a utilitarian spirit by the Druidic priests, who knew that to run about with lights in the woods would free the trees from caterpillars, which generally emerge from their eggs in Spring.
The Charleston dance is said to have had its roots in the Branle as well as the Bourrée d'Auvergne originating in the Branle of the Sabots. The Tourdion, with which the branles concluded, was of livelier rhythm. The Tourdion is the same as the Gaillarde, only that the latter is danced with jumping steps, while the Tourdion is glided. The Branle usually followed the Basse Dance.