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The Saltarello Dance

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1895 - Dancing the Saltarello at the Bay of Naples - by Milton Fisher

        The Saltarello or Salterelle was a lively Italian fast, leaping Court Dance which was originally a form of the Galliarde and in Spain was originally called the "Alta Danza" (or High Dance because of the leap) which used a skipping step at the beginning of each measure. The name came from the Italian word Saltare (To Leap). The French called it the Pas de Brabant (or breban) The Saltarello was a popular court dance of the middle ages. The Saltarelle is so named from the very quick, high steps which are peculiar to it.

    In Italy it was danced by Courtesans dressed as men in Masquerades. In Rome, the dance was very popular and was danced as a couples dance. Women held there apron and danced opposite the man, with manly gardeners and vintners enjoying the dance. This dance was very popular in Rome and Venice.

    It consisted of two steps, a reprise with a beat in between with an occasional little leap (later, allowed only to the good dancers) and occasionally insert three little changing steps (shuffle?). The first time-stroke of each measure is strongly marked, although commencing with a brève. The Saltarelle represents the eternal drama of love, the wooing, the resistance, the triumph; the entire is accompanied by gestures, by the mandolin, the guitar, or the tambourine, in the light measure of the Tarentelle. At the beginning a single couple performs the Saltarelle, but very soon the entire audience is carried away by the enthusiasm of the music and the pleasure of the dance.

    The Saltarello is also known as the Alta Danza (Spain), Passo Brabante (Italy), pas de brabant or breban (France) and Quadernaria (German). The Italians called the Quadernaria the Saltarello tedesco which fused together by the 16th. century.

    The Italian balli mostly started with a salterello or piva section in multiples of four. Around 1546 the Galliarde replaced the Saltarello in popularity. The Saltarello originally followed the Galliarde in dance order and later changed to follow the Basse Danse. The Tarentella and Sicilian were very close in design.

It was done in 3/4 time and later in 3/8 & 6/8.

    La Mascotte (1880), by Edmond Audran (1840-1901) goes something like this:
A farmer, Rocco, is plagued by bad luck and so his superstitious brother sends to him Bettina, a country girl, as a mascotte who he hopes will cure this ill fortune. The farmer's shepherd, Pippo, falls for the virgin Bettina, who is later encouraged by Prince Laurent to live at his nearby castle. Bettina thus was sent to the court of the Grand Duke of Laurent and became a countess. When Bettina became a countess Pippo was forbidden to see her and Bettina became very sad in heart. To try to lift her spirts a troop of Italian dancers, whose leader was named Salterello (aka Pippo), would try to supposititiously amuse her. Pippo helps Bettina escape from the castle when it seems she is about to be married to the Prince. The lonely Prince now receives a bout of bad luck when war breaks out and he is rejected by his subjects. Pippo marries Bettina in the hope that her powers (imaginary?) will be hereditarily bestowed on their children. The prince became reconciled with the promise that he should be allowed to adopt her first child. Therefore a Saltarello is an assumed covert to bring about a forbidden marriage and hoodwink those who forbade it.

Another story goes like this:
A supposititious Italian dancer, sent to amuse Bettina in the court of the Grand Duke Laurent. Bettina was a servant on a farm, in love with the shepherd Pippo. But when she was taken to court and made a countess, Pippo was forbidden to approach her. Bettina languished, and to amuse her a troop of Italian dancers was sent for, of which Saltarello was the leader. He soon made himself known to Bettina, and married her.

Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

Naples, Italy 1340's? Saltarello Court Dance

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Music Titles

n/a n/a Aion (Dead Can Dance)
            $ Alta Danza*
            $ Ballo Detto "Il Conte Orlando*
            El saltarello
            Notturno et Saltarello pour le violoncelle
            Il saltarello
            La Spanga
            $ Passamezzo - Saltarello*
            Rondo und Saltarello
            Saltarelle (Alkan)
            $ Saltarello* (Anon)
            Saltarello (Mainero)
            Saltarello (Paix)
            Saltarello ditto el Burato
            Saltarello ditto la Traditorella
            Salterello La Regina (1350 & 1550s)
            $ Saltarello Sancto Antonio (Francis of Assisi)
            $ Symphony No. 4
            $Tedesca - Saltarello*
            $ Troto*
            Troto Italian
            $ Ungaresca - Saltarello*

Night Clubs



n/a n/a France

Films / Movies


Ballets / Stage

1931 - Saltarello n/a 1470 - Mankind
1912 - La Saltarella       1880 - La Mascotte



Other Related Dances of the time...

Allemande Conca La Marsigliana Proporz (after dance)
Alenchon Courante La Tarascona Quaternaria
Almain Ductia Lauro Romanesca
Alta Danza Estampie or Istanpitta Le Branle Rondo
Ballo (Ballet) Flourentine Marcia, The Saltarello tedesco
Ballo Belfiore Gagliarde Minuet Sarabande
Ballo Francese Gaillarde Monferina Sicilian
Bassa Danza Gavotte Moresca Strathspey
Bauareua Gelosia Pas de Brabant Tarentella
Bouree Hoftanz passamezzo Tordion
Breban L'Esperence de Bourbon Pavane Trotto
Castille Nouvelle La Contredanse Petit Vriens Volta
Cerca La Dance Basse Piva Waltz

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


Thoinot Arbeau (1520-1595) Ebreo Henry VIII (1491-1547)
Fabritio Caroso (1535-1605) Henry VIII (1491-1547) Catherine de Medici (1519-1589)
Catherine de Medici (1519-1589) John Playford (1623-1687) Galeazzo Visconti (Duke of Milan)
Domenico Scarlotti   Duke of Burgandy (1396-1467)

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...

Title Author Date Publisher
Art of Danzare Cornazzano, Antonio 1465 ??
Gresley Manuscript ?? 1500 ??
Intabolatura de Lauto Petrucci 1508 ??
Lautenbuchlein Newsidler, Hans 1540 ??
Lute Book Fugger, Octavianus S. 1562 ??
World History Of The Dance Sachs, Curt 1937 Norton & Company
Art of Courtly Dancing in the
Early Renaissance
Brainard, Ingrid ?? ??



Poets / Writers

Charles Valentin Alkan (1813-1888) n/a Serge Ivanoff (w)
Galilei Vincenzo (1520-1591)        
George Golterman        
Mainero Georgio (c.1535-1582)        
Mendolssohn Felix        
Paix Jacob (16th Century)        
Sine Nomine        

Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searches

After dance Contrapasso Meza Ripresa Secular songs
Ballet Dancing Masters Mezavolta Venetian
Ballo Francese de Medicis Passitino  
Bassedanza Doppio Passo di Saltarello  
Continenza French Court Sacred Music  
[Photo 1 ]  
Basic Step Idea ...
1) - Procession (Start),
2) - Bow (aka: reverence) (getting ready to dance),
3) - Simple Step (Rock Step or walks),
3a) - Hop on Right foot and thrust the left fwd. (grue),
4) - Five double steps, (left heels strike together the right), repeat,
4a) - Two hops on left foot in different directions,
5) - Finish with a curtsey (quebradito).
Then repeat 1-5 The first two steps were short and they were danced on the tips of the feet: the first two steps was raised slowly, to the third was lowered quickly.

NOTE: Usually the man dances first, then the lady, while man waits. (vis-a-vis).
About 64mpm. (Triple rhythm?), BEGIN ON the UPBEAT!!!. example: If done to 3/4 time count was 2-3-1.
November 20, 2012