Sonny Watson's Homepage
Ballrooms | Blog| Burlesque | Contests | Dances | Dancers | Dance History | Marathons | Movies | Music | Posters Store | Sheet Music | Troupes || Refresh Page
History Index HomePage
Music Lists: Contemporary WCS| Trad'l WCS| C/W Swing| Big Band| Disco| Gospel| Holiday| Hustle| Late Night| Latin| Latin WCS| Mash-Ups| NC2S| Techno
You Are here: Search Streetswing Site Site Search --->

Streetswings Dance History Archives
Basse Dancers Picture Basse Dance Histoy Origin Title and Hautes Dances ... plus HAUTES dances
        Basse danse (bah-seh-doncse) or La Danse Basse was also called "Dance Nobles" (dance of the "Upper Classes") and the Italian Hautes dances of the fifteenth century (Italy-Bassedanza, Hoftanz-German), were group participation dances. The Basse dance earliest writings are from a Spanish poem called "La Danza de la Muerte" (The King declines death's invitation to dance) about 1400. The basse dance was performed at French court for "the festival at Nance" in 1445 and later by Charles IX. Basse dances held a popularity from the 14th to 16th centuries. The French became very fond of these dances in the 1500s.

    The Basses dances were grave and solemn with small gliding steps, bows (reverence), and danced up on the toes, very slowly, and executed to that of many a Psalm tunes which were the opposite of the livelier Balli court dances. The basse danse was usually danced with one couple standing behind another, partners holding inside hands with the dance being very gentle, not rough like the Volta. Original Basse dances were a regal processional dance consisting of "large" (start), that required a bow and a "small" (end), that required no bow.

Basse Dances consisted of three parts and only five steps:
    (A) the Danse basse proper,
    (B) the Retour,
    (C) the Tourdion,
... Altogether eighty bars, thirty-two for the beginning, sixteen for the return, and thirty-two for the conclusion usually in 3/4 time.

Of the five steps, the simplest components were single steps and double steps, these were walking steps that progressed forward or backward.
    1) The single step (pas simple) consisted of a step and weight change;
    2) the double (pas double) was composed of three steps. Each step was punctuated by a slight rising and lowering of the body.
    3) The branle (bransle) was a sideways step performed with a slight swaying motion.
    4) The reprise (or démarche), was a backward step; Shift weight to and fro.
    5) and révérence (Congé) was the formal bow or curtsy.
... The Basse dances were followed up with a Branle (finne par branle) or a Saltarello.

    By the middle of the 16th century the basse dances lost its appeal to the more livelier dances of the time, such as the Hautes dances. The Hautes dances were much livelier and spirited than the Basse dances and had numerous figures in which to dance. One Hautes dance called the "Gaillarde" was a lively skipping dance. Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603) liked to Gaillarde. As time went on the Basse Dance and the Galliarde mixed so that today they are almost one in the same.

    These Basse dances or Court dances were the start of the "Society Dances" over time to the present. The Minuet is said to be a descendent of the Basse dance. By 1650 the Basse dance had practically died out in Italy and France. When the Basse dances started to fade (17th Century) they were replaced by the Pavane.

Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

Italy 1400 n/a processional

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Music Titles

n/a n/a Basse danse Jouissance vous donneray
La Brosse (Attaignant)
La Madalena (Attaignant)
La Maurache
La volunte
Nef de Sante' (1400s)

Night Clubs



n/a n/a Carvings at Florentine Academy
Court of the Dukes of Burgundy



Ballets / Stage

n/a n/a n/a



Other Related Dances of the time...

Allemande Espata Dansa La Dance Basse Saltarello
Bassadanza Franchoise Nouvelle La Danse de Cleves St. Pé
Beaulte de Castile Gagliarde La Danse de Ravestain Tandernaken
Branle, le Gaillarde La Spagna Tourdion
Contredanse, la Gavotte Minuet Volta
Courante Hautes Pyrénées (St. Pé) Moresca Waltz
Danses par en haut or aladines Hoftanz Pavane

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


Antonius Arena (C.1536) Robert Coplande (1521) Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603)
Cornazano (C.1455) Thoinot Arbeau (1580s) Charles IX (1550-1611)
Fabritio Caroso (1529?-1605) Edward III (1312-1377)
Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603) Louis XIV (1638-1715)

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...





Bibliotheque National n/a 1445 n/a
Basse Danses n/a 1455 Festival at Nance (Brussels Library)
Les Basses danses Autriche, de Marguerite d 1495 web link
Basse Danses Colande, Robert 1521 n/a
Eighteen Basse Danses Attaingnant 1529 n/a
Leges Dansandi Antonius Arena 1529 n/a
Il Ballarino Caroso, Fabritio 1581 Broude Brothers (1967)
Orchesographie (Orchesography) Arbeau, Thoinot 1588 n/a
retour de la basse danse Arbeau, Thoinot 1596 n/a
Acta Musicologica Sachs, Curt 1931 n/a
World History Of The Dance Sachs, Curt 1937 Norton & Company
Dances of England and France Dolmetsch, M. 1949 n/a
Down Memory Lane Murray, Arthur 1954 Greenberg
The Wonderful World of Dance Arnold Haskell 1960 Rathbone Books



Poets / Writers

Ambrrosio, Giovanni Serge Ivanoff n/a
Attaignant, Pierre (c.1494-1552)
Bach, Johann Sebastian (1685-1750)
Handel, George Frideric (1685-1759)
Haydn, Franz Joseph (1732-1809)

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

Aristocracy Conge' (final bow) Longa poulaines (pointed shoes)
Ballet, Ballo Dancing Masters Lute and Harp sackbut (pre Trombone)
Bassedanza de'marche Medicis shawms (pre Oboe)
Brussels Ms, the French Court Posata (halt) vielle (bowed string instrument)
Burgundian Italy Low Dance


12/8 time (duple). Music uses Trumpet, Drums, Lute, Organ and Harps.