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The Branle

          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.

Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

Province, France 1445 (pop-1600s) n/a Circle / Court

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Music Titles - 4/4

n/a n/a appellé le petit gentilhomme (Estrées)
    Branle 2 (Attaignant)
    Branle d'Escosse (1588)
    Branle des Chevaux (1588)
    Branle Gay (Attaignant, Estrées)
    Branles Communs (Estrées)
    Bransle de Bourgogne (Gervaise)
    Branles de champaigne legiers (Estrées)
    Bransle de L'Officiel
    Bransle de la Torche (Praetorius)
    Bransle de Saint Nicolas (Polak)
    Bransle des Lavandieres (Estrées)
    Bransle Simple (Praetorius)

Night Clubs/ Ballrooms etc.



1445 - Nance Festival n/a England
1463 - Court of Burgundy   France
1520 - Field of the Cloth Of Gold   Italy
Salle des Caryatides in the Louvre    



Ballets / Stage

n/a n/a n/a



Other Related Dances of the time...

Allemande (e)Ceilidh Lancers sur le Pont d'Avignon
Barn Dances Charleston Passepied Torch Dance
Basse / Hautes Conje' (1455) Pavanes Tordion
Bourrée d'Auvergne Cotillions Quadrilles Waltz
Brawl (1520) (see branle) Galliarde Round Dances  

Various Branle's

Branle bourguignon (Old Folks) Branle des ermites Branle of Boulogne The Gay Branle
Branle d'Ecosse Branle des lavandières(Washerwoman) Branle of Brittany The Hermit's Branle
Branle de Bourgogne Branle des Flambeaux (de Valois) Branle of Burgandy Martengalle
Branle de Chandelier Branle Double Branle of Poitou  
Branle de (s) Chevaux Branle du Haut Barrois Branle of Scotland  
Danse de la Bassede Bretagne Branle Double Branle of the Sabots  
Branle de Malte (Malta) Branle Gai (newlyweds) Branle of the Small Girl  
Branle de Pois Branle Gais (1565 - Breton Girls) Branle of the Torch*  
Branle des Brandens Branles mimés Branle Simple  

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


1560 - Girls of Breton n/a Catherine De Medici
    * Marguerite de Valois
    * the Due d'Alencon

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...





Orchesographie Thoinot Arbeau 1588 Canon of Langress
The Dance, Ancient and Modern Arabella C. Moore n/a n/a
Dance Magazine n/a 1917 Dance Magazine
Mentor Magazine Grant Overton 12/1926 Magazine
World History Of The Dance Curt Sachs 1937 Norton & Company



Poets / Writers

Attaignant, Pierre (c.1494-1552) n/a 1445 - Nance
Estrées, Jean d' (16th c.)   1521 - Robert Coplande
Gervaise, Claude (c.1525-1583)   1536 - Arena
Polak, Jacob (c.1545-1605)    
Praetorius, Michael (1571-1621)    

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

Brawle / Brawl Conje' Cotillion révérences
Bouree Conjedium Renaissance