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Danse de Buffons dance History archives Logo
         Danse de Buffons was also known as the Mattachins (mattacini, mattacino, a kind of antique dance or morris used in Italy.) Roman Legend, King Numa Pompilius (second King of Rome, successor to Romulus, circa 700 BC) instituted the Salic Dance in honor of the god of war. This king chose from among people of the first rank, twelve priests, who were called Salii, to celebrate the sacred festivals of Mars. These priests would be dressed in painted robes, richly embroidered with gold and covered with brazen armor with rich baldrics and pointed caps, swords at their sides, little sticks or Javelins in their right hands and bucklers (Shields) in the left (which was said to have come down from heaven) and danced to the sound of the tibiae and made martial gestures, sometimes successively, and sometimes all together.

    Basically the dance can be done by four person, who each make a separate entrance around the room, wielding his sword and dancing to music. The next will follow etc. After each has made their entrance, they go around the room in the opposite direction, when they conclude, they begin a mock battle. From the noise of the clanking of the swords against their bucklers and raising of the sparks occasioned by salt being thrown into the fire, was said to be part of the Pyrrhic dance.

    They performed the Pyrrhic dance in the temple, at the time of offering the sacrifices, and in the solemn* processions along the streets of Rome, singing various hymns in praise of Mars (mythical god), which was done in "Duple Time." This dance was in direct relation to the Pyrrhic dance. This dance may be properly regarded as the origin of all those that were (in Rome of course), in process of time, instituted in honor of the gods. From it was composed of another sort, called Saltatio mimicorum, or better known as the the Buffoon's Dance.

    The comic dance (were the term Buffoon probably originated, buffoon=idiot, merrie maker) is classed among the most ancient diversions of that kind. The Greeks were the first to have invented it. The performers were dressed in a kind of bodice; they wore a gilt helmet on their heads, and a number of small bells on their legs. Thus accoutered, Sword in hand, they mocked the various war like postures and evolutions in the most burlesque attitudes. This style of dancing, with some alterations, was afterward much in vogue on the French stage, but was long since discarded.

    The entertainments, which were the delight of the enlightened inhabitants of ancient Greece, were finally consigned to the booths of quacks and tumblers. The curious reader will find the Buffoon's Dance fully described in Thoinot Arbeau's work, called "Orchesographi" (also see ballet.) Danse des Buffoons has also been said to mean Morris dancing in some old dance treatise (Arbeau).

    Among the ancients, perhaps the oldest is the Armed Dance. The dancers in performing it were armed with the sword, javelin, and the buckler or shield. It is the same with that which the Greeks called the Memphitic, invented, it is said, to celebrate the victory of the gods, and the overthrow of the Titans (Greek mythology.) This serious and warlike dance was performed to the sound of all the military instruments.

    The Grecian youth, during the serious siege of Troy, amused themselves with this dance, which was very well calculated to regulate the attitudes of the body, and required, to be properly performed, "a long practice and very great dispositions." The various military evolutions formed a part of this dance, as well as of another nearly similar, called the Pyrrhic dance.

    There were 6 basic Sword gestures made during the dance (Arbeau says five but lists six.)
1) Feinte ... dancer jumps on both feet holding his sword without touching anything with it.
2) Estocade ... dancer draws back his sword and thrusts it forward as to strike that of his companion.
3) Taille Haute ... Cutting downwards from Right to Left towards his companion.
4) Revers Haut ... same as above except Left to Right motion.
5) Taille Basse ... same as #3 except upwards.
6) Revers Bas ... same as # 5 except Left to Right.

Sometimes spelled as Buffoons, Buffons, Bufoons and Buffens

Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

Rome, Italy? circa 700 BC n/a Armed / War

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Music Titles

n/a n/a 1830 - Cuisinier de Buffon, le (Balisson)
            Les buffons (Clip)
            Snow Maiden (Rimsky) (Clip)

Night Clubs



n/a Adelphi Theatre (1830) Greece

Films / Movies


Ballets / Stage

n/a n/a n/a



Other Related Dances of the time...

Ballet Courante Memphitic Pyrrhic
Basses Dances Danse de Canaries Minuet Quadrilles
Batuque Galliard Moorish Saltarello
Brando, Brawle, Branle Gigue Moresca Spanish Dance
Chacona Hornpipe Musette Sword Dance
Choral Dance Jacara (xacara) Pavane Tordion
Cing-Pas Mattachins Piva War Dances

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


Capriol n/a Tullius Hostilus (gens clan*?.)
Salli Priests   Roman King Numa Pompilius
Thoinot Arbeau   Mars

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...

Title Author Date Published Publisher
Orchesographie Arbeau, Thoinot 1588 Langress
History Of Music n/a n/a n/a
World History Of Dance Sachs, Curt 1937 Norton & Co.



Poets / Writers

Balisson de Rougemont, M. N. n/a Arbeau

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

Bacchus Military Dances Trojan  
Jester Moors / Morris War Dances    
merry andrew Pyrrhic