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Torchlight dance, done for the Prince of Wales at the Del Mar in Scotland. sorry artist unknown

   The Torch or Torchlight dance was related to the old Sword dances and is considered a German dance but it hails from Scotland and was refined in France, then finally Germany. It was introduced in 1463 at the Court of Burgandy. Often the tapers carried by the noblemen were many-colored, this was specially usual at weddings. A 'royal dance of torches' was revived and held at Berlin in 1821. Wax torches were used, and the Prince and Princess walked round the room, followed by councilors and ministers, marching according to rank.

   According to the Portuguese, King Dom Pedro de Alcântara I' (1798-1834) of Brazil, mad with sorrow at the loss of his beloved wife Inez de Castro, sleepless with gnawing pains of his bereavement would in the middle of the night order a troop of soldiers to form a hedge from his palace and hold lighted torches, so that in the moonlight he might dance between them, and thus give bodily expression to the vehemence of his grief.

    The 'Branle of the Torch' was said to have been danced admirably by Marguerite de Valois (1553-1615) 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.

   Many Countires had various torch dances such as a the Samoans who also had Torch and Fire dances as well. When a neighboring village would arrive at a Feast (The poula), the Samoan Dancers would pass the Torch to them. Another Samoan Torch dance was done by Samoan Tatto Artists. The Fàckeltanz is a music for the German Torch dance done by two rows of ministers at Royal weddings while the bride and groom paraded with the wedding party. Another Torch dance in the Jewish faith is called the 'Simchat Bet Hasho evah' held during the 'Feast of Sukkot', took place in the Court of the Women in ancient times. Another dance from Portugal known as "Fogueiras de S. João" was however a type of Fire dance where as the dancers would jump through fire rather than use torches.


Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

Scotland 1463 n/a War/ Religious

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Music Titles

n/a n/a A Torch I'll Carry (Guidry)
            $ Bring a Torch?
            Candlestick (torch) Bransle
            Chandelier Bransle (Arbeau)
            $ Fackeltänze, Torch Dance #1
            $ Op 15 Torch Dance
            Torch Bransle (Arbeau)
            $ Torch Dance (act 1 Henry VIII)
            TorchDance (German)
            Torch Dance no 1 in B flat major
            TorchDance no 2 in E flat major
            Torch Dance no 3 in C minor
            Torch Dance no 4 in C major

Night Clubs



n/a n/a Brazil
            Del Mar, the (Scotland)
            New Grange (Ireland)
            New Orleans (Flambeau)

Films / Movies


Ballets / Stage

n/a n/a Henry VIII
            Romeo and Juliet
            Spectacle in Milan
            Thamar (1907) Euvika


            8/1924 - Dance Lovers Magazine

Other Related Dances of the time...

Bacchanal Cotillion   Lampadephoria
Ballo del Fiore Fàckeltanz (German) Morris Dance Shepards Dance
Branle Fire Dance Pastoral Dance Sword
Branle des Brandens Fogueiras de S. João Pavane War Dances
  Kecak Dance (Bali)   zembekiko

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


duc d Alençon François n/a Catherine de Medici
Iacchus (Greek mythology)   Dom Pedro de Alcântara I' (1798-1834)
John Playford (1623-1687)   Duchess duBerry
Marguerite de Valois (1553-1615)   Frederick the Great (Brunswick Knights)
Thoinot Arbeau (1520-1595)   Henry VIII
    Inez de Castro
    Louis d'Orleans
    Marguerite de Valois (1553-1615)
    Prince of Wales
    Wilhelm II

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...

Title Author Published Publisher
Spectacle in Milan; Cesare Negri's Torch Dances Jones, Pamela 1986 n/a



Poets / Writers

Cesare Negri Bruce Turnbull Jean Froissart (1337-1410)
Thoinot Arbeau (1520-1595)        
German, Edward (1862-1936)        
Giacomo Meyerbeer        

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

Archon (magistrate of Athens) Flambeau carrying Samoan poula (Night Dances)
Artemis & Dionysos (Greek Mythology) Flares Simchat Bet Hasho evah (Jewish TD)
Candlestick   torch-light parades
BASIC STEP... Arbeau's 'Branle of the Torch' (very similar to Arbeau's 'Ballo del Fiore').
This dance starts with X number of men on the floor, holding a lighted candle/stick, representing a torch. In the Ballo del Fiore, flowers were used instead of a Torch. Both Men and Women dances through the hall using the following steps (Works well when there are more Men than women present or during Cotillions)
Figure 1:
1) 8 Double steps forward, alternating Left and Right. (doubles are done with a slight hop at the end.)
Figure 2:
1) At the end of Figure 1, the man should come to a stop near a lady. He performs a short reverance (Bow) and then advances towards her:
taking 4 single forward steps, alternating Left and Right), Repeat.
3) Repeat the dance from the beginning, again dancing together. But this time use the last two steps while doing the reverence (Bow) and hand the candle over to your partner.
4) In the next repeat, the new holder of the candle (lady) dances off to find a new partner, and the dance can repeat from there til end of music.
November 7, 2012