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The-Pavan-art - 6/27/09


"A Brief Study of the Pavan" by THL Michaela de La Chesnaye des Bois.


NOTE: See also the files: dance-msg, dance-par-art, Ital-Ren-Dce-art, 15C-Ital-Dce-art, Maypole-Dance-art, Belly-Dance-art, ME-dance-msg, masque-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



This article was published in the October-December 2007 issue of  "The Guantlet", the newsletter of the Principality of Pentamere, Middle Kingdom.



by THL Michaela de La Chesnaye des Bois


Quiet falls over the crowd as all eyes turn to the back of the sanctuary. The bride, in a long ivory dress, stands next to her father. They walk down the aisle – step-close, step-close, step-close. The bride's train trails behind them. The audience smiles and nods, unaware they are actually watching part of a dance, a dance that is five hundred years old.


A pavan is a processional dance for couples that came into fashion in the early 1500s. It was typically used to begin court functions and balls. Pavans were slow, stately, and elegant, and provided the participants the opportunity to display their best clothing. Pavans "announce[d] the grand ball and [were] arranged to last until the dancers [had] circled the hall two or three timesÉ" [1] and were often followed by a galliard.


When Thoinet Arbeau (an anagram for Jehan Tabourot) wrote Orchesography, the pavan was already well established in France and England. (The book was published by a student of Arbeau in 1589 a year after Arbeau's death.) In a conversation with a fictitious student Capriol, Arbeau explains "our predecessors danced pavans" [2] and "our musicians play it when a maiden of good family is taken to Holy Church to be married or when they lead a procession of the chaplains, masters and brethen of some notable confraternity." [3] He adds: "On solemn feast days the pavan is employed by kings, princes and great noblemen to display themselves in their fine mantles and ceremonial robes. They are accompanied by queens, princesses and great ladies, the long trains of their dresses loosened and sweeping behind them, sometimes borne by damsels." [4]


There are various theories as to the origin of the pavan; however, the general agreement is that it originated in Italy. In a translated text of Orchesography, translator Mary Stewart Evans added an endnote regarding the pavan: "The pavan was of Italian origin, occasionally written padovana [5] suggesting Padua as its birthplace. Because of its great popularity in Spain it was long assumed to have originated there, while others associate the name with the French words se pavaner, to move like a peacock." [6] In Dances of England and France 1450-1600, Dolmetsch says "the name 'Pavana' is derived from 'Padoana,' an ancient dance of Pauda [Italy]." [7] The proceedings from the Ansteorra Kingdom Dance Workshop suggest that the word pavan "may have originally come from 'pava,' the Arabic word for peacock." [8]


Pavan Steps


The pavan is a very basic dance. Arbeau says, "it is merely two simples and one double forward and two simples and one double backward." [9] He does stipulate that the dancers may continue to advance if they choose, and "when one knows the steps and movements of one pavanÉone can dance all the others." [10]  As described by Arbeau, a simple is a step forward with one foot and then bringing the other foot next to it. A double is three steps forward with alternating feet and then bringing the foot behind next to the other foot.


Another movement Arbeau says can be done in the pavan is a conversion, a step used when approaching the end of the hall. The gentleman moves backwards while the lady moves forwards until they are facing the opposite direction. Arbeau discusses this movement in relation to the basse dance but says "it seems to me this practice should always be followed in the pavan when one wishes to take two or three turns around the room" [11] in order to avoid exposing the lady to a possible mishap while moving backwards.  


During a discussion on the galliard, Arbeau stipulates that the dance should begin with a reverence: "After making the reverence, they circled the room once or twice together simply walking." [12]  The "simply walking" is the processional part of the dance – the pavan. He ends this discussion by describing that the dancer "performed the reverence and returned her to the place from whence he had led her forth to dance." [13]  Thus, the dance ends with another reverence, after which the gentleman escorts the lady off the dance floor. Although Arbeau does not specify that the pavan itself ends with a reverence, it seems logical to assume it does, even if it is not followed by a galliard.


Also during his discussion on galliards, Arbeau states that, after having circled the room, "the dancer released the damsel." [14]  This indicates that the couples must have been hand-in-hand during the pavan. Since the only steps in the pavan given by Arbeau are the simple, double, reverence, and conversion, it also implies that the dancers remain side-by-side as well.


Despite Arbeau only describing these four movements, other sources indicate an additional movement for the pavan: a single to the side. A dance containing this movement is the Quadrain Pavan, which is detailed (with various title spellings) in six manuscripts that describe life from 1570 to 1675 at the Inns of Court in England. Five manuscripts describe the Quadrain Pavan as having singles done to the side, as opposed to forwards or backwards. The sixth manuscript, Rawlinson D.864, has the singles only done forwards and backwards.


One other pavan described in the manuscripts includes singles to the side: "The longe pavian" [15]  in the Rawlinson. 108 manuscript. This dance consists of singles and doubles both forward and backward, and singles to the side. Thus, although omitted by Arbeau, there were clearly dances called pavans that consisted of more than singles and doubles forwards and backwards.


A dance called the Spanish Pavan involves even more movements, but its instructions are quite vague. Arbeau says the steps "are rearranged with a variety of gestures, and, as it is somewhat similar to the dance known as the canary." [16]  Douce 280, a manuscript at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, also lists the Spanish Pavan, but its description is also basically non-existent: "Honour. |[17] It must be learnd by practise & demonstra= | tion, being performed with boundes & capers | & in ye ende honour./" [18]


Types of Pavans


The pavan could be divided into two types. One was the simple walking forward and backward dance described by Arbeau. This pavan could be done to any appropriate music. The second type of pavan was more structured and sometimes used steps to the side as well as forwards and backwards. The descriptions of these types of pavans often include a specific number of repeats, thus requiring specific music. The Iron Mountain Dance Book II differentiates between these two types: "Processional pavans were used at the openings of grand balls and court functions, to let the participants enter and circle the hall in solemn and colorful formationÉSet pavans are choreographed dances unto themselves, to their own music. They are more complex than the processional pavans, using more steps than the simple advance and retreat." [19]  Dolmetsch agrees: "Soon otherÉforms of pavan were developed, partaking of the nature of set dances." [20]


The Long Pavan is one example of a set pavan. Rawlinson Poet. 108 says: "ij singles a duble forward ij singles syde reptince | backe once // ij singles syde a duble forward reprince | backe twyse // ij singles a duble forward one | single backe twyse. ij singles a duble forward | ij singles syde reprince backe once / ij singles syde | a duble forward reprince backe twyse.//" [21] (Reprince seems to indicate a reprise, a movement backwards.) Another example of a set pavan is "Cycyllya pavyan" [22] described in Rawlinson Poet. 108: "one single a duble forward once // ij singles a duble | forward reprince backe vj. Twyse // ij singles a | duble forward reprince backe twyse // one single | a duble forward once // ij singles a duble for | reprince back vj twyse //." [23] In both of these dances, the steps are clearly choreographed in a certain order with a specified number of repeats, unlike the basic single-single-double of the processional pavan.


Ornamentation in the Pavan


Although none of these sources mention ornamentation in the pavan, various embellishments have developed. Alexander B. Clark in Court & Country: Dances of the Renaissance in England and France notes that, "In modern times, an up and down movement is sometimes added to the end of each single or double in the pavane. This might be appropriate for some period French dances (possibly including this one), as long as it is done gracefully. Also, the steps are sometimes done by modern dancers in a diagonal, zig-zagging way." [24]


The Ansteorra Kingdom Dance Workshop gives an example of the up and down movement: "The basic step consists of stepping forward on one foot, and bringing the other one up to close with it. Bend your knees slightly while doing this, and then straighten up slightly on your toes as you close." [25]


Dolmetsch, in The Dances of England and France, describes the zig-zagging embellishment: "The pair of singles occupies four beatsÉOn the first beat, step forward (but swerving a little towards the left) with the left foot, flat on the ground, at the same time bending the right knee slightly. On the second beat, join the right foot to the left in the first position, rising moderately on the toes with straightened knees, and sinking at the heels at the half-beat." [26] The right single is the mirror image of the left. Dolmetsch goes on to describe the left double, of which the right double is a mirror image: "On the first beat step forward on the flat of the left foot. On the second beat advance the right foot a few inches in front of the left, rising gently on the toes and sinking again. On the third beat, step again on the flat of the left foot swerving to the left, and on the fourth beat join the right foot to the left in the first position, rising on the toes and sinking the heels at the half-beat."  [27]


One other embellishment is a slight hand waving described by Dolmetsch. "When making the sideways singles it is good to move the free hand gently in the direction in which the foot is moving; and with the forward singles, towards the left for a left single and to the right for a right single." [28]


The minister finishes, "What God has joined together let no man put asunder." [29] The audience smiles and nods, unaware they have actually been listening to a ceremony that has parts over five hundred years old. But that has its own history.



[1] Arbeau, page 59

[2] Arbeau, page 51.

[3] Arbeau, page 57.

[4] Arbeau, page 59.

[5] All italics appearing within quotation marks are from the original source.

[6] Arbeau, page 199.

[7] Dolmetsch, page 82.

[8] Ansteorra, page 1.

[9] Arbeau, page 57.

[10] Arbeau, page 75.

[11] Arbeau, page 58.

[12] Arbeau, page 77.

[13] Arbeau, page 77.

[14] Arbeau, page 77.

[15] Rawlinson Poet. 108, as quoted in Wilson, page 4.

[16] Arbeau, page 66.

[17] This vertical line indicates a line break in the original text.

[18] Douce 280, as quoted in Wilson, page 7.

[19] Sokoll, page 11.

[20] Dolmetsch, page 82.

[21] Rawlinson Poet. 108, as quoted in Wilson, page 4.

[22] Rawlinson Poet. 108, as quoted in Wilson, page 4.

[23] Rawlinson Poet. 108, as quoted in Wilson, page 4.

[24] Clark, page 12.

[25] Ansteorra, page 1.

[26] Dolmetsch, page 84.

[27] Dolmetsch, page 84.

[28] Dolmetsch, page 99.

[29] Hall, page 54.




The Ansteorra Kingdom Dance Workshop. Compiled by HL Vashti of the Flaming Tresses Published in 1990.


Arbeau, Thoinot. Orchesography. Translated by Mary Stewart Evans, edited by Julia Sutton. New York: Dover Publications, 1967. First published by Jehan des Preyz at Langres in 1589.


Clark, Alexander B. Court & Country: Dances of the Renaissance in England and France. Pennsylvania Furnace, PA: Published by the author, 1994.


Dolmetsch, Mabel. Dances of England and France 1450-1600. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd., 1949.


Durham, Peter and Janelle. Dances From the Inns of Court 1570-1675. Redmund, WA: Published by the authors, 1997.


Hall, Edwin. The Arnolfini Betrothal. Berkley, CA: University of California Press, 1994.


Sokoll, Katrina C. The Iron Mountain Dance Book II. Compiled by "Lady Katrina of Iron Mountain." No publishing information.


Wilson, D.R. Dancing in the Inns of Court. As published in Historical Dance volume 2 number 5, 1986-87. Copyright 1987. Dolmetsch Historical Dance Society.


The manuscripts:

Douce 280. Oxford, Bodleian Library. A miscellaneous collection by J. Kamsey. Although the collection is not dated, Kamsey was admitted to the Middle Temple on 23 March 1605/06.


Harleian 367. London, British Library. A collection of papers and fragments written by J. Stowe and others in the period 1575-1625.


Rawlinson D.864. Oxford, Bodleian Library. Miscellaneous papers of E. Ashmole, vol. 1. The manuscript is from approximately 1630.


Rawsinson Poet. 108. Oxford, Bodleian Library. A personal notebook belonging to Eliner Gunter. Dated c. 1570.


"Revels, Foundlings, and Unclassified, Miscellanea, Undated, &c." vol. 27. London, Inner Temple Records. A record by Butler Buggins, who was Master of the Revels fist in 1672. Dated approximately 1640-75.


Royal College of Music, MS 1119. London. A collection principally of songs in manuscript. Folios 1 and 2 have notes by Butler Buggins. Undated.



Published in Fenrir's Voice, August-September 2003

                    The Gauntlet , October-December 2007



Copyright 2003 by Michel DePriest. 6768 Davis Highway, Grand Ledge, MI 48837. <grable at msu.edu>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org