In the expanding world of the Renaissance, the church became less powerful, and social and artistic dance grew in importance. Members of the monarchy underscored their power through lavish social events that included dancing. The Renaissance court dance was an important time to see and be seen, an opportunity to learn the news of the day, and a place to make important social connections.
Guests at a Renaissance court dance wore elaborately patterned brocades and velvets. Dancers performed between each course of the dinner, and themes linked menus, costumes, and dances.
The Pavane is a slow processional dance used to carry couples to the front of the court room to present themselves to the queen. Possibly, the dance was derived from the Italian Padovana, and it was popular in the Elizabethan court in England. After the couples presented to the queen, they would break off to the side and embellish on their previous steps. The hostess of the party provided the choreography for the embellishment.
The choreography of the Pavane is very simple, and it is an easy dance for beginners. One set consists of two singles and a double with the lead always on the right foot. After each step, the dancer lifts his/her heel, which allows him/her to show off his/her elaborate dress and the beauty of the dancer. The dance gently moves forward as dancers glide slightly from side to side.
Renaissance dances began with a show of reverence. Men bowed in reverence, while women curtsied. The social dances of this time were filled with signs and symbols that conveyed numerous things such as social status, marital status, and level of interest in one’s dance partner. It was very important to be aware of these signs in order to be socially successful and secure invitations to future events.
Dance was a very important form of entertainment during the Renaissance. Throughout history, dance has been used in several different cultures for a variety of purposes. Examining these dances gives one a glimpse of history and insight into how these dances have been adapted across time and place.
Use in connection with history to explore European culture during the Renaissance including music, drama, literature, and dance.
Have students research various aspects of Renaissance culture and produce a Renaissance Faire. Have students create costumes, find/perform music, produce a scene from a Shakespearean play, prepare foods, and do other dances from the period.
Compare this dance to the Maltese Bransle in terms of form and purpose.
Group students, and have each group focus on a different geographical area during the Renaissance (Italy, Spain, France, England, Germany, etc.). Research the culture of each country and how Renaissance ideals influenced each. Each group should prepare a tour through its country representative of what the country was like during the Renaissance. Be sure to include political, social, and economic aspects of each country during this time. In addition, explain how the physical geography of each place shaped the way Renaissance ideals arrived and how they spread throughout other regions.