PASTIME’S DANCES from the following sources


English: the Gresley Manuscript c1500

This small notebook, discovered in 1984, mentions 92 dances by name and includes the choreography for 26 dances and the music for 13, with an overlap of 8 dances having both music and choreography.

Pastime has danced a number of these dances.

Italian: Guglielmo Ebreo, On the Practice or the Art of Dancing(1463)

Domenico da PiacenzoOf the Art of Dancing (c1425)

All known copies of these treatises contain sections in which examples of the dances are described. These include 56 ballos, for 27 of which the music is also given, together with 45 bassa danzas.

Our dances from these sources are: 

Guglielmo: Colonese, Daphnes, Alessandresca, Pellegrina, Rostiboli gioioso, Belriguardo, Mercantia, Petit riense and Pizocara.

Domenico: Anello, Belfiore, Gelosia, La fiaguielmina, Sobria, Corona Gentile

Lorenzo di Medici: Venus, Lauro
Other dances have come down to us in isolated manuscript form. Our favourites are Chirintana and La Crudella.


English: The Inns of Court Manuscripts (1570-1700’s)

Known as the old measures, or simply measures, these were a group of dances such as the pavane and the almain that were performed at ceremonial and festive occasions,. Dances such as the galliard and the courante are also mentioned as accompanying or following the traditional measures, which were associated with the Inns of Court, the English law schools.


Fabritio Caroso, Il Ballarino (1581)

Fabritio Caroso, Nobilità di dame (1600, 1630)

These manuals offer a great deal of information to dance historians and musicologists alike. Each description of a dance is accompanied by music with lute tablature and directions about how each is to be played.

Cesare Negri, Le Grazie d’Amore (1602)

Cesare Negri, Nuove lnventioni di Balli (1604)

Born in Milan, Negri founded a dance academy there in 1554 and was an active court choreographer. Le Grazie d’Amore was the first text on dance theory to expound the principle of the “five basic positions”.

French: Thoinot Arbeau, Orchesography (1589)

Arbeau’s manual provides information on social ballroom behaviour and on the interaction of musicians and dancers. It contains numerous woodcuts of dancers and musicians and includes many dance tabulations in which extensive instructions for the steps are lined up next to the musical notes, a significant innovation in dance notation at that time.

Pastime’s dances from this period include many from the Old Measures, and a number from the Italian treatises, such as Villanella, Bassa Pompilia, Spangoletta, Caccia d’Amore, Austria Felice, La Battaglia, Contentezza d’Amore, So ben, Barriera and more. We dance the Pease Branle, Horses’ Branle, Scots Branle, Hermits’ Branle, Branle de l’Official, Branle de la Hay, Branle Montarde, Branle Charlotte and Buffons from Arbeau.


English: John Playford, The English Dancing Master (1651)

This collection was reprinted, revised, and enlarged many times, with a final edition published sometime around 1728. Playford was not the author or choreographer of these dances; he was a music publisher, for whom dance manuals were a profitable side-line. By the early 18th century, other publishers began to issue collections of dances as well; a conservative estimate of the number of dances in the English style published between 1651 and 1810 would run to around 20,000. Generally, music is provided and floor patterns are described, but steps are not.

Pastime enjoys dancing a great deal of material from this period, both from Playford and later dancing masters such as Mr Isaac and Thomas Bray. Our dances include:

Cuckolds All a Row, Parsons Farewell, Upon a Summer’s Day, Picking of sticks, Row Well ye Mariners, Step Stately, Gathering Peascods, Heart’s Ease, Hide Parke and Rufty Tufty. Our Bray repertoire includes The Spring, Lover’s Luck, Short and Sweet and Love in a Bottle.

We are always adding to our dances for our own pleasure, to fit special occasions or simply to provide our audiences and ourselves with something new.


In recent years, Pastime has developed an interest in 19th century dance, working with Isabel Suri from Switzerland and our own Barbara Segal. We now have a growing repertoire in this area.

For more information about any of the periods of historical dance discussed here, please visit the Dance Through History pages on the Early Dance Circle website: