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Although they have changed over time and between regions, there are a few basic steps that appear frequently in the existing medieval dance instruction books. In these manuals, the steps would have been simply shown by symbols. These steps are worth learning, as they have also been used to reconstruct dances where there are no original instructions, like the estampie. Although there are some minor differences in how these are performed by different historic dance groups, the examples below follow the Nonsuch History and Dance Company style.

The Branle

The Branle

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Pronunciation: Brawl

Symbol: b

Occurs on counts 1, 2, 3, 4

Just to be confusing, this is also the name of a type of carole. The branle is a swaying step that prepares you for dancing. You don’t move from where you are standing, but rock from side to side. 


It can occur both at the start of and throughout the dance. In the medieval period, musicians would have taken their cue from those dancing, so this simple step set the pace of the music. When this step then occurred during the dance, it ensured that the dancers were performing at the same tempo.


To perform this step…

  1. Stand with your feet naturally apart.

  2. Raise slightly onto the balls of your feet.

  3. Lower your left heel, keeping your right raised.

  4. Lift your left heel, and lower your right heel.

  5. Lift your right heel, and lower your left heel.

  6. Lift both heels together.

  7. Lower both heels.

This video shows a single branle step, with two further close-up shots.