Branle du Chandelier

(Branle de la Torche, Candlestick Branle)

(16th century)


Introduction

Although classified as a branle in Arbeau's Orchésographie (1589), the Branle du Chandelier is really more of a mixer, in which the dancers change partners throughout the dance.


The Formation

At the beginning of the dance, all of the Follows are scattered around the perimeter of the hall, while some or all of the Leads are in the center of the room holding candles.


The Dance

The basic step of the dance is three walking steps forward, then lift the free foot forward. This is done a total of eight times, alternating four basics on the left foot with four basics on the right foot. Following that, there are four forward singles (step forward, lift forward), during which any solo dancer holding a candle looks here and there to spy the partner of their choice. Only dancers holding a candle, or partnered with a dancer holding a candle, are dancing.

The mixer aspect works as follows: after traveling around the room solo for a while, the Leads holding candles choose someone they want to dance with, take them by the hand and they dance the steps together for a while, traveling around the room. Then the Lead does a reverence (a.k.a. bow), gives the Follow the candle, and takes his leave of her, dancing solo to the outside wall.

Then she does what he just did, circling the room to choose a partner, dancing with her chosen partner for a while, then doing a reverence, giving him the candle, and retiring solo.

While many groups who have reconstructed this dance have tried to make it neater by having everyone make the partner changes at the same time (e.g., doing a reverence to chosen partner during the singles), it is strongly implied that that opposite is true, as the single steps are explicitly meant for spying a partner, not doing a reverence (never mind that the reverence comes after dancing together, not before it). Instead, it is strongly implied that each solo dancer takes as much time as they want in selecting a partner, and as much time as they want dancing with them, so there is a continual changing of partners at random.


The Music

Here is a nice tune for dancing the Branle du Chandelier. There's no intro, so you'll either have to start in the middle of the step (which is easy to do, given the simple steps), or wait through one iteration before starting:


Sources


© 2020 Nick Enge


For more, see our two books on dancing:
Waltzing: A Manual for Dancing and Living (2013) by Richard Powers and Nick Enge,
and Cross-Step Waltz: A Dancer's Guide (2019) by Richard Powers and Nick & Melissa Enge.


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