Branle des Lavandieres

(Washerwomen's Branle)

(16th century)


Introduction

The Branle des Lavandieres is an easy circle dance described in Arbeau's Orchésographie (1589).


The Formation

An open or closed circle of dancers (Arbeau mentions both) with hands joined.

Everyone dances the same steps together.


The Dance

This dance is a combination of doubles (side, close trailing foot toward leading foot with weight, side, close trailing foot to leading foot without weight), singles (side, close without weight), and kicks (spring onto one foot, kicking the other in front).

It has three parts, the first two of which are repeated once:

Part A
Double left
Double right

At the end of the repeat, turn to face partners (i.e., Leads turn 1/4 right, Follows turn 1/4 left).

Part B
Single left
Single right

On the first pair of singles, the Follows place their hands on their hips and the Leads wag their fingers at them. On the second pair of singles, the Leads place their hands on their hips and the Follows wag their fingers at them. Which finger is used, and the amount and timing of the fingers wags is unspecified, so each dancer can (and does) have their own interpretation. After Part B is over, face forward to reform the line or circle.

Part B
Double left (during which you clap your hands, the timing and style of which is unspecified, but it's most commonly interpreted as four claps in time with the steps, in the style of "washing your hands of something," which is appropriate for the theme of the dance)
Double right
Double left (during which you clap your hands again)
Kick left (by springing onto the right in place)
Kick right (by springing onto the right in place)
Kick left (by springing onto the right in place)
Jump, landing feet together
During the three kicks and a jump, let go of hands and rotate 360°ree; in place solo, before retaking hands to begin the dance from the beginning.

The timing will become clear when you dance it with the music, which is composed to perfectly match the steps.


The Music

Here is a nice tune for dancing the Branle des Lavandieres. There's no intro, so you'll either hand to start late, or wait through one iteration before beginning:


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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