Branle des Sabots

(Clog Branle)

(16th century)


The Branle des Sabots 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, except at the end.

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 taps (tap right foot on the ground).

It has two parts, each repeated once:

Part A
Double left
Double right

Part B
Single left
Single right
Leads tap right foot three times (on repeat, Follows tap three times)

So the whole dance written out (with A and B each repeated, AABB) is:

Double left
Double right
Double left
Double right
Single left
Single right
Leads tap right foot three times
Single left
Single right
Follows tap right foot three times

In order to make the taps work on the right foot as described, the single to the right is actually a weighted single (step, close with weight), and the third tap takes weight on the right foot to get the left foot free to do the next step. These extra weight changes wouldn't be required if the taps were with the left foot, but Arbeau explicitly describes them as being done with the right foot.

The taps can also be done by both roles at the same time: the instruction to give the first taps to the Lead and the second taps to the Follow are "if one wishes," not a requirement, although it does make this simple dance a bit more interesting.

The timing will become clear when you dance it with the music, which is composed to perfectly match the steps. The main thing to note is that the taps are slow, in time with all of the other steps, not double-time.

Follow the Leader Version

Arbeau notes that "other mimings" (also, "new mimings") can be made in place of the taps, if desired. But what might these other mimings be?

In introducing the Branle des Sabots, Arbeau describes several other dance forms of old in which one dancer led the other dancers through a series of mimings and gestures, checking to see whether they were copying faithfully.

Although he doesn't say this explicitly, given the reference to these other dance forms, I suspect that Arbeau's "other mimings" are intended to be danced in this fashion as well. In this case, we might imagine that on the first set of taps, the leader of the group demonstrates a series of gestures, and on the second set of taps, everyone else in the group mimics those gestures.

The Music

Here is a nice tune for dancing the Branle des Sabots:


© 2020 Nick Enge

For more dance descriptions, see our three books on dancing:
The Book of Mixers: 100 Easy-Teach Dances for Getting Acquainted (2022) by Richard Powers and Nick & Melissa Enge,
Cross-Step Waltz: A Dancer's Guide (2019) by Richard Powers and Nick & Melissa Enge, and
Waltzing: A Manual for Dancing and Living (2013) by Richard Powers and Nick Enge.

For full-length teaching videos, visit: University of Dance.

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