Tempi and Misure


“Tempi and Misura” means “Time and Measure”, to an extent also meaning “time and motion” as well as many other things. -- these were considered to be the two most important aspects of all Italian dance.


Time sequences

The basics of understanding misure is the understanding of how the music related to the dance. In all Italian dances there were only four major time sequences used, these are shown on a diagram in Cornazano’s text which looks somewhat like this:

The diagram shows the relationship between the four misure, bassadanza, quadernaria, saltarello, and piva.



Bassedanza was considered to be the most important of the measures (“Bassadanza is the queen of measures”), while piva was considered to be the least important, or the most “common”. Bassedanza steps are the slowest and most elegant of the steps, while the piva steps are the fastest. Saltarello and quadernaria steps are obviously in their respective places somewhere between bassedanze and piva.



The tempi relate to the misure in that the music relates to the dance -- the tempi (time) of the music corresponds to the steps or misure of the dance. Each of the 4 misure have their own tempi, as follows:











So music that is in 6/4 time will have bassedanze steps to it, music that is in 3/4 time will have saltarello steps to it, etc. Of course there are variations to the above sequences, for example you occasionally see Saltarello or Piva in 6/8 time or other minor differences but by and large the tempi listed above are the main ones used.