The Dances

Instruction Key

This chapter contains instructions and detailed notes for two dozen balli. The layout of each dance's write-up is as follows:

First line:

This includes the name of the dance, choreographer, how many dancers are needed, and the difficulty.

Difficulty is given as Level 1 (for the easiest dances) up to Level 4 (for the hardest). The difficulty of a dance is, of course, a matter of opinion, but our ranking should at least give a rough indication.


This gives the steps that are used in the dance. (Brief descriptions of the steps are in the Basic Steps section, and can be found in more detail under each individual step in the Steps chapter.)

Some steps are followed by (in 4), (in 6) or (in 3). This shows which version of the step is needed, as they are performed differently in different meters. The following chart shows which version of the step is used with which meter of music.
In 6 6/8 or 6/4, or 3/4 in the dance Sobria. (Sometimes two bars of 6/8 are danced to as if they are one bar of 4/4. This will always be marked. In that case use the "in 4" version.)
In 3 Half-bar of 6/8 (only needed in the dance Tesara).
In 4 2/4 or 4/4, or 6/8 when two bars are danced to as if they are one bar of 4/4.
(This will always be marked.)


This gives the starting position.

The convention used for this, and for descriptions later in the dance, is that the dancers are in an infinitely large room, so that they are able to travel as far as they need without having to turn around. The direction they start facing is known as "up the hall" and is an arbitrary direction, used to make turns etc. clear. It does not denote, for instance, that there is an audience facing that way.


We have divided each dance into sections. (These are arbitrary, based on changes of meter, figures of the dance, etc.) The numbers of bars and in what meter are given, along with the number of times, if any, that the section is repeated.


If we added an extra introduction to the dance on our tape, this is indicated in [square brackets]. This isn't part of the dance, so musicians may use a different introduction, and the recordings that we discuss after the instructions are not presumed to have the same introduction. (Note that some of the dances have a built-in introduction, and this is counted as part of the dance, is part of the arrangement, and is present in all recordings.)

Bar numbers:

Note that the bar numbers for the dances sometimes do not match the bar numbers that are on the arrangements. When discussing the dance with musicians who are using the arrangements, make sure the bar numbers do match, or use Section numbers, instead, as they will be the same on both. (Sometimes, in the arrangements, repeated sections are written out more than once, either to allow for variation in the arrangement or to make it easier for the musicians who might otherwise have to count to 3, 5... or 7, in one case.)


If dancers are doing different movements at the same time, the word "as" is used. The following is an example:

23 Man Doppio Left,

as Woman Doppio Right.


If a section is repeated, the same bar numbers are used again, marked with "(2nd time)", "(3rd time)", etc.


The dancers' "names", such as Man 1 and Woman 2, are capitalized. The dancer or dancers who are to do the given step are underlined, such as in the following:

Man circles Woman.


The step that is being done is capitalized, as is the foot that the step is taken on, but the direction moved and a hand that is used are not capitalized, as in the following:

Man and Woman Doppio Left, taking right hands and circling to the left.

The step is not italicized, even if it is a foreign word.


We are attempting to be as clear and specific as possible, in order to transmit by writing something which is better taught in person. This may lead to the dances coming across as stilted and regimented. They are not meant to be that way. Dancers should move gradually and naturally, and shouldn't freeze, totally unmoving, or ignore the other dancers when no move is specified for them. (That is, unless this seems appropriate in the dance, such as Man 1 in Mercanzia, who may not really know what it is his partner is doing with the other two men, behind his back.) Sometimes, after not moving, a dancer will be expected to move off again on the "wrong" foot -- that is, the one that has his weight at the end of the last step he took. During the intervening time he has plenty of time to shift his weight, and this should be done naturally. It will not be specified in the reconstructions (unless it is in the sources).

Explanatory information:

Extra information, if appropriate, appears in parentheses. This may be specifics of a step, such as which version of a mezavolta is being used, or clarifying details.


The current position of the dancers is in italics and in parentheses. These are not instructions for the dancers to move, but are to make it clear where they have ended with their last move.


See the diagram key for more information. Please note that, although the figures shown in the diagrams consistently stare woodenly ahead, real dancers should be much more attentive of their partners, the other dancers, and their surroundings.

Teaching Notes: This section appears at the end of some dances; it gives suggestions for potential problems in teaching, or ways to change or simplify the dance.


For each recording discussed, the shorthand name of the recording is underlined; the full details of all recordings cited appear in the discography. If a name in parentheses follows the short name of the recording, that is the name of the dance as it appears on the recording.

The information for each piece is:

How much extra introduction appears, if any,

If it works with our reconstruction: if not, we include what needs to be modified in the dance to fit this recording.

Places we felt might be confusing.

The number of repeats, if any.

Note that many of the recording have been made specifically to match someone else's reconstruction. Our advice in no way suggests that they are wrong, but merely suggests how to use their recordings for our reconstructions. If a book of the reconstructions is available for the recordings, we mention this in the discography.

Dance Notes and Music Notes follow each set of instructions. They are not needed in order to do the dance, but give information on places that the sources are unclear, where we have changed things, how we decided on the reconstructions, alternate possibilities, and so on.

Diagram Key

Man. Facing up the hall.

This is Man 1. He is facing up the hall. (Up the hall is used to mean the position that the dancers are facing at the beginning of the dance. It will usually be at the top of the page, but in some dances it may be to the right.) You are looking down at him, from a balcony. A mean dance teacher painted a '1' on the top of his head.

Woman. Facing down the hall.

This is Woman 2. She is facing down the hall. She has a beautiful long train behind her, but she isn't very happy because a mean dance teacher painted a '2' on the top of her head. She hopes no one notices it...

Holding hands

Here are Man 1 and Woman 2 holding hands, facing up the hall. (Man 2 and Woman 1don't know about this.) They are ready to start the dance. The position they are in will be described, such as in the following:

Starting Position

Starting Position: Man 1 and Woman 2 are side by side, facing up the hall, Woman 2 on the right, holding hands.

Arrows show path taken.

Man 1 and Woman 2 moved forward together. The arrows indicate the path that they have just taken, not where they are about to go. Under the diagram is the bar number in which the action happened. In this case they moved forward during two bars, as follows:

Bars 1-2 Man 1 and Woman 2 Doppio Left, Doppio Right. Bars 1-2

Hook shows pivot turn

Here Man 1 has moved away from Woman 2, but he likes her so much he turned around to look at her. The little hook at the end of the arrow shows it was a fast pivot turn, done on the right foot (see Mezavolta in the Steps chapter).

Bar 3 Man 1 Sempio Left, Sempio Right, ending in a Mezavolta

Right. Bar 3

A complete circle back to place.

Dancers may not be shown if not moving.

Here is Woman 1. She has just danced in a circle, returning to where she started. She is pretending that she doesn't care that Man 1 is dancing with someone else. Man 1 and Woman 2 are still on the dance floor, but they aren't shown in the diagram because they aren't moving right now and aren't needed to show where Woman 1 is in relationship to them. Bars 4-5

Bar 4-5 Woman 1 Volta del Gioioso.

Holding a ribbon.

Here is Man 2. He has a ribbon in one hand (used in the dance Tesara). He is pretending that he doesn't care that Woman 2 is dancing with someone else.

Preparation for taking hands

Here Woman 2 has moved up to Man 1. They will be taking left hands at the beginning of their next move, so they are shown with hands reaching for each other.

Bar 6 Woman 2 Doppio Right to Man 1.

Dancers doing different things at the same time.

Man 2 sees Woman 1 and doesn't mind about Woman 2 anymore.

This diagram shows dancers doing different things at the same time.

Bar 7-8 Man 2 Doppio Left, Doppio Right to Woman 1,

as Man 1 and Woman 2 Doppio Left, Doppio Right, taking left

hands and turning counterclockwise halfway around each other.

(Man 1 ends facing up the hall, Woman 2 down.) Bars 7-8

Consecutive movements.

Woman 2 sees Man 2 with Woman 1 and doesn't like this at all. This diagram shows dancers doing different things at different times; to indicate that everything in the diagram isn't happening at once, the title of the diagram has "and" between the bar numbers.

Bar 9 Woman 2 Doppio Left to Man 2.

Bar 10 Woman 1 Doppio Right to Man 1.

Bar 11 Man 1 Ripresa Right. Bar 9 and Bar 10 and Bar 11