How to Use This Manual

There is a large amount of information included in this manual, but we hope it has been separated so that people who just want to do the dances can do so without having to wade through the more technical information. In order to do the dances with a minimum of unnecessary reading, the following sections are all that are needed:

The Instruction Key and Diagram Key, at the beginning of the Dances chapter, explain the instructions and diagrams used in the dances, while Basic Steps, at the front of the Steps chapter, gives a basic, unornamented, description of each step. Just the steps needed for the chosen dance can be read, and a list of the steps required can be found at the beginning of the writeup for each dance.

Each dance in the Dances chapter stands alone, and they can be read in any order. We suggest starting with one with a Difficulty (which is given on the first line of the dance) of Level 1; Petit Vriens, Anello, and Amoroso are good choices. (A warning for beginning teachers: The music and dance patterns are much less regular than some dance forms. In order to successfully teach the dances, you must become familiar with the steps needed and to know, yourself, how the chosen dance and music match, before attempting a class.) The dance notes and music notes that follow each dance are not necessary in order to learn it.

The Music for each dance is on the accompanying tape, preceded by the name of the dance, spoken. The music has been computer-generated, so, while it is usable for practice and for musicians to listen to in order to get an idea of tempo, it is not as pleasant as music made on real instruments. Each dance has a section called Recordings, which gives information on commercially available music for the dance. (The Discography lists the full titles, artists, and publishers for the recordings.)

The rest of the book is not essential in order to do the dances. The dances each have Dance Notes and Music Notes, which give details as to how we decided upon the reconstructions, alternate methods, and so on. The tenor for each dance is also given here. The chapter on Steps has a separate section for each step, and will be of interest to those who want to know how we came up with our reconstructions. It also gives the ornamented versions of the steps. The Introduction gives information on the historical background of the dances, matters of style, and on how we went about doing our reconstrcutions.

The Sheet Music is at the back. Note that the bar numbers do not always match the bar numbers in the dance instruction due to some repeats being written out; if in doubt, go by section numbers. Musicians who are interested in the background of the reconstructions should also read the Music Notes in the dance instructions.


We wrote this manual in order to help spread 15th-century dance. In the last few years some very useful sources -- translations, transcriptions, and interpretations -- have been published, and these have greatly increased the ease of doing research and reconstructions. But at the time we began this project, we were unaware of any book that focused on teaching the dances, and there was quite clearly a need for a book of this type. In short, a practical guide was needed to supplement the rigorous scholarly translations and commentaries.

Almost two years ago, Monica approached Vivian about collaborating on this project. Monica had been trying to reconstruct the music for some of these dances and produce arrangements to be played by local musicians for local dancers; Vivian had been doing a lot of work reconstructing the dances but was not herself a musician. We quickly realized that our skills complemented each others'. Once Monica agreed to handle all those nit-picky details like verbs and punctuation, we were off.

We have found that there are two general audiences for a manual on these dances: The first are people who would like to do the dances but find it quite difficult to get going from original sources, even with the number of translations that are now available; these people would like to have instructions for one way that they can do things. The second are people who are usually at least somewhat familiar with the field; they would not be satisfied with only being given a reconstruction, as they would also want to know why we made our decisions. We are attempting to satisfy both groups of people.

This book includes our reconstructions of 24 balli, with our notes and transcriptions and arrangements of the music. This includes all 23 of the extant balli tunes, plus one other dance for which a tune in another source matches well. Some of the tunes do have more than one dance, but we decided to include only one dance for each tune to keep things simpler. The accompanying tape includes recordings of all the dances in this book. Our goal was to produce a "complete kit" for both doing and understanding these dances.

We have to admit that this book is not finished, because the longer we work on it the more we keep learning, and we are sure that within a day or two of it seeing print we will have learned something new that will cause us to change our minds about something. But we hope that by collecting together what we have learned thus far and making it available, we can give others a starting point more advanced than would exist if everyone started at the beginning. We also hope that this book encourages others to do work in this area; while it can take a little while to fully understand the principles behind the dances of this period, the results are quite rewarding. This is, quite simply, a fun repertoire.


Vivian Stephens and Monica Cellio

(Known in the Society for Creative Anachronism as Rosina del Bosco Chiaro and Ellisif Flakkari)

July, 1997


We are indebted to many people without whose aid we would not have been able to publish this book.

Ian Engle provided a tremendous amount of support, both in terms of practical advice and assistance, and in encouragement. Dani Zweig patiently tolerated the impact of this project on the house, The Letter of Dance, and his and Monica's occasional trips to Toronto.

Michael Schilder, Donna Conrad, Andrew Vorder Bruegge, Greg Lindahl, Mark Waks, Sheila van den Heuvel-Collins, Joe Cook, Christine Robb, and Paul and Deborah Rochefort reviewed early drafts of some of this work and helped guide the final format. Robert Smith assisted with early recording efforts, provided a much-needed pair of outside eyes to review much of the final draft on short notice, and did the formatting work for the tape labels and j-cards. David (Del) Elson, as well as also reviewing some material, gave us technical advice when our computers were recalcitrant. Andrew Draskoy provided insights into some matters of reconstruction.

A large number of people test-drove these reconstructions, sometimes without being aware they were acting as guinea pigs. In particular we are grateful to the dancers at the Toronto Friday night sessions, most importantly John & Elizabeth Ashwood, Christine Robb, Jonathan Carryer, Jennie Worden, Cary Timar, Marc Collins, Sheila van den Heuvel-Collins, Brent McCrackin, Sarah Scroggie, and Peter Westergaard.

The Debatable Consort, the group of Pennsic musicians led by Windmaster's Hill, Greg Lindahl, and Ensemble Rigodon play-tested many of the arrangements in this book and provided helpful feedback. Sheila Beardslee Bosworth (editor, Boston Early Music News) and Heather McGlaughlin provided valuable feedback on the arrangements as well. R. James Whipple (Carnegie Mellon Music Department) and Arti Samplaski helped with the thorny problem of Sobria. Heather M. Dale recorded music at short notice, in order that some of the dances could be tested.

It is obvious that we have benefited immeasurably from others who have delved into this area of research and shared their knowledge. We are particularly indebted to all the people who have taught us; especially to Cindy Campbell, the director of Il Pomo Verde, a dance troupe that Vivian was a member of for three years. We also owe a considerable debt to A. William Smith, for without his book ours would have been much harder to write and much less complete.