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All Spagnolette, all night

Submitted by Katherina Weyssin on August 19, 2011 - 11:03am

William, Caterine, Nadia and Katherina woke up our legs with Anello and Amoroso (including the new ending for Amoroso), before launching into an evening of Spagnolette. The first two are old favourites, the last is new to us.

There are a number of 16th and early 17th century dances called "Spagnoletta", a quite a lot of surviving music of the same name. The Spagnoletta for two from Il Ballarino is probably quite close to the widespread traditional dance, with the others being variations on that familiar theme. There is a rough chronological list of all the Spagnolette  (that I'm aware of) at the end of these notes.

Spagnoletta, from Il Ballarino (1580)

This is the one for a couple, in which you start some distance apart and get a little closer with each verse, ending at about the distance you'd dance a cascarda.

Detailed notes (on Katherina's website).


Spagnoletta Nuova, from Il Ballarino (1580)

This is the one for three people in a triangle; with lots of heys.

Detailed notes (on Katherina's website).


Spagnoletta Nuova in modo di Madriglia, from Nobilta di Dame (1600)

This was new to us tonight (though my notes tell me I reconstructed it in 2003). Most of the 16thC Italian stuff we do is from Il Ballarino, Caroso's first book. We've done a little from Negri (e.g. Lo Spagnoletto), and we use galliard and canary variations from Lupi, Compasso and even Santucci, but we've done very little from Nobilta di Dame, Caroso's second book.

The dances in Nobilta tend to be more intricate, more ornamented, and more obsessively symmetrical than those in Ballarino. The total step-repertoire is similar, but the fiddly steps - groppi, fioretti, etc - appear more often, and in dances that in Il Ballarino had been fairly plain.

I think that the Seguito Spezzato described in Nobilta is a little different to that in Il Ballarino, perhaps showing the beginning of a change in technique that is even further advanced in Santucci's book (c. 1614). Or I could be imagining it: with such sparse sources it can be impossible to be sure whether you're seeing different ways of explaining the same movement, or subtly different movements.

Steps needed for this Spagnoletta:

  • Riverenza, and meza riverenza
  • Seguito spezzato, forwards and flankingly backwards; also Seguito finto; and Seguito spezzato puntato
  • Passo puntato (but which one? fast or slow? I think fast . . .)
  • Passo
  • Ripresa, and ripresa in sottopiede
  • Trabuchetto
  • Saffice and Corinto (1 saffice = 1 ripresa in sottopiede then trabuchetto; 1 corinto = 3 riprese in sottopiede then trabuchetto)
  • Groppo (1 groppo = 3 trabuchetti, tucking the trailing foot behind the calf of the leading foot on each; then a sottopiede)
  • Fioretto (these are fioretti ordinarii : the same sort as in Pavaniglia)
  • Seguito battuto
  • battute, or stamps



This is a couple dance, in four verses. You begin holding ordinary hands; then dance the first two verses progressing around the room with your partner. The third and fourth verses are done facing, and circling on the spot. In the third, you take right and then left hands to circle; in the fourth you take both hands; opening out and the very end to finish holding ordinary hands once more.


Each verse takes one repetition of the music, which consists of three repeated phrases (AA BB CC). The steps to the first phrase - the "verse" in other versions - are quite varied. The second phrases are the "first and second chorus" in other versions: here, there isn't a chorus that repeats identically each time, but there are recurring patterns, often alluding to chorus-steps familiar from other versions of Spagnoletta.


Detailed Notes:

First Verse

The couple begins standing side by side, holding ordinary hands.

AA'    Riverenza, 4 spezzati forwards, 2 saffice LR

B        2 ripresa LL, 2 fioretti forwards LR, 2 passi LR, saffice L

B'        repeat B on right

C        spezzato flankingly backwards L, finto flankingly backwards R

           seguito battuto L, 3 stamps RLR, seguito battuto L, 2 stamps RL

C'       repeat C on right


Second Verse

The couple continues to progress around the room, holding ordinary hands.

A       4 spezzati forwards

A'      2 fioretti LR, 2 passi LR, 2 saffice LR

B        groppo L, 2 fioretti LR, 2 passi LR, saffice L  (this pattern will recur in other verses)

B'       repeat B on right

C       ripresa sottopiede L, fioretto L; ripresa sottopiede R, fioretto R

          corinto L

C'      repeat C on right


Third verse

The couple face, and dance more or less on the spot, or circling.

A        take right hands, dance circling each other

           2 spezzati LR, 2 trabucchetti LR, saffice L

A'       take left hands, repeat A on right

B        release hands, dance facing

          groppo L, 2 fioretti LR

          spezzato puntato L, ending in meza riverenza R

B'       repeat B on right

C        2 spezzati flankingly forwards, 2 passi turning, saffice L with L hip in.

C'       repeat C on right


Fourth Verse

The couple continue to dance facing, on the spot.

A       take both hands, dance circling to the left (i.e. as you did when you held right hands)

          2 fioretti LR, 2 trabucchetti LR; 2 passi LR, spezzato L

A'      repeat A on right, circling in opposite direction

B       release hands

          groppo L, 2 fioretti LR

          2 passi LR turning left, saffice L with left hip in

B'       repeat B on right

C       spezzato L flankingly backwards, finto R flankingly backwards

          2 saffice LR flankingly forwards

C'       2 puntate forwards, meeting partner

          take ordinary hands

          riverenza, ending with feet together


Other Spagnolette

A rough chronological list of surviving descriptions of dances called "Spagnoletta".

  • Cascarda ciamata Spagnioletta: Chigi MS (c. 1540-1560); brief description of a dance very like Caroso's Spagnoletta for two in Il Ballarino
  • Spagnoletta: Caroso, Il Ballarino (1580); probably an older, traditional dance. Cascarda-like. See notes above.
  • Spagnoletta Nuova: Caroso, Il Ballarino (1590); a three-person variation of the traditional two-person dance. Some steps and patterns are retained, some are new.
  • Spagnoletta Nuova al modo di Madriglia: Caroso, Nobilta di Dame (1600); linear as well as circular patterns (i.e. less cascarda-like choreography); related steps, but much ornamented.
  • Spagnoletta Regolata, balletto: Caroso, Nobilta di Dame (1600); related to the Spagnoletta for two in Il Ballarino, but very much ornamented.
  • Lo Spagnoletto: Negri, Le Gratie d'Amore, 1600; dance for two couples, not especially close to other Spagnolette in steps; music is also somewhat different (simple duple).
  • Spagnioletta : Santucci (c.1614); closely related to the Spagnoletta Regolata in Nobilta di Dame
  • Jacobili, 1615-20; similar to Caroso's Spagnoletta for two, from Il Ballarino
  • One of the Inns of Court MSS (haven't checked - don't remember which) has a "Spagnioletta". Choreography, from memory, looks more like Lavolta.


Music called "Spagnioletta", and concordant with that in Caroso, continued to be published well into the 17thC. There is still a folk-dance in Italy called "Spagnoletto" (so says Sparti), but I don't  know if it's related.

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