To continue my spotlight on Time Enough to Love, I thought I’d tell you a little bit about one of the devices I used throughout the book: dance.
Despite the usual depictions of the Medieval Period as being very serious and religious, the people of the time actually enjoyed themselves in one way we often do as well–dancing. There is little written evidence from contemporary sources, although there are many paintings that depict dances from this period. When I was writing Time Enough to Love, I used three specific dances at key moments in the novel so that the dancing heightens conflict each time it is used.
The first dance is a basse danse, an ancient slow dance in which a couple would join hands (or not) and walk quietly and sedately together, gliding across the floor without letting their feet leave the floor. I used this dance at the beginning of the jousting banquet, when Alyse must perform the dance with Geoffrey, her betrothed, with whom she has just quarreled. They are dancing before the whole court, and so must act perfectly even thought they are not happy with one another.
Another dance I used in the book was a farandole, a very lively dance said to be of Provence and Languedoc, France. “Winding” is a great descriptor of this dance as men and
women held hands, creating a chain, and followed the leader’s steps as they wound throughout the town or the dance floor. At some point, the people at the ends would grasp hands, creating a circle. Or a couple might hold hands and create a bridge. Then all the others would skip under the arch. I used this dance at the jousting banquet also. Alyse dances it with Thomas, a knight who has just sworn himself to her service—and Geoffrey’s best friend. This rollicking dance gives Alyse a chance to enjoy herself while at the same time ratcheting up the tension between her and her jealous fiance.
Some sources state that the farandole is a later dance, dating from the Renaissance, when the first written references to it occur. However, paintings of medieval dancers denote this very chain dance. It is likely that the dance itself may have existed, although the formal name was not written down at the time.
The third dance I incorporated into my novel is the bransle (pronounced “brawn”). A circle dance, the bransle is also from France, and is recorded from about 1500, although it is depicted in paintings from a much earlier time. The partners form a ring and step to the left, then step to the right. Then they perform a grapevine step left and right twice. Facing into the circle, the dancers kick into the center vigorously four times alternating their feet. Then the gentleman takes the lady on his right, picks her up and moves her—gently!—to his left. This step is called “tossing the duchess.”
Here is a video of one version of the bransle, perhformed by Adventures in Dance.
I used this dance later in Time Enough to Love, once the company has landed in Bordeaux and Princess Joanna, who they are accompanying to Spain, has decreed a banquet for all her courtiers to celebrate reaching France. Alyse is made to dance the bransle with Geoffrey, who she does not wish to have anything to do with at this point in the novel. But they must do their duty and dance the it together, including touching each other intimately as they “toss the duchess,” with disastrous effects.
As you can see, dances can be a very important part of romance novels, and they certainly became a major part of Time Enough to Love, providing conflict and colorful background for my hero and heroine.
Time Enough to Love is available in e-book and print formats on Amazon, and in e-book also on B & N, Kobo, and Apple.
Thank you for including my video in your blog and book. Here is a basse dance you may have missed https://youtu.be/o4PYd0Nxlks
Great post. I didn’t know much about medieval dancing. I think it is because, as you pointed out, we assumed there wasn’t much frivolity in the middle ages.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you, Angelina. Yes, we’re taught the basics–and the church was a huge part of the lives of the people then, but they did have lives outside the church, with music, dancing, theater, festivals, games. All kinds of things we simply don’t associate with the medieval period.