rendance | overview bibliography
"Renaissance dance" is a term of convenience. It usually refers to the earliest European dances which can be reconstructed with any confidence. Our knowledge of Renaissance choreography comes largely from the surviving notes and treatises of dance masters and students. These primary sources span two centuries, an entire continent of cultures, and all social strata. Thus, a wide variety of styles are covered by this term.
The style that emerged in France in the early 1600s marks the beginning of what is usually called "Baroque dance." This is generally considered the endpoint of Renaissance dance. The starting point is the earliest extant choreographic work: De Arte Saltandi & Choreas Ducendi by Domenico da Piacenza, from the middle of the 15th century. For a more precise discussion of the timelines of Renaissance styles see Sparti (1996).
Domenico's court dances include the first choreographies that could be considered ballets. The community-oriented French branles of the late 16th century are most likely decendants of Medieval folk dances. Dances such as the saltarello, galliard, and coranto were improvised forms popular amongst most European countries and classes.
Unfortunately, there is no up-to-date source covering all the relevant forms. It is hard to obtain copies of much of the source material, and many of the relevant scholarly works are out of print, or exist only in difficult-to-obtain formats.
The Rendance web site exists to help address these problems. For those starting out, I've compiled a bibliography of Overviews of Renaissance Dance. These are a good starting point, but be aware that you'll still have to spend a lot of time doing research to get a sense of what Renaissance dance encompasses.
-- Andrew Draskóy