BRANLE. AKA - "Bransle." AKA and see "(Le) Brandy." A French round dance form in duple time that was very popular in England (where it was often called the 'Brawl') in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is one of the ancestors of musical form, according to Pulver (1923). The name derives from the French branler, to sway, and its origins were in the Bassedanse, the archaic progenitor of all European dance, probably a lively circle dance, sung as much as played. The branle is a step in the Bassedanse, in which the body swayed from side to side. Introduced into England around 1550 it became exceedingly popular and is mentioned by numerous writers of the period, including Spenser and Shakespeare (Love's Labour's Lost, Act iii, scene 1, in which the bard plays upon the word). Morley gives a description of the measure in his Plaine and Easaie (Introduction, 1597, p. 181). It was a popular dance in the courts of James I, Charles I, and, after the Restoration, of Charles II. The popularity of the courante was encouraged in the Early Stuart era via several French dancing masters in residence in London at the time such as Jacques Cordier (1580-1653, known as "Bocan", a violinist, composer and choreographer) and Bartélemy De Montagut (personal dancing master from 1625 to ill-fated Charles I of England). Samuel Pepys, in 1666, wrote in his diary: "I also to the ball...Presently after the King was come in, he took the Queen, and about fourteen more couple there was, and begun the Bransles." See also the "Horses Bransle," "Brawl (A)," "Maltese Bransle," "Torch Bransle," "Scottish Bransle," "Pease Bransle" and "Washerwoman's Bransle," which appear in Thoinot Arbeau's Orchesography, a treatise on dance dating from 1588. Alternate spellings of branle include brangill ("The Brangill of Poictu" appears in the Skene Manuscript) and the aforementioned brawl, supposedly because of its similarity to an altercation.
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