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The branle is an old French dance of the 16th century. Though French in origin, it spread to most of western Europe. Spelling varies greatly: bransle, brangle, brawl, brawle, brall(e), braul(e), or (Scot.) brantle.


There are few descriptions of the dance steps. It is a sequence dance performed with partners in lines or circles.[1] In John Marston's The Malcontent (1604), act 4, scene 2, the character Guerrino describes the steps of a dance called Beanchaes brawl (Bianca's branle):
t'is but two singles on the left, two on the right, three doubles forward, a trauerse of six round: do this twice, three singles side, galliard tricke of twentie, curranto pace; a figure of eight, three singles broken downe, come vp, meete two doubles, fall backe, and then honour.

A more detailed and more accessible account is given of the Scots branle by the dance historian Melusine Wood.[2]


The music for the dance was written in 4/4 time. An example, Music for the Scots' Branle, is given by both Arbeau and Wood.

Further reading

  • Dolmetsch, Mabel 1959. Dances of England and France, from 1450 to 1600, with their music and authentic manner of performance. London: 2nd ed, Routledge and Kegan Paul. Reprinted New York: Da Capo Press, 1975. ISBN 978-0-306-70725-4.
  • Heartz, Daniel 1998. New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 242-245. Macmillan. ISBN 1561592390
  • Marston, John 1999. The Malcontent, edited by George K. Hunter, with a new introduction, together with a revised reading text and commentary notes. Revels Plays. Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-3094-3.
  • Semmens, Richard T. 1997. Branles, Gavottes and Contredanses in the later seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Dance Research 15, 2, 35–62.


  1. Arbeau, Thoinot [1589] 1967. Orchesography, translated by Mary Stewart Evans, with a new introduction and notes by Julia Sutton and a new Labanotation section by Mireille Backer and Julia Sutton. American Musicological Society Reprint Series. New York: Dover. ISBN 0-486-21745-0; ISBN 978-0-486-21745-1.
  2. Wood, Melusine [1952] 1982. Historical dances 12th to 19th century. London: Dance Books, p97 et seq: Steps used in the Scots branle. ISBN 0-903102-70-6

Other websites

  • Branle on Cunnan website: [1][[Category:French culture