historical dances    /    17th-18th century


historical dances

The chaconne is a theatrical dance originating in South America and later transplanted to Spain. The peak of its popularity came in the 17th and 18th century France when the chaconne was featured in ballet and operatic performances upon its transformation into a major dance composition with theatrical components.

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According to the earliest Spanish literary sources, the folk version of the chaconne was danced to songs accompanied by the guitar, the castanets or the tambourine. Lively and frantic, the chaconne quickly enchanted court composers, first in Spain, then in Italy and France. The dance entered the French musical repertoire in 1615 as an ostinato-based roundelay with a refrain. It also became widely popular with the French dance masters as an unusually dynamic, contrast-based variation form.

In the three-measure metre, the chaconne is performed in a moderate tempo and may assume a playful (or serious, solemn and ceremonial) character. The original compositions were intended for ballet dancers and accompanied solo displays of skills delivered by the ballet and dance masters. The most famous examples of the chaconne include Chaconne de Phaëton and Chaconned’Arlequin, which feature elements of theatre rhetoric and expression adequate to the characters depicted in the performances. At the same time, chaconne choreographies display a uniquely high level of dancing technique, virtuosity and acrobatics. Aside from the basic steps, i.e. the contretemps de chaconne, the chaconne includes all steps featured in the Belledanse repertoire. Towards the end of the 18th century, the chaconne – by then considered to be a mini-ballet in its own right – transformed into a type of Ballet-Pantomime performed as part of the Ballet-Pantomime pieces.


Conté Pierre, Danses anciennes de cour et de théâtre en France, Paris, 1974.

Drabecka Maria, Choreografia baletów warszawskich za Sasów [Choreography of Warsaw Ballets During the Saxon Reign of Poland], Cracow, 1988.

Larousse-Bordas, Dictionnaire de la danse, Paris, 1999.