historical dances    /    17th-18th century


historical dances

A folk dance from the French region of Brittany, the passepied filtered into the royal court, where it was danced as a theater dance, and at balls as a partner dance. A fast, lively, joyful dance, the passepied was featured in theater performances as a means of reference to rural and pastoral themes.

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The Passepied caught on at the French court at around 1650 and continued to thrive until the first half of the 18th century. Thanks to its 3/8 metre, it resembles both the arrangement and figures of the minuet, using some of its steps, albeit at a faster pace. Its fundamental step is the pas de passepied, i.e. the pas de menuet à 3 movements, although the passepied also features the balancé steps, as well as the contretemps with a triple jump. The partners dance holding hands, which requires the performance of the respective figures with the partners encircling each other. The surviving original choreographies, such as Passepied de la Bourgogne or Passepied de Bretagne, illustrate the characteristic figures in which the partners move parallel to each other, mostly in quick, subtle pas de passepied steps. In ballets and theater performances, the passepied was usually danced by actors cast as sailors, shepherds, and zephyrs.



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.