historical dances    /    16th century


historical dances

Volta is a dance of folk descent; its French variant developed in Provence, while the Italian variety dubbed nizzarda was born in Nice. Tremendously fashionable at all European courts, the volta is a peculiar modification of the galliard, from which it borrowed some of its steps. Due to its frantic turns, in which the cavalier raises his female partner and spins her in the air, the dance was deemed to be indecent and was banned from certain courts. The volta is a lively and dynamic dance.

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The name of the dance likely comes from the Italian word volta (a turn, spin), since its chief characteristic is the figure in which the lady is spun while held in the air by the cavalier, who pushes her with his knee – a gesture which came off as slightly coarse and untasteful. Still, the volta won significant popularity and was performed by numerous European rulers, including Elizabeth I of England and Henri III of France. It featured unprecedented contact between partners, as well as the whirling component previously unknown to court dances. Performed in the 3-measured metre, the volta was quick and lively. Its first in-depth analysis was provided by Arbeau, who carefully examined its paces, along with the constitutions of the whirling figure. Both the French volta and the Italian nizzarda include a sequence of introduction of the female partner to the middle of the hall, in the course of which she is paraded along the room in the pas de promenade steps which feature a very slight hop-step and landing. In the pivotal moment of the volta, the female dancer is raised in the air and spun by her partner, followed by the return to the basic steps or transition to various types of the galliard. The volta was generally danced by a single pair, although in some situations the dance was presented by two pairs of dancers who took turns in performing their respective spin sequences.



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

Drabecka Maria, Tańce historyczne [Historical Dances], vol. II, Warsaw, 1983.

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

Tabourot, Jehan (Thoinot Arbeau), Orchésographie, Langres, 1588.