A 16th century court dance prevalent at all European courts, the pavane was danced by pairs in parade arranged according to their rank in the hierarchy. A slow, solemn, and dignified dance, the pavane was performed as a showpiece form.

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The name derives from the peacock, the way it struts and ruffles its feathers while mating, or from the Italian city of Padua, where it supposedly originated.   

The pavane first appeared in the early 16th century Italy, then in France and other European countries. Danced throughout the entire 16th and the first half of the 17th century, the function of the pavane was to present the rulers and nobility attending various court celebrations, in which the pavane signaled the beginning of dancing. The performance of the dance in an even-measured metre was described in detail in Arbeau’s treatise, while dance master Guillaume listed its fundamental steps: the simple (single step) and double (double step), and their variations such as the fleuret or sixpieds en l’air. The pavane began with slow, ceremonial bows, one dropped by ladies-in-waiting, another by cavaliers. During the dance, the partners also performed backward steps, i.e. the so-called démarche, and a half-turn in pair (conversion).

The tempo in the pavane was slow, as dancers were supposed to move graciously and with dignified seriousness.

Concurrently to the above, another form of the pavane existed, the so-called Spanis pavane which featured complicated variations and hop-steps. The Spanish variant was intended as a solo or partner exhibition dance, while also being used in court performances and ballets as a quasi-ballet composition.



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

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

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

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