You are here

Brando gentile, and the other brandi by Negri

From Florio's Italian-English dictionary of 1611:

Brándo, a sword. Also a gad of steele. Also a french dance called a bransel or braule.

(also: Bránla, a french dance called a brensle.)

I've long been interested in Negri's dances called "brando", and long defeated by them.

Very roughly: about fifteen years ago, I thought "that sounds interesting", had a look, and quickly got to "whoa, not what I expected" then "whoa, out of my league - too hard to make head or tail of". Ten-ish years ago I looked again: "whoa, they're really weird, and fascinating, and ... nope, too many terms I don't know, too many rabbit holes to pursue at once, too hard". Five years ago: "whoa, I've nearly got this ... there's a whole lot here that makes sense, I think I can do it ... argh, I'm overthinking this, the result is increasingly complicated and implausible, the music is too hard for me to make sense of ... too much ambiguity ...".

Since then, I've acquired good recordings of all the brandi, designed to be danced to. That means that someone has found them danceable (though they might or might not ultimately suit my interpretation). Most importantly, it gives me a starting point for experimentation, and signigicantly speeds up the reconstruction pace.

On a whim last night, we tried a group-reconstruction session of Brando Gentile, with music I've had for a while but not experimented with ("In the Italian Manner: Dance in the Royal Courts of Europe c. 1600" by the Copenhagen Musicians, available through the Dolmetsch Historical Dance Society). It seems we've all learned something in the last five years, because it was pretty easy! In 45 minutes we had a working reconstruction for the first 8 parts of the dance, and later that night and the next morning I worked through the rest (there are 14 short sections).

I'm really excited.

It's a fascinating dance form that I've been pondering for years, but without much insight, and one of them suddenly came together. We found all sorts of resonances and resemblances that I'd not noticed before: the third strain of music bears a striking resemblance to the tune Arbeau gives for the Maltese branle; actions that resemble common moves Caroso uses, just described differently; actions that resemble parts of branles (including the Maltese branle); actions that resemble modern-traditional Morris dancing or bits French folk-dancing.

Now I want to study all the brandi, dances and music, and not just make them into danceable dances, but learn as much as I may about the musical concordances and all the other tantalising elements.

This feels like Negri, back in Italy, writing a refined, witty Italian dance that riffs on the French tunes and dances he'd observed in Paris.