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Courantes, Corantos and Conundrums, some quick-and-dirty notes

The Courante is an important dance in the renaissance - lots of text references, lots of music - but one we know little about.

The sources we have are tantalising, ambiguous and contradictory.


  • Arbeau
  • Negri
  • Caranto Dyspayne
  • the figured Coranto in MS Rawl.Poet. 108
  • De Lauze


Arbeau's description of the steps is detailed, not especially internally consistent, and doesn't lend itself obviously to a pleasing action. Every time I read it I come up with something slightly different.

Current favourite (this week, June 2016): ornamented singles and doubles.

Single (left)

  • start with feet together, or nearly so
  • small hop on the right foot, on the up-beat, raising the left in front
  • on the beat, step with the left foot
  • on the up-beat, undercut the left with the right, hopping a little on the right, kicking out a little with the left
  • on the beat, replace the left on the ground, near the right

repeat on other side for single right.

Double (left)

  • start with feet together, or nearly so
  • on the up-beat, a small hop on the right foot, raising the left in front
  • on the beat, step onto the left foot
  • on the up-beat, a small hop on the left foot
  • on the beat, step onto the right
  • on the up-beat, small hop on the right
  • on the beat, step onto the left
  • on the upbeat, undercut left with right, hopping on right and raising left in front
  • on the beat, lower the left foot, near the right

I call this (for a sequence "single, single, double") as "hop-STEP kick-CLOSE, hop-STEP kick-CLOSe, hop-STEP hop-STEP hop-STEP kick-CLOSE.

Other tidbits from Arbeau

  • he describes partner-changing, as does Negri; where Negri is neutral Arbeau seems to disapprove, refers to one man "stealing" another's damsel 
  • he allows for using plain singles and doubles, without springs, if you're tired
  • he gives a little miming dance for three couples (lots of fun)
  • he describes free-from patterns, turns, circling, forwards and backwards - similar to Negri


He says it's danced in a light duple time. Alas, most renaissance courante music I can think of is triple, or compound duple. Then again, he says the canary is in duple time (not compound duple) and I'm pretty sure he's wrong about that too. Maybe he feels it as duple when he dances; maybe he includes "compound duple" when he says "duple". The music Abeau has with his tabulation seems to be solidly compound duple.


Negri included a short description - about a paragraph - rather than a fully-worked choreography. 

Rough translation:

Dance for two called "La Corrente", as done by the author

in honour of the most illustrious lady, Lady Anna Coira, e Raverta

If you wish to do this dance in company, the gentleman may put aside his cape and sword in order to go more lightly, then he will go to take the lady, as  seen in the following figure, and together they will do the Riverenza then they will progress about the room a little, and anon they will do this passage, with the Seguiti of four Passi in fuga col saltino [steps done running away with little jumps], beginning with the left foot in front, placing in the first step the right foot at the heel of the left, one does then a passo with that same foot, then one does another passo in saltino [step with a little jump], and the cadenza with the right foot; forwards, and teh same is done beginning with the right foot, and when the gentleman has done the passi as he pleases, contrapassando [crossing the feet over? or transgressing?] he will then do the sottopiedi to the side, to one part and another, and he will do the ricacciate going backwards, and turning around one way and the other, exchanging now this hand, now that hand, and if the woman can't do those passi she will do seguiti ordinarii in saltino [ordinarii seguiti with little jumps], and in place of the sootopiedi she will to the riprese and of the recacciate she will to the fioretti spezzati then when they have danced as pleases them another gentleman will do to take this lady, and they will dance together, and they will do the same actions, the first gentlemen will do the riverenza and return to his place, another lady will take the gentleman, and they will then dance together, as they first did, the other lady will then to the riverenza and return to her place, and so this corrente goes on, hand in hand, until the end of the dance. 

This is very like his description for La Nizzarda. I wonder if the "sottopiede and riccaciate" is Negri-speak for "you know, fancy ornamental stuff, improvised".

Negri's music seems to have variable bar-length: two bars of 3/2 then one of 2/2. That pattern appears in the staff notation and the tablature, and it repeats, so I assume it's not an error. I don't recall seeing that pattern in other published Courante music from this period.