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Also known as: 

Genevra, Zinevera, Zinerva, Ginevera, Gineva

Dance Type: 
Number of dancers: 
About this choreography: 
Reconstructed 4/2009, revised 8/2010. Reconstructed by Katherine Davies, with input from David Robb (William de Cameron) and Patrick Bowman (Ludwig von Regensburg).

Steps in [] have been inserted to fit this recording only; remove them if possible.







ss d

dance forwards together, holding ordinary hands, beginning on the left foot; start in the middle of the dancing space (with room behind you as well as ahead)





Riverenza moving the right foot; turning your attention toward your partner is attractive




ss d

backwards, beginning with right foot, returning to where you began i





mezavolta on the right foot, such that the woman now leads, or rests above the man; you will need to drop hands




r Vg cc

ripresa left, volta del gioioso, pair of continenza left and right; facing in opposite direction to that you startedii. Take hands at the end of the continentie.





Repeat A, so that man returns to leading position (same feet)





riverenza moving the left foot; turning to face your partneriii




ss d

take right hands and circle, beginning with the left footiv




ss d

swap to left hands; circle the other way beginning with the right foot





riverenza moving the left foot, facing your partner somewhatv




s, closed

sempio backwards with the left foot; withdrawing the way you came (note - would usually be 1/2T) .i.e. the way you had been travelling in circling passage - you will end facing each other, quite close, the woman facing in the direction she was when she started the dance. vi





on right foot, end facing away from each othervii





volta del gioioso rightviii

There will be a beautiful, conversational moment as you briefly face once more: make the most of it.





Starting on left, walking apart in opposite directions, ending in a meza volta (no extra time) to face each other at some distanceix

Make sure this is in a straight line, not angled; use the vuodo of the last doppio to spin, and glide into the riprese.




rr [cc] R

ripresa left and right, continentia left and right, riverenza moving the left footx




ss d

Approaching, beginning with the left foot.

Make this in a straight line forwards, not angling toward your partner.




Vg R

Volta del gioiso, closing the lateral distance between you, Riverenza moving the left foot and briefly touching right handsxi

At the end of this passage you will be facing, a little off-set, right shoulder near right shoulder.





the woman only does a meza volta on the right foot, so that she ends beside the manxii




rr R

taking ordinary hands, side by side; pair of riprese left and right, riverenza moving the left footxiii





repeat whole dance, with woman leadingxiv





BASSADANÇA chiamata GENEVRA in doi: general notes

The "Bassadanza" was considered the most refined and difficult sort of dancing - the "queen of misure" - in 15th century Italy. Bassadanze were slow, stately dances, performed to improvised, generic music (i.e. each dance did not belong to a specific tune). I chose to reconstruct this one because I liked the name, and I thought it would make a pretty present for Lady Ginevra of Southron Gaard. To my delight, I found it to be one of the most delicate, conversational and beautifully-balanced choreographies of the repertoire.

We know 15th C Italian dancing primarily through the work of three writers - Domenico da Piacenza, Antonio Cornazano, and Guglielmo Ebreo (aka Giovanni Ambrosio). Each wrote a dance manual, the latter two borrowing heavily off the former, and some of those manuals were copied many times, into the 16th century. Often, a single dance will be recorded in several different versions in various sources.

Ginevra survives in six MSS, all of them copies of the work of Guglielmo Ebreo / Giovanni Ambrosio. After considering them all, I have based this reconstruction primarily on the PnA version (that is, on the 1466 Giovanni Ambrosio MS). There appear to be two distinct versions of the dance, best represented in PnA and NyP, with a number of rather corrupt early 16thC copies. I find the PnA version to be the most aesthetically pleasing.

My initial reconstruction yielded a bassadanza of 43 tempi. However, I don't have a recording of 43 tempi, and "Forse che si, forse che non" has a lovely bassadanza of 45 tempi (played twice) intended for 'Patienza'. Rather than refrain from dancing for want of music, I have altered my preferred reconstruction to add two tempi and make it possible to dance to this music.

Detailed commentary:


There are several distinct versions here:

PnA and PnG have two simples and a double backwards, beginning on the right foot, for a total of two tempi

The remaining sources omit the double, for a (presumable) total of one tempo. The exact steps used vary a little:

Fn & Fl - two sempii beginning with the right foot

NYp - two paseti beginning with the left foot

Sc - passo falso

The primary choice appears to be whether to retreat for one or two tempi (i.e. whether to include a doppio); the second, which steps to use - sempii right and left, left and right, or a "passo falso" (step backwards?) - if the latter version, without the doppio, is chosen. I have chosen the first option - two tempi, retreating with two sempii and a doppio, b

There is another question, the meaning of the term "torni indirieto":

"Tornare" means "to return" or "to turn"; "indietro" means "back", "backwards" or "behind". Smith has translated this as "they turn back", but I think "they return, backwards" is preferable - that is, I think they are walking backwards, back to where they started, not turning around to walk forwards to where they started.


Sc (clearly the most divergent source here) has only one continenza; it is also the only one of the sources to use the term "volta del gioioso", the others describing it in full as a voltatonda with two passi sempii beginning with the right foot and a riprese on the right foot. I have used "volta del gioioso" throughout for convenience.


This riverentia appears only in NYp; Sc has a continentia, the other sources, nothing. Perhaps this is where NYp and Sc "make up" the tempo they are missing due to the omitted doppio in the part A. This assumption still leaves Fn and Fl two tempi shorter than all other versions. I have included the riverentia purely because of the recording I am using at present - had I music of 43 tempi, I would omit it from a reconstruction based on PnA.


NYp says "they take right hands"; Sc says they circle "with a touch of the right hands"; all other sources say that the man takes the right hand of the woman. Clearly the essential movement is the same, the difference is one of nuance and style only.


This riverentia is ommited in Sc and Fl


This is one of the most difficult passages in the dance.

First the variety of steps listed: PnA, PnG, Fn and Fl ask for a sempio with the left foot; Sc asks for a passo falso with the left foot and NYp asks for two passetini beginning with the right foot. Whatever option is chosen, it seems that this will end with the weight on the left foot; however, a weight change after the riverentia will be allowed to require the first of NYp's passetini. I've chosen a sempio on the left, with a close, or weight-change, to allow a mezavolta on the right to follow.

Second: what timing? a pair of sempii usually take one tempo, yet here is a single sempio with no other half-tempo step nearby to complete the unit. The next step required is a mezavolta, which usually takes one tempo, but which is sometimes done in the vuodo of another step (i.e. with no extra music of its own) so one option is to allocate one tempo to the sempio/passetini and mezavolta together; an another is to allocate two tempi: one to the sempio/passetini and any necessary weight-changes, the other to the mezavolta. In order to accomodate my music, I've chosen two tempi.

Third: what direction? the language used "tornino indrieto" (PnG), "tirin si indrieto" (NYp), "passo falso" (Sc) is the same as that which I have interpreted above (in the passage with the two passi and optional doppio retreating) as moving backwards. The options I considered are that they face each other for the riverentia and move directly backwards (across the room) for the sempio/passetini - which satisfies "indietro" but not "tornino" - and that they step backwards along the path that they were dancing in during the passage in which they circled holding left hands (that is along the length of the room, with the woman facing the "head" and the man facing the foot) - which is less obvious, but which makes both words, "tornino" and "indietro" applicable. I chose the latter, as it follows the text more closely, and makes the next instruction - a mezavolta - easier to comprehend. Finally, it gives a more linear dance, and Neville (INSERT REFERENCE) argues persuasively that these dances are in an inherently linear style, designed for long, narrow spaces.

This section was troublesome to reconstruct, but having learned it well, is one of the most beautiful to dance. It's a lovely piece of choreography, and I see why Guglielmo might have chosen theoretical irregularity for this visual effect.


The phrase is "they do a mezavolta such that they remain opposite one another [rimangano al contrario l'un dil altro]". It is not clear what "al contrario" means in this context, though it is used repeatedly in the following passage. Later authors (such as Caroso) use it often to indicate a passage that is repeated to the other side - swapping left and right (both the foot on with steps are performed, and the direction of movement) throughout. That does not appear to be the case here. In fact, it seems to be used in opposition to "incontro", meaning here "meeting, coming to meet" rather than just "facing one another". Thus, I think this "al contrario" is used of a section in which the dancers move apart, and in which their steps take them in opposite directions (even when moving to the side) because they are facing in opposite directions.


NYp is the only source to include a ripresa here. Perhaps this makes up the time of the second doppio omitted in section A/B. I have omitted it, as I think it lessens the delicacy of this part of the choreography.


Again the phrasing is "vagano al contrario". I believe that this means that they walk away from each other, as the next motion has them coming to meet, "vegnano incontra", after turning around. I have put the mezavolta in the vuodo after the second doppio, without an extra tempo of its own, because NYp has it "nela fine del sechondo dopio" - "in the end of the second doppio"; and Sc has no explicit mezavolta but has the turn during the following riprese. It is possible that the other sources intend a mezavolta of one full tempo (and this is one place I could add an extra tempo if I desired it).


Sc has a continentia in place of the riverentia, but the other sources are consistent. The pair of continentie between the riprese and the riverentia are entirely untextual: I introduced them only to fit the music I'm using. When I find suitable music of 43 tempi, I will remove them. While they're entirely my invention, they were the least-obtrusive solution I could find, and the most plausibly in keeping with 15th C style.


As usual, only Sc names the "volta del gioioso", the others describing the steps in full. All sources say to touch hands during the riverentia, but only NYp specifies right hands.


NYp has the man do the mezavolta; Sc does not specify; all other sources explicitly say that the woman does the mezavolta.


Sc has a continentia in place of the riverentia


PnA and PnG make no mention of a repeat (as usual); neither does Sc; NYp requires a repeat, but without indicating any change; only Fn and Fl request a repeat with "the man putting the woman in front". I repeat, because my music does, and because I find it aesthetically pleasing.


Condensed version, for calling: 

Not so much a condensed version, as some teaching notes.

There are many turns in this dance, and it's a long memory-exercise. To make it easier, I often call the turns as "half turn" and "full turn" instead of "meza volta" and "volta tonda"/"volta del Gioioso".

A useful mnemonic for this dance (as I dance it):

  • All the half turns go to the right: left foot over right, turn clockwise.
  • All the full turns go to the left: right foot over left, turn anti-clockwise.

15th century Italian Bassadanza were danced to generic music (of the correct length). I have adapted my choreography slightly so I can dance it to the recording Patienza on Forse che si, forse che non.

Any pleasing 15th-century bassadanza music of the right length will do. "The right length" is 43 tempi for one repeat; the recording I use has 45 tempi.

About this translation: 

Translated 8/2010.

Literal translation of PnA, sections divided according to my schema. I've left step-names in Italian, but regularised the spelling somewhat.


Bassadança called Genevra for two.


In the beginning two sempii and one doppio and a Riverencia on the right foot beginning with the left foot and then returning (themselves) back(wards) with two sempii and one doppio beginning with the right foot and then they give a meçavolta on the right foot so that the woman rests above the man and then they do a Ripresa on the left foot and then they give a voltatonda with two sempii and a ripresa on the right foot beginning with the left foot and then they do two continencie


and all this described above they do again another time so that the man rests (again) in his own place


and then the man takes the right hand of the woman and they go around with two sempii and a doppio beginning with the left foot and then they change hands and they go around with two sempii and a doppio beginning with the right foot and then they do a riverentia on the left foot


and they return (themselves) back(wards) with a semio beginning with the left foot and then they do a meçavolta on the right foot so that they remain opposite one from the other and then they do a voltatonda with two sempii beginning with the right foot and then they do a ripresa on the right foot and they go opposite one another with two doppii beginning with the left foot and then they give a meçavolta on the right foot and then they do two riprese the one on the left foot and the other on the right foot and then they do a riverencia on the left foot


and then they come to meet each other with two sempii and one doppio beginning with the left foot and then they do a voltatonda with two sempii and a ripresa beginning on the right and then they do a riverenzia on the left and in the time of this riverencia they touch each other's hands and then the woman gives a meçavolta on the right foot


and then they take each other by the hand and do two riprese the one on the left and the other on the right and a riverenzia on the left