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Teaching Passamezzo

Katherine Davies

I've been teaching the passamezzo locally and around Australia and New Zealand in 2016, because it's a current passion. As it's now also a competition dance for the Silver Rondel in 2017, I'll keep teaching it in person, and add resources here.


Passamezzi are reasonably beginner-friendly, provided you teach the easier parts first, and have enthusiastic dancers who are willing to try things.

I generally teach from Caroso's Passo e Mezo from Il Ballarino, as it's the most accessible of the choreographies. Sometimes I teach it exactly as he wrote it, sometimes I mine it (and other sources) for useful material, and put together my own collection.

Here's the order I like to introduce things:

  1. Explain the basic structure of the dance (exchange of variations between a couple or in a group).
  2. Teach the opening sequence - this introduces the music, with familiar steps.
  3. Teach and practice a simple passeggio.
  4. Learn a simple mutanza - one of the woman's mutanze from the dance in Il Ballarino.
  5. Practice alternating passeggio and mutanza. Then practice taking turns doing the mutanza while others do passeggio.
  6. Learn several more mutanze - keep them simple, unless people are itching for a challenge.
  7. [Optional extra: teach a more complicated passeggio - e.g. the man's passeggio from Il Ballarino - to anyone who would like the challenge]
  8. Learn and practice a simple, short passamezzo:
  • opening honours
  • plain passeggio, twice, while the teacher reminds everyone of the first mutanza
  • each person in turn (or in groups) performs the first mutanza learned, while the others passeggio
  • all passeggio while the teacher reminds people of the second mutanza learned
  • dance second mutanza in turn
  • plain passeggio
  • dance third mutanze
  • dance finale - closing honours
  • [Optional extra: teach one or more of male mutanze to anyone who feels like the challenge - the man's third mutanza from Il Ballarino is substantially easier than the others]
  • Teach the other passeggii - the passages together in the middle of the dance, and at the end.
  • Dance a complete sequence, but using only simple mutanze (and perhaps only 3 in total, doing the same set in the first and second half)
    • opening honours
    • passeggio together, twice
    • exchange of 3 mutanze each
    • passeggio together in a wheel
    • exchange of 3 mutanze each
    • second passeggio together in a wheel
    • closing honours
  • Learn and practice a range of harder mutanze (e.g. some of the man's mutanze from Il Ballarino). Periodically practice incorporating them into the structure of the full dance (as above).
  • You may wish to memorise and perform one of the period choreographies (e.g. the Passamezzo for a couple from Il Ballarino) in its entirety; or to use mutanze from several period sources to choreograph your own; or (ideally) to memorise a range of mutanze so you can invent your own on the fly. Once you've studied a number of mutanze you'll see what the typical patterns and steps are, and will be able to invent new ones as you go.

    Expect this to take several sessions; and longer before dancers fully internalise the style and are able to improve freely and accurately. In an hour-long session you might get to point 6 (more or less, depending on experience of students). In a workshop of several hours, or after several weekly classes, you could make it to 11.

    Of course, it all depends on the skill and experience of the dancers, and how much time they're able to commit to it: it will be easiest for those who've done other 16thC Italian dance-styles that involve fancy steps and an exchange of mutanze.