Italian Dance Steps Description – 15th Century

Step Descriptions

Bassadanza tempo has six minima divided into three (compound time) or two (simple time) parts depending on the step. It is an elegant slower dance tempo. Steps may be either alternate, that is the opposite foot to the one you began the step with will be free at the end of the step, or neutral, which means that the same foot is free at the end with which you began.

Bassadanza double (doppio):

This step takes one measure of music, divided in three. It is an alternate step.

Domenico is very clear that this step begins at the end of the prior measure. What this means is that you need to move the left foot forward so that your weight is shifted completely onto that foot on beat one of the music. He also specifies that your entire body should arrive above the foot, or as he says, footprint. This is distinctly different from the way that we walk where the body weight follows the foot.

Shift weight to the right at the end of the previous measure or on the musical upbeat. Stay on the balls of your feet. This will keep your body weight forward.

Move your left foot and body forward to arrive on beat one. Then move your right foot forward to arrive on beat two (this is usually a little higher than the first step). Next move your left foot forward to arrive on beat three and immediately lower your weight and begin to arise again for the next double.

This is a smooth natural wave motion. You do not need to be very elevated, the wave will happen naturally if you stay on the balls of your feet. They are not overly large steps.

Singles (sempio):

This step is usually done in pairs making it step neutral. This means that at the end of the pair of singles, the same foot is free to begin the next step.

A pair of singles takes one measure of music, divided in two.

I prefer to do singles lightly on the balls on my feet but not elevated as a contrast to the double.

Step left (or right) on beat one, and then step right (or left) on beat two.

Sometimes only one single is used. This is usually for emphasis or change of direction. The music will determine how long this style of single takes.

Setting (ripresa):

This is an alternate step. A ripresa takes one measure of music divided into two beats.

This step is done primarily sideways, either directly, or in a flanking (portogalese) style, or in the direction necessary for the choreography.

Step sideways to the left arriving on beat one; bring the right foot over to the left, touching with the right toe. Do not put weight on the right foot.

If you were doing a pair of riprese, the next step would be to the right side, bringing the left foot over to close, that is touching the left toe down but not transferring weight to the left foot. A pair of riprese is step neutral.

Quick setting (continenza):

This is a neutral step that takes one measure of music divided in two beats.

Move sideways to left with slight hop (or as if tracing the top of a small ball with your foot. Bring your right foot over & touch toe down. Move sideways to right with slight hop and bring the left foot over & touch toe down.

This step is also sometimes done with two continenze in each direction. Hop left, bring right foot over to take weight, hop left again, and bring right foot over to touch toe down. On the second measure, repeat to the right side.

Bassadanza circle (Voltatonda):

This is an alternate step. It takes two measures of music each divided into two beats.

A single set step left or double left usually precedes this step so that the right foot is free.

Turning over your right shoulder do two singles, right & left to turn more than 180 degrees around. Complete the turn with a ripresa right, that is another step right, completing the circle and bring the left foot close to the right and touchthe left toe down to finish the step.

Quick Circle Turn (Volta):

This is a neutral step. It takes one measure of music divided into two beats.

This is almost always done to the left. Take four small quick steps turning yourself in a circle over the left shoulder.

This is sometimes described as a double left voltatonda or full turn but the next step requires it to be neutral so you need to shift weight on the end anyway and it is easier to just think of it as four small steps. Used this way in balli such as Belfiore, Anello and Verceppe.

Saltarello in bassadanza tempo:

This is an alternate step. It takes one measure of music divided in two beats.

Saltarello is a fast, leaping step. Slowing it down into bassadanza is challenging. Here is one alternative.

Stay on the balls of your feet. Try to stay to the rhythm of the original step. One the first beat step left, then right, keeping on the balls of the feet and sliding the right foot to join the left. One the second beat step left, and elevate the body, raising the leg, as if leaping as done in the original step.

Bow (Reverenza):

This is an alternate step. It usually takes one measure of music divided into three beats.

Sweep the left foot (unless otherwise specified) behind the
right foot (three fingers distance) and shift weight to both feet. Bend both legs. Back is straight. You may sweep off your hat and hold it to your leg as well. Ladies may lower their eyes but never their chins. Shift left foot back even with right as you straighten. Return your hat. Usually the man holds the lady’s hand.

Movimento: (flourish)

Also called schosso, altzada, and other terms. This is step neutral and takes one half of a measure of music. Raise your body. Lower again.

Suggested alternatives.

Movimento: raise and present yourself as in an attitude, make a small bow or acknowledgement with head and upper body.

Schosso/Alzada: Make a small hop or high raise in place and lower.

Quadernaria Tempo

<em>Quadernaria Tempo has four minima (4/4) tempo and is the most like latter step styles such as English Country Dance. Much of the balli music is written in quadernaria tempo with other steps such as piva and saltarello adjusted to quadernaria tempo, slower than normal for saltarello and a bit faster for piva.

Quadernaria doubles (doppio):

Do three quick walked steps (i.e. left, right, left) with a close (bring the right foot up next to heel or middle of the left foot and touch the toe down but do not shift weight).

If the music is slow enough you can make a more elaborate close by shifting weight briefly onto your right foot and then back to the left so you are ready to start the next step or double on the right foot.

Quadernaria singles (sempio):

Two walked steps per measure, each taking two beats. They are not closed.

Quadernaria setting (ripresa):

Step left & close or step right & close. Each ripresa takes one quadernaria measure.


Not mentioned by Domenico by name but used often in his choreographies. This is a neutral step sequence usually consisting of a set of three groups of quick double steps (i.e. piva doubles) with a close or quick ripresa right all done in 2 measures of quadernaria music.

The timing of the steps is: the first two beats of the first measure do three quick steps (one piva double, left, right, left); then on the third & fourth beat of first measure do three quick steps (one piva double, right, left, right); then on the first two beats of second measure do three quick steps (one piva double, left, right, left); and the on the third & fourth beat do a ripresa right (step right, elevate and close with left just touching, weight remains on right).

Thus at the end the left foot is free again as at the beginning making this a neutral step sequence. Within the group of three doubles in this sequence the normal alteration of double left, right, then left is maintained.

Saltarello todescho (slow saltarello):

This is a slower version of the saltarello. The weight is a little further back on the foot than a true saltarello. As in bassadanza saltarello, you step left, then slide right foot up to middle of the left foot, then step left again and hop on left foot with right foot in air, either straight or bent.

Try to maintain the character and bouncy quality of the original step. Usually done in pairs. Each saltarello step ends with the opposite foot free to the one with which it began.

It is important to recognize that even though we most often encounter the saltarello in this slower form in the choreographed dances that it retain the true character of the step with which we dance Saltarello at true Saltarello tempo.

Piva Tempo

This is a fast tempo varying between different dances in speed. It is often scored as 4/4 quadernaria, that is two piva measures are put together in the music.

Piva doubles (doppi):

These are very quick so they tend to become skipped.
Three steps, (i.e. left, right, left) in each measure of 2/4 music. The next sequence would start right, left, right.
In two beats of music, you are stepping on beat one, beat one & half, beat two, then pausing for beat two & half. So it has a syncopated rhythm.

Piva single (sempio):

Single step left or right. Two singles can be done in one piva measure.

Piva is often scored in quadernaria tempo. Consider that two piva doubles or four piva singles can be contained in a single measure of quadernaria tempi (4/4).

Saltarello Tempo:

Saltarello is a style of leaped or hopped dance that was popular onwards from the latter 14th century. Salterello was used as the fast part of a slow/fast dance pairing in the 14th and 15th centuries. In the 15th century this would be with the bassadanza or the Burgundian bassedanse.

Toward the turn of the 16th century saltarello was eclipsed in popularity by the tordion and then gailliard. In the 16th century the pairing was first bassedanse & tordion, then pavane & gailliard.

Salterello doubles (doppio):

Domenico has included a set up for this step in many of his choreographies where dancers shift weight to the right foot so they are ready to begin saltarello.

This is a syncopated double with three steps and a hop. All the steps are leaped or hopped and danced on the balls of the feet lightly. Think gailliard.

With the weight on your right foot, leap or hop onto your left foot, then hop onto the right foot as you bring it forward; leap or hop again onto the left and hop bringing the foot up in the air straight or bent. This is essentially the first of the dances in the gailliard family.

Saltarello can also be done as a single. Step left & hop; step right & hop. Dancers are at liberty to invent figures and move about the floor freely while maintaining the essential rhythm of the saltarello.