Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
glebb

La Volta

38 posts in this topic

Not sure if I spelled it correctly. Does anyone know about this dance?

La Vaulta is reportedly a favorite of Elizabeth I of England. It is well done by Glenda Jackson in episode three of "ElizabethR".

Share this post


Link to post

The dance can also be danced by a group of dancers in a circle, as in a cotillion. A sample figure would run:

1 Set (balancé) toward your partner's right hip.

2 Assemblé

3 Big soubresaut

4 Pause

1 Set back to place

2 Assemblé, as before

3 Soubresaut as before

4 Pause

1-2 Pass right hands round

& Set to your partner as before, and petit assemblé

3-4 Leap and turn to the right, he lifting her by the waist, she supporting herself by two hands on his shoulders, and setting down by bringing up the right knee, breaking her fall, and when she lands, set away from your partner (&).

1-2 Honors to your partner (bow and courtesy)

3-4 Pass right shoulders with the next partner, turn to face her, and she to him and simple honors. (head bow and demi-courtesy)

In the pauses above, simple honors may be done.

It's really not all that hard to show, but kind of tough to describe in words. It's called La Volta, or the Lavolta. They were still dancing it in America by the time of the Jamestown colony (1607).

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks to you Leigh and Mel. In the episode of "ElizabethR", La Volta looks to be a new, racy and almost reckless dance! Very exciting and daring. :)

Share this post


Link to post

There's also a Volta in Shakespeare in Love, glebb, that makes it look like something young people did for fun.

Share this post


Link to post

Getting that DVD out. Thanks!

Share this post


Link to post

Elizabeth's fondness for the dance is also highlighted in the recent "Elizabeth" starring Cate Blanchett, in which Elizabeth calls out for "La Volta!" whenever she's feeling especially chipper.

Share this post


Link to post

Now we've just got to get her dancing "ye Saracen Brawll (Bransle) & ye Spannish Pannick!";)

Share this post


Link to post

Elizabeth did do the Spanish panic, apparently. In old age she stopped dancing in public, but there is a report of her doing the dance in private, accompanied by tabor and pipe.

Apparently she was a great dance enthusiast and was forever trying out new versions of court dances. I also recall reading a complaint by one of her courtiers that she was making them too hard and only experts could do them.

Share this post


Link to post

Major Johnson,

Is it possible to know from what source you have learned this version of La Volta?

I'm an amateur renaissance dance student, and your description resembles only remotely anything I have been able to find in the renaissance choreographic sources that I know of. (Arbeau's Orcherosgraphie has very detailed instructions) This one feels to me as a later descendant based on the balletic steps and partner changes - is it still danced in galliard rhytm? (resembles the modern 6/4 with a peculiar beat - God Save the Queen is a galliard)

Share this post


Link to post

It was doped out from a Virginia manuscript dated circa 1619 by a former dancing master at Colonial Williamsburg and me. Doubtless it had become mixed with some French aspects, and was less as Elizabeth danced it, but I added it only as an illustration of how it could be danced in cotillion form. And yes, it's in triple meter.

PS. 1619 was, in Virginia, among other things, the year of the mail-order brides. The colony had initially been set up as a glassworks, and far more men than women had gone there to work the manufactures. About twelve years into the mission, they went half-crazy without much feminine companionship, and sent to England for women to come over and make the colony permanent and self-sustaining. There were some things written down and passed around advising the men on "things the girls will like". One can only imagine the dancing lessons!:rolleyes:

Share this post


Link to post

Here's another tune for "La Volta". Thomas Morley (1557-1603) wrote this one. I've never done the dance, so I don't know what the proper tempo should be; this may be on the slow side.

Share this post


Link to post

How exciting Tancos!

That is the tune used in episode 3 of "ElizabethR" and I think the tempo is perfect!

For anyone interested in La Volta and Elizabeth I, rent or buy the DVD box set. There is a special feature which enables one to watch the episodes all the while hearing commentary by Alison Weir.

Share this post


Link to post

La Volta must have been a respectable dance, as it was danced at court. Does anyone think it was pushing the envelope? The man placed his hands on the womans waist and lifted her. It looks as if the couples were making more body contact than the other court dances I've seen.

Psavola, if you have anything you can share, I'm sure it would be appreciated. :)

Share this post


Link to post

Glebb, there's some info about the Volta in Lincoln Kirstein's history. It was quite respectable -- the Queen really did do it. (I think I remember that doing a certain number of voltas in the morning was her daily exercise.)

I think they had more bodily contact in those days than perhaps we realize. I have read that that little handle on the woman's dress -- in the v of the bodice, below the waist -- was specifically there for men to grasp whlie they lifted her during the volta. But isn't there material in Orchesographie, for example, that indicates dancing was for sniffing and feeling -- is she lame? is she pockmarked? does he have foul breath -- and other courtship necessities.

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks for that (he says with a grin)!

Share this post


Link to post

Seriously! Because of the heavy clothing, and the lack of opportunity for a young couple to make more than casual conversation -- if that -- (when you got to court, of course, all bets were off, but the way there was fraught with propriety) -- dancing was a chance to check out the merchandise. If a man has a wooden leg, a volta will show it up. Veils could hide smallpox scars, but dancing let you get closer to see, etc. Thoinot Arbeau uses this in his helpful hints to Capriol.

Share this post


Link to post

That makes a lot of sense. In episode three of "Elizabeth R", The Queen's favorite is flirting with the woman who will become his second wife, while they are dancing La Volta.

Share this post


Link to post

You could do a lot of flirting in those dances, and exchange witty repartee as well. Shake a leg :)

Share this post


Link to post

The Volta was indeed for a time Queen Elizabeth's favourite dance, and while it was not quite perfectly respectable in all eyes it was not morally too dubious either. Perhaps the equivalent of shaking one's hips instead of just stepping side to side in a disco. And yes, the Queen did indeed do several galliards before breakfast each morning. (The Volta is musically a type of a galliard, with a variation of the galliard rhytm - the galliard has a peculiar, unique, very recongnizable beat, "pulse", which, when played correctly, will make your head nod and feet tap. :D )

The moral problem with the Volta was not so much the fact that partners were close together, but that it required the man to lift the woman, and pivot turn her about three-quarters around. This sends the skirts flying, unless the woman uses her free hand to keep them down. I know from experience that if I wear a farthingale, the throw/jump takes off badly and my hand is not where it should, the spectators are sure to see at least a calf or knee. :eek:

(That said, the Volta is a fast, fun dance, and when both partners dance it well, the "wheeeeee" effect is amazing.)

As Alexandra noted, dancing was one of the few ways young people could get close together. While it would be misleading to say, that dances commonly contained elements of body contact more intimate than touching hands, some did. Several surviving dances have the man lift and/or turn the woman in different ways, in one the partners embrance.

And Arbeau indeed advices young Capriol of the usefulness of dance in finding out the health and close-up attractiveness of a girl. The discussion is about the virtues of dancing, and the main argument is that dancing is a gentlemaly pastime which - unlike, for example, tennis - allows one to meet the girls. Checking them out is just one of the side points raised. Pleasing the girls is not mentioned, because at that time all young gentlemen were expected to be willing to dance. (There are some warnings about things girls do not like, however, in the interest of keeping their favour, and advice on how to behave if a girl does not want to dance.) Consequently, this unequal world had many dances with more male than female parts, and some "male showoffs only" dances, where the women pretty much walk around and stand still charmingly while admiring the great danseur. ;)

While the Volta itself is a bit too quick for much flirting, several other renaissance dances are made for courtship, which they regularly seem to have been used for - and which some circles of course fiercely disapproved. :D As a note of interest to a ballet board, many dances contain small courtship games in their choreography with a slow opening section, one or more preening solos for both partners, and a finale which they dance together. Others have mimed love stories or references to local popular song lyrics. Many dances have names from somebody's nightmare of the current top ten list - our group is currently learning Nido d'Amore (The Love Nest) and Gloria d'Amore (The Glory of Love). Apparently they loved to play around the edges of the ideal of female chastity with the idea of courtly love. :rolleyes:

Päivi

Share this post


Link to post

Thank you for that, Päivi. The games playing -- some of our children's games (Ring Around the Rosy, about the plague -- "Ashes, ashes, all fall down") were adult entertainment then.

I don't know the name of it, but there's a court dance -- a real one -- in Nureyev's "Romeo and Juliet" that he adapted as a "Wheel of Fortune" dance. There are two circles, the inner one moves to the left, the outer to the right, and at certain points in the music they stop. (In the ballet, each stop brings two people whose fortunes will be intertwined together.)

Share this post


Link to post

That's "cotillion" form. Today, it would be called a "Paul Jones".

Share this post


Link to post

The plague kept Henrys third wife Jane Seymour out of London for most of her brief time as his wife. She must have had a coronation before the birth of their son but I am not sure. Does anyone know if the very young Elizabeth lived with Henry and Jane?

Speaking of Ring Around the Rosy, there is wonderful footage of the five children of Nicholas and Alexandra playing this game on the deck of their yacht Standart.

Share this post


Link to post

I think that "the Lady Elizabeth" (she had to be bastardized in order to legitimize Henry and Jane's marriage) was given her own household under the supervision of a governess reportable to the King. During the rest of Henry's life, Lady Bryan and two others (one named Hamperdowne, I believe) were named governesses. Her lot became a bit easier under the reign of her half-brother, but that came later, as did her boarding with the Seymour family.

Share this post


Link to post

I believe Mel is thinking of Katherine Champernowne, Elizabeth's beloved Kat Ashley.

Share this post


Link to post
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0