The Origin of the Gavotte - Connection with the Branle - The Gavotte in France - Madame Vestris's Gavotte - Some Quaint Characteristics - An Effective Gavotte for Children he gavotte is one of the oldest figure dances in the world's history. Originally it was an offspring of the branle, and this dance, which was popular down to the seventeenth century, was probably the most ancient of all figure dances. It was accompanied by singing, and the dancer always embraced his partner when the refrain was repeated at the end of each couplet.
Fig. 1. Step 1. The beginning of the gavotte step: each dancer has a foot extended
Photos, Martin facolette
At first, the gavotte was titled the "Gavotte-Branle," with the following curious instruction : "In this measure the damsel is not to be lifted ; nevertheless, she is to be kissed."
In the gavotte proper, not only did the leading couple choose and kiss the lady and gentleman who were to lead after them, but the leaders generally embraced all the dancers, one after the other. In " Sandrinlou Vert Galant," there is an account of a gavotte in which little presents were given to the dancers instead of kisses. This seems an early instance of the custom since so popular in cotillons.
The gavotte is a dance in dainty rhythm, considerably livelier than the minuet or pavanne. A capital arrangement, suitable in every way for drawing-room or stage use, is the Kaiserin Gavotte. This fascinating dance comes from Berlin, where it has been, and still is, danced at Court with great success. The Gavotte de Vestris, probably the best known of all gavottes, is a difficult dance, composed by Madame Vestris, and frequently danced by her when she was at the zenith of her fame. It can only be performed effectively by those who possess very neat execution, and is, therefore, perhaps best left to professional dancers.
The gavotte, which became the rage in France during Louis XIV.'s reign, reappeared with Marie Antoinette, and again after the Revolution. The gavotte was the favourite Court dance under Louis XVI., and throughout the ministration of the Directory. " By the term gavotte, properly speaking," writes Madame Laure Fonta, "we must understand the dances in short parts, in which good, merry dancers vary the movement in the most' fascinating fashion, even mingling with the genuine duple rhythm the triple rhythm of Mme. Gaillarde."
But this bright, sparkling dance was modified, like so many others that have undergone the influence of time, and found it degenerating rather than improving. In the eighteenth century it had points of resemblance to the minuet. It became languid and gliding, rather solemn, and somewhat pretentious. Vestris tells us that the gavotte step consisted of three steps and an assemble. Littre says that "the step of the gavotte differs only from the natural step in that one springs upon the foot which is on the ground, and at the same time points the toes of the other foot downwards. This is the sole indication that one is dancing and not walking."
The air of the older-fashioned gavotte, as well as those of the present day, was in duple time. The pace was moderate and graceful, sometimes even tender and slow. It was divided into two parts, each of which began with the second beat, and ended with the first, the phrases and rests recurring with every second bar. Famous and wonderfully popular gavottes were written for the stage by Gluck, Gretry, and many other composers.
The gavotte had quite lost favour, save at the theatre and among professional dancers, when Marie Antoinette restored it to fashion by endowing it with the seal of her approval. It is well known that this ill-fated, graceful Queen danced the minuet to perfection, but she excelled in the airy, fascinating movements of the gavotte. Marie Antoinette was delighted with the music, or the air of a gavotte, which Gretry composed in his opera " Cephale et Procris," and frequently desired the inclusion of the dance at State balls. The gavotte rose in public favour as rapidly as it had fallen, and, under the Royal patronage, became the fashion at society balls and all grand functions.
shoulder at her partner
Fig. 3. Step 3. The mirror step (continued). Dancers step apart, each looking over her
Fig. 4. Step 4. The back to back movement} repeated four tirres in a circle
At the same time, gavottes, in rather lighter and more tender rhythm than those pertaining to the Court, were greatly in vogue among the people generally. Fertiault, in his "Histoire de la Danse," describes the gavotte as follows : "Skilful and charming offspring of the minuet, sometimes gay, but often slow and tender, in which kisses and bouquets are interchanged."
All the evidence of the steps and history of the gavotte point to the fact that it was closely akin to the simple branle in its original form, owing, indeed, its entire origin to this popular country measure. After being in favour for six centuries, the gavotte still retained the first three steps of the branle - unaltered and in their entirety - when it was revived under the Directory, and at the beginning of the last century.