Bransle des Lavandieres

Hands-down my favorite of all the Arbeau bransles. Just complex enough to be truly satisfying, and still simple enough to let the dancers have fun with it. The ‘Washerwoman’s Bransle’ is one of the mimed bransles common to Arbeau’s Orchesographie. It mimics a domestic squabble between the village washerwoman and her husband, which makes it especially fun to get creative with.

This recording from the library of congress collection the history of social dancing is very clear, though very short. If the video above leaves you wondering, the one below will answer all of your questions. Well, about the dance, anyway.

This is a partnered dance, so one dancer will have to dance the Lord’s part and one will have to dance the Lady’s part. The parts are mostly identical in this dance, however the Lord does do one gesture before the Lady does. So it is the ‘leading’ part by a very small margin.

Step Review

Double Left: Step L, bring feet together, repeat.
Double Right: Step R, bring feet together, repeat.
Single Left: Step L, bring feet together.
Single Right: Step R, bring feet together.
Kick Left: Hop on your R foot, kick L foot forward.
Kick Right: Hop on your L foot, kick R foot forward.
Hop: A small hop on both feet.

Steps

This dance can be done as a circle, line, or tangle. It is most often done as a circle. For as many couples as wish to dance.

  • Double L. 4 counts.
  • Double R. 4 counts.
  • Double L. 4 counts.
  • Double R. Finish by turning to face your partner. 4 counts.
  • Both single L, moving in opposition.
    Both single R.
    During this portion the Lord admonishes the Lady. 4 counts.
  • Both single L, moving in opposition.
    Both single R.
    During this portion the Lady admonishes the Lord.
    Finish by returning to the beginning figure. 4 counts.
  • Double L. Clap your hands four times, once on each step.
    Extra style points if you can clap like you’re wiping off your hands. 4 counts.
  • Double R. 4 counts.
  • Double L. Clap your hands four times, once on each step.
    Extra style points if you can clap like you’re wiping off your hands. 4 counts.
  • Kick L. Turn slightly clockwise with your hop. 1 count.
  • Kick R. Turn slightly clockwise with your hop. 1 count.
  • Kick L. Turn slightly clockwise with your hop. 1 count.
  • Hop to complete your clockwise rotation. 1 count.
  • (Repeat all.)

Practice Playlist

Variations

  • In Bransle des l’Official there is a similar kick/hop, kick/hop, kick/hop, hop while turning pattern. In our modern SCA custom we replace this with a partner change, giving the dance it’s SCA folk name ‘Toss the Duchess’. Likewise this same step could be replaced by a similar partner change where the dancer doing the Lady’s part will jump and the the Lord will guide her jump into the next spot moving clockwise around the circle.

Resources

  • The Renaissance Dance Database maintains a complete list of links around the web for sheet music, step cheat sheets, and music files for Bransle des Lavandieres. Do you have musicians asking what they can play? Point them at these and send a recording you’ve been enjoying during practice.
  • The Mimed Bransle page on the Historical Dance Database has links to sheet music for all the mimed bransles, including Washerwoman’s Bransle.
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