Notes on Il Torneo Amoroso

I chose to reconstruct this dance because of a chance comment on a mailing list. The comment referred to Caroso's version, though it mentioned Negri's version. Because I could not find anything anywhere on Negri's version, I decided to remedy that.

Of course, there was a good reason for the lack of a Negri reconstruction, as I soon found out. My first stab at reconstruction left me with music to which there were no steps to be found, which was ultimately very frustrating. I trusted the professionally recorded music to be correct, and so it had to be my reconstruction that was doing something wrong. But what?

I proceeded with putting my tentative version up on the web, though with no fanfare of any kind, since I had no clue how accurate it was (I've got this problem with translating Italian, you see - I don't know Italian, modern or 16th century!). I framed the dance into sections as dictated by the instructions, and assumed that the instructions for playing the music related to these same sections (after all, both indicated nine sections, so they must be the same, right?). Beyond that, I didn't really take the music seriously in terms of my reconstruction, except that the one seemed to fit the other (even if my reconstruction required extra steps to do so).

I don't know very many people who actively reconstruct dances, much less 16th century Italian dance. Yes, they're out there, both professionally and recreationally, but none are terribly local to me, which means that I've been going at this alone. I've had hints and help from various sources, and these have helped, but the end result still usually ends up being largely my own.

Just recently, however, I've made the acquaintence of someone who does actually actively reconstruct 16th century Italian dance, to the point where she understands nuances, tricks, and subtleties that only come from getting to know a large body of work. Margaret Roe is not actually local to me, but through the agency of some mutual friends, we have been able to spend snatches of time together. I showed her this dance, and she immediately went to the music to try to resolve the issue. Her re-translation of the instructions for the music revealed something important to me (that the first three phrases of the music were to be played twice through each, and then twice through again from the top). While our brief attempt to "fix" my reconstruction was ultimately unfruitful, the time and tips she gave me helped me to look at the music again as the source of the solution.

When next I had the chance, I examined the music carefully, listening to the recording made by the Ensemble La Folia and comparing the two. I found that the recording was faithful to the written period music, and I also noticed a fact that I had missed - that the sixth part of the instructions indicated that the music was going to change, and that the written music changed tempo, speeding up starting with the fourth musical phrase. This meant that I could create a framework of music within which to fit the steps, a framework made more detailed by the galliard section of the music (section 8 in the steps, section 7 in the music).

Without Margaret's help, and the idea of using the period written music as a framework to help put the dance steps into context, I don't know whether I could have gotten as far as I have with this dance. I absolutely want to thank her for taking the time to help me with this.

Unfortunately, the musical framework did not magically solve my problem with needing extra steps. I did decide to break away from the "part" notations of the steps in favor of the using the musical phrases as sections of the dance. This removed my first addition (the mini chase sequence in Part 1 of the old reconstruction), but I still needed to add 2 measures' worth of steps in the revised Part 4, and 4 measures' worth of steps to separate out and finish the second repeat of the C phrase in the revised Part 6, before the instructions indicate that the music changes, and the music's tempo changes, in the revised Part 7.

I believe that the staggered approach and the "combat" sections work better, and that the step instructions to do spezzati brevi and continenze brevi are simply acknowledgements that the music is about twice as fast as before, not that the steps are any different. While there is no indication in the galliard section that the riverenza is a long/slow one, the musical phrase basically requires that the riverenza and continenze fit to the first repeat, and the circling fits well to the second repeat.

The finish of the dance shows a sped-up reflection of the beginning, with the circling and the scrolling/dashing return to the original opposite, facing position, followed by a figure very familiar from other dances - the retreating spezzati and the returning ordinario, done twice.

This is not (necessarily) my final version of this dance. There are some further congruences that I'd like to study (step pattern reflections, perhaps fitting to the music). A more definitive translation may well clear up my issue of made up steps (or perhaps they really are missing from the manuscript, which would not be unique to this dance). However, I think this works as it is, perhaps a little better than my first reconstruction, and I would be happy to see it done at an SCA event or two.

Thank you,

     Arglwydd Dafydd Cyhoeddwr, OS, OT, COM, COSC

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Dafydd Cyhoeddwr, V1.0, Thursday, March 25th, 2010