* Figure 1
* Figure 2
* Figure 3
* Figure 4
* Figure 5
Presoniera (or Prexonera) is a dance by Domenico. It first appeared in his manuscript De Arte Saltandi et Choreas Ducti, in approximately 1450. It was learned and written up in a slightly different form by Guglielmo in De Pratica seu Arte Tripudii.
The title of the dance means "Prisoner". The dance is for two people, one man and one lady. In this dance the lady and man take turns in capturing each other and holding each other prisoner. I take the opinion that the dance would most probably have been done as a performance dance -- the actions of the dancers are a play as much as they are a dance.
I have attempted to reconstruct the dance in a slightly different manner to the way in which most dance reconstructions are done. Rather than following the master's instructions to the letter, I have deliberately mis-reconstructed the dance in the manner that it could possibly have been done by a pair of young dance students of the time.
Improvisation was still used fairly heavily in dancing in the 15th Century -- Domenico and Cornazano both offer chapters on body movement and manner, but also indicate that variations of their mannerisms were in common practice at the time they are writing (partly, in admonishing the reader against these manners that are in error, the masters admit that they are in common practice).
In this reconstruction, I have taken Domenico's description of the dance, which basically includes feet movement only, and added some body and hand movements that emphasise the play-acting nature of the dance. I have enhanced the third figure of the dance, which would otherwise be a straightforwards piva sequence with the dancers moving side by side, into a game of cat-and-mouse, or more correctly, captor and prisoner.
In doing this, the dancers appear to be acting in a manner to be against some of Guglielmo's teachings -- in particular his "Rules for Women". Perhaps the more experienced (and older, and more demure) dancers of Guglielmo's class would not have done the dance in this fashion, but some of the younger participants just might.
The result is, I hope, a dance that although it disobeys some of the instructions laid out by Guglielmo and Domenico, is a feasible interpretation of how the dance could have been done as an entertainment piece in the period.
This opening sequence, in 6/4 time (bassadanza) is a reasonably straight forwards bassa danza section, done moving forwards into the center of the dance floor.
CnL CnR The dancers start by facing forwards, to the presence. They then do two continenze, left then right.
2 - 3 SL SR SL Three singles, left, right, left
4 DR Double Right
5 RvL Riverenza on the left foot
6 - 10 CnL CnR SL SR SL DR RvL Repeat the above to the repeat of the music.
In this section, the dancers move away from each other and then back towards each other, in bassadanza time.
SL SR The man alone moves forwards, with a single left then right
2 - 3 DcL DcL pause Two contrapassi, or doubles on the same foot, on the left, in 11/2 tempi, turning around to face the lady. The man should remain a short distance away from the lady. Finish with a half tempo pause.
4 - 6
SR SL DcR DcR Pause The lady sets off away from the man, moving away from him to the left with two singles, and then turning back towards him with two contrapassi. The lady should finish a short distance away from the man.
7 SL SR The dancers step towards each other with two singles.
8 CnL CnR The dancers then do two continenze, turning to finish facing forwards again, but improper.
This section of the dance contains an element of acting. The dancers should shy away from each other as they do the singles, and then move in a more lively manner back towards their prisoner (or captor) as they do the contrapassi.
In the first three bars of the above section, the man walks forwards to end up in front of, and facing, the lady.
In the next three bars, the lady walks around to the improper side of the man, as shown in the diagram.
B (9 - 16)
Repeat Repeat bars 1 - 8 above, this time with the lady moving first. The couple should end up proper once again.
This is a piva sequence. The true nature of the dance is revealed here, as the man (on the first time through the dance, the lady on the second time through), takes his "captive" almost forcefully across the dance floor.
1 (8) PvL PvR PvL PvR
PvL PvR PvL PvR
The dancers do 8 piva steps travelling forwards. At the start of the sequence, the man grabs the lady by the hand, and leads her forwards, the lady following behind.
In this figure the dance stays in piva time. The captive-captor relationship continues through this sequence, as the man and the lady play a small capture-and-escape game on the dance floor.
1 - 2
M M The man makes a movimento, and the lady replies with another.
The man should make a leaping movement at the lady (who he has just lead at a piva pace across the floor), in order to entrap her. The lady darts just as quickly away from him.
3 - 4 4 Passitti The dancers make 4 passitti, or "little steps", on the right foot.
The lady, having leapt away from the man's "entrapment" now leads him on a chase across the floor. The dancers skip lightly on their right feet as the lady leads the man around.
5 - 6 M M The lady makes a movimento, and the man replies with another.
This is a repeat of the first two bars, with the lady leaping towards the man, and then the man leaping away.
7 - 8 4 Passitti The dancers make 4 passitti.
This time, it is the man that leads the lady on a short chase.
As is often the case with Domenico's balli, the dance concludes with a saltarello sequence.
SlL SlR SlL SlR The dancers now conclude the dance with four saltarelli, starting on the left foot, moving towards each other to take hands again.
The dance can be repeated from the start, with the lady taking the man's place, and the man taking the lady's place.
Guglielmo, "De Pratica seu Arte Tripudii", translated by Barbara Sparti (Oxford: OUP, 1993).
Joy and Jealousy
Prexonera, by Domenico. One couple. Difficulty = Level 4
Steps: Sempio (in 6), Doppio (in 6), Piva (in 4), Saltarello (in 6), Contrapasso (in
6), Ripresa (in 4), Meza Ripresa (in 4), Continenza (in 6), Mezavolta,
Start: Couple, side by side, Woman on the right, holding hands, facing up the hall.
Section I (2.5 plus 2 bars in 6/4, played twice)
[Introduction of 4.5 bars on accompanying tape]
1 Continenza Left, Continenza Right.
2 Sempio Left, Sempio Right.
3 Sempio Left. (Half-size bar)
4 Doppio Right.
5 Reverenza Left. Bars 9-11
1-5 (2nd time) Repeat.
Section II (8 bars in 6/4, played twice)
6 Man Sempio Left, Sempio Right.
7-8 Man Contrapasso Left, twice. For the last four beats of Bar 8, do the
Beat 3: Bring left foot even to right,
Beat 4: Lower to flat,
Beat 5-6: Pause.
9 Woman Sempio Right, Sempio Left. Bar 12
10-11 Woman Contrapasso Right, twice. For the last four beats of Bar 11,
do the following:
Beat 3: Bring right foot even to left,
Beat 4: Lower to flat,
Beat 5-6: Pause.
12 Sempio Left, Sempio Right, taking right hands, and switching places, Man ending with a
13 Reverenza Left.
(Both are facing up the hall, Man on right.)
6-13 (2nd time) Repeat, switching roles.
Section III (7 bars in 4/4 and 1 bar in 2/4)
14-17 8 Pive (each takes a half bar), starting Left.
18 Man Movimento, then Woman Movimento.
19 Ripresa, separating, so Man to the Left, Woman to the Right. Bar 19
20 Woman Movimento, then Man Movimento.
21 Meza Ripresa, separating, Man to Left, Woman to Right.
Section IV (4 bars in 6/8)
22 Saltarello Left, turning to face at start, coming together and
turning to face up the hall. Take hands.
23-25 3 Saltarelli, starting Right, together.
(Both are facing up the hall, Man on left, as at the start of
the dance.) Section IV
Section V (2.5 plus 2 bars in 6/4)
(This is exactly the same as Section I, played only once.)
26 Continenza Left, Continenza Right.
27 Sempio Left, Sempio Right.
28 Sempio Left. (Half-size bar)
29 Doppio Right.
30 Reverenza Left.
If the dance is repeated, Section V is only played the last time. For a
repeat, the dance can either be done identically or the woman can lead from
the left. If the second is preferred, the dancers should come together in Bar
22 but turn the other way, so that the woman is on the left side. Alternate Section IV
Dances Courts 2 - Section I is played an extra time as an introduction. Section I is 5 bars long, instead of 4.5,
with a half-bar added to the end; just pause. Bar 21 is a full bar in 4/4, so use a full ripresa instead of a meza
ripresa. Quite slow, especially the piva section, and easy to follow.
To Celebrate - Short introduction. The bassadanza sections may be a bit hard to follow as they start with a leadin,
which is correct for bassadanza but can be confusing. (What sounds like the beginning of a bar is actually the
lead-in to it. ) Bar 21 is a full bar in 4/4, so use a full ripresa instead of a meza ripresa. Section V is not included.
The dance is played twice with one long note at the very end.
Bar 4: PnD does not give a foot for this doppio, but using strict alteration, starting with the first continenza being
on the left (which is specified), it would then be on the right. The reverenza that follows is on the left in all but
one source, which is further evidence. However, all the sources except PnD say that the doppio is on the left.
Bars 7-8: PnG and some other sources say that the man does these turning toward the woman. This is not present
in PnD, which has a mezavolta on the upbeat to Bar 12, satisfying the same purpose. See the note for Bar 12.
Bars 7-8, and 10-11: The time alloted for the two contrapassi is one and a half bars (which is one beat more than
they actually need), as the entire section of two sempii and two contrapassi is specified in PnD as taking two and a
half bars of bassadanza; however, the musical sources then have a half-bar of rest. We tried leaving the half-bar
of rest out, but the resulting confusion in our dancers made us decide to retain it. We added the instructions for
the rest of the bar, using what seems to happen naturally there.
Bar 12: PnD has a mezavolta on the upbeat of Bar 12. If the dancers are side by side
this is awkward; because the couples are about to move clockwise around each other, it
would make better sense if the woman were to do the mezavolta. However, other
sources require the man to turn while he is doing his contrapassi, so it seems likely that
PnD also has the man ahead of and facing opposite to the woman at the beginning of this
bar. This suggests that the man is usually slightly forward of the woman, so that a Alternate Mezavolta at
mezavolta leaves him facing her, if a bit to her left, rather than beside her. (See also Beginning of Bar 12,
the section on Leading in the Introduction.) Although it seems clear that the man With Man in Forward
really does start this bar facing the woman, this section was simplified, with the two Leading Position
dancers starting side by side. (For a different solution to a similar situation, see
Bar 5 (2nd time) of Fia Guielmina.)
It is odd that the man is not also instructed to do a mezavolta at the end of the two sempii, in order to face forward
again. This mezavolta has been added.
Bar 19: PnD says to separate with four passiti "per traverso", without mention of feet. NYp says to face one
another and do a ripresa on the left. Sc also has a ripresa, the man going left and the woman right, with no
mention of facing each other beforehand. The other four sources for this dance say to back up with three steps,
some saying to face, others not. We decided that the four passitti done in traverso are equivalent to a ripresa, but
otherwise followed PnD, presuming that the couple do not face, as no mention is made of it.
Bar 21: This section is similar to Bar 19, but in PnD and PnG the music is only half as long. The dancers
continue to separate with the same steps used before (the one exception being Sc, which seems to have the dancers
come together). However, the sources that call for three steps (PnA, PnG, Fn and Fl) say that the saltarello
following starts on the third step, which we interpreted as meaning a half-bar with two steps, (or a meza ripresa
when done sideways) and then starting the saltarelli on the third step. For PnG this works well, as a half-bar of
music matches an apparent half-bar step. Unfortunately, PnD clearly calls for four passetti, has only half a bar of
music, and doesn't mention starting the saltarelli early, while PnA has only three passetti, starts the saltarelli on
the third one (i.e. after half a bar), but then has a full bar in the music. This entire section shows considerable
variation in the different sources, and alternate reconstructions are very obviously valid.
Section V: PnD and PnG repeat the music for the first section again at the end, which is necessary in order to
resolve the piece musically. None of the sources give any indication that the steps for the first section are to be
repeated, but we decided to include them. It is possible that the music was meant to indicate that the dance should
be repeated, but this would still leave the piece unresolved at the conclusion of the repeat.
Repeat: We chose not to have a repeat as, in this reconstruction, the dancers end as they started. The variation to
use if the dance is repeated, with the woman leading from the left, is conjecture.