French Dance 101 - The Gavotte, The Tourdion, The Bal-mussette, The Farandole

France has several beautiful and diverse traditional dances, which are distinctive to their own region and whose history often goes back hundreds of years. Although most people nowadays don’t practice these dances anymore, there has been a recent rise in traditional French dance academies and troops. These academies want to revive French tradition, and the love of dances that lost much of their popularity after World War II. Since everything traditional was associated with the Nazi-sympathizing Vichy government, the youth of this time rejected it, and looked for more modern cultural alternatives. Luckily, this is changing and the beauty of these dances is being maintained for future generations.

In the spirit of recapturing these beautiful traditional dances, here are four of our favorite ones:

1. The Gavotte

This dance is categorized as a Breton dance, as it originates in the region of Brittany. The dance is usually danced either in lines or circles, and features pairs who switch between each other. The steps are quick and coordinated, and there is a little hop to the dance, which makes it beautiful to watch. The rhythm of the dance has changed throughout history, as different styles of music influenced it. It reached its popularity peak in the court of the Sun King, who appreciated it greatly.

2. The Tourdion

This dance is lively, with a fast beat, and a joyful rhythm. It is singled-out by its coordinated hop on one foot, and slight kick with the other. Although there are variations of the Tourdion, it usually always follows the same steps, so that it has been kept fairly original. The dance became most popular in the 1400s and 1500s, so that the traditional dresses used to dance it are mostly Medieval in fashion.

3. The Bal-mussette

A more modern dance, the Bal-mussette became popular in the streets of 19th century Paris and can still be heard being played by street performers everywhere in the city. Accompanied with an accordion, this music was usually played in bars and cafes, and often in lower-class neighborhoods. As different styles arrived, mixes and variations started to occur, making the music more interesting and varied. The dance that accompanies this music is easier, and less choreographed and coordinated than those of previous centuries. It also sought to be more intimate, and modern. Its popularity reached its peak after World War II, as it was the alternative to more traditional dances that were being rejected.

4. The Farandole

The origin of this dance, whose roots are found in the region of Provence, is blurred. Historians can’t seem to agree whether the dance dates back to Ancient times, the Medieval Age, or the Renaissance. Whatever its origin, however, it is one of the most important folk dances in Southern France. Because of its Southern origin, it is similar to some traditional Spanish and Italian dances. As with most of the other dances described here, the dance includes a skip in which there is a hop in every other step. Clothes for the dance are usually colorful and full of life.