Prenes on gre a discussion on interpretation based
on a class given at the
St. Vitus Dance Weekend 1999 in Politarchopolis.


(Introduce what we mean by "Gresley Dances" and a quick introduction to the MS.)

Interpreting a dance like this is a cooperative effort between

With all these dances the interpretation has been both of the dance form and the music. The effect has been both ways, sometimes the dance effected the interpretation of the music while at other times the music effects the dance. We have yet to look into the "tactus" of the music to see what effect this will have on the dances. I am also investigating the option that these dances are for horses.

After all that what don't we know?


  1. A single takes up one bar i.e. 2 beats.
  2. A single is a passi i.e. step on the ball of the foot on first beat then slightly sink on the second beat. You can bring the other foot forward but slightly behind. Do not close the step.
  3. Sections of the music can be matched to sections of the dance as set out in part one of the dance descriptions. This appears normal for most dances and their music.
  4. All singles are the same size, for interpretation purposes. This is not a good assumption for the final version of an interpretation but it is a good place to start; since most dancers will change the size of their steps so that they end up where they should.

Prenes on gre

(Link to copy of "original" text & music or a cleaned up copy anyway.)
Diagram of the music.

This is a good dance for discussing the problems with interpreting these dances, since it has the following problems:-

The starting position.

The first issue is how do we start this dance. It is for 2 people. The possible arrangements would then be

Perhaps the trace will provide a clue.

The traceTrace forthright 6 singlis; ather torne other aboute, and forthright 6 singles agen.

“ather torne other aboute” could be 4 singles if a full turn or 2 (or 4) singles if a half turn.

The “agen” at the end could mean again or against as in back the way you came.

Another problem is that the interpreted music only has 4 bars of music repeated 3 times. This only gives 12 bars or singles where as the text suggests 14 or 16 bars would be needed.

A decision needs to be made. We can either assume that there should be four repeats of the music with
        6 singles in repeat 1 and bars 1-2 of repeat 2
        Turn each other in repeat 2 bars 3-4 and repeat 3 bars 1-2
        6 singles in repeat 3 bars 3-4 and repeat 4.

Or we can assume that the turn is in the last two singles of the first six and first two of the last six. Which fits the music pattern.

This gives 4 singles forwards, 4 singles to turn each other about, 4 singles forward.

This works both with the dancers side by side or with the dancers starting about 8 singles apart facing each other. If starting side by side the turn can be awkward and may be reason for rejecting this starting prosition. To make the turn easier face each other on the fourth single and end the turn both facing the same way.

So we have two possible starting positions, does the rest of the dance reduce this to just one that works?

The following diagrams summarise the possible dance patterns for the trace.

Bars Starting side-by-side Starting facing each other
A 1-4
A 5-8
A 9-12

Part 2After the end of the trace, rak both togeder and torne.

Rak (also rakkes, rake and raks) could be rake. The definitions of the time appear to be for animals, horses dressage step, hounds and hawks at the hunt or what you do with the garden rake i.e. drag. Another option is the lean of the mast of a ship.

The promising definitions are the dressage step and the garden rake. The dressage step does require four feet and involves moving the limbs on the same side in the same way. Currently I am interpreting it almost like a contenenza, step to the side (or slightly forward or back as the dance requires) leading with the shoulder of that side. Rake the other foot along the floor to close the step.

This section of the music has 4 bars. Elsewhere a rak takes one bar and a turn takes two bars. I assume there are two rakes and a double for the turn.

If the dancers started at opposite sides of the room the turn here would probably be a half turn to get them facing again. If they started side by side this could be

This does not make either starting position better than the other.

The following diagrams summarise the possible dance patterns for part 2.

Bars Starting side-by-side Starting facing each other
B 1-2
B 3-4

Part 33 Then face to face 6 singlis, eithir contary oder, and 3 retrettes ayen.

What does the “3” mean. Usually it means repeat 3 times but is there enough music?

Also “3 retrettes ayen” is a problem since sometimes a retrett is a backward trett and other times it is a backward single. The “ayen” probably changes this to mean you turn around and do the trett or single forwards.

The next section of music is repeated twice and is interpreted as 3 bars long, just enough for the six singles.

If we include the next section of music we get another three and a half bars. (Yes, that is half a bar! What do we do with that?) The three bars could be the “3 retrettes” if they are singles.

So based on the music we get “start face to face, six singles in opposite directions, then 3 singles the other way, turn around in the first single, then pause”.

If you started facing at a distance then you should be about 8 singles apart facing, i.e. in each others starting place. Approaching with six singles could have you pass each other and be about 4 singles apart. Since you start facing you would be moving in opposite directions. Turning in the first single and approaching with the remaining two singles would have you face to face.

Other options from this position are circling and zig-zaging. Circling will not have you close enough for the next section of dance so it can be dismissed. Unles it is done as a spiral instead. The zig-zag could have you end up facing so needs to be considered.

If you started side by side you have to end face to face at the end of the previous section, or turn face to face in the first single). Now go to your left for six singles and back towards each other for three singles (like the doubles in the Black Almain). You are now facing and about six singles apart.

Still both starting positions work.

The following diagrams summarise the possible dance patterns for part 3.

Bars Starting side-by-side Starting facing each other
C 1-6
D 1-4

Part 4 "2 Then a flowrdilice of both at oyns.
 r Then change places and torne face to face. Then a flowrdelice and come togeder.

Again what does the "2" or "r" mean. The 2 might refer to the fact that 2 fleur-de-lis are done. The "r" might be an ampersand.

In Temperans there is a flourdilice for 3 which takes 8 bars and traces out a stylized fleur-de-lis. The "change places and torne face to face" could be 4 bars. There are 32 bars in the last section of music the last 12 would be used for the "and come togeder".

What is a flouredlice for two, or for one? Does it take 8 bars and the same steps as the flowrdelice for 3? Or is it something completely different.

If we go with the option that the flourdelice for two is basically the same as for 3 without the middle person we get some thing like
. Both cast for a double or change places
. Both go forward with one single (passi) then cast out with the next two and jump
. Both cast outwards to the front with the double.

Back to Prenes on gre, what you do with the first double will determine the shape of the flourdelice. Since with both starting positions you end the last section face to face you can end up side by side facing the same direction or perhaps back to back. If you end back to back the shape formed may not look like a fleur-de-lis.

Starting position position at end of part 3 first double
Side by side facing 6 singles apart cast
Facing 8 singles apart face to face change places

In both cases end side by side facing same direction.

Now use one double to change places and another double to turn face to face.

Repeat the flourdelice.

Then come together in the last 12 singles (6 doubles?). What to do with this? In some Italian dances you repeat a previous section of the dance to end.

Maybe you repeat a form of the trace? Use the first four bars (4 singles or 2 doubles) to end up face to face; turn each other with the next four bars but end side by side facing forward (or back if running out of room); proceed together for the last four bars.

The following diagrams summarise the possible dance patterns for part 4.

A flowerdelice
Bars Starting side-by-side Starting facing each other
E 1-2
E 3-6
E 7-8

Position for next flowerdelice
E 9-10
E 11-12

Second flowerdelice
E 13-20

Come together
E 21-24
E 25-28
E 29-32

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