The School of Dancers

Master of the School: Linnet of Muchmead

Rules of Advancement

There are four levels of achievement within the School: Apprentice Dancer, Dancer, Master Dancer and Grandmaster Dancer.
Apprentice Dancer
Perform two simple dances of different types. For example, a pavane, branle or basic basse dance.
Dancer (Journeyman)
Perform two further dances of a slightly more advanced nature. For example, a simple ballo, 'pattern' basse dance, or Playford.
Master Dancer
By this stage the candidate should understand a good many of the possible dance types.
Perform five complex/intricate dances. At least one complete dance, or two significant passages, from the following should be seen: galliard, canario, volta, couranto. Other dances with significant step patterns (such as ballettos) may be considered.
Perform in a formal dance. For the purposes of these rules, a formal dance is a pre-rehearsed series of pieces, performed as part of an external dance demonstration, or as an entertainment (i.e. for the benefit of others).
Teach two documented dances to a group of people. These dances may be taught at different times and/or to different groups of people.
Grandmaster Dancer
To attain Grandmastership, the following must be completed:

  1. A written piece, minimum 700 words, on a subject related to early/historical dance.
  2. Devise two dances of different types acceptable within the period of the Society. One of these dances should include a tempo/step change (a ballo or balleto, for example), The music may be borrowed from another dance.
  3. Devise and perform in a masque of 10-15 minutes duration. This masque should be reminiscent of the masques danced in courtly Europe.

Notes to the Rules
By 'perform', it is expected that the dancer will publicly exhibit a dance with the precision, feeling & dignity (or lack of it!) appropriate to that dance, using the correct steps. The dancer should also be able to demonstrate knowledge of other dances of that type; including when, where, by whom, & in what type of clothes they might have been performed.
The requirements, & appended list of dance types, favour dances of fourteenth to seventeenth century Europe, simply because these are the best documented. The School is always happy to give due consideration to dances from other times (within period) & other lands.
Not all the dances submitted have to be performed at Far Isles events (in the case of an external dance demonstration this is obviously not possible!), but it is hoped that as many as possible will be. Judging of a dance, except of those for Grandmastership, may be made by any Master Dancer, or above. The number of dances required to progress obviously does not include those already performed for earlier attainments.

Some Possible Dance Types

Many of the following dance types are available as anything from simple through to complicated dances!

Inns of Court


The following is a short, but by no means exhaustive, list of reference sources.

Dancing in the Inns of Court
James B Cunningham

Evolution of the Basse Dance
Daniel Heartz

Fifteenth Century Dances from Burgundy & Italy
Madeleine Inglehearn

Le Gratie d'Amore
Cesare Negri

New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians

Nobilita di Dame
Fabritio Caroso
(1600 trans. Julie Sutton)

Nonsuch Early Dances, Volumes I-IV
Peggy Dixon

Thoinot Arbeau (1596)

Rules of Dancing (Ad Suos Compagnones)
Antonius Arena (1528)

Sur L'Art et Instruction de Bein Dancer
Toulouze (15th C.)

The Steps used in Court Dancing in 15th Cent. Italy
D R Wilson

The Renaissance Dance Book
Bernard Thomas & Jane Gingell