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Dance Descriptions and Background

Traditional dances of Brittany generally vary by geographical region - each pays (district) having a different dance or different variety of a more widely spread dance type. The best introduction to the complexity of defining and mapping different dances in Brittany is Jean-Michel Guilcher's classic "La Tradition populaire de la danse on Basse-Bretagne" (1963).

In general, three different types of dances can be found in Brittany (per Serge Moëlo's "Guide de la musique bretonne"). First are the oldest dances which are often performed as a three-part suite. These are most commonly dances in lines or circles, and include dances such as the gavotte, an dro, hanter dro, laridé or ridée, or dañs plinn. In some areas of Brittany sub-varieties of these dances have been developed (gavotte d'Aven, gavotte pourlette, etc). The second category of dances is made up of more recent figure dances influenced by British dances of the 17th century or French contredances of the 18th century. Included here are the jabadao, pach-pi and bals. In the third category, one finds couple dances introduced to Brittany in the 19th and 20th century such as the polka, mazurka, and scottisches. Although of more recent introduction, these dances have been adapted by Bretons to become a unique part of the Breton heritage.

Dance descriptions are reproduced here with Yves Moreau's very kind permission.

An Dro

Formation: Mixed open circle with leader at L end. Little fingers interlocked ("pinky hold"). Hands fwd of body at waist level, with forearms parallel to floor and parallel to neighbours' - care should be taken that dancers in the circle remain close together but not bumping. All face very slightly L of centre of hall.

Style: Light , bouncy and buoyant. Mostly on the balls of the feet with the free foot brought up sharply 4 - 8" off the floor. The line moves constantly RLOD. Metre: 2/4

Dance only takes two measures of music to perform; these are repeated throughout the dance.

No introduction - the leader may start at the beginning of any musical phrase.


1. Step fwd slightly L of ctr on ball of foot (count 1), close ball of R to side of L heel (&), still moving slightly L of ctr, step fwd L on flat of foot to produce a small accent (NOT a stamp), bringing R ft up sharply behind (2), hold (&).

2. Maintaining same body position, moving either straight bkwd or slightly RLOD; step bkwd R (count 1), close ball of L along but slightly fwd of R (&), step bkwd R with slight accent, at same time bring L ft up sharply in front (2), hold (&).

HAND AND ARM WORK - simultaneous with Footwork above

1. Push fwd and upward with emphasis in a circular motion (count 1), loop hands upwards and toward body to continue large arc (&), continue looping hands down and fwd (2), raise hands up and fwd to complete a small loop, ending the loop about shoulder height (&).

2. Exact reverse trace of path of hands and arms in measure 1, except at the end (&).

Pull hands down and twd body to begin a small loop (1), raise hands up and start them fwd to continue the loop (&), push hands fwd and down with emphasis in a large arc (2), pull hands bkwd twd body so that the arms are parallel to the floor (and to neighbours') and elbows have moved as far back as comfortable - hands will come back almost to the waist (&).


Avant-Deux De Travers

This is a popular form of a dance done throughout Brittany. This one is done in mixed lines and comes from L'Orient region on the coast.

Formation: Short mixed lines, 4 - 6 people. Tight hold; arms held upwards (under shoulder height), elbows bent, very close. Looks somewhat like a Turkish-type hold, but fingers are not interlocked. Metre 2/4.

"Travelling Two Step"
1Step fwd onto R (ct 1); close L to R (ct &)
2Repeat action as above but reversing direction and footwork (moving bkwd and at the same time turning entire line CW, freely in room).
3Repeat action of meas 1-2 three imes.
"Chorus Step"
1Take a small step fwd onto R (ct 1); small hop on R (ct &); small step bkwd onto L (ct 2); small hop on L (ct &).
2Take small step to R on R (ct 1); small hop on R (ct &); small step to L on L (ct 20; small hop on l (ct &).
3-8Repeat action of 1-2 three times. Do not move around room on this step.
Dance repeats from beginning.

Le Bal De Jugon

Couple dance from Haute-Bretagne (upper Brittany).
Formation: Circles of couples in Varsouvienne hold, facing CCW. Meter 4/4. No introduction.
Footwork is the same for men and women.

Part IHEEL, TOE and ½ TURN
1-2Facing LOD, touch L heel diagonally L forward (1), touch L toe next to R toe (2)
3-4Keep arms in varsouvienne position and step LRL, pivot on the spot CW individually to face RLOD. M should still be on inside of circle.
5-8Repeat counts 1-4 with opposite footwork and turn CCW.
9-32Repeat counts 1-8 three more times
1-2Facing LOD, step L-R-L (a two-step) moving LOD-CCW around circle, swinging hands and bodies slightly.
3-4Repeat counts 1-2 with opp. footwork
5-28Repeat counts 1-4 six more times (making it 14 two-steps in total)
29-30Step L in place, step R in place

Monsieur Le Curé ne veut pas, que les gars embrassent les filles
Mais il ne défend pas, que les filles embraasent les gars!

Monsieur Le Curé ne veut pas, que les gars embrassent les filles
Mais Monsieur l'Maire a dit, de les embrasser malgré lui!
Tra, la, la, la lère etc...


Bannielou Lambaol

Line dance, arms in W-position, little fingers linked, metre 2/4.
One note introduction.
MeasurePART I - SIDE STEP TO L etc
1Facing centre, step on L to L, flexing knees slightly before each step (1). Close R to L (2). HAND ACTION for cts 1 and 2: Make a complete CW circle with the hands, bringing hands up, fwd, around down, and back up to beginning position. Action for cts 1,2 constitutes side close step. Repeat side close step action meas 1, cts 1,2 (3,4)
2Repeat meas 1, cts 1-4 two side close steps.
3Extend R ft fwd, touch R toe, pushing hands straight fwd from shoulders (1). Pull R back to L, touch action, no weight. At same time, pull hands back to shoulders (&). Extend R ft fwd again, touching toe, extending hands (2). Close R to L, stepping on R, bringing hands back to shoulders (&). Repeat action of step close step, meas 1, cts 1,2. (3,4).
4Repeat meas 3, cts 1-4.
Slight retard in music, dance begins again.

Danse Fisel

This dance is from Lower Brittany.
Formation: Mixed lines (or open circle), hands joined down at sides. Weight is on R ft, face slightly L of ctr. Leader is at L end of line. Metre 2/4.
Introduction: Not easy to identify; musicians play the complete melody line once through, without any rhythm accompaniment. Approximate length of Introduction is 30 seconds!
1Step on L to L (ct 1); step on R across in front of L (ct 2).
2Step on L to L with slight knee bend (ct 1); brisk touch of full R foot in front of L, no weight change, and straightening knee (ct &); transfer weight even more fully to L ft, picking up R foot sharply ("pumping" motion) (ct 2).
3Step on R across L to L (ct 1); step on L to L (ct 2).
4Step sharply on R twd ctr with marked knee bend and with marked "thump" simultaneously picking up L foot behind R calf (ct 1); hold (ct 2).
5-7Repeat measures 1-3.
8Repeat measure 4, but when stepping to centre on R, pivot CCW to L, keeping weight on R and pointing L foot in front (thus you now face wall).
9-16Repeat measures 1-8 but now facing wall and still going to L.
17-24Repeat measures 1-8 (except no turn on last measure - face centre).
1-7Arms swing straight and strongly bkwd and fwd (odd measure bkwd, even measure fwd).
8When doing pivot on R foot, arms continue fwd and swing up high (let go of neighbours!), then come down and back to continue regular motion.
Arms:Arms here are joined in tightly closed arm grasp (Turkish-style), but do not interlock fingers - thumb over thumb only.
1Facing centre, step on L to L, simultaneously sliding R toward L foot (ct 1); sharp leap onto R foot next to L, and kicking L leg up bkwd sharply, knee bent (ct 2).
2Repeat measure 1.
3Dance three small steps, L,R,L slightly to L.
4Repeat measure 3 but with opposite footwork and direction.
5-24Repeat measures 1-4 five more times.
Note: Measures 3-4 can sometimes be replaced by leaps L and hold, R and hold (free foot kicks behind and dangles sharply).
Repeat dance from beginning.

Gavotte D'Honneur

This dance comes from the coastal areas of Brittany.

Formation: M and W in open circle, hands joined at shoulder height in "W" position. Everybody should be close to neighbours, leader at L of line. All face L of centre. End people also have free hand at shoulder level. Metre 2/4.

1Step on L ft to L (ct 1); step on R ft to L (ct 2)
2Step on L to L (ct 1); step on R to L (ct &); step on L to L (ct 2).
3Step on R to L (ct 1); step on L to L (ct 2).
4Step on R to L (ct 1); small hop on R ft in place, simultaneously raising L foot crossed in front of R (ct 2).
5-16Repeat action of meas 1-4 three more times.
17Facing ctr, and bringing arms down at sides, two small hops on R ft travelling slightly L and simultaneously "clicking" inner L ft on R (cts 1,2). Knees are slightly bent and ft are close to the ground. It is not a Polish-style heel click.
18Facing L, small running step onto L to L (ct 1); small running step onto R, crossing in front of L (ct 2).
19Facing ctr, sharp jump onto both ft, bending knees (ct 1); change wt sharply onto L ft, simultaneously kicking R ft sharply diag fwd (ct 2)
20Small leap bkwd onto R ft (ct 1); bring L ft around sharply and "click" it against R as in meas 17 (ct 2).
Dance repeats from beginning and alternates as above.

Hanter Dro

Dance from Basse-Bretagne (lower Brittany) near the towns of Vannes and Lorient. It is a Breton version of the "Hora" or Pravo Horo but in reverse direction!

Formation: Open circle, mixed, strong arm hold (Turkish style)L foot free. Face slightly L of centre. 2/4 Metre.
1Small step on L to L (ct 1, small step on R across L ct 2)
2Small step on L to L (ct 1), pause (ct 2). Sometimes instead of a pause the R foot points or touches the floor briskly.
3Small step on R slightly bkwd (ct 1), pause (ct 2)
Dance repeats from beginning.



Le Laridé


Some other significant traditional Breton Dances which we do not have descriptions for, are: Dans Plinn, Jabadaw, Kas a Barh, Kost Ar C'Hoat and Ronde de Loudéac. If anyone can help with these, we would very much appreciate it. It would be lovely to have as many Breton descriptions as possible.


Song remains at the heart of Breton music. In contrast to instrumental traditions, women have an equally important role in song.

All song styles that are called "traditional" in Brittany are unaccompanied and unison in nature. The vast majority of ballad singing is performed solo. In both the French-language tradition of eastern Brittany and the Breton-language songs of western Brittany, response style singing is very common, especially in songs for dance. In contrast to other areas of western Europe (including Brittany's Celtic cousins) singing for dancing is very quite common and very much appreciated.

It is important to keep in mind that the song repertoire and the use of song varies from one region of Brittany to another - songs for a particular dance will be found, (not unsuprisingly!) in the region where that dance is traditionally found.

There are several words one finds associated with Breton song that might need a brief definition:

Kan ha diskan

"Kan ha Diskan" is a type of responsive singing found in the Breton-speaking areas of central-western Brittany. Most commonly, it is sung by two people, a kaner ("singer" in Breton) and diskaner "counter-singer". The prefix "dis" in this case it has the sense of opposition as in rolling/unrolling, winding/unwinding. The kaner begins and the diskaner repeats each phrase. The unique aspect of this style of responsive singing is found in the fact that the singers take up their singing on the last few syllables of the other's phrases. This pushes the music forward with a definitive emphasis.


This Breton language term has no direct English translation (in French it is roughly translated as "complainte"). It refers to a repertoire of ballads (in the Breton language) in which historical, legendary, or dramatic events are recounted.


This is the Breton term for all Breton language songs other than the gwerz. Included in this category are love songs, drinking songs, counting songs, and other "lighter" songs for dancing.


Breton Links




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This page created 30 December 1996, last modified 20 Apr 1999

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