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The Basse Dance Handbook

David Wilson
May 15, 2012

311 pp.

2 illustrations

ISBN: 978-1576471609

9X11 Hardback $85.00

Out-of-Print. This book is no longer available from Pendragon Press.


The development of French Basse Dance can be traced through five main phases from circa 1445 to the end of the sixteenth century. There are indeed gaps in this chronicle, but no major hiatus at the beginning of the sixteenth century to match that seen in the musical evidence. This book brings together relevant documents so as to look at the Basse Dance as a whole. It presents seventeen documents that contain choreographies and sometimes other technical details relevant to the Basse Dance as practiced in France and neighboring countries. Each is transcribed, to reflect as closely as is feasible the layout of the original text. And each is supplied with bibliography, introduction, translation and commentary, plus a statistical summary of the composition of its choreographies. A sample page is reproduced from most to illustrate the general appearance of respective texts. The names of all dances described or mentioned are listed in the Index. The character of the music for the Basse Dance and the way that it changed over time are important topics that are essential to this volume.


David Wilson:

October 30, 1932 - August 6, 2006

David Wilson had three highly distinguished careers, as Roman archaeologist, air-photographer and, finally, as dance historian. In the first, he worked with Professor Sir Ian Richmond preparing a new edition of R. G. Collingwood's classic The Archaeology of Roman Britain (1930). In the second, he joined Kenneth St Joseph at the Cambridge University Committee for Aerial Photography where he established the National Association of Aerial Photographic Libraries. Here his prime publication was Air Photo Interpretation for Archaeologists (1982, 2000).

Marriage to Elizabeth Wallwork in 1980 brought him into contact with historical dance and, with typical enthusiasm, he turned his mind to research in this fascinating topic. He was soon an active member of the Early Dance Circle (EDC) and the Dolmetsch Historical Dance Society. David was instrumental in setting up EDC's National Resource Centre for Historical Dance and catalogued their substantial archive library. As a dance historian, he published extensively, particularly transcriptions and analyses of original 15th-century texts, which, yet again, gained him a world-wide reputation.

In 2006, the EDC awarded him the Peggy Dixon Trophy for outstanding service to historical dance. Sadly, he did not live to see the publication of this his final magnum opus.


June 15, 2012

The latest addition to the outstanding Pendragon Press 'Wendy Hilton Dance & Music' series, The Basse Dance Handbook, Text and Context: Seventeen Original Sources" transcribed and compiled by the late David Wilson and with informed commentary by Veronique Daniels, stands unique in the annals of academia. This 311-page compendium comprises major chapters providing an introduction and summary, addresses the social context of the French Basse Dance, provides a review of the sources, and offers informed conclusions on the structure of the Basse Dance, observations on other contemporary French dance forms, and comparison with fifteenth-century Italian Bassadanza. Enhanced with appendices on its name, instructions on its performance, 'The French Basse Dance in Art', and 'Two Contracts', as well as a bibliography and an Index, "The Basse Dance Handbook" is a seminal work of superb scholarship and a core addition to academic library European Dance History reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

James A. Cox
“The Dance Shelf”
Midwest Book Review

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