The volta (plural: voltas) is an anglicised name for a Renaissance dance for couples from the later Renaissance. This dance was associated with the galliard and done to the same kind of music. Its main figure consisted of a turn and lift in a sort of closed position, which could be done either to the right or to the left. It is also called La volta, Volta, Volte. Spelling variants include la volta and levolto; its name is la volte in French and la volta in Italian.
DescriptionDetailed instructions for lavoltas were written by Thoinot Arbeau; some brief notes appear in MS Douce 280. These instructions are open to some interpretation, but seem to indicate something like the following.
The dance begins with a galliard. Then the couple takes two bars of music to make a transition to closed position. The leader (the man, according to period custom) lets go of his partner's hand and takes hold of the lower edge of her busk with one hand, and places the other hand on her back above the far hip. The follower places her near hand on top of her partner's near shoulder. Now the leader is facing his partner while she faces to one side; both will do the turn with forward steps, and both step with the same foot at the same time.
The turn begins with a small step, springing onto the outside foot and lifting the inside foot forward. On the second beat there is a longer step, stepping smoothly onto the inside foot and staying close to the ground. During this step the follower poises herself for a spring, and just after it she springs up into the air. The leader lifts her with his hands, then holds her up with his hands and with the thigh of his free leg under her thighs. He lets her down to land on both feet on the last beat of the measure. The couple makes an approximate 3/4 turn during each measure. The turn is repeated ad lib for several measures, and then the galliard is resumed in an open position.
Relations to other dancesIt is sometimes hypothesized that the lavolta was the direct ancestor of the waltz. Anyone who knows how to do a waltz turn may see from the above instructions (or from Thoinot Arbeau's instructions) that the dances are fundamentally different. The lavolta is more similar to the polska, though there again the differences remain large. The most that might reasonably be assumed is that the development of either the waltz or the polska might have been influenced in some way by the lavolta.
References in modern culture
- An inaccurate example of this dance in the movie Elizabeth (1998), where Cate Blanchett (Queen Elizabeth I) and Joseph Fiennes (Lord Robert Dudley) dance it on two occasions.
- A somewhat more accurate version of the lavolta can be seen in the movie Shakespeare in Love (1998), this time with Joseph Fiennes playing William Shakespeare and Gwyneth Paltrow as Viola De Lesseps.
- A very accurate version can be seen in Elizabeth: The Golden Age (Sequel to Elizabeth) between Elizabeth "Bess" Throckmorton and Sir Walter Raleigh.
- The Volta can be seen in the being performed by Jonathan Rhys Meyers playing Henry the VIII and Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn in the second season's sixth episode of Showtime's original series, The Tudors.
- Brissenden, Alan. Shakespeare and the Dance. London: The MacMillan Press, 1981.
- Arbeau, Thoinot. Orchesography. Langres, 1589. Translated by Mary Stewart Evans; Introduction and Notes by Julia Sutton. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1967.
lavolta in Arabic: لافولتا
lavolta in German: Volta (Tanz)
lavolta in French: Volte
lavolta in Swedish: Volta (dans)