Allemande, processional couple dance with stately, flowing steps, fashionable in 16th-century aristocratic circles; also an 18th-century figure dance. The earlier dance apparently originated in Germany but became fashionable both at the French court (whence its name, which in French means “German”) and in England, where it was called almain, or almand. The French dancing master Thoinot Arbeau, author of Orchésographie (1588), a principal source of knowledge of Renaissance dance, regarded it as an extremely old dance. Its popularity waned in the 17th century.
In the allemande the dancers formed a line of couples, extended their paired hands forward, and paraded back and forth the length of the ballroom, walking three steps, then balancing on one foot; a livelier version used three springing steps and a hop. The music was in 4/4 time. As a 17th-century musical form, the allemande is a stylized version of this dance. In a suite (as in J.S. Bach’s English Suites) it is normally the first movement.
The 18th-century allemande was a figure dance in 2/4 time for four couples; one of its handholds possibly derived from the earlier allemande. The dancers performed intricate turns called enchaînements, or passés, with elaborate interlacings of the arms.
Learn More in these related Britannica articles:
Western music: Musical formsand galliard, the allemande and courante, and the basse danse and tourdion.…
Western dance: The French dance suite…suite was extended through an allemande (French: “German”), an old dance form that was introduced into France from the heavily German-speaking province of Alsace in the 1680s. This dance, with its turning couples, the lady on the arm of the gentleman, was a relative of the German
chamber music: Sources and instruments…forms that were then popular—the allemande, courante, sarabande, and gigue—the suites they composed were based on contrasting tempos, metres, and rhythmic patterns. The French version of the dance suite became the prototype for later chamber-music forms.…
Thoinot Arbeau, theoretician and historian of the dance, whose Orchésographie(1588) contains carefully detailed, step-by-step descriptions of 16th-century and earlier dance forms. Ordained a priest in 1530, he became a canon at Langres (1547), where he was…
Suite, in music, a group of self-contained instrumental movements of varying character, usually in the same key. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the period of its greatest importance, the suite consisted principally of dance movements. In the 19th and 20th centuries the term also referred more generally to a…