The gavotte (also gavot, gavote, or gavotta) is a French dance, taking its name from a folk dance of the Gavot, the people of the Pays de Gap region of Dauphiné in the southeast of France, where the dance originated, according to one source. According to another reference, however, the word "gavotte" is a generic term for a variety of French folk dances, and most likely originated in Lower Brittany in the west, or possibly Provence in the southeast or the French Basque Country in the southwest of France. It is notated in or time and is usually of moderate tempo, though the folk dances also use meters such as and .
In late 16th-century Renaissance dance, the gavotte is first mentioned as the last of a suite of branles. Popular at the court of Louis XIV, it became one of many optional dances in the classical suite of dances. Many were composed by Lully, Rameau and Gluck, and the 17th-century cibell is a variety. The dance was popular in France throughout the 18th century and spread widely. In early courtly use the gavotte involved kissing, but this was replaced by the presentation of flowers.
The gavotte of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries has nothing in common with the 19th-century column-dance called the "gavotte" but may be compared with the rigaudon and the bourrée.
EtymologyThe term gavotte for a lively dance originated in the 1690s from Old Provençal gavoto (mountaineer's dance) from gavot, a local name for an Alpine resident, said to mean literally "boor", "glutton", from gaver (to stuff, force-feed poultry) from Old Provençal gava (crop). The word is cognate to French gavache (coward, dastard). The Italianized form is gavotta.
Musical characteristicsThe phrases of the 18th-century French court gavotte begin in the middle of the bar, creating a half-measure (half-bar) upbeat. However the music for the earlier court gavotte, first described by Thoinot Arbeau in 1589, invariably began on the downbeat of a duple measure. Later composers also wrote gavottes that began on the downbeat rather than on the half-measure: an example is Jean-Philippe Rameau's Gavotte Variée in A minor for keyboard. Various folk gavottes found in mid-20th-century Brittany are danced to music in , , , and time.In the ball-room the gavotte was often paired with a preceding triple-time minuet: both dances are stately, and the gavotte's lifted step contrasted with the shuffling minuet step. It had a steady rhythm, not broken up into faster notes.In the Baroque suite the gavotte is played after (or sometimes before) the sarabande. Like most dance movements of the Baroque period it is typically in binary form but this may be extended by a second melody in the same metre, often one called the musette, having a pedal drone to imitate the French bagpipes, played after the first to create a grand ternary form; A–(A)–B–A. There is a Gavotte en Rondeau ("Gavotte in rondo form") in J.S. Bach's Partita No. 3 in E Major for solo violin, BWV 1006.
The gavotte could be played at a variety of tempi: Johann Gottfried Walther wrote that the gavotte is "often quick but occasionally slow".
RenaissanceThe gavotte is first described in the late 16th century as a suite or miscellany of double branles danced in a line or circle to music in duple time, "with little springs in the manner of the Haut Barrois" branle and with some of the steps "divided" with figures borrowed from the galliard.
The basic gavotte step, as described by Arbeau, is that of the common or double branle, a line of dancers moving alternately to the left and right with a double à gauche and double à droite, each requiring a count of four. In the double branle these composite steps consist of; a pied largi (firm outward step), a pied approche (the other foot drawn near to the first), another pied largi and a pied joint (the other foot drawn against the first).
In the gavotte's double à gauche a skip (petit saut) is inserted after each of the four components; the second pied largi is replaced by a marque pied croisé (the following foot crosses over the left with toe contacting the floor); the final pied approche is replaced by a grève croisée (the right foot crosses over the left, raised).
The double à droite begins with a pieds joints and petit saut, followed by two quick steps, a marque pied gauche croisé and marque pied droit croisé, during beat two, a grève droit croisée and petit saut on beat three and on the last beat pieds joints and a capriole (leap into the air with entrechat).
The gavotte became popular in the court of Louis XIV where Jean-Baptiste Lully was the leading court composer. Gaétan Vestris did much to define the dance. Subsequently many composers of the Baroque period incorporated the dance as one of many optional additions to the standard instrumental suite of the era. The examples in suites and partitas by Johann Sebastian Bach are well known.
Movements of early 18th-century musical works entitled Tempo di gavotta sometimes indicated the sense of a gavotte rhythm or movement, without fitting the number of measures or strains typical of the actual dance. Examples of these can be found in the works of Arcangelo Corelli or Johann Sebastian Bach.
George Frideric Handel wrote a number of gavottes, including the fifth-and-final movement, Allegro, of the Concerto Grosso in B-flat major, Op. 3, No. 2 – HWV 313.
Later examplesComposers in the 19th century wrote gavottes that began, like the 16th-century gavotte, on the downbeat rather than on the half-measure upbeat. The famous Gavotte in D by Gossec is such an example, as is the Gavotte in Massenet's Manon but not the one in Ambroise Thomas's Mignon. A gavotte also occurs in the second act of The Gondoliers and the act 1 finale of Ruddigore, both by Gilbert and Sullivan.
Igor Stravinsky's ballet Pulcinella features a "Gavotta con due variazioni", as number 18, and movement VI in the suite (1922).
Sergei Prokofiev employs a gavotte instead of a minuet in his Symphony No. 1 (Classical), Op. 25 (1917), and includes another one as the third of Four Piano Pieces, Op. 32 (1918).
Leonard Bernstein's Candide has a "Venice Gavotte" in act 2.
"The Ascot Gavotte" is a song in the 1956 musical My Fair Lady by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe.