What in the world is a “bassduppel behennt”?

One of my major research interests over the past several years has been a letter written by Johann Cochlaus from Germany while visiting Bologna in 1517. In this letter he describes several dances he witnessed. The source is useful in that we otherwise have something of a gap in Italian dance manuals- we have several undated ones from somewhere in the late 15th century that are mostly copies of earlier works by Domenico and Guglielmo, and then nothing really until Caroso and Negri publish in the late 16th century, with a very different set of terminology and dance patterns. So what happened in the middle? This gives us one view.

Interpreting this manuscript has been interesting for me, as my Italian is way better than my German and we don’t have a lot of other descriptions of dance steps in German to compare it to. It also has some peculiarities-  for example, he consistently describes the man as “the one on the right” and the woman as “the one on the left” despite all other traditions reversing that. Rather than concluding that they suddenly decided to do every dance improper in 1517, I think he was describing it from the point of view of an observer, looking at the faces of the dancers.

Most of the step terms he uses are pretty easy to convert to familiar Italian and English steps and terms, as you can see in the table below. 

English Italian German
Double Doppio Bassduppel or duppel
Closed 4/4 double Quaternaria Doppio Duppel mit un repress (representing the fact that these are closed)
Syncopated 6/4 double Bassadanza Doppio Bassduppel
Single Sempio Basssimpel
Rise Movimento Altzada
Set or Close Ripresa / Continenza Repress
Hopped double Saltarello doppio Bassduppel behennt
Fast double Piva doppio Bassduppel behennt

So why am I confused about the term bassduppel behennt? The Smith book translates this as “fast double”. This seems to imply a piva doppio. I further went along with the idea of it being a piva doppio because of the dance Angelosa. Angelosa is a dance that does not appear in the main 15th century manuscripts we usually reference, but in two of the later fragmentary ones as well as in this letter. We do not have known music for it. The version in the German letter is a bit confusing and possibly missing steps, but the version in “Giorgio’s” manuscript in the NY Public Library is quite a cute little dance. The relevant point is, the final section of the dance is clearly stated to be “take right hands and turn with 4 pive, then take left hands and turn with 4 pive.” Cochlaus uses the term bassdupel behennt there, so I originally went along with this translation for the other dances the term appears in.

The term is found in two other dances in the letter, Bellregwerd (his version of Belriguardo) and Rostibin (his version of Rostiboli Gioioso). These dances are found in many of our 15th century sources, making comparisons easy and interesting. In both of those dances, the term “bassdupell behennt” is used in a section of music that is clearly in saltarello tempo (that is 3/4 or 6/8) and is stated to be saltarelli in ALL earlier versions. Doing pive in saltarello tempo isn’t impossible, and how to do it is described by Domenico in De arte saltandi but why assume that it is pive and not saltarelli?  I cannot find a modern German word that is equivalent to “behennt” (German speakers, help?) Perhaps instead of meaning fast it means “hopped” or “skipped”?

At this point I do not have a conclusion. It makes sense for the term to mean pive in Angelosa and saltarelli in Rostiboli and Belriguardo. Perhaps it was a more generic term that could be used for either step. They are similar in that they are done on the balls of the feet and more bouncy than other doubles.

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