A gavotte dance in Brittany, France, 1878
The gavotte was a folk dance, performed by the peasants in the Brittany region of France. Later it was popular in French and English courts in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was especially popular in the French courts of King Louis XIV.
The music for a gavotte has a four beat feel, with upbeats on beats three and four. To dance a gavotte the dancers must cross their feet twice in each step pattern, with each step followed by a hop. Singers often provided the accompaniment, though dancers might also be accompanied by an ensemble of such instruments as a violin, a drum, bagpipes or shawm, a forerunner of the modern oboe.
The gavotte later became a musical, rather than a dance piece. In the Baroque period gavottes were mainly found in binary form. When composers began writing suites, six short dance based pieces, the gavotte usually was played between the sarabande and the gigue. The best known examples of the gavotte are found in the suites and partitas written by J.S.Bach.
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