Reconstructions of the steps and dances of the Il Papa Manuscript

Reconstructions of the dances from the Il Papa manuscript


Step abbreviations

We use the following abbreviations for the steps in all our reconstructions:
Ppasso rripresa ccontinenza
ppassetto rlripresa lunga ttrapassino
_ppassettino ½rmezza ripresa vvolta
Pfpasso falso r_ripresa under sscempio
Pxpasso in traverso Rreverenza ddoppio

Step reconstructions


The passo presents a basic problem for translation and reconstruction: It can be used as jargon, meaning a particular dance step called the passo, and it can be used as an ordinary term meaning just a "step". We have generally assumed rendered it as jargon unless it is clearly and obviously meant otherwise. This is, of course, one possible source of error, but we think our choice to render it this way minimizes the chance of such mistakes.

Other than this one caveat, there isn't much information in the source exactly what is meant by the dance term, "passo". Some information becomes apparent from an analysis of timing (below), but there is no information about the ornamentation or performance of this step in this manuscript.


Passetti are, obviously, smaller passi. They are usually done in sets of 4, and 4 passetti on the part of the lady can move her from in line with the men, to forming a triangle with them - tautologically true, but if we presume a somewhat equilateral triangle, we get some notion of the amount of space covered. For one example thereof, see la Primavera, leaf 8, page 15, lines 4-5


Other than being even smaller passi than passetti (obvious from the etymology>, there is no specific information about this step in the manuscript. We assume something like scorsi

Passo falso

This step appears only in Baramattio, and contains a pretty detailed description: Then all together, they do a passo falso, that is, a mezza ripresa under the left foot, and a passo on the right foot, which makes them turn their faces towards one another. (Baramattio, leaf 13, page 25, lines 7-10)

Also note that in section 4 of Baramatio, there are two passi falsi in a row, though there is no mention of which foot they are on that could aid the reconstruction.

Siena also has a passo falso, in Ginevra. Most other versions of Gienvera have, at this point They turn back with a sempio beginning with the left foot [Smith, V. II, p. 131] though NYp has They turn back with two pasettini begining with the right foot [Our translation of Smith's transcription on the same page]

Passo in traverso

We have a fair bit of evidence for this step:

In all, we take the passage from lo Dimostra as fairly definitive, and use a simple reconstruction similar to a saltarelo tedescho - three passi forwards, and a step to the side - a mezza ripresa This fits everything we have above - except that in lo Dimostra, of course, there is a second step back, making the step almost like a cha-cha.

The one counter-argument we would have against this reconstruction comes from la Vita: The woman then turns to him who is at her right hand, and they give right hands to each other and do three passi with a ripresa; end each returns to his place with another three passi.. In the same place, NYp says, Then the woman takes the right hand of that man who is on the right side and they circle with two doppi gallopati beginning with the left foot, each returning to one's place [Smith, Vol. II, p. 296]. The timing with respect to the music and the parallel with NYp both seem to imply that the three-passi/ripresa sequences takes a single measure - the same time as a saltarello tedescho. Yet if one takes all the correspondences as literal and exact, the fact that NYp uses doppi gallopati instead would imply a difference between the two. However, taking all the correspondences as literal and exact would be a mistake - there are certainly differences between the versions, and a minor substitution of one double for another is certainly no larger a difference than others we see between the two versions.


We get no specific direct information from this manuscript what a ripresa is. In fact, as we will discuss when we get to our timing discussion, we suspect it is used somewhat inconsistently.

We tend to perform this in much the same way as the riprese from the repertoire of Domenico and Ebreo: two steps to the same side, leaving the weight such that one is ready to then go back the other direction.

Ripresa lunga

This step only shows up once, in Non mi parto. It means, literally, a "slow ripresa", and we know little else besides that. It might be an explicit reference to a full (two-step) ripresa (as opposed to a mezza ripresa), or it could be an otherwise normal ripresa that takes more time than usual.

Ripresa under [the left foot]

This step only shows up in Lucretia All the source says is ... with the ripresa under the left foot. The previous step ends with the weight on the let, so we perform this by trying to end that previous step on the left toe, and just stepping left, with the right foot, passing the toe of the right foot under the heel of the left. It's a very small step, and takes some practice to do with balance, and the evidence for the specifics is purely etymylogical - so take it for what it is worth.

Mezza ripresa


So from this we can derive that the step changes feet (assuming it is consistent). We tend to perform it as merely a single step to the side, without a subsequent weight change.


We get no detail about these. We assume, given the existence of the paired reverenzette, that this is roughly like the earlier reverenza of Dominico and Ebreo.


These always come in pairs, one forwards, one back. We theorize that a pair of reverenzette is a mid-way point between the reverenza of the early Italian repertoire, and that of the later repertoire.


We get no detail on these. We perform them like the continenze of the earlier repertoire of Domenico and Ebreo.


We have a number of data points on trapassini:

The mere fact of a correspondence with other versions doesn't guarantee anything. Note, for instance, that in measure 3 of Ippiter, where Il Papa has 4 passetti, Fl has a dopio. It can't simply be argued that Il Papa uses four passetti in place of a dopio, as it does use dopi elsewhere. However, three separate correspondences between the same two steps are more convincing. We therefore interpret a trapassino as a piva from the earlier repertoire (though we are somewhat afraid of confirmational bias in this decision).

Trapassini generally come in either even numbers, or in odd numbers followed by a passo. We take these two to be interchangable - when told to do an even number of trapassini, we will generally take the last to be simply a passo

We should note that Smith suggests: Trapassini is probably a variant term for contrapassi [Smith, V. II, p. 203, note 4]. For all the above reasons, and the fact that trapassini pretty clearly change feet, we doubt this interpretation.

While it is much less clear, there is also some link between the trapassino and the spezzato from the later Italian repertoire:

There is one other similar reference that we have found in the early repertoire: again in NyP, at the start of the section for which there is no corresponding text in PnA, it says, "chon dua passi di natura e uno tenpo di piva e tre pasi di natura" [Smith, V. II, p.10 - again, thanks to Vivian Stephens for pointing us to this reference] - "with two passi di natura and a tempo of piva and three passi di natura". So the Il Papa manuscript would not be the only instance of this step pattern, but it does appear much more commonly there.

Non of this indicates a close and clear tie between this manuscript and the dances of Carosso and Negri - at best, it's just a hint of a link. But it's an intriguing hint.


The volta suffers from the same problem as the passo, of being both a technical term, and a normal, everyday word. However, in the case of the volta, the choice matters more, as the timing of dances is altered based on which one chooses. We have, therefore, done our best to translate the term when we think it is not a specific step - and this is a possible source of error, both in our translations and our reconstructions.

We should also note that it is unclear if the volta turns 180° or 360°, or if it is even consistent. We have approached this question in our reconstructions on a case-by-case basis, without attempting a consistent interpretation across dances.

It seems generally that the volta is comprised of an even number of steps - either two or four, presumably, not three.

Volta di Lasso

A Volta di Lasso seems to be two mezze riprese, one left, one right, followed by a volta 360° over the right shoulder in two steps, all done in a single measure - it's fast!

Question for ourselves: do we know this is one left, one right? Could it be two left? That would make a certain consistency with the volta di Tromboni, which has three quick meza riprese to the left at the start, and three more to the right at the end.

Volta di Tromboni

This always seems to be used as three riprese to one side, then a volta. It is always followed by three riprese to the other side, but it is unclear whether those later riprese are part of the step or not.


What makes a scempio differ from a passo? Sadly, we find few clues to this vital question in this manuscript. However (and see step timings, below), it is usual that scempi come in pairs, and passi tend to come in odd numbers (noting the exceptions that precede trapassini that we think indicate seguiti spezzati, above).


While one assumes a doppio means what it usually does, it's nice to get some confirmation: ... and a doppio, that is, three passi (Baramatio, leaf 13, page 25, lines 12-13)

Of course, it's probably not so simple as all that. For instance, dances such as la Vita have both doppi and sequences of three passi, in this dance existing in the same figure. What is the difference between the two? Perhaps nothing - there are certainly instances in the manuscript of the author varying his choice of wording, seemingly solely for variety - or perhaps there is a difference in timing about which we are told nothing.

Step timings

At several points in the text, different people are doing different things at the same time. This can, of course, be used to determine relative timing of steps (assuming they are used consistently). Below are the 13 timing juxtapositions we found in the manuscript:

location steps group 1 steps group 2
J1 Ippiter, 3:6:16-19 2 trapassini 1 trapassino
1 mezza ripresa
J2 Ippiter, 3:6:27-30 2 doppi 1 doppi
5 passettini
J3 i Tromboni, 5:10:17-19 2 passo in traverso 1 passo in traverso
1 doppio
J4 la Traditora, 6:11:19-21 1 Volta di Lasso 4 passetti
J5 la Traditora, 6:12:14-15 1 volta 5 passettini
J6 che Faralla, 7:14:8-10 1 Volta di Lasso 5 passettini
J7 che Faralla, 7:14:20-23 3 trapassini
1 passo
2 trapassini
1 Volta di Lasso
J8 la Primavera, 8:16:9-11 1 volta 4 passetti
J9 la Reale, 8:16:15-17 1 volta 4 passetti
J10 la Reale, 9:17:25-27 4 passetti 1 volta
J11 Baramattio, 13:25:26-28 1 volta 4 passetti
J12 Fiammetta, 13:26:8-11 1 volta 4 passetti
J13 Fiammetta, 13:26:20-23 4 passetti 1 volta

We also have the following near-coincidences - not different people acting at the same time, but acting sequentially in such a fashion to imply that the same amount of time is taken by each.

K1 la Villanella, 12:24:6-11 3 trapassini
1 passo
2 doppi

Taken all together, this implies the following groups all take the same time: 2 trapassini, 1 doppio, 4 passetti, 5 passettini, 1 volta, 1 passo in traverso, 1 Volta di Lasso