About Us

The Arbeau Dancers are a group based in West Yorkshire who perform dances from the fifteenth through to the nineteenth centuries.

The group formed in 1974 when two friends were asked to demonstrate some dances at a concert. Since then we have had several changes and at present can call on over a dozen dancers.

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The name is taken from a 16th Century dance manual called “Orchesographie”, written by a French monk using the pen name of Thoinot Arbeau (an anagram of his real name). Arbeau describes how the dances and steps were performed and gives useful pointers towards the etiquette and manners of the time. This and other contemporary manuscripts provide the sources for our repertoire of over 150 dances.

We cover a time period of approximately 600 years, commencing with the grace of the Medieval and Renaissance courts, through the splendour of the Elizabethan age, the lively dances of the Civil War and Restoration eras, the elegance of the French and English Baroque courts and the light hearted English Regency society, to the enthusiastic celebrations of Victorian high society.

We perform indoors or outdoors (weather permitting), and a typical afternoon’s performance would consist of three half-hour sessions, including a demonstration of dances, information on the dances, costumes and period, and teaching of some of the easier dances. However, performances can be tailored to suit requirements. Our repertoire includes an Elizabethan Masque based on Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labours Lost”. We could also provide a more structured programme for indoor concert performance.

Costumes

Our costumes are carefully researched to make them as authentic and accurate as possible in order to show the dances in the correct context and present our audience with a colourful and memorable spectacle.

Music

While there exist attestations of the combination of dance and music in ancient times the earliest Western dance music that we can still play with a degree of certainty are the surviving medieval dances such as carols and the Estampie. The earliest of these surviving dances are almost as old as Western staff-based music notation.

Join Us

We are looking for new members.