Breton Dance Field Recordings (and other places)

The An Dro snakes through! Pic by Chris Ryall

UPDATE: I’ve gotten some push back on this post from folks (great stuff in the comment section), essentially saying that some of these videos are not exemplars of their regional styles, but are just examples of dances done at the Big Bal. I think that’s fair, but still think it’s interesting to see these as documentations of what’s going on at the Big Bal, especially for those of us who would have a hard time ever making it there.

Following up from the post of French Dance Field Recordings, here is the second half of Chris Ryall’s amazing collection of videos, or dance as he found it in the wild. Chris writes, “Breton dance is often done in lines, traditionally snaking around the floor intertwining and ‘meeting people.'” Here is the repository:


Rond St. Vincent – a very simple village dance that has become a standard
An Dro (An Dro = “the turn”)
Another An Dro – Wild at the end!
Tricot (mixed An Dro and Hanter Dro)
Plinn (Simple, very peasant, gets wild improv from musicians)
Another Plinn
Suite Plinn (Same rhythm. Couples dance with fast and slow parts)
“Standard” Gavotte” (Danced as a suite with varying speeds)
Gavotte de l’Aven (small valley in the Cornouaille with it’s own “dreamy sway” style – this is just part of a “suite gavotte”

Le Ridée (aka Laridé)

Other Regional Dances from France

Auvergne (and other mountain areas): Rigaudon
Basque Country: Fandango
Basque Country: La Saute

Gascony: Gascon Rondo – done in pairs in a big circle
Alsace: asymmetric waltzes (5/8, 8/8, 11/8)

And two imports

Swedish Polska

Another Swedish Polska

Untold quantities of gratitude to Chris for this work and for permission to put this together here. Thank you, sir!

5 thoughts on “Breton Dance Field Recordings (and other places)

  1. Hi Gary

    Sorry for going all trad police on you (an interesting irony, since the trad police are all up on me for my “french dance video notes” youtube series), but in many of these videos neither the dancing, nor the music is “exemplar”, in either of its definitions:
    – Something fit to be imitated; see ideal and model. (not the intention, I believe)
    – Something typical or representative of a class; see example. (particularly in the case of breton dances, filming people in St Gervais is not at all representative of what's going on in Britanny).

    I'm a strong believer in letting people have fun in whatever way they find fun. I'm also a strong believer that 5000 people doing something “wrong” are not damaging, even if there are only 100 people doing it “right”. My solution is not to correct the 5000 “wrong doers”, but to convince more people of why the “right” way is better and grow the ranks of the “right” (and if this doesn't work, maybe admit that the “right” way can't be all that right after all).

    “Right” in terms of trad music and dance is rather ineffable. I see it in several ways: how is it accepted by the community that it is native to (difficult in France where almost none of the music and dance is “native” to anybody anymore, though many revivals have a healthy “local” community that I trust more than the bal folk community at large). How different is a given music/dance style from another (if there is no noticeably difference between an andro and a scottish, or between a bourrée and a waltz, then it is certainly not an andro or a bourrée – and probably not a scottish or a waltz either). And last, how well does the music and dance match up? (not sure how much this is related to dance experience vs subjectivity).

    With that in mind:
    Rond de saint vincent: music is fine, dancers are mostly not dancing rond de saint vincent (as would be accepted in Britanny). The arms are all wrong, the quality of the steps and the matchup with the music doesn't work either.

    An dro 1 (chanj tu) – the dancers are meh

    An dro 2 the music is not an andro. The dance is not an andro. But the dance is a great match for the music.

    Trikot (mixture of andro and hanter dro) – actually pretty much ok. I'm not a huge fan of the music which seems to put in a lot of syncopations as a default rather than a variation, but it would be hard to argue there's anything “wrong” with it.

    Plinn. I find the music a bit meh – but I'm super picky about plinn musics – there's probably not much wrong with it. The dancers have failed to grasp the thing that makes dancing a plinn amazing: the ryhthm is super relentless, the chain is tight and moving as one, the movements are small and precise.

    Second Plinn – Accordzeam again (as in second andro). I'm amused by the youtube caption “often jazzed up in its music” – maybe it is, but not jazzed up like that in Britanny. (jazzed up in a different way). Some bits (like aroung 1.25) are actually quite good, but others fail abysmally. The dancers, again are pretty in tune with the music, but it's not plinn.

    “suite plinn” is actually the second part of the 3 part dance that is suite plinn.


  2. “standard gavotte”. Perfect exemplar of gavotte music. The music is amazing, is “jazzy” and “is gavotte” – compare with accordzeam. The dancers are good too. (note that this video takes place *in* Britanny)

    Gavotte de l'Aven. This is a huge subject. The gavotte de l'Aven that is popular in bal folk is a really nice dance. But the dreamy/sway quality is not at all native or local to gavotte de l'Aven. The difference is so huge, people from the Britanny area who see this don't even say “that's gavotte de l'Aven but done really poorly”, they just don't recognize it. I personally think it should just have a different name, it's sometimes called “gavotte de l'aven caresse”, “gavotte de l'Alzen” and “gavotte de l'aven grenobloise”, as this style first came from the mustradem people.

    Laridé – good music, good dancing. “laridé” is the breton term and in bal folk – and even standard fest noz – parlance generally refers to an 8 count dance. La ridée is the french term and in bal folk/fest noz parlance generally refers to a 6 count dance. Originally they were probably called “ridée à 1 coup” and “ridée à 2 coups”, referring to the number of times the arms fold up and back. But there are may different types of ridée (une ridée) and laridé (un laridé).

    Rigodon is from the alpes – and possibly (I'm not sure of my sources, same for spelling) from areas in the massif central just opposite the alps. Good music, as good as the dancing gets (more than pretty much any of the other French trad dances, the dance died out before many people were filmed dancing it, so we mostly have no idea how it was originally danced).

    The fandango music is great. The dancer Chris is focusing on is remarkably good. Not perfect (but my knowledge of fandango is limited), but better in quality of movement and fandango quality than 90% of the people on a st gervais dance floor.

    The Sauts are a family of dances with a bunch of called basics that come from the basque (where they speak basque) and béarn (where they speak/spoke the béarnais dialect of occitan – and presumably where sauce béarnaise comes from?). The most common saut (it would be “le saut”, btw) is probably “les sept sauts”. This one is called Peiroton (peyrootoo in Englishish). The singing here is great. The dancing is “correct” but a bit jerky.

    The rondeau (I know you don't necessarily care about correct spelling – or maybe for the term “correct”? – but I don't think I've ever seen it spelled rondo in french). Music is amazing – it doesn't get any better than this. The dancing is quite good, but I don't see anyone with a really nice “obvious” rondeau style.

    The first polska is amaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing.

    If you're interested, I could maybe comb youtube and “redo” this post with what I, at least, would actually call “exemplars”, something which shows how it's typically done, by people who know what they're doing.


  3. Hello, Gregory! No need to apologize. Working in education, as I do, I should have been more careful with my “exemplar” language. I've reframed the post to reflect what it is — a collection of videos mostly of what Chris found in his travels (+some others).

    I wouldn't want to re do this post, but I appreciate what you've done … it was like being a reader of my blog rather than the writer! But if you wanted to do that for other posts … honestly if you wanted to write anything on French/Breton dance or music, I would welcome it on the blog as guest posts.

    It isn't that I “don't care” about correct … I do. But I understand how far removed I am from the source, and this blog is somewhat about my process of discovery. I try to get it right. I want to get it right. But if I'm wrong and corrected by someone, that's great. I've learned something. Thanks.


  4. Second plinn is named “pilée menu” not plinn :/. I have no name for this version of “gavotte de l'aven” :/… it is not the good tempo (pitch), not the good themes either… sorry 🙂


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