Encyclopedia of Dance: Minuet


The dance steps of the minuet, perfected over decades, demonstrate the gallantry of gentlemen and the charm of ladies. After all, the minuet is a dance worthy of kings

The term «minuet» comes from the French menu pas — a small step. This ancient folk dance originated from the round dance Amener, which was popular in the 15th century in the province of Poitou. And the basis of the minuet is made up of small steps, small dance steps, which led to the corresponding name.

History of occurrence

The minuet has a glorious history, such as few dances have. It is called «the king of dances and the dance of kings». The brilliant Louis XIV, the Sun King, considered this dance worthy of his greatness. The legendary Peter I did not deprive the attention of the minuet at his assemblies. And today in the dance and musical art the form of the minuet is not forgotten and, as before, brings pleasure to dancers and spectators.

The minuet flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries. Brittany is considered its homeland, where the minuet originated as a folk dance, closely associated with the song and musical culture of this area, its way of life and traditions. The simplicity of the dance, its elegance and grace contributed to the rapid spread of the minuet throughout France, including in court circles.

Special honor fell to the share of the minuet during the reign of King Louis XIV. The Sun King loved to enjoy life, spending his time in entertainment, balls and hunting. In 1650, the minuet became the leading dance of the French court. It is interesting that François-Robert Marcel, a member of the French Royal Academy of Dance, resigned from the Paris Opera, especially in order to teach the minuet to persons close to the court.

The fashion for «everything French» led to the rapid spread of the minuet in other countries. The dance entered Russia during the reign of Peter I and took pride of place among ballroom dances until the 30s of the 19th century.

Now the minuet, as a social dance, has lost its relevance, giving way to other forms and rhythms, but as a cultural phenomenon, it continues to delight with graceful dance figures and musical images.

What is a minuet?

The musical size of the minuet is three-part: 3/4, 6/8. First, the dance was performed by one couple, and then by several. The arrangement of the dancers at court balls was strictly according to ranks: the first persons of the court, the king and queen, began the procession. Behind them came the Dauphin with a noble lady of the court, and behind them the rest of the guests. The tempo of the minuet is unhurried, the movements are important, majestic, built on curtseys and bows, which created the impression not so much of a dance, but rather of an invitation to dance. The minuet included numerous solemn passages forward, backward, sideways, ceremonial greetings. Despite the seeming simplicity of movements, dance training lasted a long time, as it was necessary to thoroughly master the technique of performance. The dancers moved according to a strictly defined pattern in the form of numbers 2, 8 or the letters S and Z.

In the 18th century, with the flourishing of the Baroque style, the minuet acquired the features of mannerism, affectation, pretentiousness. The pace of the dance accelerated, the figures became more complicated, the storyline began to be seen. The minuet developed into a stage dance, and began to be actively used in ballet and opera productions.

Minuet Features

The peculiarity of the minuet is in its grace and elegance. The performers had to work on the plasticity of movements, the smoothness of transitions from pose to pose. Particular attention was paid to the softness of the hands: the curves of the hands completed the poses of the dance, the joining of the partners’ hands was carried out smoothly, the elbows should not be raised too high.

The part of the gentleman was especially difficult: it involved manipulations with the hat. The cavalier had to elegantly take off his hat, beautifully shift it from hand to hand, and put it on beautifully again. The magnificent outfits of the dancers suggested slow, solemn movements. The cavalier had to demonstrate in every possible way respect and respect for the lady.

The grace and elegance of the minuet contributed to its longevity. Many dances that appeared simultaneously with him have sunk into oblivion. And the beautiful, majestic minuet has been pleasing to this day for more than one generation of people.

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