Dance The Night Away


TETL150Despite the depiction of the Medieval Period as being very serious and religious, the people of the time actually enjoyed themselves in one way we often do as well:  dancing.  There is little written evidence, although there are many paintings that depict dances from this period.  There are three that I used in Time Enough to Love, my medieval novel, and the dancing serves to heighten conflict each time it is used.

The first dance is a carol, the music of which evolved into what we know as Christmas carols.  But the dance itself is a round or circle dance in which the participants hold hands and sing as they dance.  It is also called a ronde, in France. From the evidence it seems this was a slow, simple dance where the dancers (both men and women) stood in a circle and moved first a step to the left and then a step to the right.

Another dance I used in the book was a farandole, a very lively dance said to be of Provence and Languedoc, France. “Winding” is a great descriptor of this dance as men and women held hands, creating a chain, and followed the leader’s steps as they wound throughout the town or the dance floor. At some point, the people at the ends would grasp hands, creating a circle.  Or a couple might hold hands and create a bridge.  Then all the others would skip under the arch.

Some sources state that the farandole is a later dance, dating from the Renaissance, when the first written references to it occur.  However, paintings of medieval dancers denote this very chain dance.  It is likely that the dance itself may have existed, although the formal name was not written down at the time.

The third dance I incorporated into my novel is the estampie. Although there are no extant dance manuals to document the movements of the dance, illuminations and paintings of the period depicting the dance include some very vigorous stamping of the feet.  The name, estampie from the French estamper, means “to stamp the feet.”

From the descriptions, it was a dance for couples using a sliding motion of the feet to the accompaniment of the medieval viol.  It is believed to be a slow, stamping, round dance from Provencal, popular in Europe until 1500.

The estampie was the first line dance, superseding circles such as the carole.  It introduced a dance in which couples stood opposite one another, rather than in a circle.

Dances can be an important part of romance novels, and they certainly became a major part of Time Enough to Love, providing conflict and colorful background for my hero and heroine.


Jenna Jaxon is a multi-published author of historical and contemporary romance.  She has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager.  A romantic herself, she has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise.  She tries to incorporate all of these elements into her own stories. She lives in Virginia with her family and a small menagerie of pets.  When not reading or writing, she indulges her passion for the theatre, working with local theatres as a director.  She often feels she is directing her characters on their own private stage.

Jenna is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America as well as a member of Chesapeake Romance Writers. Her debut novel, Only Scandal Will Do, is the first in her House of Pleasure series, set in Georgian London.  Her medieval novel, Time Enough to Love, is a Romeo & Juliet-esque tale, set at the time of the Black Death.

She has equated her writing to an addiction to chocolate because once she starts she just can’t stop.