Musical Form – Baroque Era: Gavotte

The gavotte (also gavot or gavote) originated as a French folk dance, taking its name from the Gavot people of the Pays de Gap region of Dauphiné, where the dance originated.It is notated in 4/4 or 2/2 time and is of moderate tempo. The distinctive rhythmic feature of the 18th-century French court gavotte is that phrases begin in the middle of the bar; that is, in either 4/4 or 2/2 time, the phrases begin on the third quarter note (crotchet) of the bar, creating a half-measure (half-bar) upbeat, as illustrated below:

On the contrary, the music for the earlier court gavotte, first described by Thoinot Arbeau in 1589, invariably began on the downbeat of a duple measure, and the various folk gavottes found in mid-20th-century Brittany were danced to music in 4/4, 2/4, 9/8, and 5/8 time. The 19th-century column-dance also called “gavotte” has nothing at all in common with the dances of the 16th to the 18th centuries.

Basic Steps for a Gavotte

Bach: suite in G major, BWV 816 – Gavotte

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