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Leoncello Novo


Though Leoncello Vecchio seems to be found in a number of manuscripts, Leoncello Novo, as far as we could find, is to be found in only two:  that of Domenico di Piacenza, and that of Antonio Cornazano.

This reconstruction was done by the Accademia della Danza on Tuesday, 12 March, 1996.  Those members present (and therefore contributing to this reconstruction) were:  Vladislav, Roselyne, Melissa, Leah-Anne, and Daniele.


One of our biggest problems figuring out this reconstruction was the music.  Domenico and Cornazano agree quite well in this regard, and the music they give fits Leoncello Vecchio perfectly (or at least, it does the reconstruction we use).  When going through the choreography given in the two sources, we found beautiful matches to the last three {B through D) sections of the music.  Unfortunately, that left an A section in the music with a length of 8 measures, and dance that should fill 10 - namely, 3 contrapassi, 4 doubles, and 8 pive.  We tried to work out ways of reconciling this discrepancy, and came up with but one - the four doubles could be done in piva time, rather than quadernaria time.  We reconciled ourselves to this, as Domenico seems not to be as strict and careful in his notation of time changes in this dance as is his normal wont.  There were two places in particular which made us question his normal completeness:  first, his music does not note the changes to piva time which his choreography indicates (especially where the lady does 8 tempi of piva in a figure 8 around the two gentlemen); second, his choreography does not note the change to bassa dance time.

As, in the past, our experience has shown that such reconciliations in ways unspecified by the author of the manuscripts with which we work tend to turn out wrong in the end, we tried another tack, and went searching for more music.  We eventually found, in Ambrosio, a version of the music with an extra section between what we had been calling the A and B sections, of a length of 4 tempi.  Also, the A section was notated as being repeated thrice, rather than four times, as the other manuscripts seem to do.  A quick look at the choreography in Ambrosio, however, turned up a problem - the choreography he gives is a very good match for what Domenico and Cornazano call Leoncello Vecchio, rather than Leoncello Novo. Though we found no particular solution to this problem, we decided to some extent to ignore it, and use the music found in Ambrosio to go along with the choreographies in Domenico and Cornazano.  We dearly wish we could justify it in a way more enlightening or faithful than simply, "It fit best," but in the end, that was the whole reason.

Here is the music we ended up using, from Ambrosio.  Note that the bracketed note in section E seems to be smudged, or in some way altered in the manuscript.  We assumed it was supposed to be erased, as that is what fit best.  The repeat structure is (AAABBCCDDE)x2


Contrapasso step

One of our biggest problems was that, in our general dance repertoire, there are no dances we do commonly with contrapassi in them.  Having no particular idea of how to do them, we searched around for what we could find, and discovered only what Sparti already had:

According to Cornazano (V, fo. 10v) and the Siena treatise (fo. 30v), three contrapassi ('on one foot', S) were performed in two tempi (bars of music). What is significant for the transcription of the balli in De pratica is that the equivalent type of performance applies to what Guglielmo and Domenico both refer to as 'three doppii per foot', that is, sequences of doppii, each doppio beginning 'on [with, upon] the same foot', rather than with the usual alternating of left and right feet.[1]

This has a distinct problem, as our normal way of doing doubles does not involve closing the sequence.  There are three ways of solving this problem:  one can close the sequence, one can remove a step from it, or one can add one.  Formerly, when reconstructing Verceppe, Accademia decided, in the sequence of two doubles on the same foot to use the second solution:  remove a step from the sequence.  This time, we found a way to close the sequence (which seemed to feel more 'right' to all of us at the time) in a manner that did not feel too awkward.  It involved a specific timing over the course of two measures:

Three contrapassi on the left.
SL indicates a step on the left foot.
SR indicates a step on the right foot.
Measure 1 Measure 2
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and
SL SR SL - close - SL SR SL - close - SL SR SL -


Here is the dance as we have reconstructed it.  Measures 1-20 are in quadernaria time, measures 21-33 are in bassa danza time, and the last measure keeps bassa danza time (though sounds a bit odd).

Meas. Starting Foot Left Gentleman Middle Lady Right Gentleman
A 1 Left All three do together three contrapassi[2]
A 3 Right[3] - Double -
4 Right[3] Double - Double
A 5 Left[3] - Double -
6 Left[3] Double - Double
B 7 Left - 3 pive, then 2 singles, circling counterclockwise around the left man -
8 Left
B 9 Left - 3 pive, then 2 singles, circling clockwise around the right man -
10 Left
C 11 Left Saltarello - Saltarello
12 Right Saltarello - Saltarello
13 Left 3 Singles, Mezza Volta[4] - 3 Singles, Mezza Volta[4]
C 14 Left - Saltarello -
15 Right - Saltarello -
16 Left - 4 Singles[5] -
D 17 Left All three do together three contrapassi, the first two leading away from the lady/gentlemen, the last turning 180 degrees
D 19 Right All three do together three contrapassi, the first two leading towards the lady/gentlemen, the last turning 180 degrees
E 21[6] Left - Double -
22[6] Left Double - Double
23[6] Right - Double -
24[6] Right Double - Double
25 Left Ripressa, all turning 180 degrees to face the lady/gentlemen
26 Right Ripressa
27 Left Continenza left, continenza right
28 Left Reverence
29[7] Left - Double -
30[7] Left Double - Double
31[7] Right - Double -
32[7] Right Double - Double
33 Left Reverence
34 Whatever Lady does a movimento in half a measure, gentlemen respond


  1. Sparti, Introduction to De Pratica Seu Arte Tripudii/On the Practice or Art of Dancing, p. 72.
  2. Domenico and Cornazano differ as to the details of these first two measures. The above is from Cornazano. Domenico prescribes, instead, two saltarelli.
  3. Again, the two sources differ. The listing here is for Cornazano; Domenico reverses the feet.
  4. Make a half-turn in the three singles, complete to a full turn in the mezza-volta. Done properly, this is a very nice, crisp action that looks quite good.
  5. Make a half-turn over the course of the four singles. There was some argument among us as to just how round (vs. crisp) this should be. Some of us prefer what amounts to a step out, two sharp 90-degree steps, and a step back, while others prefer a more rounded semi-circle. It is doubtful only one interpretation would have been correct for the authors of the dance.

    At the end of this half-turn the men should be facing in the direction the dance began facing, and the lady should be facing the opposite direction.

  6. These four tempi should be done with the men and the lady going in opposite directions, separating.
  7. These four tempi should be done with the men and the lady going in opposite directions, coming together.


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