Masques & Bergamasques

In the last act of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, after performance of the ‘tedious brief scene of young Pyramus and his love Thisby’, Bottom offers the Duke a choice between an epilogue ‘or to hear a Bergomask dance between two of our company’; the Duke – wisely – chooses the dance.

The transposition of the popular rhythms of rustic dance from the village hop to the splendours of court and from thence to the baroque suite is common enough; the sarabande, the allemande, the gavotte and the gigue (but not, sad to say, the bergamasque) all seem to have made this journey. Here’s an example: the bourée as it is still danced in the Auvergne (from whence it, apparently, originates) and its apotheosis in Bach’s third suite for unaccompanied cello.

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