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The History of Rigodon Dance

The History of Rigodon Dance
alastoros oistros/Flickr.com

Rigodon is a French dance from the Baroque style period between 1600 and 1750. Rigaudon and rigadoon are common alternative spellings for the dance named after a dance master from Marseille named Rigaud. The dance master reportedly invented rigodon in 1630 but Wendy Hilton, in her book "Dance and Music of Court and Theater", states that rigodon is identical to another Baroque dance called Bourrée.

History of Baroque

The Baroque art movement occurred in Italy at the end of the Renaissance. Manfred R Bukofzer's book on "Music in the Baroque Era" contends that early critics saw the Baroque period as a continuation of elements from the Dark Age rather than a transition to modern style choices. The word Baroque derives from barroco, a Portuguese term applied to a flawed pearl set into jewelry. Critics of this art style used its name to characterize Baroque dance and music as rough, bold and undisciplined.

Louis XIV

French King Louis XIV heavily supported the arts in the 17th century. During that time many native French singers, dancers and actors performed with Italian influences. Italy exported artistic styles during the Baroque period, but France innovated upon Italian Baroque and created their own balls, plays and operas. As a composer himself, Louis XIV promoted a unique French identity for his own court. The King played multiple instruments and even dancing in a ballet. In hosting balls and theater performances to both local nobles and foreign dignitaries, King Louis popularized many domestic dances like the rigodon.


The rigodon originated as a Baroque folk dance in southern France. The rigodon dance features couples moving in a lively pace to an upbeat duple meter. Here the term upbeat refers to the unaccented beat occurring prior to the first beat of a measure. The duple meter, or double time, means having two beats in a measure. Some French ballets and operas incorporated this dance into their performance. The resulting scene gave a pastoral overtone.


Couples begin the rigodon dance by facing one another and hop stepping into a series of positions. Encyclopedia Britannica asserts that couples engaged in jumping, running and turning as part of their sequence. This description supports the idea that critics saw Baroque music and dancing as having a boldness not seen in earlier court balls. The rigodon emerged in both French and English courts into the 18th century as a result of its popularity.


According to Nancy Bachus, writer of "The Baroque Spirit", the dance contains four-bar phrases and a static harmony in addition to the duple meter beat. There is also a rhythmic accent on the opening two measures.

The bourrée and rigodon dances are practically indistinguishable in musical and chorographical terms. They both are lively duple meter dances with a southern French origin. Other French dances with the rigodon's duple-time measure include the allemande, gavotte, gaillarde and pavvane.

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