AskDefine | Define gavotte

Dictionary Definition



1 an old formal French dance in quadruple time
2 music composed in quadruple time for dancing the gavotte

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A French dance, either in 4/4 or 2/2 time.

Extensive Definition

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 original 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 of the bar, creating a half-measure upbeat, as illustrated below:
J.-M. Guilcher’s study of the gavotte in Brittany (1963) revealed great variety in modern practice, especially in the type of steps used, floor patterns and formations and musical accompaniment. Gavottes in some areas are accompanied by singing, with a soloist alternating either with a group or with another soloist; in other areas gavottes are accompanied by instruments..... such as the violin, drum, bagpipe or a kind of shawm.
Unlike the branle, in which sideways motion was achieved by the dancer’s continually bringing the feet together, the gavotte required crossing of the feet twice in each step pattern, and each step was followed by a hop. Various pantomimic motions, such as the choice of a leader for the next dance, usually formed part of a gavotte performance.

The gavotte in Baroque music

The gavotte became popular in the court of Louis XIV where Jean-Baptiste Lully was the leading court composer. Consequently several other composers of the Baroque period incorporated the dance as one of many optional additions to the standard instrumental suite of the era. The examples in suites and partitas by Johann Sebastian Bach are best known. When present in the Baroque suite, the gavotte is often played after the sarabande and before the gigue, along with other optional dances such as minuet, bourrée, rigaudon, and passepied.
The gavotte in the Baroque period is typically in binary form. A notable exception is the rondo form of the Gavotte from Bach's Partita No. 3 in E Major for solo violin, BWV 1006.

Later manifestations

Later composers, particularly in the nineteenth century, began to write gavottes to begin on the downbeat rather than on the half-measure upbeat. The famous Gavotte in D by Gossec is such an example, as is the Gavotte in Massenet's Manon. A gavotte also occurs in the second act of The Gondoliers by Gilbert and Sullivan and the Finale of the First Act of Ruddigore also by Gilbert and Sullivan. In the musical My Fair Lady (1956), the number entitled "Ascot Gavotte" does away completely with the traditional rhythmic pattern by having a quarter-note upbeat in the phrases while retaining the mildly march-like stateliness of the dance to characterize the stilted, high-society world of the attendants at the horserace. In contrast, "The Venice Gavotte" from the American operetta Candide (from the same year) presents the original half-bar-upbeat rhythm of this particular dance type. The gavotte from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella is somewhat of a blend, having some phrases beginning on the upbeat and some beginning on the downbeat.

References in popular culture

  • Carly Simon's song "You're So Vain" includes the lyric "You had one eye in the mirror as you watched yourself gavotte", in this context it can be taken to mean a pretentious or egotistical style of dancing.
  • The Stephen Sondheim musical Sunday in the Park With George uses the word "gavotte" as a satirical device in the otherwise irregular, non-steadily rhythmical, song "It's Hot Up Here" to start the second Act, "We're stuck up here in this gavotte."
  • Geneticist W.D. Hamilton in his paper entitled "Gamblers since life began: barnacles, aphids, elms." in the Quarterly Review of Biology (1975) made an earnest attempt at wit by referring to the drilled formality of the mechanisms of individual reproduction as "the gavotte of chromosomes".
  • Agustin Barrios wrote a solo guitar piece called Madrigal Gavotte, which is a combination of the two styles.
  • In the anime Kiniro no Corda (La Corda D'Oro), they play the "Gavotte in D by Gossec" many times, but they call it only "Gavotte".
  • In the novel Good Omens, it is noted that one cannot determine how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, because angels do not dance--the exception being the Principality Aziraphale, who once learned to do the Gavotte.
  • The "Cutting Gavotte" is an attack in the Japanese version of the forthcoming RPG Infinite Undiscovery.
  • In the Broadway musical 1776 during the song "Cool, Considerate Men", reference is made to "Mr. Adams' new gavotte"--a reference regarding John Adams' ideas for a declaration of independence from Great Britain.
  • In the 1967 movie, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, the song "A Secretary Is Not A Toy" refers to a gavotte. The song discourages personal indiscretions with secretaries at the firm. The reference to a gavotte insinuates that a gavotte equates to an intimate encounter.
commons Gavotte
gavotte in German: Gavotte
gavotte in Estonian: Gavott
gavotte in Spanish: Gavota
gavotte in French: Gavotte (danse)
gavotte in Italian: Gavotta
gavotte in Hebrew: גבוט
gavotte in Hungarian: Gavotte
gavotte in Dutch: Gavotte
gavotte in Japanese: ガヴォット
gavotte in Polish: Gawot
gavotte in Portuguese: Gavota
gavotte in Finnish: Gavotti
gavotte in Ukrainian: Ґавот
gavotte in Chinese: 加沃特
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