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This article is about the dance and its music. For the commune in Ardèche, France, see Borée. For the card game, see Bourré. For the Bach piece, see Bourrée in E minor.
Borrèia in Auvernia, early 20th century

The bourrée (also borrèia[1]) is a dance of French origin common in Auvergne and Biscay in Spain in the 17th century danced in quick double time, somewhat resembling the gavotte. It is also a ballet step consisting of a rapid movement of the feet while en pointe or demi-pointe.

The main difference between the bourrée and the gavotte is the anacrusis, or upbeat; a bourrée starts on the last beat of a bar, creating a quarter-bar anacrusis, whereas a gavotte has a half-bar anacrusis. It often has a dactylic rhythm. In his Der Vollkommene Capellmeister (Hamburg, 1739), Johann Mattheson wrote of the bourrée, "its distinguishing feature resides in contentment and a pleasant demeanor, at the same time it is somewhat carefree and relaxed, a little indolent and easygoing, though not disagreeable".[2]

Composers such as J.S. Bach, Handel, and Chopin used the musical form of the bourrée. The dance survives to this day in the Auvergne and has been successfully "exported" to the UK and other countries. The bourrée of lower Auvergne, also called Montagnarde, is in triple time, while that of high Auvergne is in double time.

Bourrée rhythm.[3]
Another bourrée rhythm.[3]


The borrèia is a traditional dance common in Occitania. It is danced primarily in the Massif Central and in the department of Ariège. By extension, the songs to which the borrèia is danced are also called borrèias. Also called Montanhardas or Auvernhatas, they are in 2/4 or 3/4 time. The borrèia likely originated as a courtly dance; written references to the dance date to the 17th century. The first mention of the borrèia as a popular dance is found in a 1665 writing by Clermont-Ferrand.

History and usage[edit]

Yuri Khanon “L’Os de chagrin” (“The Shagreen Bone” opera-interlude) Final: Bourrée

Johann Sebastian Bach often used the bourrée in his suites as one of the optional dance movements that come after the sarabande but before the gigue, and he also wrote two short bourrées in his Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach. Handel wrote several bourrées in his solo chamber sonatas (for example the fourth movement of his Oboe sonata in C minor); however, perhaps the best-known example of a bourrée is the seventh movement of the Water Music (Handel) suite. In the 19th Century, composers such as Frédéric Chopin and the Auvergne-born Emmanuel Chabrier wrote bourrées for the piano (such as the latter's Bourrée fantasque, composed 1891). The Victorian English composer, Sir Hubert Parry included a bourrée in his Lady Radnor Suite (1894). Another famous bourrée is part of Michael Praetorius's The Dances of Terpsichore.

In ballet, the bourrée is a step consisting of a rapid movement of the feet while en pointe or demi-pointe. A pas-de-bourrée consists of bending both legs, extending one, then stepping up, up, down, finishing with bent knees. It is more commonly known as the 'behind side front' or 'back side front'. A pas-de-bourrée-piqué picks up the feet in between steps.[4]

The live form of the dance (and the music associated) is still danced during bal folks, in France, and in other countries.

Popular music[edit]

The bourrée has been used as a form by a number of pop and rock music bands. Examples include:

  • The American rock music group The Fifth Estate released the all-time highest chart position version of any Wizard of Oz song by any performer, "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead." They added a central section consisting of the bouree, of Michael Praetorius from Dances Terpsichore. It was released as a single which went Gold and then was released in four languages around the world and followed by an album, Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead, on Jubilee Records in 1967 (JGS 8005 / 1967) and on EMI the same year in Europe.
  • The London blues-rock group Bakerloo released their arrangement of the J.S. Bach tune Bourrée in E minor as a single, "Drivin' Bachwards", on Harvest Records (HAR 5004) in July 1969. The same recording appeared on their self-titled debut album (Harvest SHVL 762) the following December.
  • The progressive-rock band Jethro Tull included an instrumental track inspired by Bach's Bourrée in E minor on their August 1969 album Stand Up.[2]
  • Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin often played the opening section of Bourrée in E minor as part of the solo of a live performance of Heartbreaker
  • Rock band Tenacious D plays a short rendition of Bourrée in E minor in the track "Rock Your Socks" on their eponymous album and on the track "Classico" on their second album.
  • Rock guitarist Blues Saraceno plays a jazz version of Bourrée in E minor in the beginning and end of the track "Bouree" on his third album, Hairpick.
  • The instrumental "Evil Eye" from Yngwie Malmsteen's album Rising Force begins with a rendition of a bourrée by Johann Krieger.
  • The intro to the song "Totentanz" on thrash metal band Coroner's album R.I.P. is a rendition of a bourrée originally composed by Robert de Visée.
  • Paul McCartney also stated Bourrée in E minor directly inspired the song Blackbird by The Beatles.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Son d´Aquí
  2. ^ Bach. The French Suites: Embellished version. Barenreiter Urtext
  3. ^ a b Blatter, Alfred (2007). Revisiting music theory: a guide to the practice, p.28. ISBN 0-415-97440-2.
  4. ^ ABT website Ballet Dictionary [1]
  5. ^

External links[edit]