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A Pavane, Edwin Austin Abbey, 1897

The pavane[a] (/pəˈvɑːn, pəˈvæn/ pə-VA(H)N; Italian: pavana, padovana; German: Paduana) is a slow processional dance common in Europe during the 16th century (Renaissance).

The pavane, the earliest-known music for which was published in Venice by Ottaviano Petrucci, in Joan Ambrosio Dalza's Intabolatura de lauto libro quarto in 1508, is a sedate and dignified couple dance, similar to the 15th-century basse danse. The music which accompanied it appears originally to have been fast or moderately fast but, like many other dances, became slower over time (Brown 2001).

Origin of term[edit]

The word pavane is most probably derived from Italian [danza] padovana (En. Britannica), (Treccani 2016), meaning "[dance] typical of Padua" (similar to Bergamask, "dance from Bergamo"); pavan is an old Northern Italian form for the modern Italian adjective padovano (= from Padua).[b] This origin is consistent with the equivalent form, Paduana.

An alternative explanation is that it derives from the Spanish pavón meaning peacock (Sachs 1937, 356).

Although the dance is often associated with Spain (Horst 1937, 7), it was "almost certainly of Italian origin" (Brown 2001).


The decorous sweep of the pavane suited the new more sober Spanish-influenced courtly manners of 16th-century Italy. It appears in dance manuals in England, France, and Italy.

The pavane's popularity was from roughly 1530 to 1676 (Horst 1937, 8), though, as a dance, it was already dying out by the late 16th century (Brown 2001). As a musical form, the pavan survived long after the dance itself was abandoned, and well into the Baroque period, when it finally gave way to the allemande/courante sequence (Apel 1988, 259ff[page needed]).


  • Slow duple metre (2
    or 4
    ) by the late 16th century, though there is evidence that it was still a fast dance as late as the mid-16th century, and there are also examples of triple-time pavans from Spain, Italy, and England (Brown 2001).
  • Two strains of eight, twelve, or sixteen bars each.
  • Accent generally comes on the third beat with a secondary accent on the 1st beat though some pavanes place the accent on the first beat with the secondary accent falling on the third.[citation needed]
  • Generally follows the form of A–A′–B–B′–C–C′.
  • It generally uses counterpoint or homophonic accompaniment.
  • Often accompanied by a tabor according to Arbeau (1967, 59–64) in a rhythmic pattern of minimcrotchetcrotchet (1
    ) or similar.
  • This dance was generally paired with the Galliard.[clarification needed]
  • Usually no florid or running passages in instrumental ensemble settings, but pavans for solo instruments usually included written-out repeat sections with variations (Brown 2001).


At the royal court of Henry III of France: Anne de Joyeuse and his wife Marguerite de Vaudémont-Lorraine, dancing a pavane.[1] Left under the canopy the king and his mother Catherine de' Medici, to the right of her Queen Louise. The musicians on the right side. (c. 1581)

In Thoinot Arbeau's French dance manual, it is generally a dance for many couples in procession, with the dancers sometimes throwing in ornamentation (divisions) of the steps (Arbeau 1967, 59–66).

The Dictionnaire de Trevoux describes the dance as being a "grave kind of dance, borrowed from the Spaniards, wherein the performers make a kind of wheel or tail before each other, like that of a peacock, whence the name." It was usually used by regents to open grand ceremonies and to display their royal attire (Horst 1937, 9). Before dancing, the performers saluted the King and Queen whilst circling the room. The steps were called advancing and retreating. Retreating gentlemen would lead their ladies by the hand and, after curtsies and steps, the gentlemen would regain their places. Next, a lone gentleman advanced and went en se pavanant (strutting like a peacock) to salute the lady opposite him. After taking backward steps, he would return to his place, bowing to his lady (Horst 1937, 12).

Modern use[edit]

The step used in the pavane survives to the modern day in the hesitation step sometimes used at weddings.

More recent works titled "pavane" often have a deliberately archaic mood. Examples include:

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ Variously attested as pavan, paven, pavin, pavian, pavine, or pavyn.
  2. ^ this is reflected also, for example, in the family name Pavan, rather diffuse in northern Italy (Anon 2000).


  1. ^ Pavane à la cour d'Henri III,


  • Anon. 2000. Cognome: PAVAN, Presente in 976 comuni. (accessed 30 November 2010)
  • Apel, Willi. 1988. The History of Keyboard Music to 1700. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-32795-4.
  • Arbeau, Thoinot. 1967. Orchesography, translated by Mary Stewart Evans, with a new introduction and notes by Julia Sutton and a new Labanotation section by Mireille Backer and Julia Sutton. New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-21745-0.
  • Brown, Alan. 2001. "Pavan". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  • Encyclopædia Britannica "Pavane". (accessed 30 November 2016)
  • Horst, Louis. 1937. Pre-Classic Dance Forms. A Dance Horizons Book. New York: Dance Observer. Reprinted, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Book Co., 1987. ISBN 9780916622510.
  • Sachs, Curt. 1937. World History of the Dance, translated by Bessie Schönberg. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc.
  • Vocabolario Treccani "Pavana" (in It.). (accessed 30 November 2016)