The Music and Dance in the Middle Ages

The medieval dances have left few written traces. If some chronicles of the time speak of them, none describe them. The sources for an understanding of dance during the Middle Ages are fragmentary. Some examples may be dances and allusions scattered in literary texts.

The forms of dance in the Middle Ages included carol and stamping. Carola is a medieval dance, but has ancient origins. The Carol consists of a circle of dancers holding hands, with the dancers dancing while they sang. Both Carol and stamping are also musical forms. The formation of this terminology dates back to the Middle Ages.

The Middle Ages assist the decline of the Pantomime. There was the dances of fertility, with their set of erotic motives and magical meanings. It took place on certain times of the year like during summer solstice and harvest carnivals. For sacred dances, the people used to perform, around the fire.

Let us now find out what remains of medieval dance. We give a nod of some of these secondary sources. From a rhythmic point of view, medieval dances got divided into lively and sneaky dances. There were dancing in circles. But, beyond that, the words reveal to us the number of steps, motions, possible jumps etc.



The vocal dances are the so-called dance songs and, in the broadest sense, the ballads. Instrumental dances are dances with no poetic text, so real instrumental music.

The most documented form of dance during the Middle Ages is carola or carole. It consists of two groups of dancers who usually hold their hands, forming a circle. At the rhythm of the music, the dancers in the circle made small alternating steps. A parsonage led the dance, giving time also to singing and chorus, repeated by all dancers.


This medieval dance, was around a tree, or around a jester, or a rogue. After the center of the dancers' circle were people who represented religious scenes. The carola had evolved into an intermediate form of dance and theatrical representation.

Carola was a popular expression, linked to the rites of passage between seasons. The medieval dance performed in circles later assumed a more pronounced religious character. The music performed during this dance was hypnotic and repetitive, but there was no trace of it. You can imagine it by drawing inspiration from similar dances still present.