12th-century French chain dance adopted (c. 1450-c. 1650) by European aristocrats, especially in France and in England, where the word branle was anglicized as "brawl." Named for its characteristic side-to-side movement (French branler, "to sway"), the branle was performed by a chain of dancers who alternated large sideways steps to the left (frequently four) with an equal number of smaller steps to the right. Thus the chain, usually of couples intertwining arms or holding hands, progressed to the left in a circle or serpentine figure. Branles were danced with walking, running, gliding, or skipping steps depending on the speed of the music, which was composed in 44 time.
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