The Forlane

Couple Dancing.jpg

Fig. 33 from Le Maître à Danser by Pierre Rameau (1725)

"A sort of dance in great use among the Venetians."

Brossard (1701) [1]


Closely related to the gigue and the loure, the forlane, or forlana, was originally a popular folk dance from Venice, with further roots in Slovenia. It was particularly favoured by gondoliers and street people, accompanied by mandolins, castanets, and drums, and were associated with lust and flirtation.[2] The forlane became popular in France at the turn of the 18th century following its first appearance in Campra’s 1697 opera-ballet L’Europe Galante, and was regularly performed in both ballrooms and theatres.

The French forlane was known for being a lively and energetic dance which was described as wild and gay. Despite no documentation of pendulum markings, these characterisations should be replicated in the choice of tempo, therefore a moderate to fast tempo suggestion of 69-80 per dotted crotchet (or half bar beat) is generally accepted as most suitable.[3] The tempo of a forlane should be somewhere between the loure, which is slower, and the gigue, which is faster.

A compound-duple metre dance in 6/4 or 6/8, forlanes are written in rondeau form, with a reoccurring theme interspersed between different material. The balanced phrases, unlike the loure, are 4 bars long and are repeated to last 8 bars in total. They typically begin with a crotchet or quaver upbeat and make much use of dotted rhythms. An identical sautillant rhythm used in gigues can be found in forlanes, as demonstrated in 6/8 in Ex. 1 and in 6/4 in Ex. 2, giving the dance its energetic and bouncy quality. If the shortest note in each group of 3 is removed, a double iamb is produced, creating a short-long-short-long rhythmic pattern whereby the first short note falls on the upbeat before the bar line, and the first long note falls on the following downbeat, as seen in Ex. 3. A light articulation should be used on the short notes within each half bar group to give lift and movement, with a stronger articulation on the downbeats.

Ex. 1

Forlane Example 1.jpg

Ex. 2

Forlane Example 3.jpg

Ex. 3

Forlane Example 2.jpg

Choreography for forlanes include many virtuosic leaps, hops, and jumps which coincide with the rhythmic and metric characteristics of the music. When 2 steps are features within a bar, they line up with the 2 beat pulse (either a dotted crotchet or dotted minim depending on the time signature). Perhaps the most popular choreography from the 18th century is La Forlana, first published in 1700 and subsequently republished many times after, which incorporated many of these lively and energetic steps which fit either 2 or 3 steps per bar.[4]


Forlane en Rondeau from Concerts Royaux No. 4 (1722)

François Couperin

00:00 / 01:54

Recorder - Beth Toulson

Harpsichord - Martin Perkins

[1] Brossard, S. (1769) Dictionnaire de Musique. [Translated J. Grassineau with appendix by J. J. Rousseau]

[2] Little, M. (2001) Grove Music Online: Forlana

[3] Little, M; Jenne, N. (1991) Dance and the Music of J. S. Bach

[4] Little, M; Jenne, N. (1991) Dance and the Music of J. S. Bach