Minuet (Fr. menuet; Ger. Menuett; It. minuetto; Sp. minuete, minué)
- Meredith Ellis Little
(Fr. menuet; Ger. Menuett; It. minuetto; Sp. minuete, minué)
A French dance. In a moderate or slow triple metre, it was one of the most popular social dances in aristocratic society from the mid-17th century to the late 18th. It was used as an optional movement in Baroque suites, and frequently appeared in movements of late 18th-century multi-movement forms such as the sonata, the string quartet, and the symphony, where it was usually paired with a Trio (see also Scherzo).
Though the origin of the minuet is unknown, it was danced in the court of Louis XIV at least by the 1660s. Praetorius (Terpsichore, 1612) is now thought to have erred in claiming it to be a descendant of the branle de Poitou, a claim that was nonetheless repeated over a century later by Pierre Rameau (Le maître à danser, 1725), with the addition of the plausible detail that Pierre Beauchamp, Louis XIV’s dancing-master, had effected the transformation. There is virtually no point of resemblance between the two dances; some of the minuets included in the Philidor Collection consist of the three-bar phrases characteristic of the ...