While we know that people danced in Europe long before the Renaissance, the first detailed dance manuals that survive today were written in 1450 and 1455 in Italy. These manuals, and later manuals from France, England, and other European countries, give us a peek at what was a very important social activity in the Renaissance.
The dances in these manuals are extremely varied in nature. They range from slow, stately dances (bassadance and pavane) to fast dances (the galliard). Some where choreographed, some were improvised on the spot. One dance for couples, a form of the galliard called La Volta, involved a rather intimate hold between the man and woman, with the woman being lifted into the air while the couple made a 3/4 turn. This dance was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I of England, and was condemned by the clergy as being the cause of divorce and pregnancy.
For more information:
- http://www.rendance.org/ (The Renaissance Dance Homepage)