La Volta - Creative Arts

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

La Volta
Creative Arts

Generally believed to have originated in Italy, this folk dance eventually became extremely popular and spread throughout Europe. Its name is translated as “the turning.” Although no longer the rage, dance historians still consider la volta significant if only because it’s believed to be the progenitor of the world-famous waltz.

And how did this Italian folk dance travel across Europe? Allegedly, through the powers of witchcraft. Not just any folk dance, la volta is believed to have initially been a witches’ dance; it was first danced at sabbats and witches’ balls. Reginald Scot, the English authority on witchcraft, suggested that witches brought this dance from Italy to France. (See BOOKS: Witch-Hunt Books: Scot.) Elegant, masked observers of witches’ balls learned the dance and began enjoying it elsewhere.

As befitting its origins, la volta was scandalous. It is not a processional, a line or a circle dance. Instead, like the waltz, it’s a partner dance for two, traditionally a man and a woman. Unlike other dances of that era, partners faced each other and held each other close—not customary during the sixteenth century. The turn for which the dance is named was executed by the man who simultaneously held the woman up in the air, holding her tightly by the waist. (La volta was a folk dance, not a ballroom dance and was considerably more athletic and vigorous than the modern waltz.)

Conservative society was quick to condemn la volta. The dance was called shameful and indecent. Dancers were warned that it would stimulate miscarriage and murder.

Nevertheless la volta continued to cast its spell: Catherine de Medici (April 13, 1519-January 5, 1589), the Italian-born queen of France famed for her love of the occult and patronage of its practitioners including Nostradamus (there were whispered suggestions that she, too, was a witch), is believed to have introduced the dance to the French court, from whence it spread to the world. Elizabeth I of England (September 7, 1533-March 24, 1603) was also reputed to be very fond of it.