In Jacquet de la Guerre's Suite No. 3 in A Minor, there are two Courantes.

Later on, in Bach's English Suite no. 1, there are two Courantes, two Doubles, and two Bourées. In fact, all of Bach's English Suites have "double dances".

Of course, not all suites in the Baroque period doubled up on certain dances (see Handel Suite no. 5 in E Major).

Why was the trend of including two of the same dance so popular in the Baroque suite?

3 Answers 3


A dance with its doubles - in this particular case (English Suite no. 1), Courante II and its doubles - is essentially a variation form. A double is a variation of the preceding dance. Also, often when Galanterien have been paired up, such as the Bourées here, the first is repeated da capo at the end of the second (as is the case with English Suite no. 1), much as Trios are used with Minuets, so we can say that at least some of the extra dances are used in effect to create larger forms.

I think, though, that the thing to remember here is that suites got their start (in the late 16th century) as essentially "playlists" of dances in the same key that were either thought to go together well, or were thematically related. The original core components were pavanes and galliardes, with other dances (bransles, etc.) thrown in.

Froberger standardised the core dances with then-current dances (allemande, courante, sarabande, gigue) in the mid-17th century, and his publishers standardised the order (he himself often used another order, such as gigue second and sarabande last), but I don't think the sense of a playlist of dances ever really went away. If it struck a composer's fancy to keep courantes or whatever going, why not?


I translate the paragraph of the German wikipedia article Suite here:

Many dances appear in a super-imposed three-part scheme, where the middle part contrasts by one or more of the following:

  • is written in a relative key
  • contains a variation
  • is differently instrumentated

Examples for the resulting scheme are:

  • Bourrée I – Bourrée II – Bourrée I
  • Sarabande – Double (of the Sarabande) – Sarabande
  • Menuet – Trio – Menuet

That is an A-B-A form on the bigger picture.

Since the suites are collections of dances to be performed as a whole, I suppose the composers are trying to build a form structure on the overall as well.

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