A Gavotte is a musical form that orginated in France and achieved its highest popularity during the Renaissance. Most pieces in this style are in common time (or duple meter). Traditionally, a Gavotte was played, followed by another Gavotte or a Musette and then a repetition of the first Gavotte followed. In baroque suites, the Gavotte followed the sarabande and preceeded the Gigue. This form was especially popular in the court of Louis XIV. 'Gavotte' is also the name of the dance this music accompanies.
The etymology of the term is derived from the Provencal word "gavoto" which means "native of the Alps." This refers to the fact that the musical form/dance originated in this area and was popular among the Gavot people in Dauphiné.
In terms of tempo, a Gavotte is usually played slightly slower than a Bourree, generally in moderato. It is usually written in common time, particularly in 2/2 or 4/4. Phrases do not necessarily begin on the first note of a bar; many begin on the third beat.
Some of the most famous composers to use this form regularly include Johann Sebastian Bach, James Hook, George Frideric Handel, and Christoph Willibald Gluck.
The Gavotte is also a dance that was popular during the Renaissance (as was the musical style that inspired it). It was first embraced by the lower classes but as it became more popular it was widely used by those in the upper classes. The dance is characterized by "lively, skipping steps"1. Participants formed pairs and danced around in a circle. According to the some sources, early forms of the dance involved kissing. The American Gavotte, developed by Edna Witherspoon, was also popular in the late 19th century.
Wharram, Barbara. Elementary Rudiments of Music. Frederick Harris Music Co.: 1969.