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The Ashover Book: Different approaches to Dance Interpretation

The Ashover Book is a hand-written manuscript by David Wall, c. 1764.  There is a memorial plaque at All Saints' Church, Ashover, which reads approximately:

David Wall
whose superior performance upon the Bassoon endeared him to an extensive Musical Acquaintance.  His social life closed on the 4th day of December 1796, in his 57th year.

In 1927 the Sheffield branch of the English Folk Dance Society (which became the English Folk Dance and Song Society a few years later) published a book, “Five Country Dances together with their Tunes circa A.D. 1764 as recorded by DAVID WALL, ASHOVER, DERBYSHIRE”.  The book includes facsimiles from the manuscript, and the five dances are:

The introduction ends:

Those members of the E.F.D.S. Sheffield Branch, who were entrusted with the interpretation of the dances, wish to acknowledge the assistance that they have derived from the Country Dance Books, Cecil J. Sharp.

I'm not sure that Sharp (who died in 1924) would have appreciated this acknowledgement, as some of the interpretations are fanciful in the extreme.  The most blatant example is in “The Black Boy” where they have:

C1  1‑41st man and 2nd woman change places, right foot and right shoulder leading (step close up 4 times), left hand on hip and right hand up, a wrist wave with right hand for each step.
      5‑81st woman and 2nd man do the like.
C2  1‑4As in C1, left foot and left shoulder leading, and left hand up, left wrist wave.
      5‑8As in C2, 1st woman and 2nd man crossing.

By the time I learnt the dance, a snap of the fingers had been added to the wrist wave.  Yet the original just says:

Right and Left

The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at Cecil Sharp House has a photocopy of the original text, and each dance has a facing page where somebody has given a hand-written interpretation (which I shall refer to as the CSH version), not necessarily the same at the Sheffield version.

Neither the original manuscript nor the Sheffield book has any chord symbols, so I have added my own — in many cases based on versions played by Muckram Wakes or New Victory Band who were based in Derbyshire and popularised a number of these excellent tunes.

In 2009 Chris Johnson of Stafford published a book called “And then comes all in t'other way”.  He repeats almost word-for-word the Sheffield versions of those five dances and gives versions of the others.  I shall refer to these as the Johnson version, though he does not claim that the interpretations are his own work.

I have tried to reproduce the original instructions accurately, and I have started a new line after each of the marks indicating the end of a section, to make the whole thing more readable.  The section marks are not consistent.  In most of the dances they just identify the sections and give no indication whether an A- or B-music is required.  See what you make of them out of context:

12345678910
Mark
Dances5232122135

I've shown how many dances each mark appears in, but I don't see any real logic in the marks.  In a published book, you might expect that mark 8 or 9 would mean second time through the A-music and 10 would mean second time through the B-music, but not here.  In fact I don't believe that each mark indicates the end of an A or a B — it is more likely the end of a particular figure which may or may not take 8 bars of music.  I'll work through the individual dances and try to formulate some general rules as we go.

In 2013 I discovered that some of these dances (The Black Boy, Bonny Kate, The Scotch Ramble, One More Dance and Then, Lord Rockingham's Reel) also appeared in a book published by John Johnson: “Two Hundred FAVOURITE COUNTRY DANCES Perform'd at Court, Bath, Tunbridge, Scarborough & most publick Places: with Directions for Dancing ~ each Tune set for the Violin & German Flute”.  I believe this is volume 8 from 1758; it advertises seven other volumes, totalling 1,600 dances. I'm now making mention of this, so please don't confuse John Johnson with Chris Johnson!

Further research at www.fresnostate.edu/folklore/Olson/CNTYDAN2.HTM says that John Johnston (sic) published

The Black Boy        The Black Boy: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2011.

Original wording:

Swing right hands round and cast off one Cu
Left hands and up again
Cross over and turn
Right and Left
foot it both corners and turn
Lead out sides and turn

Discussion

The music is four lines of eight bars, each repeated: a 32-bar reel followed by a 32-bar jig.  The instructions give only six lines.

Identical wording in John Johnson except that he says “Right hands and Left”.  However he gives only the first half of the tune (the reel).

The Sheffield and CSH versions (both duple minor) start with a star, whereas I think the instructions are directed to the ones only: a right-hand turn (4 bars) and a cast (4 bars).  So straight away we hit the question: who and what it the interpretation for?  If it's an attempt to render the original instructions as accurately as possible, I think it's a turn.  If it's an attempt to produce a dance which modern dancers will enjoy, I'm willing to believe that a star is a better option.

“Cross over and turn” is a very standard move, but you have to be aware that “cross over” means “cross and cast”, as I have mentioned many times on my website and in my book Playford with a Difference, Volume 1.  (The turn needs to be 1½ so that the ones finish proper.)  The other two versions did not realise this, so they have cross right shoulder, turn left to face (4 bars) and two-hand turn (4 bars), followed by the same in reverse.  This becomes B1 and B2 in their versions and leaves the dancers unprogressed, whereas I believe it is B1 only and finished with the ones progressed.

“Right and Left” has had different meanings over the years, but generally I would expect it to mean what Sharp called “four changes of a circular hey” — four steps to cross right shoulder with partner, four with neighbour, four with partner, four with neighbour.  In the States they usually don't give hands; in England they usually do.  Implicitly it is for the ones and the couple above them.  This is what the CSH version uses, but it calls it C1 and then doesn't have any C2, which seems unlikely to me.  The Sheffield version has the corners crossing with the wrist waving I mentioned earlier.  I expect they did it this way to use up four bars for each cross rather than the normal two.  They then have the same thing going back with the left shoulder, so they are indeed doing Right and Left, but I would need a lot more evidence to convince me that this interpretation has any validity.  To be fair to them, they did add a footnote:

N.B.—C music can be danced alternatively, thus:— C 1—8   1st and 2nd couple circular hey partners facing 4 changes (sk. s.).

which is the same as the CSH version but again means there is no C2.

Jeremy Brown has pointed out that the Winster dances in Sharp's Morris Book have the same hand waving movement — and Winster is in Derbyshire — so maybe that's where they got the idea from.

“foot it both corners and turn” — interpreters need to be aware that using the phrase “first corners” to mean “first man and second woman” is a modern (though very useful) invention.  Sharp never used it; he always spelt it out in full.  He sometimes uses the terms “Contrary woman” or “Contrary man”, but that's all.  In the eighteenth century (as in modern RSCDS Scottish) “corner” was used when the ones were in second place and refers to the twos and threes who are now at the corners of the minor set.  Your first corner is on the right diagonal — the third woman or the second man — your second corner on the left diagonal.  This is a triple minor concept, and it's not going to work in a duple minor set unless you have the ones working with their own twos above them and the next twos below them.  The Sheffield and CSH versions have the first man and second woman set and turn single, then the other pair, giving 8 bars which is D1.  But a turn is not a turn single; it's a turn with the corner person (right-hand or two-hand) and while you could fit the whole thing into 8 bars it would be hard work.  If we assume that the turn takes four bars, the preceding “foot it” must also take four bars.  I came up against “foot it” when I was interpreting dances for my 200 Years of American workshops and was given the following advice by Alan Winston:

Fancy Step: In my opinion, whenever you see eight counts of setting, it's an invitation to improvise, or show off.  It's perfectly adequate to pas-de-basque twice, but you can also do a clever little clog step, “beaten step”:  Four hops on the left foot while the right foot (without touching the ground) goes behind, to the right, in front, to the right and step on it; four hops on the right foot while the left foot moves behind, to the left, in front, to the left.

If you want more detail, “behind” is behind the supporting leg at mid-calf, “in front” is in front of the supporting leg at mid-calf.  In between, the foot goes out to the side (with considerable turnout, so the toe is pointing along the set line).  On the fourth beat you step on the right foot, hop and extend the left foot to the left, then repeat the sequence using the other foot.

Notice that this move comes as the music changes from a stately reel to a lively jig, so it will fit the music well.  But again we come to the question of why we are doing the interpretation.  I've taught the “fancy step” at several workshops and people have tried it more or less successfully, but the modern attitude (particularly in the States) that “all English is slow and gentle” means that many dancers would not want to do it — in which case setting twice is of course an option, and probably some less energetic people danced it that way in the 18th century too.  It's interesting that the only time the manuscript uses the word “set” is when the dancers are setting in lines of three — this occurs in Harper's Frolick, Loudon and The Russian Dance, and ironically the RSCDS refers to this as “balance”.

Lead out sides” — another troublesome phrase, which also occurs in The Duchess of Hamilton's Rant and Loudon.  The Sheffield version needs to get in a progression, since the dancers are still in original places, so they have neighbours lead away, the ones “gate” the twos up to face in and all move in (4 bars), then all two-hand turn partner (4 bars).  The CSH version is much the same except that they lead out a double and then turn half-way while leading back.  But in my version the ones are already progressed, and we still have 16 bars of music left.  I suspect that (as usual) the ones have all the fun, and it's the same move that appears in The Cream Pot from The Fallibroome Collection and (reversed) in Prince William: Ones lead out through the men, cast back to the middle, turn (once or 1½), lead out through the women, cast, turn to finish in second place on own side.  It's a 16-bar figure, so my version fits the tune nicely.  Admittedly the move is spelt out in more detail for those dances.  Walsh in 1731 describes the move in Prince William as:

First Cu. leads through the 2d. and 3d. Wo. and turn in the 2d. cu. Place.
Then lead through the 2d and 3d. Men and turn again.

Susan de Guardiola at http://www.kickery.com/2008/10/a-very-old-established-figure----reconstructing-lead-outsides.html discusses “Lead outsides”.  She says that this figure turns up regularly in country dances from the 18th and early 19th century, often (but not always) as the final figure in a dance.  It turns up under several different variants: “lead outsides,” “lead out each side,” “lead out sides and turn,” “lead out both sides & turn your Partner,” etc.

The source which matches the date of the Ashover dances is “A Concise & Easy Method of Learning the Figuring Part of Country Dances”, written by Nicholas Dukes and published in London in 1752.  Dukes offers three different “lead outsides” figure, and Susan says:

The first (“Dukes #1” for purposes of this post) follows directly on a set-and-turn-corners move, and begins with the active couple facing their second corners.  The man turns around and the active couple moves between the men of the top and bottom couples, crossing as they go so that the active woman then moves up the outside of the set and the man down.  They come in between the top and bottom couples respectively, then lead out between the two women, coming back in between the top and bottom couples once more to turn two hands in the center and end back in progressed places on their own lines.  No hands are involved until the final turn, and the diagram more resembles a pair of figure eights than the strong traverse line of Wilson's illustrations.  This figure is titled “Lead out Sides and turn in the middle” and does specifically note that the man and woman are to begin “where they left of [sic] on the other side,” meaning the previous page in the book.

We have indeed done a set-and-turn-corners move, so I would like to use Dukes' instructions, but he doesn't give the timing for this and there doesn't seem enough movement to use up 16 bars of music.  So I will make the unwarranted assumption that there should be a turn when the ones meet for the first time as well as when they meet for the second time.

Another description appears in “Recueille de 24 Contredances Angloise les Plus Usité” (Collection of 24 most common English Country Dances) a facsimile of which, together with interpretations and useful notes, appears in “English Dances for the Dutch Court” (Charles Cyril Hendrickson, 1996).  This gives diagrams and words.

  Le 1er Coupl ce donne la Main et passe entre le 2d et 3e H. et puis, tournent un tour entier en ce donnant les Mains.
  Le 1er Coupl font la meme Chose autour des F.

which I translate as:

  The first couple give a hand and pass between the second and third men and then do a complete two-hand turn.
  The first couple do the same thing around the ladies.

The diagrams make it clear that they lead through, cast back and then turn.  The move follows setting to and turning corners, so the man is below the lady at the start of the move — she is on his right as they lead through the men and on his left as they lead through the ladies.

But having done all that, we compare the two versions from the dancers' point of view — by which I mean those not dancing as ones!  The Sheffield version is duple minor and no-one is standing still for more than four bars at a time.  My version can't be condensed to duple minor because of the Lead out sides, so it needs to be triple minor or a three couple set (in which case the ones move to the bottom during the final two-hand turn).  The twos move up, move down, move up, right and left, foot it and turn the ones — not much action in 64 bars.  The threes merely foot it and turn the ones — no interaction with partner at all.  I'm sure my version is a more accurate interpretation, but I was equally sure that most modern dancers would prefer the Sheffield version — until I tried out The Black Boy, Bonny Cate and The Russian Dance at a workshop at Sidmouth Festival in 2011.  To my surprise, my versions got a much higher vote!

Interpretation

Format: Longways triple minor or three couples.

A1:Ones right-hand turn.  Cast to second place; twos lead up.
A2:Ones left-hand turn.  Cast up; twos lead down.
B1:Ones cross and cast to second place; twos lead up.  Ones two-hand turn 1½ to finish proper in second place.
B2:Ones and twos four changes of a circular hey with hands.
C1:Ones fancy step to first corner.  Two-hand turn.
C2:Ones fancy step to second corner.  Two-hand turn, to finish with the ones facing the second and third men, man on the left.
D1:Ones lead through the men and cast back.  Two-hand turn once around.
D2:Ones lead through the women and cast back.  Two-hand turn to finish proper in second place.
 For the three couple version, ones two-hand turn to the bottom as threes cast up to middle place.

Bonny Cate        Bonny Cate: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2013.

Original wording:

First and 2d Cu foot it and change sides
ye same back again
Cross over 2 cu
Lead up to ye top and Cast off
Right hands across at bottom
Left hands across at top
Hands six round
Right and left with ye 2d Couple
End

Discussion

The section marks indicate 7 lines, but assuming there should be a mark after “Left hands across at top” there are 8 lines.  In fact the version published by John Johnson (as “Bonny Kate”) has identical music and identical wording and marks except that it does have a mark after “Left hands across at top”.  The tune is a standard 32 bars, so it would be nice if each pair of instruction lines were 8 bars.  The Sheffield and CSH versions manage this, but only by interpreting “Cross over 2 cu” as “First man second woman cross; first woman second man cross”.  This leaves the ones and twos progressed and improper, so the final Right and Left is three changes starting along the line.  I've also danced this version as duple minor, so the right-hand star is with the twos below, the left-hand star is with the original twos and so is the circle, which is less of a rush than a circle of six.  However, I don't believe it means that.  Just as “Cross over” means the ones cross and cast below the next couple, so “Cross over 2 cu” means the ones cross, cast below the twos, cross again and cast below the threes.  You certainly can't do that in four bars.  It's also unlikely that the lead up to the top (past two couples) and cast to middle would be four bars — eight bars is much more likely.  In fact the sequence of cross and cast, cross and cast, lead to the top, cast to the middle is quite a standard eighteenth century sequence, though I'm worried because it seems to come as A2 and B1 rather than B1 and B2.  And it's also a fair bet that right-hand star below followed by left-hand star above are supposed to fit into a single eight-bar phrase rather than being the second half of one phrase and the first half of the next phrase.  So that would give us 32 bars, but we're still left with Hands six around and Right and left.  The right and left will be four changes, and by far the commonest timing is four steps for each change, making 8 bars.  It would be frantic to do a circle 6 (slipped, skip-change or whatever) in just 4 bars and then the four changes in the next four bars.  So I would allocate 8 bars to the circle (either a slow circle left or more likely a circle left and right) and then 8 bars for the Right and left, making a total of 48 bars.  Bands in England are quite used to converting a 32-bar tune to a 48-bar tunes, usually by playing AA BB AB, but this useful trick does not seem to be known in the States, and I don't know whether they would have done such a thing in 18th century England.

That was my view of things in 2011.  In 2013 I was looking at it again in preparation for a workshop at Lichfield Folk Festival and realised that I had fallen into the common trap of seeing what I expected to see.  The instructions don't say “set and change sides”; they say “foot it and change sides”, and everywhere else I've been telling you that “foot it” is a four-bar move!  That would make “cross over” four bars as well, but that's not so unusual.  Look at the traditional American “Arkansas Traveller” from CDM 4 for instance.  Join hands in lines, four balances, then eight steps to cross over, and the same back again.  It's effectively the same move.  And now the sequence “Cross and cast, cross and cast, lead up to the top and cast to middle place” is B1 and B2 which is what I expected.  However, I can't see any way of stretching anything else, so I'm left with a 56-bar dance which I'm quite sure is wrong!  What can I do?  It's possible that John Johnson missed out a move and David Wall just copied it out of his book.  I could make something up, but that's not the way I do dance interpretation, so until somebody comes up with a better option I'm leaving it at 56 bars, to the confusion of any musicians playing my version!

Once again we come to the question of what would be more suitable for modern-day dancers.  The Sheffield and CSH versions keep everybody busy, particularly if the dance is converted to duple minor, in which case the twos only stand still for two bars and then four bars.  My compromise is to follow the original instructions but convert the dance to duple minor.

Music

I was not sure about the distinction between slurs (which I don't use) and tied notes (which I do), so I checked with fiddle-player Dave Brown, who said:
All this makes sense to me — think using the bow… Where there is a curved line you simply use one bow thus making no new definition to the second note, yet maintaining the clear view of the beats in the written music. Where a slur is from one note and continues to the next two identical notes it is a slur followed by a tie.

Interpretation

Format: Longways duple minor.

A1:All “fancy step” to partner.  Cross over.
A2:All that again.
B1:Ones cross and cast; twos lead up.  Ones cross and cast below new twos — twos stay still.
B2:Ones lead up above original twos and acknowledge partner.  Wide cast to progressed place.
A3:With new twos, right-hand star.  With original twos, left-hand star.
B3:Same four circle left.  Circle right.
B4:Same four, four changes of a circular hey with hands.

The Duchess of Hamilton's Rant        The Duchess of Hamilton's Rant: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2013.

Original wording:

First Cu cast off two Cu
Lead up the Top and cast off
Hands round with the 3d Cu
Right hands and Left with the 2d Cu
foot it at both Corns and turn
Lead out sides and turn

Discussion

The instructions indicate that there are six parts to the figure, but again you can't assume that each part is the same length.  Notice that the last three sections are identical to the last three sections of “The Black Boy”.

The Sheffield version manages to fit all of this into 32 bars, specifying “(r.s.)” which means “(running step)” for almost all of it.  You can do “Ones cast to the bottom, lead up to the top and cast to middle place” in eight bars provided you dance it rather than walk it.  You can do “Circle left at the bottom followed by four changes of a circular hey at the top” in eight bars (though it's busier than some people would like).  You can do “Set to first corner and turn them, then set to second corner and turn them” in eight bars — it's busy, but you certainly find that in RSCDS Scottish dances — or it could conceivably be “Set to first corner, set to second corner, ones turn partner” though I think this unlikely.  The Sheffield version replaces “turn” by “turn single” (which it isn't) and dispenses with the ones — the first corners (2nd man and 3rd woman) set and turn single, then the other corners — then has lines of three leading out, leading back, and all turn partners.  But if you accept my explanation of “Lead out sides and turn”, you can't do that in eight bars.  So let's rethink it backwards!  “Lead out sides and turn” is a 16-bar figure — two lines of music.  So is “foot it at both Corners and turn” if you use the fancy step.  “Right and left” is usually 8 bars.  “Hands round” is 4 bars, or it could mean circle left and right which is 8 bars.  So that comes to 6 lines of music.  We're approaching a 64-bar dance, like “Fandango”, where once through the dance is twice through the tune.  But when I was originally working this out I couldn't believe that “First Couple cast off two Couples.  Lead up the Top and cast off.” could be padded out to 16 bars, nor could I believe a 56-bar dance.  And then a year later I was working on my “Connections” workshop and came up against “Cast off two couples” when interpreting Lady Doll St. Clair's Reel published by John Johnson in the same book as four of the Ashover dances.  I concluded that it's two separate movements: cast into second place and face partner as the twos move up, then cast into third place and face partner as the threes move up.  So provided we do “Lead up the Top and cast off” in 8 bars (as we did in Bonny Cate) the whole thing adds up to 64 bars.

Also published by Rutherford in 1750 and 1760.

Interpretation

Format: Longways triple minor or three couples.

A1:Ones cast to second place; twos lead up.  Ones cast to third place; threes lead up.
A2:Ones lead up to the top (threes lead down).  Ones cast to second place; twos lead up.
B1:Ones and threes circle left.  Circle right.
B2:Ones and twos four changes of a circular hey, with hands.
A3:Ones fancy step to first corner.  Two-hand turn.
A4:Ones fancy step to second corner.  Two-hand turn, to finish with the ones facing the second and third men, man on the left.
B3:Ones lead through the men and cast back.  Two-hand turn once around.
B4:Ones lead through the women and cast back.  Two-hand turn to finish proper in second place.
 For the three couple version, ones two-hand turn to the bottom as threes cast up to middle place.
The second half is identical to the second half of The Black Boy.

The Scoch Ramble        The Scoch Ramble: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

There are no instructions to go with this tune, but the dance appears in John Johnson as “The Scotch Ramble” with an identical tune, so it seems reasonable that we use Johnson's instructions instead.

Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2011.

Original wording:

First Cu. cast off two Cu.
Lead up to the Top and cast off
Hands 4 round with the 3d. Cu.
Right hands and Left with the 2d. Cu.
foot it at both Corners & turn
Lead out on both sides and turn

Discussion

All I've done so far is add the instructions from Johnson.  The section marks are not correct — give me time!

Harper's Frolick        Harper's Frolick: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2011.

Original wording:

Turn and cast off one cu
turn with left hand ye Lady cast up the Gent: down
set 3 top and bottom
Lady cast down Gent up right Left

Discussion

Four lines of instruction — wouldn't it be nice if each line were 8 bars.  Since the second line specifies “turn with left hand” I would assume that the turn in the first line is with the right hand.  So, ones right-hand turn (4 bars) and cast to second place (4 bars), as in The Fandango.  Ones left-hand turn (4 bars) which leaves the lady facing up and the gent facing down, in which case “cast” just means continue moving in this direction (rather than spinning round) to finish with the lady between the top couple and the man between the bottom couple (4 bars).  “set 3 top and bottom” must surely mean setting in those lines of three, and needs to be at least four bars, so perhaps the fancy step mentioned earlier.  Surely the start of the next line should be part of the current line: another 4 bars for the ones to cast right shoulder to finish on their own side in second place.  And then the ubiquitous “Right and left” (though the “and” has been omitted): four changes of a circular hey at the top.  For the first time, everything seems to fit together naturally with a 32-bar tune.  Incidentally, I've changed the penultimate bar of the B-music, which had the second F as a grace note followed by a longer E.  My understanding is that they put a note as a grace note in cases where it was on the beat but didn't fit the implied chord — in this case the note F with the chord A or A7.  They wrote it as a grace note but played it as a normal length note.

But again, let's look at it from the perspective of a modern dancer.  All the threes do is set in a line: 4 bars out of 32.  The twos additionally get to move up, and join in the final four changes, but it's still not very much.

The CSH version starts with everybody doing a right-hand turn, for which I can see no justification except giving the twos and threes something to do.  The Johnson version just says “Partners turn” which I assume means “Everybody two-hand turn partner”.  For the second turn he has the ones using right hand and the cast is in therefore in the wrong direction — man up, lady down.  Both versions then have circles of three (with the ones changing ends for the second circle) rather than the setting.  It's not clear to me how the ones switch circles, or where they finish the second circle.  The CSH version finishes with the ones and twos doing three changes of a circular hey, implying that the ones start this movement from their original places.  The Johnson version says “First lady casts down and around second lady while first man casts up and around third man to face across”, implying that the threes are above the twos at this point, and this is clearly means to bring everybody to their progressed position, since the final four changes (ones and twos) does not go anywhere.  Perhaps they have put in circles instead of the specified “set” because they think an 8-bar figure is needed here; I think it more likely that the  is in the wrong place and the casting comes in the same 8 bars, giving 8 bars for the final four changes.

For today's dancers I would convert the dance from triple minor to a three couple set, which means that after the final four changes the ones need to change places with the threes.  There are other dances where this has been done, such as “The Hop-pickers' Feast” (Thompson, 1786, interpreted by A Simons in Kentish Hops 2, 1970).  For a three couple set most callers tell you to dance the changes unphrased, to allow time for a fifth change with the bottom couple — not nice.  What I prefer is to use four steps for the first three changes, and then two steps each for the fourth and fifth; it's not difficult since these two changes are in the same direction, up and down the line.

Interpretation

Format: Three couples longways.

A1:Ones right-hand turn.  Wide cast into second place; twos lead up.
A2:Ones left-hand turn.  Man down, lady up, around one person to finish in the middle of lines of three across the set.
B1:Join hands in lines and fancy step.  Ones cast right shoulder to finish in second place on own side.
B2:Ones and twos four changes of a circular hey with hands, then the ones do a fifth change (right hand) with the threes — 4 steps for the first three changes, 2 steps for the final two.

Loudon        Loudon: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2011.

Original wording:

Foot & half right and left
Same back again
cross over two cu
lead up to ye top and cast off
set 3 at top and bottom
set 3 sideways
lead out sides round ye Layd's
same round the men
end

Discussion

No, it's not called London!  There's a splodge on the photocopy I have — possibly on the original — and it's a very natural mistake to make.  There's a Loudon Street in Derby, 22 miles from Ashover; I don't know whether there's any connection.

There's a version of the tune called The Loudon at livetunebook.qualmograph.org.uk/tune/00000194 (link not working now) which comes from Aird's Airs and Melodies volume 3.  These books, six volumes in all, are described as “A Selection of Scotch, English, Irish, and Foreign Airs, adapted for the Fife, Violin or German Flute; printed and sold by I.A. Aird, Glasgow (? 1780 ?)” — the first three volumes are in the museum of the King's Own Regiment in Lancaster.

Once again there are eight sections of instruction, but this time there are four lines of music, presumably all repeated, to give a 64-bar dance.  I would describe the tune as a march, with a distinctive “tan-tan-ta-ra” at the end of every line.

“Foot & half right and left” could mean setting followed by two quick changes of a circular hey (4 bars) or it could mean the fancy step and two slow changes (8 bars).  Once again we have “cross over two couples, lead up to the top and cast off” which I don't believe is meant to fit into 8 bars.  And this will leave the ones in second place — how can we follow that with “set 3 at top and bottom”?

Once again we have “lead out sides”, but this time it's qualified by “round the ladies” and then “same round the men” which (you would think) makes it quite clear that this is a move for the ones only.

Let's assume that each section really is 8 bars and see what we get.  Fancy setting step and half right and left.  The same back again.  Ones cross and cast, cross and cast to the bottom.  Ones lead to the top and wide cast into second place.  That will fit the first half of the tune — two A's and two B's, ending with the ones in second place.  But now we have 8 bars for “set 3 at top and bottom” and another 8 for “set 3 sideways” without any mention of how we get into the lines across or how we then get back into lines up and down.  I think the likeliest explanation is that these two moves simply got missed out.  We can use the same casting moves as in Harper's Frolick; dances were very standardised in those days and people didn't invent new figures for each one.  (The same sequence, “Set 3 at top and bottom” followed by “set 3 sideways” also appears in The Russian Dance, and “set 3 top and bottom” appears in Harper's Frolick).  Finally, in order to use 8 bars for “lead out sides” we need to add a turn for the ones after each lead and cast.  This is spelt out in The Black Boy and Duchess of Hamilton's Rant; perhaps it was a standard part of the figure and is simply not mentioned here because everybody knew.  If we didn't have a turn it would be very awkward for the ones to finish on their proper sides.

So why do the CSH and Johnson versions have circles top and bottom (with the ones switching from one to the other) and then circles on the side, when the original says “set”?  I think once again it's a question of who we are producing these interpretations for.  Perhaps they felt that set twice in lines of three was not very exciting (in which case they had never tried the fancy step) and they wanted more movement.  And of course from second position the ones can easily face an end couple to form circles of three top and bottom, rather than fall back or loop round into lines of three top and bottom.

These versions both interpret the final sections as: “Men lead out to the left wall and back.  Men cast around the ladies to place.” and similarly for the ladies.  It keeps everybody moving, and I expect they would say they were taking “lead out sides round the ladies” to mean “Men lead out on their side, turn and lead back, then go round the ladies.” Admittedly the circles and leads all work very well, but do you believe this interpretation?  I'd rather convert the dance to a three-couple set dance as follows:

Interpretation

Format: Longways triple minor or three couples.

A1:Ones and twos take nearer hand with neighbour: fancy step.  Two changes of a circular hey with hands.
A2:All that again to place.
B1:Ones cross and cast; twos lead up.  Ones cross and cast below threes — threes stay still.
B2:Ones lead up above twos and acknowledge partner.  Wide cast to progressed place.
C1:Man cast down, lady up, around one person to finish in the middle of lines of three across the set.  Join hands in lines and fancy step.
C2:Ones cast right shoulder to finish in second place on own side.  Join hands in lines and fancy step.
D1:Ones lead through the ladies and cast back.  Two-hand turn once or once and a half.
D2:Ones lead through the men and cast back.  Two-hand turn to finish proper in second place.  (For the three-couple version, the ones move down to third place during the final turn as the threes move or cast up to second place.)

The Fantocini        The Fantocini: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2011.

Original wording:

Turn cast off one cu
lead thro 3d cu and up to your ??????
lead down middle up again cast off
right and Left

Discussion

There are four lines of instruction and it seems likely that these correspond to four eight-bar lines of music since A and B are shown with repeat marks.  There's (at least) one word I can't make out in my photocopy.  And there's a totally different dance (with the same tune apart from one note) called The Fantocini published by John Griffiths in the USA in 1788.

It starts conventionally with the ones doing a turn (I imagine a right-hand turn) and then a cast into second place.  They then lead down through the third couple and cast up (I imagine to original place, and I think there must be something missing in the instructions here, perhaps made clear by the word I can't read).  Then a very standard second half: the ones lead down the centre, turn around, lead back and cast into second place, then right and left with the twos above them.  Not a very interesting dance — lots of them weren't.  The CSH and Johnson versions are identical.  The ones and twos turn single, then the ones cast and the twos move up, and then both couples lead down through the threes and cast up into original place, thus compressing 16 bars into 8 while giving the twos more to do.  At the end, the right and left is converted to a circular hey: the ones in second place face down to the threes, the twos face their partner, and do a grand chain all the way round.  This final move is found in other interpretations where the original probably says “right and left”, for instance “Chelmsford Assembly” and “The Virgin's Frolick” in the Fallibroome Collection.  I know it gives the threes something to do, and it's easy to convert a triple minor to a three-couple set dance by giving the ones and threes an extra change, but I don't believe it's what the original instructions mean.

Interpretation

Format: Longways triple minor or three couples.

A1:Ones right-hand turn.  Wide cast into second place; twos lead up.
A2:Ones lead down through the threes and cast up to original place; twos lead down.
B1:Ones lead down the centre.  Lead back and cast into second place; twos lead up.
B2:Ones and twos four changes of a circular hey with hands.

The Dance The Polygon        The Dance The Polygon: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

There are no instructions to go with this tune.

The Polygon        The Polygon: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

There are no instructions to go with this tune.

Spanish Dance        Spanish Dance: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2011.

Original wording:

Foot and change sides
back again
lead down 2 cu
up again and cast off
Allemande with right hand
same with Left
lead thro the bottom and cast up
lead thro the top and cast off

Discussion

There are eight lines of instruction, so we hope each pair corresponds to one 8-bar line of music.  That means we can't use the fancy step at the start (assuming that “change sides” means cross over with partner), just an ordinary pas-de-bas setting step.  Instructions are always addressed to the first couple unless others are mentioned (with the exception of “Right and left” which needs another couple), so only they would perform this move.  The CSH and Johnson versions give this move to all three couples.  The unusual move is “Allemande with right hand  same with Left”.  This can't be just a turn, or it would have said so.  Again, it's for the first couple.  One interpretation is that they link right elbows, extend their right hand across their partner's back, put their left hand behind their own back and take their partner's right hand with it.  This is a nice move — though you'd be surprised how difficult some people find it — and was certainly used in the 18th century.  The CSH version does not commit itself; it just says “Allemande with right hand.  Allemande with left hand.”  It also says that the lead down and cast up leaves the ones improper — I don't see why — so they have to cross up through the twos to finish proper.  The Johnson version has everybody doing a right-hand turn and a left-hand turn.  He says that the ones do a half figure eight down, but then instead of “half figure eight up” he says “First couples cross over [man passing in front first] as they cast up and around the second couple into second couple's place [proper].”  I don't understand why, since the original seems perfectly clear.  However, the ones do everything; the only other move is the twos moving up, and I can quite see why the other interpretations let the twos and threes join in with some of the moves.

Interpretation

Format: Longways triple minor or three couples.

A1:Ones set to partner and cross over.  The same back again.
A2:Ones lead down past the threes.  Lead back and cast into second place; twos lead up.
B1:Ones allemande right as described above.  Allemande left.
B2:Ones lead down through threes and cast up.  Lead up through twos and cast back.

One More Dance and Then        One More Dance and Then: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2011.

Original wording:

Lead down between the 2d and 3d Cu
Lead up to the top cast off
hands round
right and Left at Top

Discussion

Four lines of instruction, with not very meaningful repeat marks at the end of each line.  Is each line 8 bars?  In particular, how can we make “Lead down between the second and third couples” into an 8-bar figure?

Identical wording in John Johnson, and identical repeat marks, so maybe I'm wrong in blaming David Wall for it — he just copied Johnson!

I originally said: Four lines of instruction, with not very meaningful repeat marks at the end of each line.  The music is two lines of four bars, each repeated, so we hope each instruction is 4 bars.  “hands round” does not specify who is involved, so we might expect all three couples, but a circle 6 in 4 bars is very busy, and to follow this with four changes in the next four bars seems frantic.  It's exactly the same problem that we had with “Bonny Cate”.  But then I realised that although each line is four bars there are four beats to the bar rather than the usual two, so in effect they are 8-bar lines.

Interpretation

Format: Longways triple minor or three couples.

A1:
A2:
B1:
B2:

The Roman Reel        The Roman Reel: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2011.

Original wording:

First cu lead out sides For with 2d Lady
same 2d man
promenade the 2d and 3d cu. follow you quite round
set corns and turn lead out sides

Discussion

I don't think I'm going to get far with this one, even though it's short and purports to be four lines of instruction.  Having been reasonably confident about what “Lead out sides” means, I'm now confronted by “Lead out sides with second Lady” and there seems to be the word “For” added above “with”.  Then thrown into the last line we get “set corners and turn lead out sides” which is two 16-bar figures!  And surely you wouldn't do “lead out sides” twice in the same dance.  Maybe I'll stick with the other version!

Interpretation

Format: Longways triple minor or four couples.

A1:
A2:
B1:
B2:

The Russian Dance        The Russian Dance: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2011.

Original wording:

First man cast off and Change places with the 3 Lady
the lady does ye same ?? ?? ?? ?? 
Half right and left and bottom
Lead thro the Top and cast off
Set 3 at top and bottom
set 3 sideways
Swing corners
and swing your partner
1764

Discussion

Lots of questions here, including some words I can't make out but would expect to be “with the 3. Man”.  I'm assuming end of section after “Half right and left and bottom” — there's actually a line-break in the original but not a symbol.  I also assume “and bottom” means “at bottom”. The music is two 8-bar lines each repeated, but it's difficult to see how the dance will fit into 32 bars.  The first four lines seem clear and will take 4 bars each: the first man casts down while the third woman casts up to each other's place, the first woman and third man do the same, to finish with threes at the top improper, ones proper, twos improper.  Then we get the “set 3 and 3” moves that also appear in Harper's Frolick and Loudon.  Finally “Swing corners” and “swing your partner” which will mean turning rather than a pivot swing.  But how do the twos and threes get proper again, and how do we get from 3-1-2 to 2-1-3?  And also I'm suspicious of anything as unusual as that first move — these were the days of standard figures, unlike early Playford, and having couples improper for a long period is highly unlikely.

The Sheffield version is stunningly bogus:

Triple minor.  Longways for as many as will.

A11-41st man cast out and down to left into 3rd woman's place, while 3rd woman turns down and cast up to left into 1st man's place (r.s.).
 5-81st woman cast out and down to right into 3rd man's place, while 3rd man cast out and up to right into 1st woman's place (r.s.).
 
A21-4Partners side.
 5-81st couple lead up between 2nd and 3rd couple through the top and cast into 2nd place, while 2nd couple give right hands to partners, turning half way and moving down to 3rd couple's place (r.s.).
All are now improper.
 
B11-41st woman and 3rd couple hands 3, while 1st man and 2nd couple hands 3, once round, 1st woman and 1st man finishing proper (r.s.).
 5-81st woman and 3rd and 2nd men hands 3, while 1st man and 3rd and 2nd woman hands 3 (r.s.) finishing: 1st couple proper in 2nd couple's place, 3rd couple improper in 1st couple's place, 2nd couple improper in 3rd couple's place.
 
B21-23rd woman and 2nd man take both hands, turn half way, changing places as they do so (r.s.).
 3-43rd man and 2nd woman take both hands, turn half way, changing places as they do so (r.s.).
 5-8Partners turn once around, both hands, and finish proper, having progressed (r.s.).
If you can't see that this is a complete fabrication after the first 8 bars, you're wasting your time reading these notes!  Presumably they would justify interpreting “Half right and left” as “Partners side” by saying that in Cecil Sharp siding you move out to the right, turn and move out to the left — but did they really think that was what it meant?  On the other hand they had no tradition of interpreting dances from the original manuscripts — in those days Sharp's word was law and you danced his interpretations and no-one else's.

After I'd struggled with the instructions for a long time I saw Pat Shaw's interpretation, and realised where I had gone wrong.  The original doesn't mention the third woman casting up.  It's actually two separate moves: the first man cast off (one place, with the second man moving up), then he changes place with the third woman.  Aah!  After his partner has done a similar move the twos are at the top proper, then the threes improper, then the ones at the bottom improper.  And immediately the threes and ones do two changes of a circular hey to finish 2, 1, 3, all proper — just where you would expect everyone to be.  Graham Knight has pointed out that it works better if the first woman and third man cross left shoulder (which is in fact the shoulder nearer to the person they're crossing with) as this flows much better into the two changes.

“Lead thro the Top and cast off” seems straightforward — it's addressed to the ones who are now in second place — but it's immediately followed by “Set 3 at top and bottom”.  So after casting back to second place they need to move out to their own right — man down, lady up — to finish in the middle of lines across.  For preference I would keep turning to my right rather than backing into the lines, but it depends whether you're late or not!

Once again I would use the fancy step rather than just setting twice.  But this is immediately followed by “set 3 sideways”.  The same thing occurs in the traditional dance “Bonny Breast Knot” (Devon and Somerset version) and “Miss Sayers' Allemande” from The Fallibroome Collection, both of which use a kick-balance starting by stepping onto the left foot, so that the ones can leap to the left into middle place on their own sides as the first kick-balance in that position.  My suggestion is that we do the fancy step but in the second half after “left behind, left to the left” we take two steps to the left (right and left) into the new places.  Do it with energy and it will work — I demonstrated it at Sidmouth to confound the sceptics — if you can't manage that, just get there somehow.  Don't forget that the dances in those days were for young people, and it was a chance to show a prospective husband or wife that you were fit and active, which was important then!

Incidentally, Valerie Webster was at my Ashover workshop at Lichfield Folk Festival in 2013 and she was not convinced by the fancy step.  Val teaches baroque dance, which is the period of the Ashover Book, and she says it's like no baroque step she's ever seen.

We have 8 bars left for “ Swing corners — and swing your partner”.  This might well be “Right-hand turn first corner, ones left-hand turn 1¼, right-hand turn second corner, ones left-hand turn ¾”, but given the wording I'll opt for the less busy “Right-hand turn first corner, left-hand turn second corner, ones right-hand turn ¾”.

Interpretation

Format: Longways triple minor or four couples.

A1:First man cast into second place (second man move up); cross with third lady.  First lady cast into second place (second lady move up); cross left shoulder with third man.
A2:Bottom two couples, two changes of a circular hey with hands.  Ones lead up through the twos, cast back to second place, then loop to the right to finish with the man at the top between the twos, lady at the bottom between the threes.
B1:Join hands in lines and fancy step at the end of which ones move to your left to the middle of lines up and down.  Fancy step again.
B2:Ones right-hand turn first corner, left-hand turn second corner, right-hand turn partner ¾.
I would not want to convert this to a three-couple set, but would do it the Scottish way with three working couples in a four couple set: it means after the ones have led the dance twice they need to get down to the bottom sharpish!

Major O'Flacherty        Major O'Flacherty: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2011.

Original wording:

Cast off one cu: and hands 4 at Bottom
cast off and hands 4 at top
lead down two cu: cast up one
right and left
foot it to your partners

Discussion

Four lines of instruction, each of which will fit nicely into eight bars — and then we get “foot it to your partners”!  Is that fair?  It doesn't even have a marker after it, and “right and left” is such a standard finish that I can't see why it got tacked on the end anyway.  The Sheffield version does four changes in six bars and then set to your partner in the last two, but this seems unlikely.  You could do four quick changes in four bars and then the ubiquitous fancy step.  I think I'll just leave it out!

The Sheffield version for B1 has

B1  1‑41st couple lead down the middle (w.s.).
      5‑81st couple lead up and cast into 2nd place (sk. s.), 2nd couple moving up into 1st couple's place.

I don't believe that's what the original means.  I agree that the second line of the original starts “cast off” where it should say “cast up”, but surely “lead down two cu: cast up one” is clear enough.

For modern dancers I've converted the dance to duple minor.

Interpretation

Format: Longways duple minor.

A1:Ones wide cast; twos lead up.  Circle left with the next.
A2:Ones cast up; twos lead down.  Circle left with originals.
B1:Ones lead down the middle past two couples.  Cast up to second place — twos lead up.
B2:Four changes of a circular hey with original couple.

Rockingham Hall        Duke of Perth: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2011.

There is no music for this dance, but John Johnson has a dance “Lord Rockingham's Reel” with almost identical wording.  The tune has many names, the best-known of which is “Duke of Perth”, so I've provided a link to that music.

Original wording:

Turn your Partner with the right hand and Cast off
then turn with the Left hand and cast up again
Cross over two Cu
Lead up and cast off

Discussion

No difficulties of interpretation, but I can't imagine ever calling this dance, which is totally focused on the ones.  The twos move up, move down and move up; the threes do nothing.

Interpretation

Format: Longways triple minor or three couples.

A1:Ones right-hand turn. Cast to second place; twos move up.
A2:Ones left-hand turn. Cast up to original place; twos move down.
B1:Ones cross and cast; twos lead up.  Ones cross and cast below threes — threes stay still.
B2:Ones lead up to the top.  Cast to second place (triple minor) or to the bottom (3 couple set).

Od's Zounds Make Room for Cuckolds        Od's Zounds Make Room for Cuckolds: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

No interpretation.  There are no instructions for this tune.

A Gavot        A Gavot: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

No interpretation.  This isn't the tune for a country dance; it's very different in style and was simply a tune he enjoyed playing.

Links

Ashover Book on MudCat
Ashover Book on Village Music Project
http://livetunebook.qualmograph.org.uk/