BackMad Robin



Now here's a figure I really dislike — at least the way Americans do it in both Contras and Playford-style dances!

The dance “Mad Robin” is very rarely done in England.  Here is Sharp's interpretation, which is what callers in England would probably use:

A11-8First man turns second woman with the right hand, his partner with the left hand and then casts down into second place, second man moving up into first place.
A21-8First woman turns her partner with the left hand, the second man with the right hand and then casts down into second place, second woman moving up into first place (progressive).
B11-4First woman moves up the middle and casts down to the second place; while the first man casts up and moves down the middle into the second place.
5-8First man turns his partner.
B11-4First man moves up the middle and casts down to the same place; while his partner casts up and moves down the middle into the second place.
5-8First man turns his partner.

Let's face it, that's not much of a dance for the twos.  They each get one turn and one move up.  They don't dance with their partner at all — even the moving up occurs at different times.  In the America YouTube videos I've watched, the twos do B2 instead of the ones — but that's not how it would have been done in Playford's time.

So the figure as published has just one couple moving.  Some American choreographers specify “double Mad Robin” but that's unnecessary — I don't know any dance written by an American which uses the single version.  Americans don't like people standing still unnecessarily.

And the crucial word is “cast”.  It's not this eyeball-to-eyeball thing — you turn away from your partner when you move outside the set.  That doesn't mean the ones do a twiddle before their casts in A1 and A2 — if you're already facing down or out you just go.  But in B1 and B2 the ones are facing their partner, so “cast” really does mean they need to turn away to move up or down the outside.

The Playford original, also using the word “cast”, is at www.cdss.org/elibrary/dancing-master/Dance/Play4204.htm

I feel it's a pointless move because you're not doing it with anyone.  I know Americans will disagree with me here, and one American says that a gipsy has a stronger connection than a two-hand turn, but not for me.  I'd be perfectly happy if it were a back-to-back — there you have a connection by making eye contact at the start which says “We're about to dance together”, and although you're not touching the person you get quite close to them, and then as you fall back the eye contact says “that was good — we were moving in unison and we finished together”.  But in the Mad American Robin you're doing a sideways back-to-back with a crab step while looking at someone else!  And in England people don't look at you most of the time; they're more likely to be looking at their feet, or looking sideways to make sure they don't hit anyone while doing the crab step round them.

Finally, if I call a dance containing the Mad American Robin (and there are a few good dances which use it, such as Jim Kitch's “The Lover's Knot”) I refer to it as “shuttle” which conveys the movement whereas “Mad Robin” is a meaningless term until it's been explained.