Graham Christian objects to “Playford says”, since Playford was just the publisher, and the same is true of Johnson, Thompson, Young, etc. There's no evidence that these people edited or even compiled their books; they just published them. In some cases we do know more: Kynaston was the editor (and possibly the composer); Walsh was the publisher. And certainly if Playford were publishing a book by Purcell I would say “Purcell says” rather than “Playford says”. But we don't know who contributed the dances or edited them; the only name we have is Playford so that's what I use. I could say “The instructions in Playford's book say”, but that seems unnecessarily wordy.
My book Playford with a Difference, Volume 1 contains a number of my interpretations, together with my reasoning behind them. There are dances which I've interpreted since that was published, and I'll be putting most of them on this page rather than publishing a Volume 2. There are also a few where I've done very little in the way of interpretation but still feel it's worthwhile publishing them here.
You can find various Playford originals online.
You may find the last two easier because they're written in modern letters, but they aren't necessarily accurate!
You can also find originals of other publishers' books:
Andrew Swaine also has a page on Playford interpretation guildelines.
I've been asked to justify my assertion that “Cross over” always means “Cross and cast”. Take a look at the start of “The Collier's Daughter”.
The first Couple cross over and turn in the second Couple's Place . And then cross over and turn in the third Couple's Place :
There's no mention of casting, but they must get to the next place somehow — either by casting round the other couple or by crossing through them — and I think in the latter case the instructions would have said so.
Or look at “St Albans”. It seems clear that the first half of the figure leaves people where they started. For the B-music we have:
Then cross over and Figure, the 2. Man lead to the wall, and back again, the 2 Wo. do the same at the same time, then all Hands quite round :
Assuming that “2. Man” is a misprint for “2. Men”, the leading out and back and the circle left do not involve any change of position. “Figure” means “Figure of eight” or “Half figure of eight” and in this case it must be a half figure to get the ones back on their own side. So “Cross over” must be the progressive move, which therefore means “cross and cast”.
Or look at “Portsmouth”.
The First Man Hay with the first and second Woman, the first Woman do the same with the first and second Man; then the first Couple cross over and Figure inn; then Right and Left quite round.
The heys in A1 and A2 leave people where they started. “Figure inn” again means a half figure eight, and “Right and Left quite round” also leaves people where they started the move. The only place for a progression is the “cross over”.
Thomas Wilson in “An analysis of country dancing” (1811) gives a diagram showing “Cross over one couple” and “Cross over two couples”.
Nicholas Dukes in “A Concise & Easy Method of Learning the Figuring Part of Country Dances”, published in London in 1752, has a diagram on page 4 of “To cross over and half figure” which shows the ones crossing, looping down below the twos and then doing a half figure eight up through them, finishing in the second couple's place.
I have run workshops on Dance Interpretation at Festivals and Dance Weeks in England and the States — if you'd like one please let me know.
See also my notes on Interpreting dance instructions.
Source: Dancing Master 1st Edition, 1651: John Playford.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2013.
Format: Longways duple minor
Leade up forwards and back . That againe : Set and turn S. . That againe : First Cu. slippe down between the 2. they slipping up . then they slippe downe . hands and go round : The first two men snap their fingers and change places . Your We. as much : Doe these two changes to the last, the rest following. Sides all . That againe : Set and turn S. . That againe : First two on each side, hands and go back, meet againe . Cast off and come to your places : First foure change places with your owne . Hands and goe halfe round : These changes to the last. Armes all . That againe : Set and turn Single . That againe : Men back a D. meet againe . We. as much : First Cu. change with the 2. on the same side . Then change with your owne : These changes to the last.
The tune is a jig with a 4-bar A and a 4-bar B, presumably both repeated. The dance apparently appeared in all editions of The Dancing Master, though it seems highly unlikely that people would still have been dancing it in 1728 when “Up a double”, “Sides” and “Armes” would have been ancient history. As I mention in my Connections notes, many of the progressive longways dances from the first edition had the three standard introductions. We hardly ever dance them now, but I was looking for something different to call at my “Playford for Fun” session at Whitby Folk Week in 2013 and picked on this one. Playford lays out the instructions so that it is clear which go with the A-music and which the B. The underlined dots reassure us that there are two A's and two B's except that the line starting
First Cu. slippe down between the 2. they slipping up has two underlined single dots, but let's assume that's a mistake. So the first figure starts in an absolutely standard manner: Up a double and back, that again, set and turn single, that again. The body of the figure starts with a move reminiscent of the “matchboxes” move in the second figure of “Picking of Sticks”: the ones slip down the middle as the twos slip up the outside, then reverse it, and circle left. The second half needs to progress, and it clearly does. Playford refers to “first two” or “first foure” because at that time a progressive longways dance was started by just the first two couples, the others watching and joining in as the original top couple reached them. We might wonder if
Doe these two changes to the last means that the progressive part is just the B part repeated over and over, with
these two changes meaning the men changing places and then the women, but I would like to think that you do the body of the figure with each couple in turn, otherwise the progression would be perfunctory indeed.
But what about the timing? How can we use up 4 bars (8 beats) on
The first two men snap their fingers and change places? Sharp contrives this by having the first man snap on the second beat of bar 1, the second man on the second beat of bar 2, then four steps to change places. But is that really what Playford meant? Let's see what happens in the other two figures. The second figure has cross with partner and circle left half-way, which I would expect to be 8 steps. The third has cross with neighbour and then with partner — again 8 steps. Sharp gets round this by adding some inventive finger snapping at the start of the second figure, but that still means 8 steps for the circle half-way in the second figure which seems very slow given the liveliness of the dance and tune. In the third figure he adds finger snapping before each half of the move, but who's he kidding? Is it likely that John Playford left all this out? I know Playford is very concise — Sharp takes three pages to explain the dance — but I don't believe he would have left out so much. Surely a more likely explanation is that the underlined dots are wrong, and there is only one B.
One other point worth mentioning is that the final figure leaves everyone improper. I'm assuming throughout the dance that the instructions refer to both couples; I think it was later that the instructions were by default addressed to the first couple. So the second figure is “cast and lead, lead and cast” rather than just the ones casting and leading back up. Similarly I believe
Then change with your owne in the last figure is addressed to the twos as well. So if we've just danced the first turn of the final figure, the original top couple are now progressed and improper when the figure starts again with
Men back a D I'm guessing that the first man would take the instruction as referring to him, though since he's improper he would be taking hands with the next woman and falling back with her. I may yet change my mind about this! For modern use I would start by taking hands four from the top, so everyone except the neutral couples would be improper on alternate turns of the figure. The other concession to modern taste is that I wouldn't run each figure all the way down the set and back. Four or six times through each figure sounds a good compromise, meaning that with an even number of couples everyone will be in at the start of each figure. Of course if there is a neutral couple at the bottom they can join in the three introductions, just as the whole set would have done in 1651 before the top two couples started the body of each figure.
A final thought is that since Playford wrongly indicated two B's in the body of the figure he may well have the same mistake in the introduction, in which case there should be only one “Set and turn single”. I'll assume that, if only to make things easier for the musicians! So I've written the music out with an 8-bar A and a 4-bar B which means the musicians just have to play A B repeatedly, and that's how I've notated the dance in the following instructions.
|A1:||Up a double and back. That again.|
|B1:||(4 bars): Set and turn single.|
|A2:||“Matchboxes”: Ones give two hands and slip down the middle as the twos slip up the outside; reverse. Circle left.|
|B2:||(4 bars): Men snap their fingers and change places; women the same. [Progression. Do A2 + B2 three more times.]|
|A1:||Side right. Side left.|
|B1:||Set and turn single.|
|A2:||Take nearer hand with neighbour and fall back; lead forward. Ones cast and lead back to place, twos follow.|
|B2:||(4 bars) All cross right shoulder with partner, turn right; circle left half-way. [Do A2 + B2 three more times.]|
|A1:||Arm right. Arm left.|
|B1:||Set and turn single.|
|A2:||Men fall back with neighbour; lead forward. Women the same.|
|B2:||(4 bars) Cross with neighbour; cross with partner. [Do A2 + B2 three more times.]|
Source: Dancing Master Volume 3, 1726: John Young.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2009.
Format: Longways triple minor
The first Cu. lead thro' the 2d. Cu. cast up and cast off . The 2d. Cu. do the same : First Cu. cross over and half Figure at top . Then whole Figure with the 3d. Cu. : First Cu. turn all four corners : And then cross over quite round all the 4 corners : Then first Man Heys on his own side and his Partner Heys on hers at the same time . First Cu. leads thro' the 3d. Cu. at bottom and thro' the 2d. Cu. at top and turn his partner :
The instructions say that there are five sections, and the music indeed gives five sections of four bars, each repeated.
I would like to look at this in conjunction with Ravenscroft's Hornpipe, another dance from the same edition:
Note: Each Strain is to be Play'd twice, and the Tune twice through.
First cu. lead thro' the 2d. cu. and cast up and cast off . The 2d. cu. do the same : Then first cu. cross over and half Figure a-top with the 2d. Cu . Then whole Figure at the bottom with the 3d cu : Then First man turn the 3d. Wo. with his Right-hand, and his Partner the 2d. Man with hers, and her Partner with her Right . Then first Wo. turns the 3d. Man with her Right, and the first Man turnes the 2d. Wo. with his Right, and his Partner with his Left :
Then the first Man cross over on the outside the 3d. Wo. and his partner cross on the outside of the 2d. Man, and both cast into the 2d. cu. place . Then first Wo. cross over on the outside the 3d. Man. and the first Man cross on the outside of the 2d. Wo, and both cast into the 2d. cu. place : Then the first Man Heys with the 3d. cu. and the 2d. Wo. Heys with the 2d. cu. a-top . Then the Man the same a-top, and the Woman the same at bottom : Then Right-hand and left quite round with the 2d. cu. a-top . Then lead thro' the 3d. and turn your Partner :
The instructions to the two dances are quite similar, but Ravenscroft's is more explicit about the instructions and the timing — it says there are three 4-bar phrases each repeated and the whole tune is then repeated, giving 6 x 8 bars for once through the dance. Bulock's implies that there are five 4-bar phrases each repeated, giving 5 x 8 bars. Both tunes are in triple-time. Ravenscroft's appears in Fallibroome 6.
“Bulock” and “Ravenscroft” are both in italics, indicating that these are men's names.
A1: Ones lead through twos and cast up, then cast as twos lead up (12 steps).
A2: Twos repeat with ones.
I originally had “Twos repeat with threes” but I didn't mean that — thanks to Norman Bearon for pointing it out to me!
B1: Ones cross and cast, twos lead up (6 steps). Ones half figure eight up.
B2: Ones full figure eight down through threes (12 steps).
So far this is identical to Ravenscroft.
C1/2: “First couple turn all four corners” (24 steps). Ravenscroft's has Ones turn first corner right, partner left (in my opinion, though it actually says right), second corner right, partner left. Six steps for each sounds reasonable, and though the ones each turn two corners, together they turn all four corners. Let's go along with that (as Bernard Bentley does).
D1/D2: “And then cross over quite round all the four corners” (24 steps). Ravenscroft's has “Then the first man cross over on the outside the 3d. Wo. and his partner cross on the outside of the 2d. Man, and both cast into the 2d. Cu. place . Then first Wo. cross over on the outside the 3d. Wo. and first Man cross on the outside of the 2d. Man, and both cast into the 2d. Cu. place : ” I suggest these are describing the same figure, and again I go along with Bentley: Ones cross, turn right, man round the third lady and man, lady round the second man and lady, back to second place. Repeat going left, round the other couple. This time each person really does go round all four corners.
Now the two dances differ significantly. Bulock's has: “Then first Man Heys on his own side and his Partner Heys on hers at the same time . The first Cu. leads thro' the 3d. Cu. at bottom and thro' the 2d. Cu. at top and turn his partner : ”
Hey on the side can be done in twelve steps, though you need to start with the ones going down through the threes to make the following move feasible. I believed that Lead down, cast up, lead up, cast down could be done in twelve steps, but when we tried it the dancers thought otherwise — and there's no time for a turn. In fact I think there's a number of dances which glibly throw “and turn” at the end of a set of moves which doesn't allow any time for a turn. So what do we do? The usual answer is to leave out the turn, but if we compare with Ravenscroft's we see that the lead up and cast doesn't appear there, so next time I try it I'll leave that out instead.
As with many triple minors, the threes don't do much, so to my mind it's better danced now as a three couple longways. The only change needed is that the ones turn to the bottom as the threes move up or cast up.
Each paragraph is four bars of 3-time: 12 steps.
|A1:||Ones lead through twos and cast up, then cast as twos lead up.|
|A2:||Twos repeat with ones.|
|B1:||Ones cross and cast, twos lead up. Half figure eight up.|
|B2:||Ones full figure eight down through threes.|
|C1:||Ones turn first corner right hand, partner left.|
|C2:||Ones turn second corner right hand, partner left.|
|D1:||Ones cross left, turn right, round this couple and back to second place.|
|D2:||Ones cross right, turn left, round the other couple and back to second place.|
|E1:||Ones down through threes: symmetrical reels of three up and down. (Morris hey except ends don't cast at start)|
|E2:||Ones lead down through threes and cast up. Ones two-hand turn to bottom, threes cast up.|
|Modified from triple minor.|
Source: Dancing Master 3rd Edition, 1657: John Playford.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2011, modified 2013. Format: Square.
Meet all in and fall back, set each to his own . Lead up all a Square, fall back and set to your own : The first and third Cu. change places with their women while the second and fourth Cu. meet and clap back to back, the first man and 3. wo. meet the second Cu. and the first wo. and 3. man meet the 4. Cu. the first man and and third wo. take hands round with the 2. Cu. and the 1. wo. and 3. man take hands round with the 4. Cu. and go half round, the first man give his right hand to the third wo. whilst the second man gives his right hand to his own wo. the first man gives his left hand to the second man and turn a whole turn, and the third wo. give her left hand to the second wo. and turn a whole turn and then turn your own the first wo. and 3. man do as much to the fourth Cu. all at one time together, and the second and fourth Cu. do the same to the first and third Cu. :
Sides all with your own . Set to your own : That again : Men take your we. by both hands and put all back to back, then change places all with your own we. then we. give right hands across and go half way round, whilst the men go on the outside the contrary way till you meet your we. and fall back with your own we. into the contrary place . Men do the same as the we. did, whilst the we. go on the outside as the men did, till you come to your places :
Arms all with your own, set to your own . That again : Men take all the co. we. by the hand and lead out, then lead back again, give all right hands to the Co. and left to the next, and right and left till you meet the same again . Then lead out again with the same, and give right and left hands till you come to your own places :
I thought I'd been calling Cecil Sharp's version for many years, with one change of my own, but people asked me to put my version on the website and when I looked at the original wording I decided to make some other changes. I then discovered that I wasn't calling Sharp's version of the first figure, but the way I had learnt it from other callers! The version I learnt is that described in Palmer's Pocket Playford and I believe that's how everybody was doing it when I started dancing. In fact Sharp admits:
Playford's description of the First Part is so obscure, that the editors would probably have omitted the dance altogether, had it not been such an interesting and beautiful one.
Sharp then gives two interpretations of the first figure, though he says the second is less probable. Let's see what we make of it.
As always, Playford is scanty with the details. “Meet all in and fall back” — do we take hands in the circle, or just with partner, or none at all? And why does he add that word “in”? Sharp is equally scanty:
All move forward a double and fall back a double to places
and Palmer is even scantier:
Meet, fall back
This sounds as if it means without hands, but why? It's the introduction to the first figure — the equivalent of “Up a double and back”, just as the second figure starts with siding and the third with arming — so I would at least take my partner's hand. But these are minor points compared with the next instruction: “Lead up all a Square, fall back”. Does Playford really mean that the entire square moves up a double towards the presence and back? To describe such an unusual move in a mere seven words seems so unlikely that I don't believe it. Sharp and Palmer (and everybody else except, I believe, Ken Sheffield) interpret this as lead out a double with partner and fall back. I'm happy to go along with this. Perhaps Playford was addressing the direction of movement to the first man, who does indeed lead up, and the others are expected to make the corresponding adjustment. It also explains why Playford adds that extra “in” the first time, though I wish he'd said “out” the second time.
I find people are very hesitant about falling back a double after leading out, though they do it confidently when leading in, so I usually point out that they're falling back to where they've just come from and therefore they know there isn't anybody to collide with.
Now we get to the part that baffled Sharp. Playford is very clear in his instructions, but remember that in Playford's time the square was numbered clockwise rather than the later American anti-clockwise — the twos are on the left of the ones. So if the ones change places with their partners the first man is headed towards the fours, not the twos. Sharp suggests that possibly the couples all started improper, though there seems no reason for that, and his second interpretation is the one that everybody uses: instead of the head couples just passing each other by they do (in effect) a gipsy right, moving away from each other at the end to stand facing their corner. Meanwhile the sides lead in — everybody seems to ignore the word “clap” — and face out, so you can form circles on the side of the set. Agreed it's not what Playford says, but it does get you all to the right person and there's certainly enough time for it provided the heads finish the gipsy facing away from each other.
After the half circles, Playford says
the first man give his right hand to the third wo. and so on — typically he doesn't tell the women which hand to use — and Sharp interprets this as a right-hand turn half-way, which I agree is the only sensible interpretation though I don't understand why Playford doesn't say so. This gets everybody close to their home place, though still working in groups of four at each side of the set. He then says
the first man gives his left hand to the second man and turn a whole turn, and the third wo. give her left hand to the second wo. and turn a whole turn and surely the only interpretation for this is a left-hand star, though neither Playford nor Sharp says so — let's give a point to Palmer who actually says
L hands across once round. And after turning partners in home place, the same figure is led by the sides.
Because the first figure is 48 bars (6 lines of music) and the other two are the standard 32 bars, Sharp directed the musicians to play ABABAB…, presumably to make it easier for them. But that doesn't fit the dance movements at all. The leading, stepping and honouring are A1, and much the same move must surely be A2. The same with the second and third figures. I ask musicians to play AA BBBB for the first figure and then AA BB for the second and third figures, and although they give me funny looks they usually manage to do what I ask. I'm pleased to say that Bare Necessities have recorded my version of the music on Volume 5 of their “At Home” CD — Gene Murrow phoned me from the recording studio in the States to check it! See their full list of CDs. Playford isn't totally clear with the underlined dots — he suggests that the first figure moves B1-4 are all done in a single B — but you can see that generally he expects two A's and two B's.
Another thing that Sharp standardised was always crossing by the right shoulder. This is a good general rule, but sometimes it flies in the face of the figure. In the second figure Playford says:
Men take your we. by both hands and put all back to back, then change places all with your own we. then we. give right hands across… Assuming the men are standing on the left, and putting their women in the quickest way, the dancers are moving anti-clockwise. Sharp doesn't actually say which shoulder to cross by, but when I started dancing everybody taught it as crossing right shoulder, which is an abrupt change of direction in quite a fast figure — it looks and feels awkward. I believe it's much more natural to cross left shoulder. Then there's the further complication that the instructions continue with the women doing a right-hand star half-way — but they have just moved to the outside. Sharp adds that partners change places again, which I'm happy to go along with, but if both of these crosses are by the right shoulder everyone is now facing the wrong way for the next move. Left shoulder solves everything. I had been calling it this way for several years when I danced it to Philippe Callens and instead of “Cross left shoulder. Cross left shoulder again.” he said “Gipsy left”. I don't know whether he picked up the left shoulder crossing from me — he may well have come up with the idea himself — but using the work “Gipsy” (or “Gypsy” for Americans) is so much clearer and quicker. In the second part where the women put the men in you're already moving clockwise, so a gipsy right works fine. Just make sure the dancers keep moving throughout the figure; some people seem to want to stop before the gipsy and there's no time for that.
In the third figure Sharp originally had each man lead his corner out with his right hand to her left (their nearer hands if they are facing out), change hands and lead back, then the woman has to change hands for the grand chain. In a set of corrections he changed this to leading out right hand in right, falling back, and the right hands are already joined for the chain. I can't see why he changed his mind, but I followed Sharp for years — I don't change things just to be awkward you know. On the other hand Playford certainly says “lead back again” whereas in the first figure he says “fall back”, and in 2013 Neil Stuart read these notes and suggested that the lead out with corner should be right hand in right, keep hold and lead back. This makes a lot of sense, especially as after the first half of the grand chain both men and women are approaching their corner with the right hand, so I'm now changing my version to that. Agreed, Playford says “give all right hands to the Co. and left to the next, and right and left till you meet the same again” but I think he's just spelling out what we would call a grand chain (grand right and left in American Square terminology) rather than implying that you don't already have right hands joined with your corner.
|A1:||Lead partner in a double; fall back. Step right and honour; left.|
|A2:||Lead out; fall back. Step and honour.|
|B1:||Sides lead in and about turn while heads gipsy right and finish in front of your corner. In these fours circle left half-way, face up and down (head lines); give right hand to opposite and cross over.|
|B2:||In same fours, left-hand star. Two-hand turn partner.|
|B3/4:||Heads lead in, sides gipsy right, etc.|
|A1:||Side right. Step and honour.|
|A2:||The same left.|
|B1:||Give two hands to partner and men put the ladies into the middle (4 steps); gipsy left with partner, flowing into ladies right-hand star half-way, men round the outside (the other way) half-way and re-form the square (12 steps).|
|B2:||Give two hands to partner and ladies put the men in; gipsy right; men left-hand star half-way, men round the outside (the other way) half-way to meet partner in home position.|
|A1:||Arm right. Step and honour.|
|A2:||The same left.|
|B1:||Give corner right hand: lead out; lead back. Grand chain half-way (skip-change step).|
|B2:||Same, finishing with left hand in partner's to honour.|
Source: Dancing Master 12th Edition, 1703: Henry Playford.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2010.
Format: Longways duple minor
The first Man goes back to back with the second Woman; then turn Right-hands with her; the first Woman and second Man do the same. The first couple take both Hands and go half round, and back again; then cross over and half Figure, then all four quite round. The first strain twice, and the second once, and Repeat.
I originally had this down as Henry Playford 1703, then Michael Barraclough told me it was Walsh, then Les Barclay told me I was right the first time! Here's the wording from Walsh: Compleat Country Dancing Master 1718-1760. Playford spells it “Cookow”, Walsh spells it “Cuckow”, and to add to the confusion there is a different dance with a different tune called called The Cuckoo (or Smith's Rant) in Playford 3rd Edition which you can see here with a clearer copy from the 10th edition here.
I can't really claim this as my own interpretation — I picked the dance up many years ago, and the original instructions are so clear that there's only one point I want to question. But as far as I know the dance hasn't been published in a modern book, and it deserves to be, if only for the terrific tune which has echoes of Handel's “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” and is not one to give to your average band!
There are no repeat marks in the original music, but there's a letter “S” above the start of what I'm calling the C-music which performs the same function. Assuming that “all four quite round” means circle left, the only unusual phrase is “The first couple take both Hands and go half round, and back again”. Surely if he'd just meant “two-hand turn” he would have said so. It certainly sounds like a two-hand turn half-way and then a reverse two-hand turn half-way, which is actually no stranger than Cecil Sharp siding! I learnt it with both couples doing a two-hand turn all the way but with a slight hesitation half-way to “listen to the cuckoo”, and the version of the music I use has some “cuckoos” added to the original which makes this feasible. From Francis Carter I picked up the rise on the toes and fall back at this point — it's totally inauthentic but dancers in England enjoy it.
|A1:||First corners back-to-back. Right-hand turn (skip-change step).|
|A2:||Second corners the same.|
|B:||All two-hand turn partner, half-way, pause to listen to the cuckoo (rise on toes and fall back, in time with music); reverse turn half-way with the same pause. Ones cross, go below twos who lead up.|
|C:||Ones dance half figure eight up through twos. Circle left once around (slip-step).|
|The two-hand turn was originally for the ones only.|
Source: Thompson, 1776.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2018.
Format: Triple minor or 4 couples longways (three active).
The dance was republished in the Apted Book of 1931, edited by by William Porter, Marjorie and Arthur Heffer. They converted it to duple minor, using the original tune which is a lively jig, and it is still very popular in this form. The editors say in their introduction:
Actual alteration of the figures has been avoided as far as possible, but in several cases the original instructions have been expanded and supplemented, as will be seen from the notes appended to each dance… The original dances are, without exception, triple-minor progressives for as many as will, but when — as frequently happens — the third couple takes almost no part in the figure, the Editors have not hesitated to re-arrange the dance for duple-minor sets.
I totally agree with this approach, and if I call the dance I would normally use their version (in fact I would have both corners setting in the A part), but if I'm specifically running a session on Regency Dance I want to give the dancers an idea of how it was actually danced in 1776, so let's study the original.
The music has a 4-bar A and an 8-bar B, both repeated. The first thing we notice is that the Apted book has expanded this to two 8-bar A's (without mentioning the fact). The editors must have decided that two bars was not enough time for a two-hand turn, so they've added a fall back after the set and added an extra four bars for the turn. But dances were vigorous in those days, and these days I'm always complaining that people do a two-hand turn too quickly, so here's a case where they won't have a chance to get there too soon! In fact in “Top and Bottom” from an unnamed original before 1750 there's exactly the same move, and Bernard Bentley in Fallibroome 4, 1971 obviously thinks the timing isn't a problem in a single 8-bar A-music:
A2 1st man set to 2nd woman and turn her. 1st woman set to 2nd man and turn him.
As usual the original doesn't mention details like what hand you use for the lead down and back, so I'm happy to use the Apted Book suggestions, but they wouldn't have walked down and danced back — it would have been danced all the way through, as Scottish dances still are. Provided you're aware that you have to come back and cast in the same amount of music as for the lead down, it's really not a problem — just make sure that at the end of the four bar phrase you have already turned and are ready to dance back a little faster than when leading down.
The clapping would have been just for the ones, on the principle that the other couples only do something when the ones need them to. And the editors have noted that instead of the turn single (for the ones only) they have substituted a two-hand turn half-way for both couples.
Now the threes get an implicit mention. I believe that “hands 6 round” means circle left and back to the right. Then just the ones clap four times, and again there's that quick turn all the way round in two bars — and the man needs to be ready to start the next turn of the dance by setting to the new second lady. Yes, it's busy, but it's not impossible. I called this version at a Jane Austen Evening for Friday Folk in Saint Albans (a lively group) in 2018 and it worked fine.
A triple minor takes a long time if you want everybody to have a chance to be ones, so I suggest the Scottish approach of a 4 couple set. The top couple lead the figure once with the two couples below them, at the end of which they have progressed one place. The same couple then lead the figure with the two couples now below them. At the end of the second turn the new top man and second lady are ready to dance together while the original ones cast to the bottom. Eight times through gets everyone back to their original place, having led the dance twice. It's a good system, so don't throw up your hands in horror and say “But that's Scottish” — where do you think Scottish dancing comes from?!
|A:||First man set on the spot to the second lady; they dance a quick two-hand turn. First lady set to second man; two-hand turn.|
|B1:||(12 bars): Ones right hand in right dance down the middle and turn in to face up. Dance back with a cross-hand hold, cast round the twos (who lead up). Ones clap 4 times; turn single.|
|B2:||Circle 6 left (slip). Circle right. Ones clap 4 times; quick two-hand turn.|
Source: Heathfield Memorials, 1821-1831: Sylvan Harmer.
Interpretation: Colin Hume..
Format: 4 couples longways. Music: I suggest 4 x 48 bar polkas such as Bluebell Polka.
|A1:||Top lady bottom man two-hand turn. Partners same.|
|A2:||Top lady bottom man set moving forward; fall back. Others same.|
|B1:||Same people gipsy right [or back-to-back].|
|A3:||Ones cross, go below twos. Cross again, below threes.|
|A4:||Cross again, below fours. Cross to own side, lead to top.|
|B2:||Ones cast, others follow. Ones arch at bottom, others up.|
Sylvan Harmer (1803-1884) lived in the village of Heathfield in Sussex. Between 1821 and 1831 he wrote a manuscript which later became the book “Heathfield Memorials” detailing his life there, and in an appendix he gave the instructions of some of the country dances he remembered dancing. You can see more information at the end of harmer.org/JONATHAN%20HARMER2.pdf. I was staying with Jan Nuttall who lived in Heathfield and she showed me the book, so I tried my hand at interpreting some of the dances. Many of them seemed to have far too much in them, and they all had several titles, no doubt depending on which tune was used. I don't have the original wording to show you (and since copies were selling at £80 each in 1992 I don't plan on buying one), but the dance as I interpreted it has many similarities to “Sir Roger de Coverley”.
There are at least two other dances called “Country Bumpkin” — one by Mike Barraclough is a 5 couple longways having no connection with this one; the other an 8 couple longways in a book called “The Heathfield Dances” by Harold Downing purports to be an interpretation but he admits it is mainly spurious.
All four Sett to your Partners and turn S. and hands four half round . All four Sett to your Partners and turn S. and hands four half round into your own places : The 2. Man go back to back, the Woman the same at the same time, then right and left with your Partners quite round . The 1. cu. go the Figure through into their own places, then right and left with your Partners which brings the 1. cu. into the 2. cu. place :
The dance was republished by Walsh in 1718 as “Dampier” with slight differences in the tune. Heather Clarke, dance historian from Australia, points out that William Dampier was the first Englishman to explore Australia and gave his name to a major port in Western Australia. He died in 1715, so maybe this is Walsh's acknowledgement of his importance. Walsh also published “Dam it” around 1735, which has the same tune as Dampier but is a different dance, interpreted by Tom Cook in his book “Again Let's Be Merry” in 1979. “Damme” is pronounced as two syllables: “Damm-ee”, short for “Damn me” — you can hear it in “H.M.S. Pinafore” when the Captain discovers his daughter is in love with a common sailor.
The music has a 4-bar A and an 8-bar B, both repeated according to the underlined dots in the instructions, and gives every indication of being a dotted hornpipe — the sort of tune you would use for “Nottingham Swing”. Playford never mentions the steps, but I would not consider a walking step to a tune like this: it needs to be a step-hop or a 1-2-3-hop, the latter covering more ground.
So how do you do a set and turn single to a dotted hornpipe?! I tried doing the set as 1-2-3-hop to the right, 1-2-3-hop to the left (like RSCDS Strathspey setting) but that only leaves one 1-2-3-hop for the turn single and another for the circle left half-way. It can be done but it's quite awkward, and anyway I would expect the set to take the same amount of music as the turn single. John Playford defined only three steps in his first edition:
A Double is foure steps forward or back, closing both feet.
A Single is two steps, closing both feet.
Set and turne single, is a single to one hand, and a single to the other, and turne single.
The “turne single” does not mean a single as defined above; it means “on your own” and is actually a double!
The singles (also called simples) and doubles come from the Brawle (Branle), Basse Dance and Pavan(e) of earlier times. Indeed the Pavan was built solely on two singles and a double, and there are hopped simples and doubles in some of the Brawles in “Orchesography” by Thoinot Arbeau, published in 1589. So my suggestion for the set and turn single to this rhythm is: step on the right foot, somewhat out to the right, hop on the right foot, similarly left, then turn clockwise on the spot with a 1-2-3-hop. The step-hop for the set seems to fit the music well, as this starts with three long notes before the dotted rhythm comes in. I would use the same footwork but starting on the left foot (step-hop, step-hop, 1-2-3-hop) for the circle left half-way, which means you are ready to step onto the right foor and repeat all this.
I'm sure that “The 2. Man go back to back, the Woman the same at the same time” should read “Men” and “Women” rather than “Man” and “Woman”. If Playford had wanted the second couple to do a back-to-back with each other he would surely have said so, and it's very rare for the second couple suddenly to take the lead like that. A back-to-back probably needs four bars, though you could do a 1-2-3-hop forwards and moving right, then fall back on the second 1-2-3-hop. That leaves four bars for four changes of a circular hey. I would use two 1-2-3-hops for each half of the back-to-back, though of course you could use step-hop, step-hop, 1-2-3-hop, and probably in Playford's time people would have used both; the steps were not codified and improvisation was encouraged. For the four changes I think you need 1-2-3-hop for each change.
“The 1. cu. go the Figure through” means a figure eight or half figure eight down through the twos, and “into their own places” means it's a full one. Can you do that with four bars of 1-2-3-hop? Certainly you can, if you go for it and make sure the hop is travelling forwards (as in a Strathspey) rather than up and down. And the final move must be three changes instead of four since the instructions end “which brings the 1. cu. into the 2. cu. place”. I would still phrase it to the music: one bar for each of the first two changes and two bars for the final change which is in effect half a right-hand turn with partner.
|A1:||(4 bars): All set to partner (R-hop, L-hop); turn S. (R-2-3-hop). Circle left half-way (L-hop, R-hop L-2-3-hop).|
|A2:||All that again.|
|B1:||Back-to-back neighbour (two steps forward, two back). Four changes of a circular hey, one step per change.|
|B2:||Ones full figure eight down through twos — very fast. Three changes of a circular hey.|
|The A section is all danced with a step-hop, step-hop, 1-2-3-hop; the B section is all danced with a 1-2-3-hop.|
The 1. cu. cross over, and the 2. cu. cast off . Then change places across : Then cast up in your own places, and back to back, then Right and Left and turn .
Cecil Sharp had two goes at interpreting Dick's Maggot: the first had two B's and the second one B. He printed the music with two B's, which means that every so often I forget to tell the band and have to apologise profusely to the dancers. Of course, now I can tell the band they should have been playing from my book “Playford with a Difference” where this interpretation was originally published!
Cecil Sharp's version is certainly difficult, and some people like it for that very reason. Now don't get me wrong; it's not that I can't do the Sharp version, it's just that I find it very awkward — it's jerky and it doesn't flow. Then I danced Pat Shaw's interpretation and it seemed a totally different dance, so as soon as I had the chance I looked at the original wording. The tune is in three-time, with a 4-bar A music and an 8-bar B-music, and the underlined dots certainly imply that there are two A's and one B, giving a standard length of 16 bars. Sharp's original version took 24 bars, but his revised version (which is the one most people do) compresses the first 16 bars into 8. However, even if he's got the right amount of music he isn't breaking between the A and B where Playford did. Playford starts the B with
Then cast up in your places whereas Sharp squeezes the cast and back to back into the A, and then has to do the final two-hand turn twice around to use up the music.
Why did he come to this conclusion? Firstly he didn't realise that
cross over meant “cross over and cast below the next couple”. Of course, it's much easier with hindsight! So he has the first couple crossing over (3 steps) and then leading down while the twos cast up (3 steps). But Playford says
cast off which in my opinion means cast down, not up — Playford actually uses
cast up in the B section. Of course, if the ones cross and cast they will be below the twos, who can then cast off. Playford allows four bars (twelve steps) for
The first couple cross over, and the second couple cast off. So we could have six steps for the ones to cross and cast while the twos lead up, then six steps for the twos to cast back home and the ones to lead back to first place improper.
Next we come to
Then change places across which Playford says is A2. You really can't take twelve steps to cross over with your partner, even if you use Sharp's trick of putting in a “balance back” to fill up some of the music, and I suspect this is why he brought some of the B instructions forward to fill out the A. Pat Shaw's version has a “corners cross” movement, which fits the amount of music perfectly; the same move appears in the three-time “Hole in the Wall”. But in this dance the ones are now improper, which means that the men cross with each other and the women with each other. I feel that if Playford had meant this he would actually have said “The two men cross, then the two women” — it would have been an obvious way to describe the move. However, let's leave that point for the moment. We finish with the twos improper, and the ones below them proper.
Playford's B instructions are
Then cast up in your places, and back to back, then Right and Left and turn for which there are eight bars. Instructions are addressed to the ones unless it says otherwise, and indeed the ones are in a position to cast up. You couldn't do a cast and a back to back in six steps, so it must be six steps for the cast up and six for the back to back. We then have twelve steps left for
Right and Left and turn. Two changes of a circular hey at three steps each leaves six steps for a two-hand turn. Pat Shaw has the twos turning once and the ones turning one and a half (quite difficult in just six steps). I know I have a similar thing at the end of my interpretation of “The 29th of May”, but it spoils the symmetry of the dance — as does the fact that the ones cross and cast in A1 but the twos just cast. So my suggestion is that Playford meant the twos to cross and cast as well. I realise this is laying me wide open to attack, since Playford clearly says “cast off”. Maybe when he said “cast off” he meant “cast off in the same way as the ones have just done, by crossing first”. Try it my way and see what you think.
Playford doesn't say which corners cross first. The standard is that first corners (first man, second lady) cross first provided they are in their original positions; if they aren't, there's no standard as far as I know. I've decided it flows better with the original second corners (now in first corner position) crossing first; it would be awkward for the second lady, having just cast into second man's place, to do a right shoulder cross with the first man who is in the first lady's place.
No doubt the back to back was for the ones alone, but my version has the twos doing it as well; tastes in dancing have changed since the 17th century after all.
|A:||Ones cross and cast, twos wait two beats and then lead up (6 steps); twos cross and cast, ones lead up.|
|A2||First corner positions (second man first lady) “Hole in the Wall” cross (6 steps). First man second lady cross.|
|B:||Ones cast up, twos wait two beats and then lead down (6 steps). All back-to-back partner (6 steps).|
|Two changes of a circular hey with hands (3 steps per hand). Two-hand turn partner half-way and fall back slightly (6 steps).|
The first Man Sets to the Second Woman and turns single, and then Back to Back with her . The second Man and the first Woman do the same : Then the first and second Man fall back to the Wall, and the two Women the same at the same time, and change into their Partners Places, then all four fall back and change into their own Places . Then cast off, and go the whole Figure with the third Couple, and turn your Partner into her proper Place :
No major difficulties of interpretation here. The music has an A and B section of 8 bars each, and the instructions say that each is repeated. We assume that
the first and second Man should be “Men”. We might take
go the whole Figure with the third Couple to mean a double figure eight, but I don't think so — in this case “with” just means “using” since the ones are in second place and would have a choice of couple to use as posts. The only thing that worries me is that it specifies
the whole Figure and that seems unreasonably quick: 8 bars for the ones to cast, do a full figure of eight down through the threes and two-hand turn all the way. Indeed the phrase
into her proper Place suggests that the ones finish the move improper, otherwise why mention it? So I think it should be a half figure eight.
The threes do nothing except act as posts, so I would certainly not do this as a triple minor. We can convert it to a duple minor, with the ones doing the half figure eight down through the next twos, but I think it's better to do it the Scottish way of three working couples in a four couple set. That's more faithful to the original, and when the ones finish their second round in third place they can unobtrusively cast to the bottom while the new first man is setting to the second woman.
|A1:||First man set to second woman; turn single. Back-to-back with her.|
|A2:||Second man set to first woman; turn single. Back-to-back.|
|B1:||Ones and twos fall back with neighbour (4 small steps); surge to cross with partner and face partner. That again.|
|B2:||Ones cast, twos lead up (4 steps); ones half figure eight down through the threes (8 steps); two-hand turn half-way (4 steps).|
The first Couple go the whole Figure of Eight with the second Couple, and then cross over and turn . Then the other Couple do the same : then cross over and Back to Back, then Right and Left quite round.
The instructions have a repeat for A, and the A and B music are each 16 bars, giving an unusually long 64 bar figure.
It looks straightforward, but there are at least three other interpretations. Bob Brand has done one but he didn't realise that “cross over” means “cross and cast” and he did some unusual stuff in the second part. Graham Christian has a much more unlikely version in CDSS News — he admitted that this was a very loose interpretation and if he looked at it now he would come up with something different. Andrew Shaw likes to keep everyone moving, so he has double figure eights and both couples doing the turns both times, which I think spoils the dance. It is quite clear that for the first eight bars the ones are doing the figure and the twos are watching them (and possibly learning the figure). In the second eight bars the twos do exactly the same. We seem to be losing the concept of watching the active couple — if we're not moving we think we're not part of the dance.
I don't think there's much doubt what John Young intended for the first half. The ones do a full figure of eight down through the twos. The ones cross and cast, twos moving up, and the ones two-hand turn. There's certainly enough music for a turn all the way, leaving the ones improper. It's possible that it should be 1½ to finish proper; we'll reserve judgement until we see what happens later. The twos do the same, finishing with the ones above the twos, probably with both couples improper.
The ones again cross and cast, again with the twos moving up, then the ones do a back-to-back, so they are below the twos on their original side — just where you would expect them to finish the dance. And then four changes of a circular hey. That's fine for the ones, but the twos are still improper. And if we decided the turn in the first half was 1½, we would now have the twos proper but the ones improper, so that won't help.
Andrew has the twos doing a right-hand turn half-way as they move up, but this strikes me as very unlikely (and not surprisingly they sometimes forget to do it). Remember the basic principle: the twos (and threes, for a triple minor) are only there to help the ones as needed. See the comments on the section Adapting Triple Minor Dances. So my suggestion is that the ones do four changes but the twos only join in as needed, in other words starting with the second change. Is it right? I don't know. Is it more likely than other suggestions? I'll leave you to decide!
|A1:||Ones full figure eight through the twos.|
|Ones cross and cast; twos lead up. Ones two-hand turn.|
|A2:||Twos the same, all finishing improper.|
|B:||Ones cross and cast; twos lead up. Ones back-to-back.|
|Ones do four changes of a circular hey — twos don't join in until the second change.|
The duple minor version by A. Simons in the “Kentish Hops” collection is so well known that most people would never think of questioning it. But it has action outside the minor set — everyone doing a right-hand turn on the right diagonal — which would have been unthinkable in 1801. And when we look at the original wording we see that it finishes with “swing corners”, which is a triple minor figure. You find that for instance in “The Bath Waltz”, with the comment from Alan Winston that “a lot of the [Regency period] waltz-time dances are 48 bars and have 16 bars of swing corners in them”. And now we notice that the tune as printed actually is 48 bars — it has an 8-bar A and a 16-bar B, both repeated.
So the swing corners will take the second B. Allemande had various meanings, but the most likely one here is that the ones link right arms, stretch those hands behind their partner's back to take their partner's left hand and turn once around (paying great attention to their partner), then back with a left allemande. Four bars for each of those, so before that we have the ones leading down (either moving forward with inside hands joined, or moving sideways with both hands joined), leading back, and (implicitly) casting to second place. All of that is the first B. So for the two A's we need a right-hand star for eight bars and a left-hand star for eight bars rather than the four bars of the Simons version — that's really going to fool people! But this split of figures ties up with the underlined dots in the instructions — they're not too helpful but they do split the action into three chunks and those are the chunks I'm using as A1&2, B1 and B2. It's very difficult to take the full 8 bars, so I'm suggesting a fall back on the last two waltz steps. Please note that the music linked to above does not have the repeat marks for the B-music. Susan de Guardiola disagrees with this version on several points.
A triple minor (especially a 48-bar waltz figure) takes a long time if you want everybody to have a chance to be ones, so I suggest the Scottish approach of a 4 couple set. The top couple lead the figure once with the two couples below them, at the end of which they have progressed one place. The same couple then lead the figure with the two couples now below them. At the end of the second turn the new ones and twos are ready to dance together while the original ones cast to the bottom. Eight times through gets everyone back to their original place, having led the dance twice. It's a good system, so don't throw up your hands in horror and say “But that's Scottish” — where do you think Scottish dancing comes from?!
|A1:||Ones and twos right-hand star (6 waltz steps) and fall back to the side-lines (2 waltz steps).|
|A2:||Left-hand star and fall back.|
|B1:||(16 bars): Ones give two hands, chassée two steps down; two up. Ones cast; twos lead up.|
|Ones right allemande. Left allemande.|
|B2:||Ones right-hand turn first corner. Left-hand turn partner 1½. Right-hand turn second corner. Left-hand turn partner 1½.|
This is a long dance when done as a triple minor, so for an inauthentic performance I would probably do it the Scottish way in a 4-couple set, and at the end of each active couple's second turn they would finish with a left-hand turn to the bottom while the bottom couple move up.
Source: Caledonian Country Dances, 3rd Ed., c. 1733: John Johnson.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, around 1995
Format: Longways duple minor
The Sailor's Delight
The 1. cu. back to back with the 2. cu, and back to back with their own Partners. This to the first Strain played once. The 1. cu. turn the 2. cu. and turn their own. This to the first Strain played twice. Meet and set all four, turn S. and clap hands all four, go quite round. This to the second Strain played once. The 1. cu. go the Figure through the 2. cu, and cross over and turn their own Partners. This to the second Strain played twice.
The first Couple Back to Back with the second Couple, and then with their partners. This to the first Strain play'd once. The first Couple turn the second Couple, then turn their own. This to the first Strain play'd twice. Meet all four and Sette, then turn single and clap Hands, all four going quite round. This to the last Strain play'd once. The first Couple go the figure through the second Couple, and cross over and turn their own Partners. This to the last Strain play'd twice.
The 1st cu. back to back with the 2d cu. and back to back with their own Partners . The 1st cu turn the second cu. and turn their own Partners : Meet and sett, all four turn single and clap hands, all four go quite round . The 1st cu. go the Figure thro' the 2d cu. and cross over, and turn their own partners :
I don't have the wording for the A part to hand, but I know it's very similar to the previous two. Here's the B part:
Meet all four and sett, then turn single and clap hands all four going quite round . Then the 1st Cu. go the figure thro' the 2nd Cu. and cross over and turn their own partners :
I know of four dances with exactly the same figures — this happened quite a lot in the eighteenth century. The first The Sailor's Delight from the Dancing Master of 1696. The second is Sadler's Well from the Dancing Master Volume 3, 17th Edition of 1728. The third is Katherine Street from the Dancing Master volume 2, around 1710. Charles Bolton has a version in “Retreads, Volume 7”, though he has cut down the action for the ones and introduced more for the twos He also dances it improper. The fourth is Easter Thursday, and it's even possible that the figures were put to this tune by mistake — the tune is in 3-time. Bernard Bentley, who wrote the “Fallibroome” series of books, is always very honest about what he's added or left out, unlike some other dance interpreters. In this one he says,
NOTE.- B1 a clap and hands four has been omitted. When you listen to the A music it has perfectly clear phrasing — it's obviously three phrases of two bars each. Six steps, six steps, six steps. But the instructions in Fallibroome 5 just say “Neighbours back to back. Partners back to back”. And that's how a lot of callers call it — because they haven't thought it through. I can only see two choices. You can do one back-to-back in one phrase of the music — 6 steps — and the other in two phrases — twelve steps. Or you can do what I recommend, which is to take 9 steps for each back-to-back and accept the fact that the second one starts in the middle of a musical phrase. Here's where it's no use the caller saying “The music will tell you” — it won't!
You could argue that the instructions are addressed to the first couple, so only they should do the second back-to-back and the second turn, and indeed the final turn. Or you could make the case that throughout the instructions the word is “partners” rather than “partner” meaning that both couples should participate. I'm sticking with Bernard Bentley; we're interpreting these dances for present day dancers and in this case I have no hesitation in letting both couples move. There are other cases where I don't feel that way, as you will see when reading through this page.
In B1 Bernard Bentley thought he couldn't fit it all in, so he left out the circle and instead put in a balance forward and back, followed by a set. I'm sure we can fit it all in, provided you go from the turn single immediately into the circle left. Four bars is twelve beats — that's four beats for the turn single and eight beats for the circle — standard timing. In fact I've suggested three and nine in my interpretation, since the music is in threes, but there's really no difference. As usual, “cross over” means “cross and cast”. The half figure eight and the cross and cast are much tighter in “Sadler's Wells” and “Katherine Street” — 4 steps for each rather than 6 — so I prefer Easter Thursday (and I like the tune too).
Since you're dancing a lot with your neighbour in the A part, I choose to do this with the ones improper.
Twenty years latter I learnt that Carl Wittman had produced much the same version, though with the final turn for the ones only, except that he has two beats rest after the clap and then allows only six steps for the circle which seems unnecessarily tight to me.
|A1:||(6 bars): Back-to-back neighbour (9 steps). Back-to-back partner.|
|A2:||Two-hand turn neighbour (9 steps). Two-hand turn partner.|
|B1:||(6 bars): All set moving forward (RLR, LRL); Turn single (RLR) clapping on first beat (3 steps), circle left (9 steps).|
|B2:||Ones half figure eight down (6 steps); ones cross and go below the twos who lead up (6 steps); all two-hand turn partner (6 steps).|
Lead all out, lead all in again 1. man and 4. Wo. the 1. Wo. and 2. man change places by both hands, the other foure doing the like, then the 1. man and 1. Wo. the 2. and 4. Wo. change by both hands, the other foure doing the like . Then each man hands with the Wo. on his left hand, lead out and in as before, changing places, back again as before :
The 1. and 3. Cu. meet, the 2. and 4. falling back, the 1. and 3. Cu. fall back, foure a breast, the 2. man and 4. Wo with the 1. Cu. the 4. man and 2. Wo. with the 3. the 1. man and third Wo. the 3. man and 1. Wo armes and fall into the 4. and 2. places, whilst the 2. man and 4. Wo. the 4. man and 2. Wo. armes behinde, and fall into the 1. and 3. places . The other as much : As in Oxford.
Sides and change places as before . Sides againe, and change places, back againe.
The 1. and 3. Cu cast off, and come into you places all again, the 4. Wo. following the 1. man, the 2. man the 1. Wo. the 2. Wo. the 3. man, the 4. man the 3. Wo. the upermost and lowermost foure, hands round, to your places . The 2. and 4. Cu. cast off, and the other follow, to your places, foure and foure of each side, hands round, to your places.
Armes and change as you sided . That againe, to your places :
The 1. and 3. Cu. meet, turn back to back, the other foure hands about them, and go round to the right, and fall into each others places, the 2. man and 4. Wo. into the 1. place, the 4. man and 2. Wo into the 3. place, the 1. man and 3. Wo. into the 4. place, the 3. man and 1. Wo. into the 2. place . The other foure as much :
If you remember that Playford numbering is clockwise — the twos on the left of the ones — you may well struggle with this until you notice that in the diagram all four couples are improper. I've no idea why, and as Cecil Sharp says,
For simplicity's sake this unusual disposition has not been adhered to in the text, the alteration making no difference to the form of the dance.
I'm not claiming any of this interpretation is unique to me, but I want to explain how I teach it. If you've never danced it and you go to the Cecil Sharp book (or even worse, the Playford original above), you're liable to be totally bemused by all the numbers:
First man and first woman, third man and third woman, second man and fourth woman, and second woman and first man, change places in like manner.
I call it without mention of numbers and with hardly any mention of sex, and I use the words “corner” and “shadow”. Corner is well known from American Square, and it's a useful term so why not use it. Shadow comes from American Contra, and refers to a person other than your partner whom you meet repeatedly during the dance. Some American callers use the phrase “trail buddy”, but apart from being two words rather than one it smacks too much of the Wild West — “Howdy stranger, guess you 'n' me gonna be trail buddies” — so I don't use it.
I start by pointing out that you have three important people in this dance. The first of course is your partner. The second is your shadow, who is directly opposite you; you do half the dance with your partner and the other half with your shadow. The third is your corner, who manages to stay in position even when you switch between partner and shadow. I think it's a very clever and beautiful dance, and it appeals to my mathematical mind.
In the introduction to the first figure, you will see that Playford explains the move for the top half of the set and then says
the other foure doing the like. I'm confident that he's missed out the word “man” and it should say “the 2. man and 4. Wo.” rather than “the 2. and 4. Wo.”.
The two-hand turns in each of the three introductions are described by Playford as
change places by both hands but I've always seen it done as two-hand turn into side lines, man on the left — to be too precise, it's three eighths for the head men and five eighths for the side men. You don't actually take hands in side lines, but it's a useful reference point. Then you two-hand turn the one in front of you half-way (heads with partner, sides with shadow, though I wouldn't bother to say that), and the middles of the lines need to fall back from each other — I usually say “push back” to produce a more positive movement — to reform the square, with your shadow. If you did the first turn literally as a turn half-way there would be great confusion about who “the one in front of you” was, and the heads now in side place would find it very difficult to do the second turn in four steps.
In the main part of the first figure, some people seem to have great difficulty finding their shadow — some automatically make a grab for their partner as a safe option. And a lot of men can't cope with finishing the arm right on the right of the lady!
In the main part of the second figure when the heads are casting I ask people to imagine a brick wall across the centre of the set, so the sides will have nothing to do with their partner. It doesn't always work: some people will still walk through the wall. When the sides are casting, the wall is up and down the centre of the set, and it's the heads who have nothing to do with their partner. Doing a circle left all the way and falling back to home place requires giving some weight and making good circles; you can't just drift through it. I prefer the casting people to keep turning in the same direction to get into the circles; it's very tempting for the man to suddenly reverse directions to get into the circle. Of course Playford doesn't specify any of these details, so it's just my opinion, but I think it looks and feels better to keep moving smoothly rather than turn back on yourself.
By the third introduction people have got the hang of things, and there's a great temptation to spiral straight off from the arming into the two-hand turn with corner. I don't like this blurring of the edges — you should finish the arming facing your partner, then face your corner — which is why I've put in an acknowledgement at this point.
The main part of the third figure is where I disagree with Sharp. Playford says:
The 1. and 3. Cu. meet, turn back to back, the other foure hands about them, and go round to the right… Sharp has the heads doing a back-ring while the sides circle round them, and if you've ever tried that in Playford costume you will agree that it's very awkward if not impossible. I suggest that
and go round refers to the outsides; the people in the middle just face out and stand still. I imagine the circle is to the right because Playford starts with the men on the right of their partners and it's the man leading his partner into the circle. Since I've followed Sharp in having the men on the left, I follow him in making it a circle left. The timing on this needs to be quite precise: four steps for the heads to lead in and face out; eight steps for the sides to circle left, let go of their partner and finish in head place with their shadow improper; four steps for the middles to lead their shadow out to side place and face in improper. I know this is disorientating (even more so with a back ring) and I try to remember to tell people that they will finish the move where their corner is now standing, but some people still can't cope with it, or perhaps can't cope with letting go of their partner.
Yes, I know I've written an enormous amount about this dance, but that's because I think it's worthwhile spending the time walking it through since it's such a beautiful and satisfying dance. Why not try it?!
|A1:||Lead partner out a double; change hands and lead back. Two-hand corner enough to form side lines (man on left of lady); two-hand turn the one you're facing, half-way, middles fall back to reform square (all now with Shadow).|
|A2:||Lead shadow out a double; change hands and lead back. Two-hand (your same) corner enough to form side lines (man on left of lady); two-hand turn the one you're facing, half-way, middles fall back to reform square (all home).|
|B1:||Heads lead in, sides fall back slightly and face partner; pick up your corner and fall back in head lines. All arm right with Shadow, (who is either in front of you or on the other end of your line) with the middles moving out to finish improper in a square.|
|B2:||Same with new heads, all arming left with partner.|
|A1/2:||As first figure, but siding into line right shoulder to right with partner and left shoulder to left with shadow.|
|B1:||Heads face partner and cast out, sides follow your corner, to place. Circle 4 top and bottom, to place.|
|B2:||Sides cast, heads follow your corner, to place. Circle 4 on each side, to place.|
|A:||As first figure, but arming right and left. Acknowledge before leaving.|
|B1:||Heads lead in and face out; sides circle left and hang on to Shadow to end in head place (4 bars); middles lead out to side place. [All finish improper, in corner's place.]|
|B2:||New heads lead in; sides circle, all finishing home.|
There's a video of a version with the couples starting improper at www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEHn8SBE988. They use a reverse two-hand turn half-way with opposite, which is a complete change of momentum and strikes me as unnecessarily awkward given that there is no justification for it in Playford's original wording. They use a variant of Cecil Sharp siding, first passing right then left, and they have changed the circles so that after the heads casting the circles are on the side and vice versa. They have dispensed with the back-ring, and they do the circles in the third figure to the right, despite being improper. They also dance it too fast for my liking: I think of it as a stately dance and tune.
Source: Dancing Master 9th Edition, 1695: Henry Playford.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2016.
Format: Longways triple minor
The 1. Man cast off below the 2. Man, and take hands and fall down between the 3. cu. the Wo. follows her partner and slips between the 2. cu. This to the first Strain twice.
The 1. Man being between the 3. cu. all three take hands and go quite round, the 1. Wo. being between the 2. cu does the same at the same time; the 1. Man being between the 3. cu. hands quite round, the We. do the same at the same time, till he come in the middle and meets his Partner between the 2. and 3 cu. and turn her; the 1. Man does the same between the 2. cu. as before.
The tune is a reel with a 4-bar A and a 10-bar B. The instructions say that the B is repeated, and it's obvious from the length of the instructions that the B also needs to be repeated.
Sharp's version starts with the ones casting, doing a two-hand turn 1½ (though he must have meant 1¾) and then falling back so that the man is below the third couple and the woman is above the second couple. Sharp changed his mind about the timing — originally he gave 4 bars for the cast and 4 bars for the turn, which would be frantic, but in his later corrections he gives 2 bars for the cast and 6 bars for the turn. Some groups stick with 4 bars for each, but they only turn ¾. But that's not what Playford says at all. Maybe Sharp sees “and take hands” as meaning that the first couple take hands, and to fill up the music they must then do a long turn. I see it as two separate moves. The first man has 8 steps in which to cast to second place (second man moving up), face up in the centre of the set and then fall back between the threes and take hands with them. The first woman then “follows her partner”, i.e. does a similar move after he has done his: cast (second woman moving up), face down in the centre of the set and then fall back between the twos and take hands with them.
Now those groups circle left. But then Playford says the man circles left with the threes (again) while the women do the same at the same time. I can't see why he would circle twice round with the same couple, and the third woman appears to be in both circles! You could argue that “We.” Should be “Wo.” and the first woman is circling with the twos again, but I think it much more likely that the three men circle as the three women circle. But the man has to circle “till he come in the middle and meets his Partner between the 2. and 3 cu.” so he needs to be between the other two men and his partner needs to be between the other two women. How do they get there? I learnt it as “the ones roll away their left-hand person into their right hand to form the circles on the side” but Sharp says the ones pass outside the left-hand person, which would avoid the spin for the left-hand person. On the other hand the roll-away gives both people the momentum to go into the second circle left. Either way it's a busy move: 8 steps for each first circle but with time taken out of one or both for the change of positions. And then Playford adds:
and turn her. It's a 10-bar B-music, so we have four steps left — how far does he turn her? And then what I take as B2, the mirror image of B1:
the 1. Man does the same between the 2. cu. as before. Surely the turn must be just ¼. Sharp says they meet and fall back into the new places, but I would at least touch hands, even though it's not much of a turn. Then the same process as before — the man circles with the twos while the woman circles with the threes, change places with the left-hand person, the man circles with the women, the woman with the man, and this time the final turn is half-way to get the ones back on their own side.
I called this version at the Playford Ball at Chippenham Folk Festival in May 2016, and several people talked to me about it afterwards. They liked my interpretation of the A part, but the rest was all clockwise and made them dizzy. (Sharp's version is even more clockwise for the ones, with their turn 1¾ going immediately into the circles.) Some people also found it boring — all the twos and threes do is circle left repeatedly! They said the roll-away worked better than the ones sliding behind their left-hand person, and in a crowded hall (which that was) as they slid they sometimes hit someone from the set behind them, whereas the roll-away tightens the whole thing up and the ones already have that person in their hand so they only have to get hold of one other person.
|A:||First man cast (second man move up); face up in the centre and fall back between the threes. First lady cast (second lady move up); face down in the centre and fall back between the twos as the twos and threes move in to make circles top and bottom.|
|B1:||(10 bars): Circle once with this couple, ones roll your left-hand person across in front of you to your right hand and pick up your new left-hand person. Circle left on the side (3 men, 3 ladies). Ones two-hand turn ¼, fall back as others move in (2 bars).|
|B2:||As B1, but picking up opposite sex after the roll-away, and the final turn is half-way (to own side).|
This dance is best demonstrated.
You need to push the circles round and be positive in the roll-away; the ones don't stop moving and are effectively making a big clockwise circle round the set.
It's important that the twos and threes move in to make the circles at top and bottom. The twos are always above the threes at the end of the circles on the side — but it's really up to the ones to control the circles and open up when they are in middle place.
Source: Dancing Master 17th Edition Volume 1, 1721: John Young.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2007.
Format: Longways duple minor
Hobb's Wedding: A Kissing Dance in the Country Wake
The 1. cu. cast off half way, the 2. cross over at the same time, then lead up and turn from each other, the Man to the Right and the Wo. to the Left . Then meet the 1. cu. the Wo. the man, and the Man the Wo. then the 1 Man turn the 2. Wo. Left-hands round, the 2. Man doing the same with the 1. Wo. till they come all on a-row with their Left shoulders to each other, the Men with their faces down, and the We. with theirs up : Then pass by till you come to a Square, the Men with their faces down, and the We. with theirs up, then all turn S. to the Left-hand with their faces to each other; then Right and Left three times, the 1. Man beginning with the 2. Wo and the 2. Man with the 1. Wo . The 1. Man pulls the 2. Wo. back, and the 2. Man puts the 1. Wo. from him till the 2. cu. comes back to back, each Man kissing the contrary Wo. then the 1. cu. cast off, the Man to the Left-hand and the Wo. to the Right, the 2. cu. casting up both to the Right-hand till they come in their proper places.
The Country Wake (1696) was a comedy by Thomas Doggett, staged at Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre and later revived by Cibber in 1711. Dogget originally played the part of Young Hobb himself.
The tune is a jig: four bars for each A and eight bars for the B. The instructions imply that each is to be repeated, giving a 24-bar dance. The instructions give lots of detail and reassurance to an interpreter, but what are we to make of
cast off half way? Presumably the ones cast off but finish level with the twos rather than below them. It will need to be a wide cast, or a meet, move up and then cast, as it takes the 4 bar A1, during which the twos turn half-way, lead up (presumably not very far, to meet the ones) and turn away from each other to face out to the ones. A2 is left-hand turn neighbour, and indeed once around will leave the men facing down and the women facing up as required. So B1 starts by passing neighbour left shoulder so that the women are above the men, then turn single left (presumably half-way) to face neighbour up and down the set. Assuming
Right and Left three times means three changes of a circular hey, this will be up and down the set, again finishing with the women above the men. We could allow four steps for the pass through and turn round, and four steps for each of the three changes. B2 starts apparently with a quarter poussette to bring the four people into a colume up and down the set — crowded but possible — four steps for that and four beats for the kiss. But now comes the progression. At the moment the first man is at the very bottom and his partner is at the very top. She can cast off to her right hand, though it seems somewhat forced given that she is already facing down, but he can't cast off anywhere — he needs to cast up. I've given this a lot of thought, it seems to me that the column needs to be across the hall rather than up and down, with everyone proper. So suppose after the pass through at the start of B1 we have the dancers looping one place to their right (clockwise) rather than turning single to their left. I know that's not what it says, but just consider it. This puts everyone proper with the second man and first woman above. The three changes will now be across the set as normal, bringing the other two to the top, and the quarter poussette is also across. Now indeed the first couple can cast off, the man left shoulder and the woman right shoulder, though they have eight steps and not very far to go — perhaps an invitation to linger a little longer on the kiss. The twos somehow need to cross over and move up, and at the moment they're facing out. That's why we get the odd instruction
the 2. cu. casting up both to the Right-hand till they come in their proper places. If they both pull their right shoulders back, the woman can move up as she crosses to her own side while the man starts by turning down and then moving up on his own side. It gets them to the right place, but it is what John Young meant? I think it may well be. How else could he have described it, without using a lot more words?
The timing of B1 is now not so obvious. Four steps to pass through, turn left and move one quarter round? Or should we take eight steps for this and then surge into life to dance the three changes in eight steps as in Indian Queen? I think I prefer the latter — but try it both ways and see what you think.
But the basic problem is that the wording is so precise:
all turn S. to the Left-hand with their faces to each other and yet I need people to loop to their right. As I've said before, I don't know all the answers!
|A1:||(4 bars) Ones meet and then cast to finish outside the twos (8 steps) while twos 2-hand turn half, lead up, turn out to face opposite-sex neighbour.|
|A2:||Left-hand turn neighbour once around, finishing with men facing down, ladies facing up.|
|B1:||Pass through left shoulder; loop right, move round a place clockwise. Face neighbour across the set: dance three changes of a circular hey with hands.|
|B2:||First man pull, second man push until twos are back to back in the middle; kiss neighbour. Ones cast to progressed place, second lady move up and cross to own side, second man pull right shoulder back and follow her to progressed place.|
I've learnt that you don't call kissing dances in the States — they love all that eye contact, but kissing is going too far. In England I often say that it's up to the ladies how and where they receive the kiss — they could just offer their hand.
Sources:24 New Country Dances for Year 1710: Nathaniel Kynaston
Dancing Master Volume 2, 1st Edition, c. 1713: John Young.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2018.
Format: Longways triple minor
Note The two 1st Parts once Each Strain of the Jigg twice.
The 1st and 2d cu. Set a cross, one step forward and two backward the 1st cu. cast off 1st man takes the 2d man by by his right hand an leads him round into his place 1st wo. the same with the 3rd wo. at the same time then the 1st cu. set as before with the 2d cu. and cast up Set in the top and turn S. The first part once
The 1st cu. cross over then cross half below the 3d cu. and cast up then cast up to the top the 1st man change place with the 2d wo. 1st wo. and 2d man do the same all four take hands and go half round then the 1st cu. cast off Second part once
The Jigg. The 1st man goes between the 2d and 3d wo. up to the top the 1st wo. at the same time goes between the two men below the 3d cu. then the 1st man goes in and out the men sides below the 3d cu. 1st wo. the same on the we. side 1st wo. take hands with the 2d cu. 1st man with the 3d cu. Set and turn each quite round then the 1st cu. meet 1st man cast up his partner cast off and turn in the 2d cu. place
I'm giving the original wording from Kynaston, and as you can see the punctuation is limited to a single comma: the dots after “wo” and “S” indicate abbreviations, not sentences. I've added line breaks after “The first part once” and “Second part once”: they aren't in the original. John Young copies this virtually word-for-word; he corrects “an” to “and” and adds lots of commas, one of which I don't agree with. Anyway, what do we make of it?
One thing where Kynaston is perfectly clear is the repeats: each part of the triple time once; each part of the jig twice. Each part of the triple-time is 16 bars. The first part of the jig is 4 bars; the second part is 16 bars, making it a very odd length.
What does he mean by
Set a cross, one step forward and two backward? Philippe Callens ignores it and just has the ones and twos setting to the centre. Pat Shaw says
set to centre, one step forward and two backwards (R, l, r, L, r, l) but what does he mean by this? He's giving six feet movements, presumably two bars of triple-time. Does he mean “forward, back, back, forward, back, back”? Fried Herman actually says this. I suggest (and my wife Renata independently came up with the same interpretation as soon as I asked her) that when Kynaston says “step” he means one triple-time step — the same usage as in “one skip-change step” or “one rant step” — so it takes three bars of triple-time: “forward, two, three, back, two, three, back, two, three”, leaving one bar for the ones to cast and the twos to move up. Then we have
1st man takes the 2d man by by his right hand an leads him round into his place which again can have several interpretations. Whose right hand? Round who or what? Whose place? We have four bars of triple-time: 12 walking steps. Pat has a gates movement, with the ones going backwards. Fried has right hand in right, the ones turning slowly on the spot and wheeling their neighbour all the way round. Both of these involve an abrupt change of direction for the ones — they've just cast into second place and now they're going the other way — and if you really do take three bars for the setting and just one bar to cast this seems very rushed. Philippe has the ones (in middle place) drawing their left-hand neighbour (anticlockwise) around that person's partner, which means the ones continue to move forward after the cast. That strikes me as a more interesting and more flowing move, and will use up the 12 steps without people feeling there's too much music. It's amazing what different interpretations people can put on the same instruction! Whatever the move is, it ends where it started. Then we have the setting as before (however that was) and the ones casting back up to top place. And surely the first part ends with the ones doing a normal triple-time set and a 6-step turn single. All of this adds up to 16 bars, which certainly fits
the first part once.
We know that “cross over” means “cross and cast”, presumably taking 6 steps, but what about
then cross half below the 3d cu.? If Kynaston had means “cross and cast again” surely he would have just said so. My guess is that he means “cross down through the third couple” and maybe the “half” is there because they don't face their partner at the end of the move but immediately cast up to second place improper. Fried does a cross and cast both times, except that she uses the American terminology “go below”. Pat has the same as Fried, with “move below” rather than “go below”. Both have two separate casts up. Philippe has the cross down through the threes, but then he has a long cast up to the top, and surely it's meant to be two separate casts. If you accept my version you may well ask why Kynaston didn't say “half figure eight”, but maybe that's because it's across the music: in the first four bars the ones cross and cast and cross down; in the second four bars they cast up and cast up again.
The second half of the first part is very standard and everyone agrees on it: first corners cross; second corners cross; circle left half-way; ones cast, twos move up. Philippe and I would do a Hole in the Wall cross to use up the six steps; Pat and Fried both just say “change places”. Fried adds
Tempo quickens for this move.
Now we come to the jig, which is obviously meant to be a complete contrast to the stately triple-time. For the first part, everyone agrees on the ones' track, and the fact that it fits the first part of the jig played twice (8 bars in total): they cross (passing right shoulder), the man goes up round the top lady as the lady goes down round the bottom man, they go through the middle, out through their own side, and the man continues down, lady up, round one person, to… To what? Kynaston says the first man finishes
below the 3d cu. and the woman the same, which means above the second couple. Not “between”. And then we have
1st wo. take hands with the 2d cu. 1st man with the 3d cu. which again could mean several things, followed by
Set and turn each quite round which could also mean several things. Fried has lines of three setting forward and back, so setting right-two-three, left-two three moving forward, then the same backward, taking four bars, then circle left in threes (another four bars). Pat has set in lines, turn single, circle left. Philippe has the three people joining up in a wave, the ones facing each other up and down, the others facing the other way, then set in the wave, right-hand turn right-hand person (6 steps), left-hand turn left-hand person (6 steps). But surely Kynaston doesn't mean turn single — he would have added the “S.” as he has several times before, and he wouldn't have needed to say that the turn single is “quite round” — that's obvious. Let's leave that for the moment and assume that whatever the move is, it ends where it began, with the ones either below and above the set, or in the middle of lines of three. Now we have
the 1st cu. meet so the man is moving up the centre to meet his partner who is moving down the centre, then
1st man cast up his partner cast off so my guess is they both pull their right shoulder back and go through the gap on their own side, then turn right and go round one person to finish with the man at the top and his partner at the bottom. Pat does it this way, though the ones need to cast as soon as they meet if they're going to manage it in six steps. Fried and Philippe have the ones casting right shoulder into second place, but that's a strange interpretation of the word “meet”. And finally
turn in the 2d cu. place so they meet with a two-hand turn ¾ to finish in second place, ready to start the next turn of the (triple minor) dance.
But what about the timing? Here we hit a major problem. Kynaston is very clear that he wants
Each Strain of the Jigg twice which means the second strain is a total of 32 bars of jig time — the length of the entire figure of “Queen's Jig” for instance. How can we possibly pad the moves out to this length? Nobody has attempted this; all three versions play the second part of the jig just once. And indeed it's possible that Kynaston didn't really mean it: he wanted 16 bars and he'd forgotten that the second strain was already that length so he imagined an 8-bar phrase repeated.
So let's go back to where the ones have finished their solo figure. I think if I told you to finish with the man below the bottom couple and the woman above the top couple and then said “take hands with this couple” you'd all form circles, not straight lines or waves. But what is the purpose of forming a circle? Is it possible that Kynaston meant “circle left”? Or even “circle left and right”? Both Pat and Fried do have a circle left, but that seems to be in lieu of “turn each quite round”. If we start with circles left and right that will take 8 bars. The ones' final move will take 8 bars. That leaves 16 bars for
Set and turn each quite round and maybe “turn each” means “ones turn each member of this couple”. We could set twice, or set and turn single (though Kynaston doesn't say so) before each turn, and that would give us our 16 bars. Admittedly the first is at the end of the first D-music and the second is at the start of the second D-music, which isn't ideal. Another possibility if you're dancing the turns (as they would have been) rather than walking the turns (as we tend to do) is two bars for the set and two bars for the turn; Scottish dancers would happily do this so don't tell me it's too rushed! That means both set and turn moves would fit into the end of the first D-music — but then what do we put into the start of the second D-music?
So here's my provisional interpretation — I've tried it out with real people so I do know it works. And like everyone else, I'm converting it to a three-couple set.
|A1:||(3-time): Ones and twos set to the centre: forward-two-three, back-two-three, back-two-three, ones cast, twos lead up (3 steps). Ones (in middle place) draw their left-hand neighbour (anticlockwise) around that person's partner (12 steps).|
|A2:||Ones and twos set as before, ones cast up, twos lead down. Ones set moving forward; turn single.|
|B1:||Ones cross, cast (twos lead up), cross down through the threes. Cast up to second place; cast up to the top as the twos lead down.|
|B2:||At the top, first corners Hole in the Wall cross; second. Circle left half-way; ones cast, twos lead up.|
|C:||(Jig): Ones cross right shoulder, turn left, to the top/bottom of a diamond. Go out through your own side, round to the other point of the diamond, and take hands in circles of three.|
|D1:||(16 bars): Circle left. Circle right.|
|Ones set to right-hand person; turn single. Two-hand turn.|
|D2:||Ones set to left-hand person; turn single. Two-hand turn.|
|Ones meet, then cast right shoulder through your own side, man to the top, lady to the bottom. Meet and two-hand turn ¾ to the bottom as the threes cast up.|
Source: 3rd Book of The Complete Dancing Master, c. 1735: Walsh.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 1995.
Format: Longways duple minor
First Man dances the Minuet Step to the 2d Wo. & turns her . the 2d Man the same to the 1st Wo : the 1st Cu. cast down & up again then cross over and half Figure . then right hand and left quite round and turn your Partner.
I heard the tune on Bare Necessities' “Take a Dance” album and loved it. The notes didn't say where the modern interpretations were found, so I went to Cecil Sharp House, studied the original wording and produced my version. Then I discovered that Tom Cook had reconstructed it in “Again Let's Be Merry” (1979).
Let's look at Tom's version.
A1 Take hands four. All “step-set” (left foot to the left, cross right foot over and beyond left foot, transfer weight back onto left foot — same to right) twice, then first man and second woman turn, returning to places. A2 Again take hands four and “step-set” as in A1, then the other two dancers turn. B1 1‑4 All move up the set and face their own wall (that is, half turn single, men to left, women to right). Neighbours take inside hand and first couple move round outside second couple in as “assisted” cast, all to progressed places. 5‑8 All move down the set and face their own wall. Neighbours again take inside hand and first couple move round outside second couple in an “assisted” cast up, all to original places. 9‑16 First couple cross and cast down, then go half figure eight up through second couple (who lead up) to progressed places. B2 1‑8 First and second couples, partners facing, circular hey taking hands, four changes. 9‑16 First and second couples dance round each other, returning to progressed places (ballroom hold is suggested).
Tom is at pains to point out that the dance isn't a waltz, and that the basic rhythm should be six beats long not three, but I defy anyone to take ballroom hold and dance round the other couple to this music without waltzing.
So, two questions:
Most English Folk dancers couldn't do a minuet step (and wouldn't want to), so Tom has replaced it with his “step-setting”. Yes, but surely that loses the point that it should be just the first corners involved; the second corners have their chance in A2. I agree with getting rid of the minuet step, but what could the first corners do in four bars before their two-hand turn? The obvious choice is set and turn single — in fact the setting in 3-time turns out to be similar to Tom's step-setting, though I wouldn't want to start it on the left foot. You could say that my way is just as “wrong” as Tom's, but I think it's more in keeping with the original.
By the way, I have actually taught the entire dance with a minuet step; see the page on Country Dance Minuet.
the 1st Cu. cast down & up again — just as you would in the English traditional dance “Soldiers' Joy” or the American contra “Chorus Jig”. In fact because there are three steps to the bar you would get further than in those dances; it's a good strong positive movement. I suppose Tom thought this was boring for the twos, so he's got the twos turning out and helping the ones along — I think it destroys the flow of the movement. Ken Sheffield does the same in “Guardian Angels” where the ones cross and cast, cross and cast — I don't like that either. So let's do it as the original obviously intended.
“Cross over” practically always means “cross over and cast down a place”, and by implication we're still talking to the ones, so a half figure eight up will bring them to their progressed place proper — no problems with that. The underlined dot says that this is once through the 16-bar B-music, which all fits fine. But what about the second B?
then right and left quite round and turn your Partner Four changes of a circular hey at three steps per change is four bars, and a turn is no more than four bars (12 steps) — total 8 bars. We can slow down the four changes by allowing six steps per hand, but this still gives us 8 bars (24 steps) for
and turn your Partner. This is where Tom puts in the waltz around (and admittedly you are “turning” with your partner) — but that's so out of character! My suggestion is a right-hand turn and a left-hand turn. There's still a lot of music to fill up — four bars (twelve steps) for each turn, but I think it works.
I wrote to Tom and asked him what he thought of my version — that's something I couldn't do with Cecil Sharp. He said in his reply, referring to the dance around:
…I have come to regret my 9-16 suggestion… and have experimented with a whole-poussette + quarter-turns… Your suggestion is much simpler, and of course is just as good.
He preferred the fussy bit because he likes people to take hands when the music allows — which I totally agree with, but I don't think the music does allow this, because the ones should be moving well down the hall. He didn't object to the set and turn single as such, but he felt you needed to be moving to the right immediately before the two-hand turn — that's why he starts the step-setting to the left.
Nicholas Broadbridge has a version condensed to a single B. Perhaps he decided there wasn't enough going on in B2, so instead of the waltz around or the slow right- and left-hand turns he's squashed the whole thing together — instead of the ones doing their long cast down the outside and back, he has a short cast going immediately into a figure eight up. But can you really justify that when you look at the original?
|A1:||First corners set and turn single. Two-hand turn.|
|A2:||Second corners the same.|
|B1:||Ones cast, go well down the outside. Cast back to place.|
|C1:||Ones cross; go below the twos who lead up. Ones half figure eight up.|
|B2:||Four changes of circular hey with hands (6 steps each).|
|C2:||Right-hand turn partner (12 steps). Left-hand turn.|
In the Spring 1998 issue of English Dance & Song (the magazine of the English Folk Dance and Song Society), Audrey Town republished an interpretation of “Jack Pudding” by Freda Tomlinson, and then gave her own change to the third figure to make it move more smoothly. What she didn't give was Playford's original wording, so that the readers could see for themselves which interpretation was the more likely. I realise that there are plenty of dancers — probably the majority — who just want to do the dance, and don't care who the interpretation is by or how faithful it is to the original. But I think interpreters owe it to the dancers to keep to the original as much as possible and tell them when they have changed something. And when I read it through it seemed to me that it wasn't just the third figure that would have the dancers scuttling around — the whole dance with the exception of the three standard introductions seems much too busy. I suspect this would have been more visible if the instructions had specified in more detail how they are meant to fit the music. I don't have permission to reprint the two versions, but let me say that they have a first figure with two (short) A's and one B whereas the second and third figure have two B's. So naturally I went back to the original:
Jack Pudding Longwayes for six (with a diagram showing a conventional 3 couple longways set)In each of the three figures the two paragraphs are actually laid out beside each other, making it clear that the three Playford introductions are for the A-music and the figures are for the B-music. Unfortunately the underlined single and double dots which are supposed to indicate the end of each phrase of music are not much in evidence, so you can't immediately tell how many B's there are in each figure.
First and 2. Cu. leade up a D. and fall back, whilst the 3. Cu. leade up to the top betweene the other, first and 2 Cu. leade up againe and back, whilst the 3. lead downe.
Third Cu. leade up betweene the other, and casting off, goe on the out side under their armes, crosse over and under their armes, and fall to the bottome as at first, then the first foure hands and round, and sit while the third doe as much.
Sides all . That againe :
Men round and hold up their hands, We. under their armes and turne their own, We. goe round, and each man turne his owne.
Armes all . That againe :
Third Cu. leade under the first Cu. armes and come face to the We. hands you foure and round, the first Cu. fall into the 3. place, the third Cu leade under the 2. Cu. armes, and hands round, the 3. Cu. fall into the 2. and the 2. into the first place .
It's certainly not obvious what it all means, and there are several interesting points. For one thing, it's the third couple who are in charge of the dance. For another, it shares with “Step Stately” and a few other dances the fact that it has the three standard introductions of Up a Double, Siding and Arming and yet is apparently a progressive dance which is done from each position in turn. The only other which springs to mind is “Maiden Lane”, and that's a confusing example because in Sharp's interpretation you only do half a hey in the first figure so the set is inverted at the start of the second figure — let's not go into that at the moment! In Jack Pudding it seems absolutely clear that the set ends in the order 2, 3, 1, so Audrey's version (which doesn't) would have to be substantially better than Freda's to convince me to adopt it.
The first question is “How much music do we need?”. One of my rules of dance interpretation is that if in doubt you should allow more time for the movements rather than less. Dancers in 1651 wore heavier clothing than we do, and I don't believe they leapt about the way Sharp's dancers did when he published his interpretations. The three introductions present no problems, except that when Playford directs the first and second couples to lead up a double and fall back, he presumably means this to be without hands, since the threes are leading up between them. Let's look at the main part of the first figure. I can't see any disagreement on the track taken by the third couple: they lead to the top, cast to middle place, cross under both sets of arches, and cast to the bottom. This leaves them improper, so
whilst the third doe as much presumably means they do a two-hand turn either half-way or 1½ to finish proper. How many steps is all that? Freda's version has only one B for the first figure — 16 steps — which seems very rushed to me. Assuming the circle for the ones and twos is on the last eight steps, the threes have a mere eight steps in which to lead to the top, cast to second place, cross over under both arches and get out of the way of the circle. I don't think so. And what about about that strange phrase “and sit”? I know some Playford-style callers use the phrase “Have a rest”, but that's normally after the dance is over! What does Playford mean by “then the first foure hands and round, and sit while the third doe as much”? My guess is that by “sit” he means “stand doing nothing” — in other words the circle at the top is first, then the threes have their two-hand turn. And certainly that won't fit into a single B — so why not be conventional and have two B's? This gives the threes a more reasonable 16 steps in which to finish improper in third place. Then there are 8 steps for the ones and twos to circle left, and 8 steps for the threes to turn 1½.
After the siding introduction, the second figure starts
Men round. Freda assumes this means “Men round the women”, and gives her interpretation an air of respectability by relating it to The Phoenix. But in The Phoenix, Playford spells the movement out in much more detail:
First man go down on the outside of the Wo. to the last, the rest following. Take every man a wo. by both hands… Freda's version doesn't specify the timing, but The Phoenix has 8 steps for the men to go half-way round the women. This leaves 8 steps for the two lines to cross over, face, and then two-hand turn all the way — very busy, and the men aren't turning their own partners as Playford directs. It seems more likely to me that
Men round means “Men circle left”. Playford's more usual phrases for this are
hands and go round or
hands round to your places but he often leaves things out. This again takes 8 steps, but this time the cross over leaves the dancers improper so the two-hand turn is only half-way — and you do turn your own partner. It's still a busy move, so keep it tight, and it would help if after the first half-turn the third man hands his partner up into the ladies' circle.
And so to the third figure. It seems to be in two halves (presumably B1 and B2) each of which involves the threes leading under an arch, circling with somebody, and finishing in a different place. The threes can certainly lead up under the ones' arch and wheel right to finish on the outside facing the other two ladies. And they can circle left with them — but where do they finish, and how can the first couple end in third place when the man has taken no part in the circle? Freda's version starts the third figure with the set inverted, but I think this unlikely (and again don't quote Sharp's version of Maiden Lane). Neither version has the arch, which is a pity as in Playford all three figures have people going under arches, and the threes finish facing the men rather than the women. And in the second half the symmetry is lost because the first and second men have to change places. Also if the threes keep hold of their partner the whole time, at the end of the second circle they are likely to finish improper. I'm really not happy about this figure at all. Audrey's version is smoother and avoids the asymmetry — but it's even less like what Playford says, and I still find the threes finishing improper.
I'm starting from the standard position. So the threes lead up to the top, under the ones' arch, and wheel round to the right to face the ladies. This sounds like more than eight steps to me, particularly as the man is on the outside of the wheel around. But fortunately the next move is less than eight steps. These four circle left about one quarter, then the third man draws his partner out of the circle so that they are in the middle of the set, proper, facing up, the first lady keeps going to finish at the bottom, and the second lady finishes in top place. If the ones are to
fall into the 3. place the first man needs to cast to the bottom while the second man moves up, and the twos can now make an arch at the top. The threes lead up, wheel round to the left to finish on the outside facing the men — and my inclination is to circle right at this point, since that's the way the threes are moving. But now we're in trouble; I can't see any way of finishing that circle with the threes in middle place and the first man at the bottom.
So is there any answer? John Playford and his contributors certainly made plenty of mistakes, but can we detect the mistake at this distance in time? I'd been writing this article for English Dance & Song in a hurry (as usual), and hadn't actually worked out this figure until I'd written the article up to here — and I really didn't think I was going to work it out! The problem is that B1 gets everyone to their progressed places, and I couldn't get B2 to work — it seems strange that if B1 and B2 are symmetrical there can be a progression in B1 but not in B2. And then I had an inspiration. As I said earlier, I didn't like the first man casting to the bottom in B1 but it seemed the only answer if the first couple is going to finish B1 in the third couple's place. But suppose Playford meant that the first woman was to finish in third place while the men stayed where they were? This means the second arch is now made by the people at the top — the first man and the second woman — rather than the twos as Playford prescribes. Deciding what Playford got wrong is always tricky: I say that other interpreters aren't following what Playford actually said, and now I'm doing the same thing myself! But this way the symmetry is preserved: the women progress in B1; the men progress in B2. And the threes finish in middle place facing up with inside hands joined — just where they want to be to lead up a double at the start of the next turn of the dance. Is it right? I don't know. It's quite awkward for the second woman to finish the circle at the top, ready to arch with the second man — she wants to circle much further.
I published all this in the next edition of English Dance & Song , and finished by saying “If readers have other suggestions for this figure, please write in and give them”. I had an amazing response to this — four letters, no less. And if you think I'm being sarcastic here, you're wrong: I frequently wrote what seemed to me controversial articles and got no response at all!
Mike Rothon, an excellent guitarist from the Beckenham and Croydon Group who also does historical dance, said that I had transcribed Playford's original instructions wrongly, and that in the final figure it says that the first couple fall into the 2. place rather than the 3. place. He says it's clearly a “2” in the 4th edition — and when I looked at my photocopy of the 7th edition it was a “2” there as well. But if you have the Margaret Dean-Smith facsimile of the first edition, see what you think. I'm pretty sure that it's a “3” with part of the tail missing, and that when they reset the type for the fourth edition they misread it as a “2”.
Mike suggests that in the first figure the third couple lead up to the top, cross and cast, lead through both arches and finish in their own places (8 bars). Then the top two couples circle half-way, then the bottom two couples circle half-way — giving a standard progression but with the top two couples finishing improper. Do this three times and everyone is home. Clever stuff, eh?! In the second figure he has yet another interpretation of the phrase “Men round”, suggesting that the men turn single half-way and hold up their hands (2 bars), the ladies go under the arches and turn back (4 bars) and all two-hand turn partner half-way (2 bars). This is then repeated with the ladies making the arches. In the third figure he has the ones arching and the threes leading under (4 bars), then these two couples two-hand turn partner half-way (4 bars — rather a lot of music there, I would say). Now the threes lead under the twos' arch while the twos lead up to take their place at the top, and the threes about turn to circle half-way with the ones. This gives a standard progression, and twice more will get everybody home, but what's happened to the symmetry? Anyway, Mike is suggesting six B's for the first and third figures, and two B's for the second.
Jennifer Kiek, Historical Dance teacher from Bromley in Kent, prefers a right-hand arch in both halves of the third figure. She has the threes continuing the circle movement after letting go of the two ladies, to finish facing down in middle place. They then lead down through an arch made by second man and first lady, wheel right to face the men, circle left until the threes are in middle place, and again the threes continue the circle movement to finish proper. As soon as I read the part about facing down I decided that it made a lot of sense, so that's the way I now teach it (as you will see below).
Jim Blagden, the man who collects the money when I dance in Ashford, Middlesex, says he agrees with my interpretation of the first figure, but wonders whether the two-hand turns in the second figure should be all the way rather than just half-way. The ladies would then circle on the men's side, and the second two-hand turn would get everyone home. I feel that this would be rather busy. He also proposes a different explanation of the third figure. The threes lead up through an arch made by the ones, then about turn and circle all the way with the two ladies (the second lady moving up into the circle and then falling back again) — leaving the threes at the top. As the ones cast to the third place, the threes lead down through an arch made by the twos, then about turn and circle left with them, finishing 2, 3, 1. In this version the arches would have to move as well, but Jim rightly points out that the original instructions don't say the threes have to come up under the arch. It will certainly work, but to my mind once again we have lost the symmetry.
Andrew Shaw, the well-known caller from Manchester, says he has long had a fondness for this dance and enjoys teaching it, partly because the alternative title from the 4th edition onwards is “Merry Andrew”. He is unconvinced by my interpretation of the first figure, which he feels is based on a very forced interpretation of the phrase “while the third doe as much”. The second and third figures are meant to be symmetrical, and Andrew would much rather start from the premiss that the first figure is also. He learnt this version from Tom Cook:
Andrew points out that there is no instruction that the threes should finish proper at the end of B1 — only that they should finish in bottom place.
B1: Threes lead up to the top and cast around the twos. Ones and twos take nearer hands with neighbour and make arches, threes cross straight over, going under both arches; threes cast to the bottom improper while ones and twos circle left half-way, to 2, 1, 3, all improper. B2: Repeat the whole figure to original places.
He says he has played around with the final figure for years, feeling (as I do) that when faced with seemingly irresoluble problems the best one can do is devise a figure which accords with the spirit of the original, if not with the letter, and is pleasing to dance. The following particularly appeals to his purist tendencies for being as close as he can get to the original wording:
This is very similar to what I have come up with using Jennifer Kiek's correction. I describe the circle as a quarter rather than a half, otherwise the second lady will overshoot and then have to fall back into top place. Andrew also mentions other three-couple dances in the first edition with a progressive third figure: “The Night Piece”, “Millison's Jig” and probably “Shepherds' Holiday” and “Stingo”. All but the last use variations on a crossing figure found also in “Maiden Lane” — where I think Sharp got the progression wrong, and the whole dance should be done from each of the three positions. Sharp is obviously worried by “The Night Piece” ending with a progression, since he gives an alternative third figure
B1: Threes with inside hand joined, man in front, lead up the middle under the ones' arch, turn right and go round outside the two ladies who turn right to face out. Those four circle left half-way; the sides (2nd lady and first lady, first man and second man) move down one place as the threes, keeping inside hands, loop clockwise, moving up slightly, to face down. B2: Threes with inside hand joined, man in front, lead down the middle under an arch made by second man and first lady at the bottom, turn right and go round outside the two men who turn right to face out. Those four circle left half-way; twos move up into top place as the threes, keeping inside hands, loop clockwise, moving up slightly, and fall back into middle place.
in order that the dancers may finish in their proper places. He uses the same trick in “Shepherd's Holiday” but presents this as the actual figure rather than an alternative, and he did not try interpreting the other two. In Boston in the States they use the progressive version of Maiden Lane, and to me it makes a lot of sense. I noticed Dorothy Frawley complaining in the last issue about callers who go to the States and come back telling people how they do English Country Dancing there, but the fact is that people over there take their Playford very seriously and think hard about it; I don't see why we shouldn't benefit from their fresh ideas.
Andrew says that Freda Tomlinson's version of “Jack Pudding” was evidently widely taught in its day, and many dancers in his area remember learning the dance from Olive Macnamara and William Ganiford. He believes that Audrey Towns' revision addresses the difficulty of the third figure well and will be most useful to those dancers who find it difficult to drastically change the way they are used to doing the dance.
And you can read other opinions on John Sweeney's site: contrafusion.co.uk/Dances/EFDS5304-JackPudding.html
Music: 3 x Own tune (two B's in each figure)
|A:||Ones and twos up a double and back twice (dropping hands as necessary) while threes lead up 8 steps, change hands and lead back.|
|B1:||Threes lead up to the top and cast around the ones. Arch on the sides with neighbour (ones and twos take nearer hands with neighbour and make arches), threes cross straight over, going under both arches, cast to the bottom improper and wait!|
|B2:||Ones and twos circle left. Threes two-hand turn 1½ to place.|
|A:||Side right shoulder to right. Side left.|
|B1:||Men circle left, open out and raise your joined hands to make arches. All cross right shoulder with partner, ladies going under the arches, and turn to the right; immediately two-hand turn partner half-way to place.|
|B2:||Ladies circle left. All cross right shoulder with partner, men going under the arches; two-hand turn partner half-way to place.|
|A1:||Arm right. Arm left.|
|B1:||Tops (ones) face down and make a single-hand arch while threes lead up under the arch and wheel round to the right. Threes continue wheeling to face the two ladies (who turn to their right to face them), then these four circle left about a quarter, threes continue wheeling clockwise to finish in the middle of the set facing down, first lady keep going to the bottom, second lady finish in top place — and the second man needs to move down to bottom place ready to make an arch.|
|B2:||Bottoms (second man and first lady) face up and arch while threes lead down under the arch and wheel round to the right. Threes face the two men, then these four circle left about a quarter, threes continue wheeling clockwise to finish in the middle of the set facing up, finishing back in a longways set in the order 2, 3, 1.|
As I say in “Playford with a Difference”, I am not trying to claim that my version is right and everybody else's is wrong, just that there is more than one possible interpretation.
Anyway, that's my version; see what you think. I've used into-line siding, since I believe that's what they did in Playford's time, but if you're into “banana” Siding that's fine by me.
In 2012, Ann Hinchliffe from Yeovil wrote via this web page:
Have you come across the Lovelace manuscript, the dances in which are likely to date from around 1630-40, according to Carol Marsh's “Preliminary Study” (Freiburg, 2004)? Its layout for Jack Pudding is an eye-opener; I haven't yet worked out all the figures but suspect it may answer lots of questions. Layout also slightly confirmed by MS Sloane 3858 which seems to describe Jack Pudding layout as triangle.A triangle (with the ones and twos side-by-side but separated, and the threes behind them) would certainly allow the ones and twos to lead up a double and back twice while the threes lead up eight steps and back, but I hadn't seen either of the manuscripts she mentions. In 2016 John Sweeney produced his attempt to decipher the handwritten Lovelace Manuscript. You can see his wording at contrafusion.co.uk/lovelace.htm#JackPudding and it contains a link to a photocopy of the original with a diagram which does indeed show a shallow triangle. So at some point I may revisit this dance! And in 2017 I danced to Andrew Swaine who had produced his own interpretation of the Lovelace version.
If you want to know more about the Lovelace Manuscript, see fagisis.zeddele.de/morgenroete-pdfs/Marsh_.pdf
The first man take his wo. by the right hand, then with his left, and so holding hands, change places, then do the same to the 2. wo. the first wo. and the 2. man do the same : Then fall back from your own, the first Cu. being in the second place, go the Figure of 8. . Do this to the last.In England if you announced “Jamaica” people would line up in 4 couple sets, expecting to do the very popular version by Tom Cook, whereas in the States they would expect to do the longways version by Cecil Sharp. When I looked at Sharp's version I didn't agree with it, so I thought I would publish my version here; I know other people will have come up with the same thing.
The first man take hands with the 2. wo. and turn her round, the first wo. and the 2. man do as much : Then the two men take hands, and the two we. take hands, and turn once and a half, and then turn your own . Do this to the last.
I'm ignoring the fact that in the 7th edition (from which I took the above instructions) both figures have the underlined dots the wrong way round — suggesting that the band would play the B music and then the A music!
First man and first woman fall back two small steps, and then go the Figure-Eight…but why would they want to fall back two small steps before a figure eight? I think it's much more likely that they fall back a double, come forward a double and then do a half figure eight which puts them back on their own sides. Sharp then has a footnote:
In the next round the first couple will be proper, the second couple improper. Couples will be alternately proper and improper throughout the movement. If on their wrong sides, partners should change places when neutral.This sounds very unlikely, and without any confirmation from Playford. And I can't see that it makes sense anyway; the twos remain proper throughout and the second time through the ones would be turning a same-sex neighbour.
In Playford's day the top couple would have started the dance with the next couple, then they would have progressed to the next, and so on all the way down the set as ones and all the way back up as twos. They would then started the second figure (while other people were still doing the first figure), and again gone all the way down and back, when they would have waited until all the other couples were back to their original places. Sharp obviously intends to follow the two-part pattern. At the start of the second part he says:
Partners, who are on their wrong sides, change places.But it's only a 16-bar figure, so I much prefer to alternate the two figures (unlike my approach in “The 29th of May”, admittedly). The other decision is for the ones to fall back with their neighbours before the half figure eight, and for everyone to do the final two-hand turn. I imagine both these moves were for the ones alone; if Playford had intended the twos to join in he would have said so.
|A1:||Ones give right hands, give left; turn partner half-way. Same with neighbour.|
|B1:||Fall back a double with neighbour; lead forward. Ones half figure eight up through the twos.|
|A2:||In new fours, first corners two-hand turn. Second corners two-hand turn.|
|B2:||Two-hand turn neighbour 1½ (skip-change). Two-hand turn partner once (walk).|
The 1. Man lead his Partner down thro' the 2. cu. and cast up to his own place, and the 2. cu. lead up thro' the 1. cu. and cast off into their own places, then the 1. Man cross over with the 2. Wo. and the 1. Wo. with the 2. Man, then fall back and meet and turn S. then cross over, and the Men back to back, the We. at the same time doing the like, then the two Men right and left, the We. at the same time doing the like till the 1. cu. comes into the 2. cu. place.The dance appears in the 8th to 18th editions; the only change I can see is one note in the B-music. The music consists of a four-bar A and an 8-bar B, and since the instructions have no underlined dots to show how they fit the music I start by assuming that each is played twice. (In fact in my printed music I've combined the two A's into a single 8-bar line.)
Various people have had a go at interpreting this, probably because they don't believe Cecil Sharp's version. There's no problem with the ones leading down and casting up, then the twos leading up and casting down, which will fit A1 and A2. It's a lively jig, so I would dance that with a skip-change or single-skip. But how do we fit the rest of it to the music? Corners cross is 4 steps each. Fall back and meet is 4 steps each, so that's B1. Turn single is 4 steps; cross over is 4 steps; back-to-back is 8 steps — that's B2 gone! Admittedly you can consider “meet and turn S.” as a combined move, but that means B2 would start with “cross over” and the back-to-back would be across the music, and still only 4 steps left for
the two Men right and left, the We. at the same time doing the like till the 1. cu. comes into the 2. cu. place.
Sharp gets round this by interpreting “the Men back to back, the We. at the same time doing the like” as “all cross backwards with neighbour”, but I don't believe that. When the Playfords or John Young say “back to back” (as they do in Country Courtship, The Merry Milkmaids in Green, A Trip o'er Tweed, Camberwell, Childgrove, Dick's Maggot, Indian Queen and many more), they mean what you think they mean! I know Pat Shaw took this figure (sometimes called a “right and right through”) and used it in some of his dances such as “Little Hunsdon” and “Long Live London”, but the only Playford dance I've seen it in is Spring-Garden where Playford adds the vital word “change”:
Men change back to back, and we. the like, change each with his own . That again :
My other objection to Sharp's version is that he starts the three changes by giving right to partner, whereas Playford says
the two Men right and left, the We. at the same time doing the like which surely means that you start the right and left with your neighbour — otherwise he would just have said the absolutely standard “right and left”.
So let's look at it with fresh eyes. After the corners have crossed the ones are below the twos, all improper. The cross over gets them into their progressed places where they want to finish. Four changes would leave them where they are — but it's all impossibly rushed. Maybe something is there which should not be. And I think it's the “cross over”. If we leave that out, and do the turn single as we lead forward, we can then start B2 with “back-to-back neighbour”. In fact that makes more sense of the turn single. Sharp standardised a turn single to be to the right, but there's no evidence for this, and if you're leading forward with your neighbour and turning single at the same time I think it's more natural to turn single away from your neighbour. This means the turn single is only ¾ to leave you facing your neighbour, ready for the back-to-back. And you stay facing your neighbour to dance three changes.
Other people may have come up with this same interpretation, but if so I don't know about it. After working this out I saw Pat Shaw's interpretation of La Lirboulaire in the book “Another look at Playford”. The original was published by Feuillet in his “Recüeil de Contredances” 1706 which uses his own notation. The tune is clearly a version of Lilli Burlero, as is the first figure of the dance, and in the diagrams you can see the dancers falling back with neighbour, coming forward into a turn single away ¾ and doing a back-to-back with neighbour!
A couple of years after I'd published this, Bob Lilley wrote to me:
During the 2013 Playford Liberation Front workshop at Halsway Manor, we were divided into groups, given the original instructions for Lilli Burlero and told “go away and make this work, ignoring all existing (i.e. Sharp's) fudges”.I must admit I hadn't thought of doing the corners cross in just two steps each, and I still don't believe it, but it's certainly another interpretation.
Speeding up the corners-cross move allows everything else to fit in comfortably, thus:
A1, A2 bars 1-4: lead and cast just as it says in the book. No problems.
B1 bar 1: 1st corners cross.
2: 2nd corners cross.
3-4: Fall back a double with neighbour;
5-8: Turn single and cross with partner — all are now progressed and proper. Face neighbour.
B2 1-4: Neighbours back to back.
5-8: R & L 4 changes, starting with neighbour.
|A:||Ones lead down through twos (skip), cast up to place. Twos lead up through ones, cast to place.|
|B1:||First corners cross; second corners cross. Fall back a double with neighbour; come forward turning single away from neighbour ¾.|
|B2:||Back-to-back with neighbour. Starting with neighbour, dance three changes of circular hey, with hands.|
First man take hands with the 1. and 2. wo. half round ; wo. break hands, and cast off ; turn the 1. wo. into the 2. wo. place, 1. man at the same time turn the 2. man into his place, than the 2. man take hands with the two women, and do as before ; first cu. being in their own places, slip down, the we. within-side, and the men without-side into the 2. cu. place, they slip up at the same time ; turn single all four, right and left into their own places, then slip down as before, the man within-side, and the wo. without-side, turn single, and men turn by themselves, and wo. doing the like at the same time.
Note : Each strain is to be play'd twice over.
This is interpreted by Douglas and Helen Kennedy in the Country Dance Book New Series, and some years after I had worked out my interpretation I found out that Andrew Shaw also has a version. But let's look at what Playford says.
The music is a reel with two parts of 8 bars each, both repeated. It's the first move which invites various interpretations. The circle half is clear enough, and then the two women let go of each other, but what does “cast off” mean here? Usually it means “cast down” as opposed to “cast up”, but I suggest that it means “cast away from each other”. This takes them back to their own side of the set, leaving room for the first man to move between them back to his own side. But what does
turn the 1. wo. into the 2. wo. place mean? Who is turning the first woman — it must be the second woman, but why give an instruction to her? I take it to mean that the first woman turns into the second woman's place, and implicitly the second woman ends in the first woman's place. They're already roughly in these places, so it's a full turn, which fits the music: 4 steps to circle half-way, 4 steps to cast back to their own side, 8 steps for the turn. The instruction for the men is clearly directed at the first man, as we would expect, and if he moves straight across the set to meet the second man the turn would be about 1¼. I probably wouldn't specify the fraction when teaching this; I just say “All two-hand turn neighbour into progressed place”, though if someone queries it I would say that the women turn once and the men about 1¼. So that's A1, and A2 is the same move led by the second man. At the end of this all are back in home place, as Playford confirms.
But now we get
slip down, the we. within-side, and the men without-side which doesn't make sense. Could the ones be improper? No, because the final instruction seems to be a turn with same-sex neighbour. In fact if you look at a later version at www.izaak.unh.edu/nhltmd/indexes/dancingmaster/Dance/Play4042.htm you see that “men” has become “man”, though it still says “We” rather than “Wo”. The instruction is addressed to the first couple — the second couple get a mention afterwards — so it should be in the singular: “the woman inside and the man outside”, which makes it clear what the twos have to do to fit in with that. And the turn single for all four would surely be in the direction of travel rather than the default right shoulder. Then three changes to get you back to original places. And in B2 we do get both in the singular, which confirms my belief. But the final move seems distinctly odd to me. We've already had two-hand turn neighbour twice; why should we want it a third time? Surely it's more satisfactory to finish by turning partner, so that's what I'm going for — and don't tell me I'm inconsistent!
|A1:||First man circle half-way with the two ladies; move between them to meet second man as they cast out away from each other, back to their own side. All two-hand turn neighbour to finish progressed. (Men about 1¼).|
|A2:||Second man do the same (all home).|
|B1:||All chassée to change places with neighbour (four slip steps) 1M and 2L behind neighbour; cloverleaf turn single out. Three changes of a circular hey with hands.|
|B2:||Chassée back with the others behind; cloverleaf turn single. Two-hand turn partner (as written, neighbour).|
All four meet and turn single, then Hands half round . The first Couple meet the third Couple and turn single, then Hands half round : The first Couple being in the third Couple's Place, cast up into the second Couple's Place, then Back to Back with your partner, then turn single, and Right and Left quite round with the second Couple . The first Couple being in the second Couple's Place, the first Man turn the third Woman, and the first Woman the second Man, then the first Man turn the third Man, and the first Woman turn the second Woman, then Back to Back with your partners, then lead thro' the second Couple and cast off, and lead thro' the third Couple and cast up :The music consists of an eight-bar A and a 16-bar B, and the instructions indicate that each is played twice. Looking at the similarity of A1 and A2 we conclude that A1 starts with first and second couple meeting. Even that has two possible meanings: each couple leads to meet the other couple, or all four people move towards the centre of their foursome. I would incline to the first interpretation, since the next part says
The first Couple meet the third Couplerather than
The first and third Couple meetbut I don't feel strongly about it. However,
Hands half roundsurely means the two couples circle left half-way, which is not very far to go in eight steps. Leaving this aside for the moment, the two A's finish with twos at the top improper, threes improper, ones proper. Bernard Bentley interpreted this dance in Fallibroome 1, published in 1962, and he does the first turn single with people turning towards their partner and the second with them turning away. This strikes me as unnecessarily fussy and likely to go wrong, and has no justification that I can see; I would suggest a turn single right to go into the circle left both times.
The start of the B is surely directed to the ones alone — cast up to the middle place, back-to-back and turn single. Bernard Bentley has everyone doing the back-to-back and turn single, which may make it more interesting for the twos and threes but is less likely. This is also one of the many cases where he gives instructions without explaining how they fit the music.
1st couple cast up into middle place. All back to back and turn single. 1st and 2nd couples four changes of a hey.The full stop (period) after “place” suggests that there are eight steps for the cast up, then eight steps for a back-to-back with a turn single tacked onto the end. But is this likely? What is the usual purpose of a turn single (when it's not part of the composite “set and turn single”)? Surely it's a device to use up two bars of music without going anywhere, as in the A part! So it seems more likely to me that it's four steps to cast up, eight steps (across the music, admittedly) for the back-to-back and four for the turn single. Then there are four steps for each of the four changes at the top, as we would expect. Whatever the timing, we now have the ones proper in middle place, as is very common in a triple minor dance — but the twos and threes are improper. And looking at the rest of the instructions, they never have a chance to get back to their own sides. Bernard Bentley gets round this, and at the same time converts the dance from triple minor to a three-couple set, by changing the ending (the ones leading down through the threes and casting back up to middle place) to:
Lead through the 3rd couple, who move up. All half-turn with the left hand.He has the ones improper at this point, so it works — but is that a cop-out ending or what?! I just can't accept it. I think things went wrong right at the start — the twos and threes got improper in the circle left half-way, and there seemed far too much music for that. So instead of a spurious left-hand turn at the end, how about doing a circle left half-way followed by a two-hand turn partner half-way in A1 and A2? Of course you can say this is just as spurious as Bentley's half left-hand turn, but to my mind it has two major advantages: it fits the music much better, and it's more conventional. By 1713 English Country Dances had become much more standardised than they were when John Playford started publishing them in 1651. The “longways for as many as will” was king, and there were no dances with the quirkiness of Dargason, Newcastle or many of the other early set dances. It's just so unlikely that the twos and threes would spend the majority of the dance improper, that I'm prepared to say it must be wrong.
So, let's have everyone proper at the start of the B section. The second half is a perfectly standard finish: the ones lead up through the twos and cast back to middle place, then lead down through the threes and cast up to middle place. We can be confident that this will take sixteen steps — the second eight bars of B2. So we have sixteen steps available for the turns and the back-to-back. Notice that this time Playford describes the back-to-back as
with your partners rather than
with your partner as earlier, implying that all three couples do it. But how can we fit the move in? I can see one possibility, which is to do two-hand turns and drift from the first to the second. So the first man goes down to do a two-hand turn with the third woman until he is below her, leaves her and turns her partner about half-way to finish where all this started. The first woman is doing the mirror image at the other end. But again it's such an unconventional move that I find it hard to believe, and it would be very busy to do all that in eight steps and have everybody ready for the back-to-back. Bernard Bentley presumably felt the same way — he just leaves out the back-to-back without mentioning the fact. So if we leave it out, we can do what I feel is more likely — a right-hand turn with the first person about three-quarters and a left-hand turn with that person's partner about one and a quarter. However this leaves the first woman moving down the set, and the next move is the ones leading up. Bernard Bentley's version has the turns on the other sides, since the twos and threes are improper, and this finishes with the ones coming in to meet from side positions. My solution, for which I have absolutely no justification, is for the ones to meet after the two turns with a gipsy left three-quarters to finish facing up, proper. It will work, and I suggest flowing from one turn to the next to the gipsy without worrying about how many steps you need for each move. Do I think it's right? Probably not, but I think it's more right than the Fallibroome version! I agree with Bernard Bentley that for today's dancers it's a good idea to convert this from a triple minor to a three couple set, so instead of the ones leading down and casting up at the end I have the ones leading down and turning single away while the threes cast up to middle place.
Another approach is to switch hands for the turns. The ones would then be going through the couple to start each of the turns — left with first corner, right with that person's partner — and would meet coming in from the side of the set, ready to lead up through the top couple. But it seems natural to start with the right hand, especially having just done four changes which finish with a left hand. And as usual the woman has the awkward transition; she's just done a left change with the top woman and she has to turn back on herself to turn the top man — she really doesn't want to think about giving the same hand twice in a row. So I still prefer a right-hand turn first, even though we need the gipsy left to get the woman in position for the lead up.
|A1:||Ones and twos lead towards neighbour, acknowledge; turn single right to place. Circle left half-way; two-hand turn partner half-way.|
|A2:||Ones and threes the same at the bottom, finishing 2, 3, 1.|
|B1:||(16 bars): Ones cast up to middle, threes lead down (4 steps); ones back-to-back partner (8 steps); ones turn single right (4 steps).|
|Ones and twos: four changes with hands.|
|B2:||Ones right-hand turn first corner, left-hand turn that person's partner, ones gipsy left ¾ and face up.|
|Ones lead up through twos; cast back to middle place. Lead down to bottom place (threes cast up); turn single away.|
Source: Dancing Master 9th Edition, 1695: Henry Playford.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2007.
Format: Longways duple minor
The 1. cu. take hands and draw into the 2. cu. place, the 2. cu. at the same time hands to the 1. cu. place; then each cu back to back with their Partners . The 2. cu. does the same, which brings the 1. and 2. cu as they began : All 4 Right-hands a-cross half round, then Left-hands a-cross back again to the same . Then the 1. cu. cross over above the 2. cu. to the 2. cu place, then go the whole Figure of Eight, which brings the 1. cu. to the 2. proper
I had never heard of this one until I played the “Interesting Times” CD by Momentum. It's a good lively slip-jig, so before my next booking with them I looked at the original instructions. It didn't seem complicated. The music has two A's and two B's, each of which is twelve beats (four bars). I know that “Draw poussettes” are fashionable these days, but I believe they are a twentieth century invention (or rather misunderstanding) — see my essay on Poussette — so I'm using the normal push-pull poussette, though either would work. Three steps to push, three to pull and six for the back-to-back sounds fine to me. For the stars I would just specify six steps each, and not worry that with a walk or skip you will actually get more than half-way round in that time. So what about the final twelve steps? For once the phrase “Cross over” is qualified by “to the 2. cu place”, so there's no arguing about it — it's a cross and cast, which is tight in six steps but can be done if the twos move as required. I would probably dance this with a single-skip — not a skip-change which doesn't fit a slip-jig. But then Playford says
whole Figure of Eight. This is certainly not possible in six steps, and anyway would leave the ones on the wrong side; having crossed over they need to do a half figure of eight to finish proper. Usually Playford says
Go the figure and leaves the interpreter to decide whether it's a half or a whole, but in this case he's been very specific and yet it's not possible. My conclusion is that whoever contributed the dance got it wrong — possibly he had forgotten that the ones would start the move improper. To me this seems the minimum change necessary to make the dance work, and I really don't believe anyone is going to come up with a better version!
My thanks to Bob Messer of Michigan for pointing out that I had put a G rather than an F in bar 2 of the B-music — if you printed out the tune before February 2015 please print it out again. Interestingly, Momentum play an F♯. I asked Thomas Bending why, and he replied:
Like many old, simple tunes, there are lots of slightly different versions of this tune in various traditions under various names: Mad Moll, The Peacock followed the Hen, Cuddle me Cuddy, Yellow Stockings, Brose and Butter, etc, etc. There are versions published by Playford as “Mad Moll” and “The Virgin Queen” (and arguably “Up with Aily” is a major version of the same tune), by Thomson as “Mad Moll”, by Neal as “Yellow Stockings”, in the Northumbrian Minstrelsy as “Peacock followed the Hen”, and probably lots of others too. Some of these versions have F natural, some have F#, and early editions of Playford have G natural.
So maybe my G wasn't a mistake after all, just a variant!
|A1:||(4 bars): Half poussette, first man pull (6 steps). All back-to-back partner.|
|A2:||Half poussette, second man pull. All back-to-back partner.|
|B1:||(4 bars): Right-hand star (6 steps). Left-hand star, and I suggest at the end of this the ones give left hand to partner so that they can pull by (left shoulder) into the next figure.|
|B2:||Ones cross and cast; twos lead up (6 steps, single-skip). Ones half figure eight up (single-skip).|
Source: Dancing Master Appendix to the 7th Edition, 1688: Henry Playford.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, around 1992.
Format: Longways duple minor
Note: The first Strain twice, and the last but once over.
The first man goes above the first woman into the second womans place, the second woman into the second mans place, and the second man into the first mans place ; then all four turn single.
The first woman goes above the second man into the second womans place, the second man into the first womans place, and the second woman into the second mans place ; then all four turn single.
All four hands across half round ; then fall back, and hands across half round. Back again. Then lead to the wall the two men, and the two women at the same time. The other do the like. Then all four meet and jump, and clap hands , then take hands half round, and so cast off; then lead down,and the other lead up; then all four meet and jump,and clap hands all together ; then turn their own Partners.
The tune is a notey jig, which suggests to me that it should not be played too fast, with an 8-bar A, an 8-bar B and repeat marks for both (despite the instructions saying the last strain is played but once over). The first paragraph seems straightforward, though busy for the first man. The second is straightforward once we realise that
place means “current place”, and we finish with the twos above the ones, all improper. It's odd that although there are horizontal lines dividing the three paragraphs, the first two seem to be four bars each and the third must therefore be the remaining 24 bars, but I don't see how we could elongate the first and second paragraphs to 16 beats each.
All four hands across half round presumably means “right-hand star half-way”, then fall back on the side. If we remove the full stop and capital “B” from
hands across half round. Back again. it means “Left-hand star back again”, and presumably having fallen back you need to lead forward before doing this. Then the men lead to the wall, and the women do the same — but who are
The other who are supposed to do the like? I feel inclined to miss out the
jump, and clap hands — maybe that's just personal prejudice.
Take hands half round presumably means circle left half-way, which gets everyone home, then
and so cast off is directed at the ones, giving the progression. In total,
Lead out, lead back, circle half, ones cast sounds like eight bars, so we provisionally assign this to B1. The phrase
then lead down is directed at the ones, and this time it's clear that
the other means the twos. So the couples lead away from each other, lead back, and turn partners, giving B2. I had envisaged this as being a very short lead, acknowledging new neighbours before turning and leading back, but when I called the dance both sets decided that the ones would lead down the centre and the twos would move individually up the outside, so I think I will stick with that version.
|A1:||First man cross, go round partner to second lady's place while twos move one place clockwise; all turn single. First lady cross, go round to second man's place while twos move round one place clockwise; all turn single.|
|A2:||Right-hand star half (home); fall back with neighbour. Lead forward; left-hand star half-way.|
|B1:||Lead neighbour out to the wall; change hands, lead back. Circle left half-way (home); ones cast, twos lead up.|
|B2:||Ones lead down, twos move up the outside; come back. All two-hand turn partner, fall back.|
I have missed out “jump, and clap hands” half-way through B1 and B2.
Source: Dancing Master 17th Edition, 1721: John Young.
Formation: Longways triple minor.
The first and 2. Men fall back to the Wall, and the Wo. fall back at the same time, and change sides . Fall back and change into their own places again : The first Man change place with the 2. Wo. and the first Wo. with the 2. Man, go all four round and cast off, lead thro' the 3. cu. and thro' the 2. and back to back with your partner and turn.
The A-music is 8 bars; the B-music is 12 bars. The underlined dots in the instructions indicate that the A-music is played twice but there are no dots for the B-music, though it doesn't seem possible to compress the moves into a single B.
This isn't my interpretation; I learnt it as a 3-couple dance many years ago. I don't think there are any ambiguities to be resolved. I take
go all four round and cast off to mean that after the corners crossing the ones and twos circle left half-way and then the ones cast and the twos lead up — a very standard sequence to achieve a progression. After the ones lead through the threes I assume they cast back rather than lead back, and the same through the twos.
But what about the timing? It says the ones and twos fall back, and it doesn't mention coming forward, just “change sides”. This is to the first A, and repeated to the second A. How do we pad each out to 8 bars? We could add a lead forward, and then a “Hole in the Wall” cross for 8 steps, but that seems horribly slow. The tune is a lively jig, originally used in the first edition for The Merry Merry Milkmaids and surely it needs lively dancing. Pat Shaw in “Another Look at Playford” just rewords the original:
All facing partner, fall back a double and come forward and change sides with no indication of the timing — but the book was published long after his death and if he'd published his notes he might well have changed things. The version I learnt was to dance a right-hand turn 1½ the first time and left 1½ the second. To me that follows the spirit of the dance if not the letter, and I'm sticking with it! From that it flows more smoothly if the first corners cross left shoulder rather than the default right shoulder. The rest of the dance clearly needs two B's. I'm sure the back-to-back and turn was for the ones only, but on this occasion I'm happy to let the twos and threes join in — and Pat Shaw lets the threes join in with the A part, so you could certainly do that. It's a typical triple minor — the ones are moving the whole time, the twos move some of the time, the threes don't move at all and only get a mention because the ones lead through them!
So we come to the usual question: do we leave it as triple minor, do we convert it to a 3-couple dance with the ones casting to the bottom in B2, or do we convert it to duple minor? I'm going for the third option, with the ones at the bottom of the longways set imagining a third couple to lead through and cast around. Try it and see what you think.
|A1:||Fall back with neighbour; lead forward. Right-hand turn partner 1½ (dance).|
|A2:||Fall back with neighbour; forward. Left-hand turn 1½.|
|B1:||(12 bars): First corners cross left shoulder; second corners cross right shoulder. Circle left half-way; ones cast, twos lead up. Ones lead down through next twos; cast up one place.|
|B2:||Ones lead up through original twos; cast one place. All back-to-back. All two-hand turn.|
Source: Dancing Master 1st Edition, 1651: John Playford.
Formation: 3 couples longways.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2011.
Lead up all a D. forwards and back . That again :
First man take his wo. by both hands and four slips up, and stand, the 2.as much, the 3.as much, turn all S. . Third Cu.four slips down, the 2.as much, first as much, turn all single :
Sides all . That again :
First Cu.change places, the 2.as much, the 3.as much, turn S. . Third Cu.change places, the 2.as much, first as much, turn all single :
Arms all . That again :
First man change places with the 2. Wo. first Wo. change with the 2.the last change with his own, turn S. . First man change with the last wo. first wo.change with the last man, tother change, turn single :
No difficulties of interpretation, and I'm sure other people have come up with exactly the same version. In the third figure it seems obvious that
first Wo. change with the 2. means “first Wo. change with the 2. man” and that
tother (or “t'other”) means “the other couple”, in other words the twos who are at the top. The dance is very similar to “Black Nag” (which first appears in the 4th edition of 1670), but is progressive — the ones finish at the bottom and the twos and threes have moved up. This means you need to do the whole dance three times through (nine times through the tune) to get everyone home, so it's ideal for a Zesty Playford session!
|A:||Up a double and back. That again.|
|B1:||Ones give two hands and slip up; twos the same. Threes the same; all turn single.|
|B2:||Back in reverse order.|
|A:||Side right shoulder to right. Side left.|
|B1:||Ones change places; twos the same. Threes the same; all turn single.|
|B2:||Back in reverse order.|
|A:||Arm right. Arm left.|
|B1:||First man second lady cross; first lady second man cross. Threes cross; all turn single.|
|B2:||First man third lady cross; first lady third man cross. Twos cross; all turn single.|
Source: Dancing Master 11th Edition, 1701: Henry Playford.
Formation: Longways duple minor.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2007.
Note: The first Strain twice, and the last but once over.
The 1. Man cross over and go back to back with the 2. Wo. then the 1. Wo. cross over and go back to back with the 2.Man at the same time . Then meet and turn S.then 1. Man turn the 2. Wo. with his Right-hand, and 1. Wo. turn the 2. Man with her Right-hand at the same time, then 1. cu. take Left-hands and turn into their own places : The 1. cu cross over into the 2. cu. place, and go back to back with their Partner, then all four lead up hands a-breast, then go the Figure through, and cast off into the 2. cu. place .
The tune is in three-time: four bars for each A and eight bars for the B.
The two best-known interpretations are by Cecil Sharp (with two B's) and Pat Shaw (with one B). Playford says there is only one B and I see no reason to doubt him. It also seems clear that the back-to-back in the B section is for the ones alone, whereas Sharp has both couples doing it.
A quick look at Playford's instructions might lead us to think that the first man does the move and then the first woman does it, but then we notice that A1 ends with “at the same time”. Sharp says
First man and first woman cross over and change places but one assumes there would be some kind of acknowledgement to fill out the six steps. Shaw's version uses a “Hole in the Wall” cross — three steps for the ones to cross and face, finishing close together, and three steps to fall back from each other. This can be a beautiful and satisfying movement, but I don't know any historical justification for it; Playford's instructions for “Hole in the Wall” just say
The 1. Man cross over with the 2. Wo. and the 1. Wo with the 2. Man. There's also the odd feeling that having done this intimate movement with your partner you immediately abandon them to dance with your neighbour.
Sharp gives six steps for the ones to turn single and then do a right-hand turn all the way with their neighbour, which I simply don't believe. To me the most worrying part in Shaw's version is that the right-hand turn with neighbour is across the music: three steps for the ones to turn single, six steps for a right-hand turn with neighbour, three steps for the ones to do a left-hand turn half-way to place. There's another version where the ones do a turn single on the end of the back-to-back with their neighbour — but why would they do this? Surely Playford would have indicated such an unusual move more clearly. And that would also ignore “Then meet” which Playford puts before the turn single.
For the B part I have no argument with Pat Shaw's version except that he specifies the ones crossing right shoulder and after a left-hand turn I find it more natural to cross left shoulder. This time Playford actually says that the one are crossing into the twos' place, and now we see the symmetry of the two halves — they both start with the same move, then the first half has ones back-to-back with neighbour while the second half has ones back-to-back with partner. Obviously the twos need to move up in order for the ones to move into their places, and one of my principles is that you shouldn't suddenly have to turn back on yourselves, so after the twos moving up it's surely better for them to keep moving forward and casting onto the end of the line rather than separating and falling back. (Using the same principle I would suggest that when the twos lead up at the start of the A figure they should turn out to flow into the symmetrical back-to-back.) Three steps to lead up and three to lead back leaves us with six steps for the final move. The phrase “go the Figure through” means a figure of eight or half a figure of eight; the question is whether to bend the line as it falls back so that it's a real half figure eight, or whether the ones start the move from the centre of the line. If it were eight steps I would vote for the first option, but with only six steps the second seems a better bet.
|A:||Ones cross and cast below the twos, twos meet, lead up and turn out to face down (6 steps); symmetrical back-to-back neighbour, ones leading up the middle to start (6 steps). Ones meet (3 steps), turn single downwards (3 steps); right-hand turn neighbour half-way (3 steps), ones left-hand turn half-way to place (3 steps).|
|B:||Ones cross left shoulder and cast below the twos, twos meet and lead up (6 steps); ones back-to-back while twos cast to the end of a line facing up. Lead up three steps and back; ones cross and cast while twos move in and lead up.|
And then in 2018 I called Red-House using the version I picked up in the States where there are moves added for the twos. David Ashworth then wrote to me:
I am an occasional caller at various clubs in Essex. I have called your interpretation of Mr Beveridge's Maggot a couple of times, very successfully. The dancers seemed to find it an easy dance to perform whereas in the past when I have called the Shaw version the dancers have found the dance much harder to do. I think that means that it is likely that your interpretation is closer to how it was originally danced.
After the first time I called your interpretation it struck me that there were some minor tweaks that could be added to make the part of the twos more interesting (as per your comment last weekend at Chelmsford concerning 'Red House') and thus more suited to the way we dance nowadays with only 6 or 7 turns through a dance.
These tweaks do not affect what the ones do, only what the twos do. In my opinion they also improve the symmetry and balance of the dance.
I didn't like the idea at all, but I can't really explain why not! Charles Bolton and Andrew Shaw quite happily add moves for the twos and threes to make a dance more interesting for them, but I very rarely do that, so it's unfortunate that David caught me at it! Anyway, see what you think. He's taken Victoria Bestock's suggestion and gone further, adding two crossings for the twos. Changes are in bold.
|A:||Ones cross and cast below the twos, twos meet, lead up and turn out to face down (6 steps); symmetrical back-to-back neighbour, ones leading up the middle to start (6 steps). All meet partner (3 steps), ones turn single downwards while twos turn single upwards (3 steps); right-hand turn neighbour half-way (3 steps), all left-hand turn partner half-way (3 steps) (ones are back to place, twos are in place but improper).|
|B:||Ones cross left shoulder and cast below the twos, twos meet and lead up (6 steps); ones back-to-back while twos cross and cast to the end of a line facing up. Lead up three steps and back; ones cross and cast while twos move in and lead up.|
Incidentally, David also wrote the dance All Saints.
Source: Dancing Master 9th Edition, 1695: Henry Playford.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 1996.
The 1. man turn the 2. wo. with his Right-hand, and cast off below the 2. man, the 1. wo. turn the 2. man with her Right-hand, and cast off below the 2. wo. :
The two men take hands and fall back, the two we. doing the same at the same time, all four meet and turn S. then go the whole Figure thro' then all four hands a-breast, and then lead thro' and cast off :
Note: Each Strain is to be play'd twice over.
Here's another one where it's difficult to see how Sharp came up with his version. I've run Dance Interpretation workshops where (without giving the title) I've read out Playford's words and invited the dancers to follow them, and they tend to come up with my version without any prompting — just a reminder that the instructions are usually addressed to the ones and that
go the whole Figure through means a figure of eight. So why did Sharp have the first man turning the second lady until she was home but he was below the second man, then casting up rather than off, to finish in his original place? I don't know. And then having established this odd procedure, he had to change the first woman's turn from right-hand to left-hand to make it symmetrical.
Garth Notley has pointed out that the original says each strain is to be placed twice — I had misread this (and mispublished it) as once. His interpretation can be seen at http://regencydances.org/index.php?wL=189 and indeed uses two A's and two B's, but having used the first A music for the turns and casts he then has to fill up the second A and both B's with what I have shown as the second paragraph in the original wording, and I just don't believe it, though he has pointed out that he would take the dance faster than me and would use steps rather than walking — as they would have done in 1701. I know the easy way out of interpretation problems is to say “Clearly this is an error”, but I think it more likely that the editor or printer got one word wrong than that the dance is really supposed to be twice as long as the instructions seem to indicate. And notice that there are no underlined single dots to show where A1 and A2 are supposed to end, just underlined double dots for the end of (presumably) A2 and B2. I'm going for a single A and B.
The A-music is 8 bars of three-time, the second half clearly related to the first half but resolving on the tonic rather than the dominant. Twelve steps for a turn all the way and a cast seems perfectly reasonable. Notice that the dance is not as symmetric as it appears on paper, because when the first woman turns the second man he is directly opposite her rather than diagonally below her — maybe that's why Sharp changed it.
The B-music is 12 bars of three-time, clearly in three chunks of four bars. Sharp has neighbours falling back for six steps (usually problematic), leading forward for three and moving forward turning single for three. Another possibility is to fall back for three, lead forward for three, and turn single for six. Either way, that will fill the first chunk of four bars. The second chunk is then
go the whole Figure thro'. Notice that in the first and third chunk it actually says
all four — the default is that instructions are addressed to the ones, so they alone do the second chunk. This gives them twelve steps for a full figure eight — possible with a skip-step (not a skip-change, which goes across the phrasing of the bars), though not comfortable with a walk step. I assume that they have to go slightly further, to finish in the middle of a line facing up. It's certainly busy, which is why I would not want to go into it from a turn single while moving forwards, so my money is on taking six steps to do the turn single and be ready for the figure of eight. Another suggestion is to fall back for three steps, come forward turning single for three steps, and then use the second half of the C music and all the D music to give a comfortable six bars (eighteen steps) for the figure of eight. I really don't think this makes musical sense — surely the figure eight needs to start at the start of a line of music. The C music is in two identical halves, making it even more unlikely that you would start something so different for the second half. In fact the D music is in a different style from the rest of the tune — it's busy and dotted whereas the rest is smooth and flowing, as if the music were saying “You need to get a move on here”. Then
hands a-breast I would take to mean lead up three steps and fall back three steps. The final instructions are addressed to the ones: they're not exactly leading through the twos, but they're leading up from the line before casting off.
I've split the instructions into four-bar chunks.
Each paragraph is four bars of three-time.
|A:||First man right-hand turn second lady (all the way), then cast to second place, second man moving up.|
|B:||First lady right-hand turn second man, then cast to second place, second lady moving up.|
|C:||All fall back three steps with neighbour; lead forward. Turn single (6 steps).|
|D:||Ones dance a full figure eight up through the twos (skip-step), finishing between them in the middle of a line facing up.|
|E:||Lead up three steps and back (stay in the line). Ones lead up and cast while twos meet in progressed place.|
Honour to the Presence, then to your own. Lead up all forward and back, that again.
The first man back to back on the right of his wo. and back to back on the left hand of his wo. to their own places, then cross over the second Cu and the Hay through the second Cu.
Next, hands half round and fall back all four, then side over to one another's places, then right hands being across, go half round, then left hands being given across, go half round.
This is not particularly controversial or original, but someone was looking for it on my website so I thought I might as well put it here.
The musical notation is an unbroken tune of 16 bars with no repeats, but I find it easier to think of it as one A and one B of 8 bars each. The horizontal lines in the instructions suggest that there are three figures, but most people would accept that the first is an introduction and would be performed once only. I have always seen the dance finish with the introduction in reverse, so I have followed this practice in my interpretation, though I don't know any historical justification for it.
So the first real figure starts with the ones doing a back-to-back right shoulders and a back-to-back left shoulders. We assume the woman moves too, particularly as Playford ends
to their own places rather than “to his own place”. These days the twos would expect to do the move as well. I'm not arguing with that, though it's worth pointing out that dances which have everyone doing a back-to-back or a two hand turn can be very crowded, and in Playford's day it would have been just one couple doing the move and the other couple watching. That's 8 bars, fitting what I'm calling the A-music. As usual, we remember that “cross over” means “cross and cast”, so the ones cross and cast below the twos who move up. Eight steps for that, leaving eight for “and the Hay through the second Cu.”. They certainly can't do a hey (reel of four) with the second couple in that time. They could do half a hey, but I think Playford would have given more instructions for such an unusual movement, and it would also finish with the twos improper. My guess is that by “Hay” the instructions mean “half figure eight”, giving a very standard sequence of moves to produce a progression. It would be clearer if the book had said “go the figure”, but there were many contributors to Playford's book and they didn't all phrase things in the same way. Certainly this works, fits the music and gets the ones and twos to their correct progressed positions.
The second figure starts with circle left half-way and fall back (presumably with neighbour). The phrase
then side over to one another's places is unorthodox, and for many years I didn't believe it had any connection with “siding” or (as Playford would have phrased it) “Sides all”. Sharp's interprets this as “Partners cross over and change places”; I would prefer four steps to come forward, hesitate, then four to cross right shoulder and turn to the right to face partner. But in 2018 John Sweeney suggested that this could mean four steps to side into line right shoulder to right, but turning on the fourth step to face each other in a column, and then four steps to fall back into partner's place. I haven't tried this, but I'm now changing my interpretation to siding into line right shoulder and then continuing across; that gives a little more interaction with your partner than just walking past each other. Whichever way you do it, all of that fits the A-music. The B-music then has right-hand star and left-hand star. It's quite common for the original instructions to specify “half round”, and this may be because of the steps they were using; with a walk or a skip-change I would certainly opt for the stars going all the way round.
In Playford's day they would have done the first figure all the way down the set and back, then the top couple would have started second figure (while couples below them were still doing the first figure). Because each is only 16 bars long, Sharp has joined them together into one 32-bar figure. But (of course) each figure has a progression, and in Sharp's day no-one had heard of a double progression. I imagine that's why he changed the B part of the first figure to the ones doing a full figure eight down through the twos and thus starting the next move with the same couple. I'd prefer to admit that these were originally two separate figures and do a double progression dance.
Many years after I had come up with this version, I discovered that Pat Shaw did it the same way — and I expect other people have come up with the same version independently.
What about the speed? First of all, let's be clear that this is just a matter of opinion — nobody knows what speed they danced it in Playford's day. Some callers take the dance very slowly. I take it fairly slowly. In Cecil Sharp's day everything was fast, so in his interpretation he uses a skip step for the figure eight, a slip step for the half circle, and by default a running step for all the rest. But I don't believe all these dances were fast. The tune is a jig, but I envisage it as a slow jig. I think of this as quite a formal dance, particularly with that introductory figure, and I had assumed that the title meant “I could never love thee more than I do”, which also suggests “romantic” rather than “energetic”. However in 2019 the assiduous Mo Waddington pointed out that the tune fitted the poem “I'll never love Thee more” by James Graham Marquis of Montrose. He was a Scottish nobleman, poet and soldier, whose spectacular victories are remembered in military history for their tactical brilliance. The poem (see the words here) is not at all what I expected — it's a jealous man demanding that his love be true to him alone, or “I'll never love thee more”. In the last verse, having made all the threats, he then tries flattery:
But if thou wilt prove faithful then,
And constant of thy word,
I'll make thee glorious by my pen
And famous by my sword;
I'll serve thee in such noble ways
Was never heard before;
I'll crown and deck thee all with bays,
And love thee more and more.
History does not record whether she fell for this or not.
|A:||Step right and honour presence; and left. Partner same.|
|B:||Up a double and back. That again.|
|A1:||Back-to-back partner. Back-to-back left shoulder.|
|B1:||Ones cross, go below twos; twos lead up. Ones half figure eight up. [First progression]|
|A2:||With the next couple, circle left half-way; fall back with neighbour. Move forward into line right shoulder with partner; cross over.|
|B2:||Right-hand star. Left-hand star.|
|A:||Up a double and back. That again.|
|B:||Step and honour partner. Step and honour the presence.|
Source: Dancing Master Volume 3 2nd Edition, c. 1726: John Young.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2016.
Format: Longways triple minor
Note: The first Strain is to be play'd twice, and the last but once.The first Couple Sett and cast off, and lead through the 3rd Couple . Then the first Man goes the whole Figure with the third couple, and his Partner with the second at the same time, being in the second Couples place : Then Hands all six quite round, and all Back to Back Partners, then the first Couple lead through the third Couple, and through the second, and turn your Partner.
I've doubled the number of bars so that there are two beats to a bar rather than four. The musical notes aren't quite what John Young published, but I think they're what he meant! The tune is then a reel with an 8-bar A (repeated, according to the instructions) and a 16-bar B.
The instructions don't seem difficult to interpret. I assume that
lead through the 3rd Couple implies “and cast up again”, though I suppose it could mean “lead through and then lead back”. But when I looked at the B part I thought “This is going to be frantic”. Four bars to circle 6 all the way? Eight bars for the ones to lead to the bottom, cast up, lead to the top, cast to middle place and turn your partner?!
Sharp accurately transcribes the original wording (though he abandons what I think is a really good tune and substitutes “Nobody's Jig”). I'll be sticking with the original.
I looked on YouTube and found two versions (plus many videos of a rock band of that name). The first is almost as Sharp (and John Young) describe it, except that the ones come up the outside and lead down rather than vice-versa, and you can see it doesn't fit the music. It's a scramble every time — admittedly it would fit better if they danced it rather than walking it — and some leading couples just abandon the final turn.
The second is converted to a 3 couple dance, with reels of three rather than just the ones doing figures of eight, and the dancers (a display team this time) are livelier than the first lot. It has the circle 6 half-way only, which certainly allows time for the back-to-back, but the rest of the dance bears no resemblance to the original instructions. I discovered later that this is Charles Bolton's version, and he admits:
I have treated the last half of the B very freely.
I think you can justify changing the figure of eight into a reel of three on the grounds that the original says “Then the first man goes the whole figure with the third Couple” rather than “around” or “through”, but what can you do with that circle?
I suggest a version which interprets “Then hands all six quite round” as two circles of three — I don't suppose it's right, but with a slipped circle it can certainly be done and it flows nicely into the back-to-back for everybody. The fact is, John Young's original does not make sense and something has to be changed. I've also converted it to a 3-couple dance and left out the final turn for the ones. I suspect the dancers would complain if I did the triple minor version, because all the twos and threes do is a circle left and a back-to-back — OK, the twos also get to move up!
Pat Shaw's version (which I discovered after I'd written all this) is the same as the original but with reels of three, and he too has converted it to a 3-couple set. But in the second half he dodges the issue of timing. In the A part he splits it into 4-bar chunks (8-bar chunks the way I've written the music out) but the B part is just in 8-bar chunks and after the circle left he adds “(fast)”!
|A1:||Ones set; cast (twos lead up). Ones lead down, cast up.|
|A2:||Man down, lady up: reels of three across with this couple.|
|B1:||(16 bars) With the same couple, circle left (slip). All back-to-back.|
|Ones lead down, cast up to middle place, lead up to the top, cast to the bottom as the threes lead up.|
Meet all, back againe, set to your owne, and to the next . That againe :Rather to my surprise, dancers in both England and the States seem quite willing to have a go at Mike Barraclough's interpretation of “Nonesuch” published in my book “Playford with a Difference”, and some of them have said they prefer it to the Cecil Sharp version. So again I'm rushing in where angels fear to tread — this time looking at that other classic Sharp dance, “Newcastle”. Again, I'm sure some people will be horrified. You get the same response from people who go to church regularly, believe themselves committed Christians or whatever, yet refuse to listen if anybody questions any article of faith. They're saying: “This is what I've been taught; how dare you question it?” That's not real faith; it may be comfortable but it doesn't have any solid foundation. Anyway, we wouldn't want to make a religion out of Sharp's interpretations — would we?
Armes all with your owne by the right, men all fall with your left hands into the middle, We. go round them to your places . Armes againe with your owne, and We. left hands in, men goe about them towards the left to your places :
Sides all with your owne, and change places with them . Sides with the next, and change places with them :
The first man and 3. Wo. take hands and meet, the first Wo. and 3. man, lead out againe then holding up your hands, the other foure cast off and come under your armes to their places . The other foure the like :
Armes all with your We. and change places . Armes with the next and change places : Now every man is with his owne Wo. in the Co. place.
Fall back from each other, foure and foure a brest to each wall, turn and change places with your opposites . Fall back from each other foure and foure along the roome, turn S. change places with your opposite : So each falls into his place as at first.
One problem is that “Newcastle” is so well-known that you can read through the original wording and convince yourself it actually says what you expected it to say — that's why proof-reading is such a difficult job. So let's actively look for other possible meanings.
The tune is a reel with a standard 8-bar A- and B-music, so we would assume each figure to be 32 bars unless there were good reasons to think otherwise.
The first introduction doesn't say whether you take hands in a ring, take just your partner's hand (as in “Up a double and back”) or do it without hands. I'm not disagreeing with Sharp — I think it's a gesture of solidarity at the start of a challenging dance, and the fact that you are all “meeting” rather than “going forward a double” makes the joining of hands a natural thing to do — but can you afford to be dogmatic about it?!
Set to your owne, and to the next — which next? Well, of course he means your corner — that's how I learnt it! But if I said in an American Square: “Swing your partner, and swing the next”, you'd probably pass your partner by and the man would swing his right-hand lady. In fact that's what I believe “the next” means in the second and third figures. I'm not saying that's what it means in the first figure, but it's an interesting possibility, particularly when we discover that the second and third introductions (most unusually) are where the progressions occur.
In 2016 Andrew Swaine pointed out to me that the first time it could mean “set to your partner and the next one round the square” and then
That againe would mean “set to your opposite and corner” — working your way round the people you are going to meet in the second and third figures. I'd never thought of that, which again shows that it doesn't do to be too dogmatic! I've tried it and it works really well (provided you don't move forward towards these people), so now that's in my version. Interestingly, when I called this at the New London Assembly in 2016 someone said that it was awkward because in my version it was difficult to arm right with your partner after the set to corner, and I had to point out that Sharp's version does exactly that. It's very tempting to assume that something new is awkward whereas something you've been doing for years is easy and natural.
Arm right we think we understand (but who knows — maybe it actually meant a right-hand turn), and
men all fall with your left hands into the middle must surely mean a left-hand star. We assume the men take their star round rather than just standing there while the women dance round the outside — but Playford doesn't actually say so. If he'd written “Men left hands across” I'd be more comfortable about it — but these are all minor issues, just to get you thinking about other possibilities behind these seemingly straightforward words. He does however say
to your places which means to me that the star and the single file are once around rather than half-way as some people have suggested. For some reason Sharp doesn't want to use the phrase “arm right”, even though that's what Playford says; instead he has
Partners link right arms and swing round once.
However, now we come to a serious disagreement with Sharp. If the men are doing a left-hand star and the next instruction is
Armes againe with your owne the natural, obvious thing would be to arm right again. If Playford had really meant “arm left”, wouldn't he have said so? Then he says:
Women left hands in which nails it down. And finally, to make absolutely sure that no-one could be in any doubt, he says that the
men goe about them towards the left. That's not ambiguous, the way some of the things I've mentioned earlier are; it's perfectly clear. Sharp dismisses it (in the introduction to part VI of “The Country Dance Book”, 1922) with:
The second half of this figure was intended no doubt to be complementary to and symmetrical with the first; but it is not so noted. The last sentence should of course read: “Armes again with your owne by the left, and We. right hands in, men goe about them towards the right to your places.”Who would have dared to question Sharp about this? But times have changed, and I'm always suspicious when someone uses phrases like “no doubt” and “of course”. Sharp has deliberately changed it to an arm left, even though this makes an awkward transition from the previous movement. So why did he do this? I think there were two reasons. First, he wanted the symmetry of an arm right followed by an arm left. And if it was in the introduction to the third figure I would totally agree with him — but it's half-way through the first figure, which is quite a different context. And second, if the women do a left-hand star and the men go round clockwise you end in your partner's place facing the wrong direction. Perhaps Playford was aware of this, and that's why he again specified
to your placesto make sure the dancers realise they've got to get home. There really isn't a problem; you just do a gypsy right half-way as you meet, and in fact the second arm right is only half-way so there's time for it. But to go from that into Cecil Sharp siding is an abrupt change of direction. Guess what — if you side into line right shoulder to right, one movement flows perfectly into the other.
In fact Dick Shilton has pointed out to me that in the first (1911) and second (1913) editions of Part II, Sharp does use arm right both times. It's not until the 3rd edition (1927) that it becomes arm right and then arm left. The first and second editions say
B2 1 — 2 Partners link right arms and swing round three-quarters of a circle.
3 — 8 Women left-hands-across, counter-clockwise, to places (sk.s.); while men skip round them, clockwise, to places, not joining hands.
whereas the third edition says
B2 1 — 2 Partners link left arms and swing once round (r.s.).
3 — 8 Women right-hands-across, clockwise, to places (r.s.); while men skip round them, counter-clockwise, to places, not joining hands.
So the siding is with
your owne which confirms that the first figure is non-progressive. Is it just right shoulder, or is it right then left? In the first figure, both A1 and A2 started with forward a double and back, so I would expect the second figure to work the same way: right shoulder in A1, left shoulder in A2. The difference this time is that instead of setting to partner and corner we're actually changing places with our partners to that we can side with
the next — of course we all know who “the next” means even though it isn't the same “next” as Sharp means in the first figure! We could pass through in two steps, stretch it out to four if necessary, but we can't really take eight steps for it. Sharp puts in
Partners go a single to the right and honour which is arguably the decent thing to do before abandoning your partner for the rest of the dance. I agree that something is needed to fill out the music — I'm just saying it's not in Playford. In fact Sharp's approach means that this is the only slow movement in the entire dance, so maybe it's not a good choice. To be more consistent with the first figure I would put in a set rather than a step and honour, though you shouldn't move forwards in the setting or you will then get to the next person too quickly..
Michael Barraclough has an interpretation on his website at whatzon.info/10-my-interpretations/24-newcastle, and he says,
I believe that one should adopt a starting point of assuming that what is required is not new. The first question to ask, therefore, is “is there any well known choreographic unit that takes four bars for you to change places with the person you are dancing with” and the answer is YES. The movement known as a “Hole in-the-Wall” change (which I prefer to call “paunch-to-paunch”) meets the requirements exactly, doesn't cause us to invent something new, doesn't cause us to do things that we aren't told to do, and even more importantly, seems to echo the music perfectly.I just don't believe this. The modern interpretation of “Hole in the Wall” indeed has a move where you cross with someone in three steps, finishing close, and then fall back. But there's no justification for this — the original (Henry Playford, Dancing Master 9th Edition, 1695)? just says:
The 1. Man cross over with the 2. Wo. and the 1. Wo. with the 2. ManAnd that's in a longways set, where you have room to fall back, and only takes six steps. I've tried Mike's version, where you're in a square, using eight steps with nowhere to fall back to, and I'm not convinced.
In the arching and casting figure I don't have any argument with the moves as Cecil Sharp described them, but I do argue with the timing. It looks straightforward enough: four steps for the heads (now in side position) to lead in with their original opposite, four steps to lead out again, then eight steps for the original sides to cast away from their current partner, meet their original partner, lead under the nearer arch and fall back to places with their current partner. But in my experience that final section needs more than eight steps — especially if you're wearing period costume. It usually looks rushed — and remember, having flung themselves back into head places they immediately need to lead forward again. Playford doesn't specify any timing beyond saying that the whole arching and casting figure takes eight bars, and then eight for the other couples. So I prefer the sides to lead out as the heads start their casting movement, and vice versa.
And so to the third figure. Note that Playford says
with your We. rather than
with your owne just to remind you that you're not with your original partner. But then note how similar the introduction is to the second figure. Quite clearly it's the same pattern, with siding replaced by arming — as you would expect. So, arm right, set, move on to the next. Arm left, set, move on to the next — and there you are with your original partner, half-way round the square. But what does Sharp do? He sees a way of getting rid of that step and honour, which he felt guilty about because it wasn't in the original — Sharp follows the letter rather than the spirit of the original wording. Siding — whether Sharp-style or Playford-style — is a there and back movement: you always finish where you started. But with arming you can arm right and left, push round a bit faster on the arm left, go once and a half rather than once — and you've followed the letter of the original wording:
Armes all with your We. and change places. With a set of good dancers you can even make it look very convincing. But can you tell me any other genuine Playford dance where the arming movement as an introduction to the third figure gives you a progression, or where you arm right, left, right and left?
And then Sharp has that really awkward movement: arm left one and a half, and finish with the woman on the man's left (strange how it's always the women who have to make the awkward turns) in side lines close together, ready to fall back. Yes, I can do it — I can even throw the woman into the correct place and catch her in my left hand ready to drag her backwards with the next phrase of music. And some people who have spent years perfecting “Newcastle” bitterly resent me saying that it shouldn't be done like that at all. But Playford doesn't say that the introductory movement for the third figure finishes in side lines. It finishes — like the introductory movements for the other two figures — in a square (or round, if you prefer). Can you really give me any other interpretation of the line:
Now every man is with his owne Wo. in the Co[ntrary] place?
So we're in a square (not two facing lines close together — all three introductions start and finish in a square), and we've met our original partner after the progressions in the second and third introductions. Then, at the start of the body of the figure, we fall back in side lines, since
wall always meant the wall at the side of the dance hall. Presumably we fall back a double: four steps. Do the lines then lead forward? Playford doesn't say so. The difference between B1 and B2 is that the first says
turn where the second says
turn S. and I agree with Sharp that Playford missed out the
S. the first time — I'm sure he meant “turn single” both times. So, four steps to fall back, four steps to turn single. That gives us a whole eight steps to cross over and form those new lines across the hall — it's not nearly as frantic as people make out. It's not really a difficult dance at all. If you ask people what the hardest part of “Newcastle” is, what do they say? Forming the lines — both times!
But when you cross over with your opposite, should you finish in those second lines? Surely at the start of B2 you should be in the same formation as at the start of B1 — in a square. Then you fall back into head lines. If you're teaching this version, make sure both times that everybody falls back in the lines, though of course the ends have to fall back further — in my experience the middles just can't believe that “all fall back” applies to them.
So that's my reconstruction. Would I call it this way at an evening dance? In 1996 I said “I'm not sure”, but twenty years later, yes I would! As I said at the start, I've been surprised by the positive response to a “new” interpretation of “Nonesuch”, and I've certainly had people requesting my version of “Newcastle”. But to many long-term dancers, “Newcastle” is the pinnacle of Playford dancing. They're proud of the fact that they can do it, and they'd be horrified at the thought of me changing it so that a bunch of amateurs could get through it. I've met the same resistance to my interpretation of “Step Stately” in “Playford with a Difference” — “Oh, we got through it for the first time ever, but it wasn't the real thing — Colin Hume was teaching his simplified version”!
However, for those of you who are willing to be experimental, here it is.
|A1:||All join hands, move forward a double and back. Set to partner; set to the next (right-hand lady or left-hand man).|
|A2:||All join hands, move forward a double and back. Set to opposite; set to corner.|
|B1:||Arm right with partner, then men left-hand star once around while women dance round the outside clockwise.|
|B2:||Arm right half-way, then women left-hand star once around while men dance round the outside clockwise, finishing with a gypsy right half-way into original place.|
|A1:||Side right. Set right and left (without moving forward); pass on (right shoulder) to the next.|
|A2:||Side left. Set; pass on to the next.|
|B1:||Original heads (now in side place with original opposite) lead in (inside hand); as they change hands, lead out and make an arch, original sides cast away from current partner, meet original partner, lead under the nearer arch and fall back to place with current partner (6 bars).|
|B2:||The same led by the original sides.|
|A1:||Arm right. Set; pass on to the next.|
|A2:||Arm left. Set; pass on to meet original partner on the other side of the square and all join hands.|
|B1:||Heads break from partner and all fall back into side lines; turn single right. Cross right shoulder with opposite to reform the square and all join hands.|
|B2:||Sides break from partner and all fall back into head lines; turn single right. Cross right shoulder with opposite to reform the square in original places.|
Longways for as many as will.
Honour to the Presence. Lead up all forwards and back . That again :
First man and 2. wo. change places, then first man and 2. wo. and first wo. and 2. man take hands and walk round till you have just changed places, then fall back, then all four cross over in each others places, then take hands and do the same thing again, and at the second crossing the 2 (?) men take hands with your own and put back, then right hands to your own, and left to the other wo. then first man go down behind the 2. wo. and the first wo. in the middle, the man up in the middle, and the wo. up behind the man, set then to each other and cast off. So to the bottom.
The tune has an eight-bar A and an eight-bar B. Once again Playford gives us the underlined dots where they're obvious but not where they might help an interpreter! It seems clear that we have an introductory figure (for which I would use one A and one B) and then a progressive figure. The phrase
do the same thing again suggests that this is B2. So let's go through it. The first man and second woman change places, so the men are now below the women. But what does the next instruction mean? It's tempting to think that it means “circle left one place” which puts everyone proper again, ones below the twos. Fall back with neighbour (one step) and cross over with partner. And indeed if we do all that again (the first corners are still in first corner positions, so the same people cross) it gets everyone back home at the end of A2. But why then is Playford so specific in naming the four people for the circle — why not just “hands all”? Surely it's because he doesn't mean a circle but two pairs of people doing a two-hand turn half-way. And yet that doesn't make sense — the two pairs are diagonally across from each other, and I really can't believe he meant interlocked two-hands turns. So maybe he got something wrong. The original is rather smudged, so can we make ourselves believe that “2. wo.” at the start really says “1. wo.”? No we can't! Every time Playford refers to a “first” person he uses the whole word, and every time he refers to a “second” person he uses the number. Nevertheless, he might not have meant what he said. Perhaps he intended it to start with the ones crossing. Then you can turn your neighbour half-way (I would use a symmetrical turn, so the ones continue down the outside). Step back and cross with partner is fine, which leaves the twos improper at the top, ones proper at the bottom. If the ones repeat this from second place everyone gets back to their own place, which is what I expect.
Let's leave that for the moment and look at the second half.
Put back always means poussette in my experience, and a half poussette will put the ones below the twos. This is followed by two changes with hands which puts everyone improper, ones above the twos. That will fit into eight bars, so it's B1. There's no mention of the twos doing anything else, though no doubt they move up as the ones do their final cast, so everyone would appear to finish improper. Well, we can get round that by having the twos do the cross in A2. That means the first half of the dance finishes with everyone improper, which I'm dubious about, but it's possible. That means that B2 starts with everyone in home place. Now the ones can do their solo as in “Mad Robin” — first man down the outside and up the middle and first woman down the middle and up the outside. In fact after the two changes the ones are facing in the correct direction for this move. All very reasonable, you might think. But we're not reading the instructions carefully enough. The two changes are described as
right hands to your own, and left to the other wo. and the instructions are directed to the men — but it would be left to the other man, not the woman. And in the next move he specifically says the man is going down behind the second woman, and then the woman up behind the man. One of these might be a mistake, but when we have three pieces of evidence we surely can't just dismiss them. And of course if one couple was improper, both the men could “put back” in the poussette. It seems to me that the only possibility is that one of the couples is improper. There's no mention of this in the words, and the diagram is the standard one with four men in one line and four women in another. Did they have longways improper dances in those days? Yes they did, though not many that I know of. Old Simon the King (John Playford 1679), Mug-House (Henry Playford, 1698), King of Poland (also Henry Playford, 1698), Moll Peatley, the New way all say in slightly different wording
First man on his Woman's side even though in all of these the diagram is again the standard one. Bartlett House (Thomas Bray, 1699) says
First Man begins improper and in the same book The Woman's the Man says
The Women begin all Improper though that's just a gimmick — the instructions are addressed to the women, who are very much in charge of the dance. That's all I know about, ignoring dances such as Childgrove which are frequently danced with ones improper today although the original was proper. I think we can dismiss the twos being improper — that would require the entire set to start improper except for the first couple, which would surely require mention. But even having the ones improper without mention is pretty unlikely. And why should they be improper? What difference does it make to their passage through the dance? (Though you could say the same about King of Poland.) In Bartlett House it makes a lot of sense because the entire dance is symmetrical, like most modern American contras — when you got to the end of the set you just changed sides and did exactly the same moves as before. But what's the advantage in the other two dances?
OK, I'm leaving this one for the moment — I hope to come back to it when I have time. Or maybe someone will email me with an interpretation which satisfies all my objections.
Turn right hands and cast off one Cu:
turn with your left hands the Man casts off and the Wo: cast up
foot it three at top and bottom
foot it three Contrary sides
foot it corners and turn
lead out sides and turn
I've added line breaks after each of the marks, and it seems clear that once through the dance is twice through the tune. This isn't my interpretation; it may be by Pat Shaw who introduced it into the Welsh Folk Dance Society who published it in a leaflet “Four Social Dances” in 1971. The Welsh call it “Hoffed Ap Hywel” (since Powell is a Welsh surname). Anyway, I like the dance and want to bring it to a wider audience.
The first few lines are clear enough, but remember that if you're already facing in the direction you want to go you don't spin round when you hear the word “cast” — you just go. So after the right-hand turn (in 6 steps — this is a slip-jig) the woman just moves down the outside into second place as the man casts into second place and the twos move up. Similarly at the end of the left-hand turn they're both facing the right way to go outside one person and curve round into lines across.
Foot it isn't a specific move like “set”; it's an invitation to the dancer to do any steps he or she wishes. However,
foot it three surely means some kind of stepping with hands joined in lines, the first man between the third couple and the first woman between the second couple, so some kind of consensus seems advisable to avoid injury! I use Tom Cook's “Step-setting” which he explains in his book “Again Let's be Merry” where he uses it for three dances including “The Fairy Prince” — in fact I now see that the first half of that (apart from the last bar) is identical to this interpretation. So you step right, left across in front of the right, transfer weight back to the right foot, then repeat to the left. There are four bars for this, so it needs to be done twice — but the next line starts
foot it three Contrary sides which surely means stepping with hands joined in side lines — so how did they get there? The obvious approach is that while everyone else continue the stepping on the last three beats (step-setting to the left), the ones instead move out to their left (stepping left, right, left) to finish in middle place on their own side. This will certainly work, and is how I learnt the dance — but
Contrary sides suggests that the ones are improper. And yet you have much the same move in “Miss Sayers' Allemande” (1781) and the traditional “Bonny Breastknot” (Devon and Somerset version) in both of which the ones finish on their own side, so I'm going with that unless someone shows me a more convincing interpretation! Again after three lots of step-setting the ones need to move forward to face their first corner — the man facing the third woman and the woman facing the second man — and with only three steps I suggest the ones pass each other left shoulder rather than trying to go round each other right shoulder.
When you foot it to your corner you can use any steps you like for two bars — you may prefer the same step-setting but it's up to you. Following that I'm going for a two-hand turn, but it might have been a right-hand turn with your first corner and a left with your second corner.
Lead out sides is a figure I've gone into in great detail when I talk about The Black Boy and other dances from the Ashover Book and also in Lady Doll St. Clair's Reel on my Connections page. With a slip-jig I don't think there's time for a turn after leading through the men (and the version described by Dukes doesn't have it anyway) so I'm going straight into the lead through the ladies, and I'm also converting it from a triple minor to a 3-couple set dance by having the ones turn to the bottom as the threes move (or cast) up the outside.
|A1:||Ones right-hand turn (6 steps); cast to middle place. Ones left-hand turn; man down outside, lady up, round one person to lines across the hall.|
|A2:||Take hands, step R, L across, back on R, then L, R, L; R, L, R, ones move to own side, others step L, R, L. Step as before 3 times, ones pass L to face first corner.|
|B1:||Step to first corner; two-hand turn. Second corner same, and finish facing the men with the man on the left and the lady on the right.|
|B2:||Ones lead between the men, cast back to the middle, lead between the ladies. Cast back to the middle, two-hand turn 1¼ to the bottom.|
The two first men and two first women fall back, and meet and turn all single, the 1st couple lead down the middle and set to their partners, the Second couple do the same. First strain twice.
The first man and woman take hands, and the second man and second woman take hands and draw their Partners into each other's place, the 1st man and 1st woman lead through the second couple and come into the second couples place, then right and left quite round, and turn their own Partners till the Tune is done. The second strain twice.
The tune is in jig time, though I certainly hear it as a slow jig, with an 8-bar A and B music, and the instructions say that each is repeated. The dance was interpreted by Cecil Sharp in part 6 of the Country Dance Book, and I mainly agree with his interpretation, but there are two points where I don't. The first is that I see the ones as being the active couple in A1, so I would have the ones leading down and setting while the twos take eight steps to cast up. In B2 the roles are reversed. My main disagreement is with the draw poussette. Sharp doesn't use that phrase, but he spells it out clearly enough:
First man, joining both hands with his partner, falls back, pulling his partner after him, bears to his right and falls into second place (improper); while second woman, joining both hands with her partner, falls back, bears to her right and falls into the first place (improper).
As I say in my essay on Poussette, I think the Draw Poussette is a 20th century invention. Certainly Playford uses the word “draw”, but who does the phrase “and draw their partners” apply to? He doesn't specify that the first man and second woman are the “drawing” people, and he uses the word “draw” in situations where we now do a normal poussette.
Possibly Sharp used (invented) a draw poussette here because it finishes with the two couples improper. That means he can use six bars for the four changes and then the final two bars for a two-hand turn half-way. I don't think this fits the music, and it's possible to do four changes in four bars. Sharp used this in “A Trip to Kilburn”, though he hedged his bets somewhat — originally he specified four bars for the four changes and four bars for the two-hand turn, but in the later set of corrections he was deliberately vague and specified eight bars for the whole thing. So here's my suggested version — you may well think I'm being unnecessarily fussy and Sharp's version works perfectly well!
|A1:||Fall back a double with neighbour; come forward turning single. Ones lead down and set, twos do a long cast up.|
|A2:||Fall back a double with neighbour; come forward turning single. Twos lead down and set, ones do a long cast up.|
|B1:||Half poussette: first man push and second man pull to start. Ones lead up through the twos; cast back to progressed place.|
|B2:||Four quick changes of a circular hey without hands (two steps per change); all two-hand turn partner.|
The 1. cu. cross over below the 2. cu. and lead through the 3. cu. and hands half round with the 2. cu. and cast off .
The 2. cu. do the same :
The 1. wo. change places with the 2. man, and the 1. man change with the 2. wo. hands half round, and cast off and turn your Partner, the 2. cu. turns above at the same time.
The last strain played once.
The tune is in three-time, with an A and B music of eight bars each, and the instructions say that there's only one B — it's assumed that there are two A's. Pat Shaw's version starts: Ones cross, go down outside the twos, lead down through the next twos and cast up while the twos wait for one bar, move up outside the ones above them, turn in and lead down to face their original ones. Then in A2 the twos repeat this. I've danced this version and find it very confusing because everyone is moving — and it's clearly not what the original says. Pat presumably wanted to keep everyone busy, but surely this is a dance where the ones do the movement while the twos admire them, then the twos have their moment of glory. And what's wrong with that? (He does the same thing in Holborn March — giving the option of the two-hand turn to both couples both times, and I don't like that either.) So let's look at the original. The threes are just posts for the other couples to lead through, and I'm not such a purist that I would keep it as a triple minor dance; I agree with Pat that it's better as duple minor. What do we make of
The 1. cu. cross over below the 2. cu.? Pat interprets it as “The 1. cu. cross over and then go below the 2. cu.”. But in my experience
cross over always means “cross and cast below the next couple”, so for this interpretation the wording would be redundant. I suggest that it means the first couple cross while moving down through the twos and cast below the next couple — the threes (or for a duple minor version, the next twos). They then lead up through the threes, ready to circle left half-way with the twos and then cast off. Pat has them leading down through the next couple, and then has to invent a cast up which is not mentioned in the original wording.
A1 finishes with the twos improper at the top and the ones proper below them. After the twos have done the same movement in A2 the ones finish above the twos, both couples improper.
The B part seems straightforward except that if the final turn is all the way everyone finishes improper. Maybe A2 is supposed to finish with everybody proper, but I don't see how. In fact the wording spells out who crosses first, and it's the first woman and second man which is certainly the easy option with both couples improper (they're in first corner positions), so maybe it is right. What about the timing? If the corners do a “Hole in the Wall” cross this will take two bars for each, then two bars to circle left half-way and two bars for the ones to cast and the twos to lead up, leaving no time for any turn. So we assume the crosses are three steps each. Now there are two bars (six steps) left for the turn half-way, which is rather a lot, so I would finish the turn close to partner and then fall back on the last couple of steps.
|A1:||Ones cross moving down through the twos (twos move slightly up and in), down outside the next twos, meet and lead up through them (12 steps). With original twos circle half-way; ones cast, twos lead up.|
|A2:||Twos the same. [All now improper]|
|B:||First corner positions (first lady, second man) cross; second corners cross (3 steps each); circle left half-way. Ones meet, then cast, twos lead up; all two-hand turn half-way finishing close to partner and then fall back.|
I taught this at Buffalo Gap at English/American Week in 1998, and Sharon McKinley was so taken by it that she decided to use it at the forthcoming Ball in Washington DC, even though they had already started teaching the Pat Shaw version.
The 1st. man foot it and turn his Partner .John Riley (dancer and caller from Bedford) gave me a sheet of paper on which he had written out his objections to Charles Bolton's version of “Red and All Red” — particularly that Charles had moved some of the instructions for the A music to the B music to fill this out. John produced (what seems to me) an equally spurious version in which he had condensed the moves to a single B. This made me think about the dance, and I came up with my own version — I'd say it's much closer to the original than Charles's, though I've been forced to add in “Lines fall back and come forward” to use up some of the music. Charles's version has a nice move where the circle six is followed by the middles stopping and the ends continuing half-way to finish proper, giving a reverse progression, but as you can see it's not there in the original. What do you think? Do you care whether a dance is an accurate interpretation of the original? Charles's version is available in his collection “Retreads 5” on the CDSS website www.cdss.org.
then set to the 2d. Wo. hands all three round :
1st. Man leads his Partner behind the 2d. Man and Hands three with 2d. and 3d. We. and the Wo. Hands three round with the 2d. and 3d. Men .
Hands six round and turn your Partner :
Graham and Maureen Knight suggested that the dance would flow better if the ones and second lady circle right rather than left, so I've now changed my instructions. In B2 I originally had the circle first, but then I decided it was much better to have the lines fall back and come forward before the big circle — both to vary the texture and because it fits the music better. I must have changed my card but forgotten to change the version on the website, so if you picked it up from here before 21st May 2009 please correct your card!
|A1:||First man step and honour partner right and left. Ones two-hand turn.|
|A2:||Ones step and honour second lady. Those three circle right.|
|B1:||(14 bars) First man draw your partner behind the men, leave her there, go round the threes, finish behind the ladies (12 steps, finishing with the descending octave). In those threes, circle left. Circle right.|
|B2:||Lines of three fall back a double; lead forward. Circle 6 left (12 steps). Ones cast, the others two-hand turn (threes moving up); ones two-hand turn half-way.|
The 1. cu. meet and set and cast off into the 2. cu. place . Then meet and set again, and cast off into their own places : The 1. Man cast off below the 2. Man, and go above the 2. Wo. into the 2. Man's place, his Wo. follow him at the same time . Then the 2. Wo. cast up above the 1. Wo. and go below the 1. Man into her own place, the 1. Man following her at the same time : Then the 1. Cu. and 2. Man go the Hey, till they come into their own places . Then the 1. Cu. and 2. Wo. go the Hey on the other side, and so cast off into the 2. Co. place :
The dance appeared in the 9th Edition of the Dancing Master and in every edition thereafter; the facsimile link above is to the 10th edition. It has a great driving tune 48-bar consisting of three lines of 8 bars, and the instructions say that each is repeated; there's no problem fitting the instructions to the tune. As usual it's very easy to see what you expect to see, and if you know the “English” version you may well say that this is exactly the way you do it. But perhaps if you knew the “Scottish” version you would say the same thing — and having danced that I found it so different that I felt compelled to study the original wording more closely. Of course there's nothing Scottish about the “Scottish” version (published in RSCDS Book 7, 1931) — they got it from The Dancing Master just as Douglas and Helen Kennedy did for their interpretation (published in the Country Dance Book New Series, 1929). The Kennedys actually got it from John Young's 1728 edition, but the wording is virtually identical, and yet they came up with a very different dance.
In the first part, the underlined dots show that the meet, set and cast are A1 and the reverse is A2 — it seems clear that it should say “cast up” rather than “cast off”, since the ones finish in their original place. The Scottish version leaves out the “meet” and just has set and cast, set and cast up, so they condense the whole thing to 8 bars and only have one A-music. That seems wrong to me: A1 and A2 are a matched pair, as are B1 and B2, and C1 and C2. There are two more likely possibilities. Either we have two bars to meet, two to set and a long cast of four bars, or we follow the Kennedys and put in a fall back after the meet. I'm with the Kennedys; there are dances which have a lead up and make no mention of falling back though the dancers obviously need to return to place, and I think this falls into the same category.
In the second part the instructions don't seem to make sense. In the first eight bars the first man casts below the second man, crosses up through the twos, down behind the second lady and across to second man's place, and his partner follows him to her progressed place. But in the next eight bars the second woman is supposed to lead the opposite version of this — casting up and crossing down — yet it's the ones who are below, and it's said that she is followed by the first man, yet she is directed to
go below the 1. Man into her own place. The most likely explanation is that it's the first couple doing the move; the person notating the instructions was imagining that the lower lady was the second when in fact she is the first. And that's what the Scottish version does, which means the twos do nothing for a whole 24 bars (and it would have been 32 bars if A1 and A2 hadn't been compressed into a single 8 bars). Once again we hit the question: why are we interpreting these dances? I believe the Scottish version is correct, but I much prefer the English version where the move is shared out equally between the two couples — though I've no objections to dancing it using the Scottish formation of three working couples in a four couple set.
Fredrick Cotton from New York is inclined to take Playford's instructions literally, so unlike other interpreters he accept that the dance is not meant to be symmetrical. His reconstruction is:
A1 1-2 1st couple meet (English: in a double, Scottish: advance for two). 3-4 1st couple set. 5-8 1st couple cast to 2nd place, 2nd couple step up on 7-8. A2 1-2 1st couple meet. 3-4 1st couple set. 5-8 1st couple cast back up to 1st place, 2nd couple step down on 7-8. B1 Chase: 1M followed by 1W. 1-8 1M casts below 2M, crosses up between 2M and 2W, dances down behind 2W and crosses the set into 2M's place. 2M steps up on bars 7-8. 1W, following 1M, crosses the set, dances down behind 2M, crosses up between 2M and 2W and loops (2 bars) into her own place. B2 Chase: 2W followed by 1M. 1-8 2W casts up above 1W and dances across the set and then loops to dance back across the set below 1M as he dances across the set. She ends back at her own place. 2W and 1M loop (2 bars) into their own places. C1 Hey (Reel): 1M, 1W, 2M. 1-8 1W dances a hey (reel) on the men's side passing 2M left shoulder to begin. All end at home. C2 Hey (Reel): 1M, 1W, 2W. 1-6 1M dances a hey (reel) on the woman's side passing 2W right shoulder to begin. All end at home. 7-8 1's cast to 2nd place; 2's dance up to 1st place.
He suggests that there is a story line that has been lost. Perhaps the first man leads his partner on a merry chase until she is exhausted and is left at home while he goes chasing after the second woman before being left back at home himself. With that kind of a story, the Playford instructions make sense as a flirtatious dance. He says that the A1 and A2 in his reconstruction are also more flirtatious (meet, set, 4-bar cast) in that the setting occurs while the couple are close together.
In the third part the reels in the Scottish version seem bizarre to me. The instructions say
Then the 1. Cu. and 2. Man go the Hey, till they come into their own places. They don't say whether the hey is across or up-and-down, so there are two reasonable possibilities. The second man could go up through the ones to start a hey across, as in the Fallibroome interpretation of “Top and Bottom”, or the first woman could go down through the men to start a hey up and down as in the Sharp interpretation of “Jack's Maggot”. But the Scottish version is that although the hey is up and down it starts with the two men passing each other left shoulder as the first lady crosses down below them to join the hey passing her partner right shoulder. Why does it do this? Presumably so that the men can finish progressed and then the corresponding second hey will progress the ladies. But this is in defiance of
till they come into their own places and is really awkward. In her book “Won't you join the dance”, Jean Milligan says “The reels in this dance are difficult” and devotes 18 lines of explanation and two diagrams to them. Surely if it were that obscure Playford would have given some indication. And yet the second reel is described as
on the other side implying that both reels are on the side rather than across. How would that work? The first reel leaves everyone back in place. The second reel, started by the first man going down between the two ladies, would finish with the first man reaching the top and looping left back to his own side while the two ladies cross right shoulder to their original places. The first man could keep going to loop behind the second man who moves up, and the two ladies could continue to loop right shoulder round each other, all finishing in progressed places. This seems to fit the instructions better than either of the other two versions. You can dance a hey in 6 bars so there is time for the extra progression.
After I'd written this I realised that there is a third “reasonable” possibility. We tend to be wedded to the idea that heys are either across or up-and-down, but why shouldn't they be diagonal? In fact I sometimes suggest this when calling “Jack's Maggot”, where the heys on the side are usually crowded and unsatisfactory — I probably got the idea from Tom Cook.
So let's start the first hey by the ones crossing right shoulder, the man going all the way over to his partner's place as she passes left shoulder with the second man: a hey on the second corners' diagonal. All finish in home place. Now the ones cross left shoulder and the lady goes all the way over as the man passes right shoulder with the second lady to dance : a hey on the first corners' diagonal. At the end the first man is home facing out: he casts into second place and the second man moves up as the two ladies loop round each other into progressed places.
I've tried this twice, not very successfuly, so although I'm leaving it here for your interest I probably won't call it again!
For the A part I use a version I picked up in the States which keeps the twos moving as well. (Some callers get round this by having the ones do the A1 part and the twos the A2 part, which ties up with the approach in the B1 and B2 parts, but I like this as being truer to the original.) The ones do exactly as in the Kennedys' version, but the twos do the opposite. It works well provided that people remember that it's always the ones who cast and the twos who lead, otherwise there will be collisions!
|A1:||Ones meet and fall back as twos fall back and meet. All set; ones cast into second place as twos lead up.|
|A2:||Ones meet and fall back as twos fall back and meet. All set; ones cast up as twos lead down — all home.|
|B1:||First man cast, lady follow, below the second man, up through the twos, round the second lady into second place — twos lead up on the last four beats.|
|B2:||Second lady cast, man follow, below the first lady, up through the ones, round the first man into second place — ones lead up on the last four beats — all home.|
|C1:||Ones cross right shoulder (first man go all the way across) into diagonal reel with second man — finish home and first man loop left.|
|C2:||Ones cross left shoulder (first lady go all the way across) into diagonal reel with second lady — at end first man loop into progressed place, second man move up, ladies loop right shoulder round each other into progressed places.|
Don't think of the progression as a separate move — the ones loop round their neighbour into progressed place. The reels are better danced with a skip-change step rather than walked, but be aware that you can't go so far in the second reel because there's the extra move at the end. And it flows beautifully into the next turn of the dance: the ones have just cast so they're coming in to meet, while the twos have just led up and are ready to fall back.
Interpretations: Alan Winston or Anne Daye.
Original wording (see page 4)
I was asked to run a Regency Evening for my local Folk Dance Club, The Hitchin Staplers in 2017 and I decided that in addition to the usual country dances (triple minor or converted to a 3-couple set) I would teach a cotillion, since we know Jane Austen liked cotillions and was not so keen on the later quadrilles. In my “200 Years of American” workshop I have a cotillion called George Washington's Favourite but I thought this unlikely to have been danced by Jane Austen! I asked Alan Winston from California for advice, and he send me his interpretation of The Ridicule — don't ask me why it's called that. Each cotillion has its own unique figure, plus a standard set of “changes”. You dance the figure after each change, and Alan suggests the same five changes that I use in George Washington's Favourite, though he adds that if he were doing a second cotillion in an evening he would substitute allemande/allemande reverse for the fourth change.
The Ridicule — A Cottillion
The top and bottom Couples chasse into the opposite places and rigadoon, each Gent: and his Partner go back to back in each others places, lead up the middle and moulinet to their places, the side Couples do the same.
We have an A-music of 8 bars and a B-music of 16 bars, both repeated. We would expect the changes to be danced to the A-music and the figure to the B-music.
So what do we make of the figure? We could have the first couple giving two hands and slipping across into the third couple's place while they slipped outside them into the first couple's place. But cotillions were symmetrical rather than having a leading couple, so Alan suggests that the two head couples face partner and slip across to the other couple's place, ladies between the men. That would be two bars — four slip-steps. Then there's a rigadoon (see below) which also takes two bars. Back-to-back we would expect to take four bars, so that's 8 bars in total — the first line of the B-music. But then we have
lead up the middle and moulinet to their places. The head couples could move in and then do a right-hand star half-way, but you couldn't very well pad that out to 8 bars and it would leave the men on the right of their partners. There's another interpretation by Paul Cooper at https://www.regencydances.org/index.php?wL=663 which has the ones leading home up the centre while the threes move down outside them and then a right-hand star once around. But as I said, cotillions were symmetrical rather than having a leading couple, and I feel that the phrase “to their places” would be unnecessary if the star were all the way round. Alan's suggestion is a lead in, a star half-way and then a right-hand turn with partner 1½ to their places. Is either of these interpretations correct? It's equally possible that there's a mistake in the book!
You can read Paul Cooper's essay about cotillions at https://www.regencydances.org/paper011.php. Paul takes issue with my statement about cotillions being symmetrical rather than having a leading couple. He says:
The meaning of the term 'Cotillion' evolved over time, someone dancing in the 1800s would not have shared the same understanding as someone writing in the 1760s; by the 1800s the Cotillion was the proto-quadrille. It's notable that this Cotillion has the heads doing something followed by the sides, that's an essential characteristic of the early Quadrille.
But surely in a quadrille each couple in turn would lead the figure, which would therefore be done four times. I've danced a cotillion like that with Anne Daye — reminiscent of The Lancers, forming lines and then casting off — and it was a long figure! Paul has it with just two of the four couples leading the figure.
Paul says that he has studied most of the Skillern & Challoner publications, and The Ridicule is the only Cotillion in the whole collection. The Cotillions were definitely dropping out of fashion at this date; very few of any kind were published in the early 19th Century, not until the Quadrille became popular.
He also says,
My interpretation of the figures for The Ridicule is probably wrong. Looking at the text anew, I'm wondering about a completely different interpretation:
B1 1-2 heads chasse croise (but no dechassez) into their partner's place,
B1 3-4 heads rigadon
B1 5- 8 heads dos-a-dos with partners
B1 9-12 heads “lead up the middle”
B1 13-16 heads demi moulinet
B2 repeat for the sides
It solves some problems, but introduces others. It's not uncommon for the phrase “chasse cross” to be used as an Anglicised version of “chasse croise”. It's just about plausible that “chasse into the opposite places” is a further corruption of that. That improves the timing issues, but yeah, it requires a quirky interpretation of 'opposite'. Quite what “lead up the middle” means is open to interpretation too. It could be a demi-promenade, but since 'leading' is often a sideways gallop movement at this date, I'm quite liking the idea of joining two hands with partners and galloping past the opposite couple (and if they start improper, they'll be proper on arrival).
So again my conclusion is that there's a mistake in the book, and I decided to leave it at that and find another cotillion for my Regency Evening!
Each of the changes starts with four bars of stepping. The easy option is to set twice. The second option is to set and then Rigadoon. Alan also offers a:
Fancy step: Four hops on the left foot while the right foot (without touching the ground) goes behind, out to the right, in front, out to the right and step on it; four hops on the right foot while the left foot moves behind, out to the left, in front, out to the left.
which you can read about in more detail here.
In the figure it specifies a rigadoon. This is a step which I cannot demonstrate with any conviction, but if you watch an experienced historical dancer it looks really good — indeed it was supposed to impress people. It takes two bars, and you can just set right and left if you prefer. There's a simplified version of the step which I've seen people teach in England, where (in 4 beats) you jump on both feet, hop on the left while sticking your right leg out to your right, jump on both feet again and then hop on the right while sticking your left leg out to your left. Alan thinks this was invented by Jim Morrison, and he usually teaches it himself, since to do the real thing you need five actions in four beats, which he always finds difficult. In the real rigadoon, both legs go out in the first bar.
I also asked Anne Daye, Director of Education and Research of the Historical Dance Society, who gave me this description:
Rigadoon Step in two bars of duple or compound duple time:
Starting in first position, in bar 1, beat 1 hop on the L foot extending the R to the side and replacing it to first; on beat 2 open the L foot to the side (without hopping) and replace it to first; conclude the step with a jump in first position on the first beat of the second bar. Then make a preparatory step in the direction of travel.
Anne pointed out that her book “More Dances for Jane Austen” gives guidance on cotillons. You can read about and order it at https://historicaldance.org.uk/publications/page/2015 and it comes with an accompanying CD of the music.
She also offered her own interpretation of the dance, so here are both.
|A1:||Honour corner and partner.|
|A1&2:||Take inside hand with partner and step (see above). Slip circle left. Step. Slip circle right.|
|A1&2:||Men step. Men right-hand star. Men step. Men left-hand star.|
|A1&2:||Ladies step. Ladies right-hand star. Ladies step. Ladies left-hand star.|
|A1&2:||All face partner and step. Grand chain half-way round. Step. Grand chain to place.|
|A1&2:||Take inside hand with partner and step. Slip circle left. Step. Slip circle right.|
|B1 (16 bars):||Head couples face partner and slip across to change places with the other head couple (ladies between the men); rigadoon to partner (or you could just set). Back-to-back partner.|
|Heads lead in to meet the opposite head couple; right-hand star half-way. Right-hand turn partner 1½ to place.|
Anne warns that there is a half-bar upbeat in the melody — the three repeated notes — with the danger that dancers not used to historical dances will start too soon. This is a characteristic French feature, as in gavot music. It's a good reminder that the cotillon was always considered fashionable and French in England, even though its origins lay in the English country dance.
Anne agrees with the description of the Changes, with the following differences:
The step should be 2 pas balancés and a rigadoon.
The circles in the first change go right and then left. I queried this, since it's different from country dances, but Anne says “Yes, the grand round in cotillons always goes to the R first, then L, no ambiguity about that. Small circles of four usually go L then R.”
The Figure is very different and Anne thinks there should be a second rigadoon step before the half moulinet (star). I queried her interpretation of the chassé in only two bars (four slip steps) but she said “Cotillons are vigorous dances!” and when we put it to the test a few days later (admittedly with just two couples) it seemed possible.
My understanding of the Pas balancé is that it's quite like setting but more gentle and balletic (though I'm open to correction on my description). Counting 4 beats to the bar, it starts with a sink on beat 4 (remember Anne's warning about the upbeat), then step out onto the ball of the right foot on beat 1, move the left foot close to it (without touching the floor) on beat 3, sink on beat 4,step out onto the ball of the left foot on beat 1, move the right foot close to it on beat 3.
|B1 (16 bars):||Head couples take inside hand (man's right, lady's left) and with the man in the lead slip across, passing the other head couple face to face, to end in the other head couple's place with the man on the left; rigadoon to partner. Back-to-back partner.|
|Heads lead in to meet the opposite head couple; rigadoon to opposite. Right-hand star half-way and fall back to place.|
First Cu: Lead down through the Second Cu: to the top and Hands four Round lead down the Middle and Swing Corners.
I was looking for some simple dances for a Jane Austen evening for The Round in 2018, and went through this book from 1802. As other people had told me, I found the figures very formulaic and in most cases they didn't seem to bear any relation to the music. The title page says
With figures to each as they are Performed at Court, Bath and all Publisk Assemblys but I take this as mere publisher's hype. At least this dance is in waltz time, which makes it stand out.
The music as printed has a 16-bar A-music and an 8-bar B-music, both repeated, and at the end it says “D.C.” which stands for “Da Capo” meaning “Go back to the beginning”. The wikipedia article explains:
The word Fine (Ital. 'end') is generally placed above the stave at the point where the movement ceases after a 'Da capo' repetition. Its place is occasionally taken by a pause and indeed there is a pause marked at the end of the A-music. That makes a total of 64 bars.
The instructions have no punctuation, with capital letters where you don't expect them and missing where you do expect them. I assume that after the ones lead down they cast up to get back to the top, so I would allocate 4 bars for this and 4 bars to circle with the twos. Similarly after leading down the middle they must lead back again. Opinions vary on whether they lead back to the top and then cast into second place, or whether they lead back to second place as the twos lead up. Every one of the 24 dances contains “lead down the middle” (I told you they were formulaic). Almost all add “and back again”; the exceptions are “Lady Charlotte Campble's Reel” which says
lead down the Middle up again to the top and cast off, “Trip to Cromer” which says
lead down the middle one Cu: and “The Rose in June” and “The Bucks Motto” which just say
lead down the Middle. Since there is one dances which mentions casting off, I assume the others don't do that. I would expect 8 bars for the move, whether it's a reel, jig or waltz.
“Swing corners” appears in four of the dances and I believe this means right-hand turn first corner (the man with the third lady, the lady with the second man), ones left-hand turn, right-hand turn second corners, ones left-hand turn. That is likely to be 16 bars, giving a total of 32 bars — a good round number, but only half of what the music seems to be saying. I don't believe that once through the music is twice through the dance — I've never seen that. (You do get the opposite — once through the dance being twice through the music — of which probably the best-known example is “The Fandango” from around 1775.)
My solution is to drop the repeats, and to follow the B-music with the second half of the A-music — that's what I'm giving in the music link above. If you don't feel this is justified, by all means let me have your suggestions.
The dance is triple minor, and because of the contra corners move you can't cut it down to duple minor, so I would convert it to a 3-couple dance:
|A:||(16 bars): Ones lead down through the twos and cast back. Circle left with them.|
|Ones lead down the centre. Turn in and lead back, twos lead up.|
|B:||(16 bars): Ones with first corner, right-hand turn. Ones left-hand turn partner.|
|Ones with second corner, right-hand turn. Ones left-hand turn moving down to the bottom as the threes move up the outside.|
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The first couple cast off hands four round with the third couple . ; cast up hands four round with the second couple .. ; lead down two couple, the second and third couple follows . ; cross over and turn your partners .. ; lead down and cast up, lead through the top, and cast off .. .You will notice that “Punctuation” was not in the list of contents! The music is an 8-bar A and a 16-bar B, both repeated, giving a total of 48 bars. But when we look at the instructions we see that the underlined double dot (meaning the second occurrence of a phrase of music) appears after
cross over and turn your partnersand again at the end of the instructions. It seems to be saying A1, A2, B1, B2, B2.
Let's go through it from the beginning. Eight steps for the ones to cast (twos implicitly moving or leading up) and eight steps for the circle left will certainly fit into A1, and the reverse of this will fit A2.
Lead down two couple, the second and third couple follows is not immediately clear, so let's ignore that.
Cross over in my experience always means “cross and cast”, which suggests that the ones are back in home place and this movement gets them into second place improper.
Turn your partner is likely to be a turn half-way or 1½ to get the ones proper again. And the final section is one of the standard endings (the reverse of that used in “Love's Triumph”, above): ones lead down through the threes and cast up to middle place, then lead up through the twos and cast down to middle place, which is where we would expect them to finish at the end of a triple minor. So
lead down two couple, the second and third couple follows is a move which gets everyone back to place, and the most likely interpretation is that the ones lead to the bottom and cast up again while the twos and threes move up the outside and follow them.
The instructions seem clear enough, but what about the timing of the second part? The lead to the bottom and cast back will be eight bars. I would say there's enough time for a two-hand turn 1½ after the cross and cast, so this pair of movements would also take eight bars. And the final lead and cast, lead and cast will take eight bars. The underlined dots would appear to be eight bars apart, and perhaps the final one should be three underlined dots, meaning three eight-bar B's. Fine, except that the B-music is 16 bars!
At this point we look through it all again, to see whether we've made any unjustified assumptions. I can't see any; the dance will certainly work using the timing I've suggested, and any other timing would not work nearly as well. So what's happened? The musical notation suggests two 16-bar B's, but the underlined dots suggest three eight-bar B's. Looking at the music itself, we see that the second eight bars of the B-music are a repeat of the A-music with the last two bars modified to finish on the tonic rather than the dominant. My conclusion is that the music is printed wrongly. We should play the first eight bars of the B-music twice, and then the final eight bars (which I refer to as the C-music) once. So here's my modified version of the music (with the length of the notes doubled, since that is what folk dance musicians expect these days) and my interpretation — I've modified the final cast to convert it from a triple minor to a three-couple dance. It was danced in costume by my old display team, the Jovial Beggars, and then by the assembled company.
Format: 3 Couples longways. Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2003.
|A1:||Ones meet and long cast to second place; twos lead up. At the bottom, circle left (slip).|
|A2:||Ones meet and cast up; twos down. At the top, circle left.|
|B1:||Ones lead to the bottom and cast up to the top, the others move up the outside and follow them, all finishing home.|
|B2:||Ones cross over; cast below the twos as twos lead up. Ones two-hand turn 1½ (skip-change).|
|C:||Ones lead down; cast up. Lead up; cast to the bottom (threes lead up).|Note: The first strain once, and the last twice.
The first Cu. cast off both together, the Man falls in between the 3d Cu. and the Wo. falls in between the 2d Cu. then fall back, and hands half round . The 1st Man turns the 3d. Wo. and his Partner turns the 2d Man at the same Time, then turn your Partner half round, and lead her through the Bottom Cu. and come up and turn her, then the Wo. turns the 3d. Man, and her Partner turns the 2d. Wo. both at once, then turn Hands half round, and lead through the Upper Cu. and cast off and turn :
The tune is in triple-time, with 8-bar A and B music, and the instructions say there are one A and two B's giving 24 bars.
I was booked for the New London Assembly in July 2016 and one of my classes was on dance interpretation / reconstruction. This was one of the dances I had prepared, but numbers were lower than usual (which may be why I haven't been booked since) so two classes were combined and I only got to run three rather than six, with a lot of material left over, so I've decided to put this one on my website. It's a classic dance in the States — not nearly so well-known in England — interpreted by Bernard Bentley in Fallibroome 1. But try and forget Bentley's version if you know it, and let's concentrate on what John Young actually says.
The cast off must surely be 6 steps — it would be tedious to extend that to 12 steps. But then it says the ones fall in between the other couples to make lines of three across. Bentley follows the cast by a turn ¾ (presumably with two hands) for the ones to finish there, and he's always much more honest about the changes he has made than Sharp or the Kennedys so there's a note at the bottom: “The three-quarter turn in A has been added”. But is it necessary? I think it more likely that after finishing the cast in middle place the ones take three steps to meet, veering right to face each other with the man below the lady, and then three steps to fall back into the middle of lines across. The instructions say
then fall back and I agree with Bentley that after this the dancers must come forward again — 3 steps for each, and 6 steps to all circle left half-way. That will fit nicely into the A music. And it seems clear that the rest of the dance splits into two similar sequences, starting
The 1st Man turns the 3d. Wo. and
the Wo. turns the 3d. Man which will be B1 and B2 respectively. Young doesn't give a single underlined dot to show the end of B1, but it's a reasonable assumption.
Wait a minute though — are we still thinking too much about Bentley's version? We're assuming that “then fall back” means “join hands in lines of three and fall back”, but does it? Or are the instructions still referring to the ones? And that circle 6 half-way without going back again is very unusual — the dances were much more standardised in 1713 than when John Playford published all those quirky set dances sixty years earlier. Nowhere do we see the twos and threes getting back to their own side, or the twos getting back above the threes. Bentley gets round all this by inventing a two-hand turn half-way and converting the dance from triple minor to a 3-couple dance with a reverse progression, ending 3-1-2 after the first turn of the dance. (The term “reverse progression” wasn't used then, and Bentley had to explain the order at the end of all three turns of the dance.) A brilliant solution, but nothing like the original!
If the B1 and B2 figures are complementary sequences, it's reasonable to assume that they both start from the same position. And that they both end in the same position. But the end of B1 is the start of B2, so all four of those positions must be the same — and we know where B2 ends: all proper in the order 2-3-1, ready to start the next turn of the triple minor dance. So somehow at the end of the A-music the dancers need to be in those positions — indeed it's usual to get the ones in between the twos and threes so that they can do figures with both couples, as in “The Fandango” or “Green Sleeves and Yellow Lace”. Suddenly the instructions look completely different. B1 starts: “Ones turn first corner, then partner” and B2 is the same with second corner — very standard moves except that usually there wouldn't be anything between the two halves. I would say that it's right-hand turn corner and left-hand turn partner both times (and I would quote Lady Doll St. Clair's Reel though other people will tell you they would all have been two-hand turns by then). I take “half round” to mean that the ones do their left-hand turn enough to finish on their own side. Lead down and cast up is busy in 6 steps, as is a two-hand turn all the way. But maybe it's again a left-hand turn for the ones (as though the lead and cast were an interpolation and they're saying “Oh yes, we were doing corner partner corner partner — where did we get to?”), in which case they only need to turn just over half-way to face their second corners. And the mirror image for B2, turning second corners and leading up rather than down — I think for consistency the ones should finish with a left-hand turn, and it will be all the way this time, but the dance starts again with them having 6 steps to cast so I don't think that's a problem. We are now preserving the symmetry that Bentley has lost with his final “All a half turn to finish proper”.
Incidentally, the very next page of Fallibroome 1 contains Love's Triumph where again he finishes with a spurious half-turn to get everyone back on the correct side, and my interpretation gets rid of that by adding turns elsewhere! But it's easy to criticise early interpreters, and Bernard Bentley is a model of propriety compared with many others — particularly the people who interpreted The Ashover Book.
All well and good — but how do we get the ones into second place proper? We're looking at the phrase “then fall back, and hands half round” and we appear to have 4 bars of music — 12 steps. Bentley takes “hands” to mean “circle 6”, but the instructions later say “turn Hands half round” and even the capital “H” doesn't mean it's a circle. My suggestion is that we start as in Bentley's version — lines of three fall back three steps and lead forward three steps — and then the ones meet, two-hand turn just a quarter and fall back into middle place. I know a quarter isn't a half, but I can't think of a single dance where the original specified “turn a quarter” — they weren't as precise in those days! (Or maybe it should be a left-hand turn ¾.)
And now the usual question: even though in my opinion it's a much more likely interpretation, would I force it on Americans who know and love Bentley's version? No I wouldn't! His version works very well (provided people can cope with “left-hand turn your right-hand person” in B2) and it's so different from any other dance I can think of. But here's my opinion of what John Young really meant! I'm suggesting a very short triple minor set of just four couples, so that eight times through the dance gets everybody home.
|A:||Ones cast to middle place (6 steps); meet with the man below the lady (3 steps), fall back to finish with man between the bottom couple, lady between the top couple. Lines fall back (3 steps), lead forward (3 steps); ones move forward to meet, two-hand turn one quarter and fall back into middle place proper (6 steps).|
|B1:||Ones right-hand turn first corner (6 steps); left-hand turn partner to finish facing down on own side and keep hold. Lead down, cast up. Left--hand turn about half-way.|
|B2:||Ones right-hand turn second corner; left-hand turn partner to finish facing up on own side. Lead up, cast; left-turn all the way.|
Source: John Playford, Dancing Master 1st Edition, 1651. Interpretation: Colin Hume, 1995.
A long Dance for 3, 5, 7, or 9. Couple
Leade up all a D. change places each with his own keeping your faces still to the presence, the men slipping behinde the We. and the We. before the men, face all to the wall . Men hands and We. hands, first man and 2. Wo lead all the rest round to the bottome, facing all to the presence :
The first man and Wo. being in the middle, lead up all a brest a D. and back . We. slip before the men to the right, and men behind the We. to the left, going a compasse to their places at at first :
The first Cu. lead up a D. change hands and lead down a D. . Take hands with the 2. Cu. and all foure halfe round, first man and 2. Wo. change places :
The 2. We. lead up between the 2. man, then crossing over, the first Wo. go behind the 2 man, and the 2. behinde the first . Men change over by the right hands then giving left hands to their owne We. turne the first Cu. in the 2. place and the 2. in the first :
First Cu. crosse over, meet in the 2. place, change places . The three uppermost men, and the three We. hands, fall a D. back 2 and 3. Cu. change each with his owne, while the first Cu. meet, then fall a D. back againe 3. and 3. :
Now standing as in Greenwood, the first man between the 2. and 3. Wo. and the first Wo. between the 2. and 3. man, the first Cu. lead up, cast off and meet below, whilest the 2. and 3. We. and the 2. and 3 man change places . The first Cu. being in the 3. place, armes whilst the other foure take hands and go half round to the left :
I was introduced to this one as “The most difficult Playford dance”, and it certainly seems pretty difficult when you listen to most callers explaining it. The blame can't be laid on Cecil Sharp, who did a good job of interpreting it — but since then people have tried to “improve” it. I don't know whether they thought they were making it better or easier, but to my mind they failed on both counts. Someone once told me that it was deliberately made more difficult when it was put into the syllabus of the EFDSS Silver Badge, but I don't know whether that's true. It's also a dance about which people tend to be very dogmatic — so let's look at the evidence.
(By the way, the Source link above is to a later edition — what I've given is the wording as it appears in the first edition.)
The first thing we notice is “for 3, 5, 7, or 9. Couple”. I had only seen it done for three couples, and each time I danced it I found myself thinking “I wonder how it works for the other numbers”, so eventually I tried it out with five couples. I found it worked really well, and have done it that way ever since. Many people have told me how much they like it that way, because you get a much clearer idea of the shape of the dance, and you can therefore dance it better.
In the first figure, you would think that Playford had been absolutely clear:
the men slipping behinde the We. and the We. before the men — and yet some people will tell you dogmatically that the men should slip in front of the women. Maybe it's because in Cecil Sharp's day a lead up used to be done right hand in right — I don't know — but I do know that Playford spelt it out in great detail (quite unlike his usual style), and Sharp naturally follows him. Interpreters have to tread a fine line between slavishly following the original and being too inventive, but in this case the original Playford speaks for itself — though no doubt many people will continue to do it their way. And I can't believe Playford really meant
first man and 2. Wo — that's probably a printer's error — and Playford then says
The first man and Wo. being in the middle which clinches it for me. Later editions changed “2.” to “second”, but that was just the new printer copying the old version and expanding the number to a word.
With five couples, the lines curving round to meet in a line of ten certainly have more difficulty than in the three couple version, and you may have to stagger the sets unless you're dancing in the Albert Hall. The mind boggles at the thought of a nine couple set performing this movement — no, I'm not going to try it!
Most callers do the first figure twice (probably because it gives the dancers a chance to get it right the second time), and I used to follow their example, but producing a book of interpretations forced me to re-examine my attitudes. There are plenty of Playford dances which have an introductory figure — from my repertoire I can list “Once I loved a maiden fair”, “Amaryllis”, “Christchurch Bells”, “The Devil's Dream” (no, not the American contra!), “The Friar and the Nun”, “The Mulberry Garden”, “My Lady Cullen”, “The Opera”, “The Way to Norwich (Hey boys, up go we)”, “The Witches”, “Well-Hall” (though the usual interpretation omits the introduction) and I'm sure there are many more. But I put it to you: Do you know any other Playford dance where you repeat a non-progressive introductory figure? Nor do I — so I now do it just once at the beginning.
So, the first figure is a “whole set” figure (like “Virginia Reel”). The second figure involves only two couples, and ends in progressed places, so it's duple minor (like the first figure of “Nonesuch”). I would therefore start with ones and threes as active couples, and dance the figure through until everyone is back to place. That's ten times through — but it's only a 16-bar figure rather than the regular 32 bars. Probably in 1651 it would have been started just by the ones, in which case the music would need to be played twelve times.
The first eight bars are perfectly clear, but I find a lot of people rush them as they are scared of being late “because it's Step Stately and therefore impossible”. Notice incidentally the
lead up a D. change hands which implies that we are correct to use inside hands. In the second eight bars, people will tell you all sorts of fabrications about the ladies leading up left hand in left, doing a reverse turn half-way and then backing away, which looks and feels very awkward. What does Playford say?
The 2. We. lead up between the 2. man, then crossing over, the first Wo. go behind the 2 man, and the 2. behinde the first. He doesn't say which woman crosses in front of the other, but since the second woman has only just crossed into second place it surely makes sense for the first woman to initiate this movement while the second woman loops round to her right ready to follow her. It's just a half figure of eight, cut short so that each woman finishes behind the other man. If you want to give hands it works best right hand in right, the second woman handing the first woman in front of her, but sometimes Playford says “lead” when he just means “move”. People also rush the next movement, but provided you give weight and step lively (rather than stately) with the women moving in to meet their partner, it's quite possible for the active couples to do a left-hand turn all the way and be ready to lead up again.
The third figure involves only three couples, and is therefore triple minor. Since it ends with the first couple in the third place, it's a double progression — which means it doesn't work with anything but three or five couples! If you had seven or nine couples, there would be two neutral couples at the top after the first turn, and four after the second turn. If the top three of these now started the third turn, there would be a neutral couple in fourth place — not a good idea, so let's stick to five couples. The top three couples do the figure once. The original ones then lead the figure again with the fourth and fifth couples, at the end of which they are at the bottom of the set and the original twos can lead the figure twice — and so on. It's a really good way to do it, because you get to lead the figure twice and you get to watch the other couples doing it while you are neutral.
The first movement can be done in eight steps provided the ones and twos are awake: the ones cross over, go below the twos who move up or lead up, and cross again in second place. I would suggest that you cross right shoulder both times and turn to your right into the lines.
The next movement seems to have too much in it:
The three uppermost men, and the three We. hands, fall a D. back 2 and 3. Cu. change each with his owne, while the first Cu. meet, then fall a D. back againe 3. and 3. Indeed Cecil Sharp changed his mind about this. His original printed version has:
A 5-6 The first three men taking hands, the first three women doing the same, all move forward a double, first man and first woman meeting, second and third men changing places with their partners.
7-8 The two files fall back a double.
So he tried it missing out the initial fall back — but that didn't work, because the first movement is bound to leave the ones close to their partners and they can't reasonably follow this by moving a double towards each other. In his corrections he inserts
fall back a double at the start, and leaves out the
fall back a double in bars 7 and 8 above. Sharp's revised version works, and is the way I've always seen it done, so if anyone waves the Sharp book at you just point out (politely) that they may have an old version or may not have spotted the “Corrections and Additions” at the end of the books. If you have the three-volume set published by EP Publishing in 1972-76, the corrections to parts II, III and IV are at the end of the second volume, and the corrections to parts V and VI are at the end of the third volume. The three-volume set published by Harry Styles in 1985 is a reprint of a later edition, and I believe all the corrections have been incorporated. You can see Sharp's wording here, and as Hugh Stewart notes at the bottom,
Remember that the twiddly bits are spurious extra complexity. You can also see the version in Palmer's Pocket Playford with all the spuriosity, including the men going in front of the women (because of the spurious right-hand-in-right lead up) in direct defiance of Playford.
It's the final movement that gives most problems. People seem to go out of their way to complicate it. Callers explain to each couple what their movement is — often with much waving of hands — involving the top couple doing two tight casts to get nowhere, and the bottom couple facing down and casting up. Eventually they say “Go”, and everybody moves. Then they walk the same thing through from the other two positions. No-one has a clue about the overall shape; they're like factory workers on an assembly line, each adding a wing mirror but with no idea what the finished vehicle looks like. As a result they never learn the figure; it comes at them new every time.
Let's see what Playford actually says. Don't worry about the reference to “Greenwood” — that's simply a three couple dance with the middle couple improper, and anyway Playford then explains exactly where everyone is standing.
the first Cu. lead up, cast off and meet below, whilest the 2. and 3. We. and the 2. and 3 man change places. My way of explaining this is that the ones, who are now in middle place, lead back up to the top (the twos standing far enough apart to allow them to do this) and then cast to invert the set. Playford doesn't actually say that the twos and threes follow the ones as they cast, but that seems the easiest way to achieve their change of positions. If the twos were to face down and cross with the threes while the ones were casting, they would probably get in the way of the ones and prevent them from fitting their lead up and cast into the eight steps allowed, and also the set would have moved down a place.
I've found that the only people who get confused dancing my version are those who are determined to ignore me and dance the version they think they know!
Sharp says in the Corrections and Additions:
It is customary to conclude the dance with a repetition of the First Part and I go along with this — particularly as the 5-couple version doesn't end with everybody dancing. A nice touch (not my idea) is to finish the dance in a line of ten and honour the presence — but I feel the caller should tell the dancers that this is an addition and not part of the dance as recorded by Playford.
But is it my version? Have a look at Sharp's interpretation in The Country Dance Book, Part 4 (plus corrections) and see how closely I've followed him. Apart from the final honour in the line, and the question of whether the ladies give hands in the half figure eight, what I've printed here is exactly Cecil Sharp's version! And yet people go away from my dance saying “We got through Step Stately — first time ever — but Colin was doing his simplified version”. What can I say?! Again I give the link to Sharp's version, and again I refer you to the notes by Hugh Stewart at the bottom which conclude: “Remember that the twiddly bits are spurious extra complexity, and don't insist on confused dancers doing them.”
Finally, what about the music? Sharp sets the dance to the tune of “Jack Pudding”, which with its incisive Scotch snaps is a good driving tune for a busy dance. Click here for the original tune, which has 4-bar A's and B's both repeated. I suspect musicians and dancers would be very bored with the original tune after 22 turns, but you can choose for yourself — maybe you would like to use the original tune for the first figure.
Format: 5 couples longways. Music: Play the tune 22 times through.
First figure (whole set):
|A:||All lead up a double; slip across four steps (ladies in front of partner), face out and join hands in lines. First man and first lady lead their lines down and round in a “C” shape to meet in a line of ten.|
|B:||Up a double and back. Ones let go of their partners and the lines cross in a curving movement (ladies in front of the men) to original places.|
|Second figure (duple minor):|
|A:||Ones lead up a double; change hands and lead back. Circle left half-way; first corners cross.|
|B:||Ladies half figure eight up through the men (first lady going first) but cut it short to finish behind the opposite man. Men give right hands and pull by, then left-hand turn partner to finish proper in progressed places.|
|Since this is duple minor, there are always two pairs of couples doing the figure. The ones and threes are the working couples the first two times, then the original ones and the new top couple twice and so on, making a total of 10 times through the figure to get everyone back to place.|
|Third figure (triple minor):|
|A:||Ones cross, go below the twos; cross again (right shoulder both times). Lines of three fall back; lead forward and the ends cross over with their partner, all finishing facing partner, with the twos far enough apart to let the ones through.|
|B:||Ones lead back to the top and then cast to invert the set. Ones (at the bottom) arm right while the top two couples circle left half-way (all finishing proper).|
|Since this is triple minor, there is always one group of three couples doing the figure. The ones are the working couple the first two times (first at the top and then at the bottom), then the new top couple twice and so on, making a total of 10 times through the figure to get everyone back to place.|
|Finale (whole set):|
|A:||All lead up a double; slip across four steps (ladies in front of partner), face out and join hands in lines. First man and first lady lead their lines down and round in a “C” shape to meet in a line of ten.|
|B:||Up a double and back. Up a double again; step right and honour the presence.|
|This is not in Playford's book, but if you choose to do it I think it makes a good ending to the dance.|
|Source: Henry Playford, Dancing Master 11th Edition, 1701. Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2010.|
The 1. cu. Figure through the 2. cu and turn hands above . The 2. Cu does the same : The 1. man turns the 2. wo . And the 1. wo the 2. man : Then cross over and go the Figure through the 2. cu. the 2. cu. being in the 1. cu place, meet and set and cast off, then the 1. cu. cast off and begin again.
I first heard about this dance from Mike Barraclough, and my interpretation of the dance is similar to his. The tune is a variant of Jeremiah Clarke's famous “Trumpet Voluntary”. In the 14th Edition (see the source link above) the second line of music switches from D to B flat, which is very striking (and most people would say very wrong) — that's the only Edition to do so, and I'm therefore ignoring it. I've also sharpened the G's in bars 1 and 5 of the B-music since that's how everybody knows it today. The links to the music also give Trumpet Voluntary chorded more or less as you would hear it played today, and that't the version of the tune I recommend unless you're a real Playford purist. Playford gives 4 lines of music, the third identical to the first except for one difference in dotting, and we would describe it in modern terms as A, B, A, C with no mention of repeats. But anyone who has heard the tune will know that it doesn't finish with the C-music, which ends in the dominant — it simply has to go back to the A-music. The tune is in rondo form and is played A, B, A, C, A, with or without repeats. Most modern recordings seem to be A A B B A C C A A, though some leave out the second B or the second C. Let's look at the dance and then worry about the music, except to point out that the music needs to be played at twice the speed of most modern performances.
“Figure through” means a full or half figure of eight, so in the first eight bars the ones do a half figure eight down through the twos and then two-hand turn — but how much? Half-way would bring them back proper, once around would leave them improper, one and a half would bring them back proper. The second eight bars (presumably A2) is the same for the twos, so either both couples are improper or both are proper. Now we get first corners two-hand turn, and I don't believe we can stretch that out to 16 steps so I suggest that this is combined with the second corners turning to form a unit of 8 bars. I know Playford has single and double dots after each, but I just don't believe it, and you can see that at that point he abandons the underlined dots altogether, so maybe he realised he was on to a loser there!
Then cross over and go the Figure through the 2. cu. means cross and cast, then half figure eight up, which is 8 bars. I assume a new sentence starts with
the 2. cu. being in the 1. cu place and indeed the twos are now above the ones. If the twos meet (4 beats) and then set (4 beats) we will need an eight-step cast to make up an 8-bar phrase. But what about
then the 1. cu. cast off? Does it mean that they do the meet and set before the cast, which would be another 8 bars? Or does it literally mean that the ones simply cast? In that case we could have the twos cast as the ones lead up (4 steps) and then the ones cast as the twos lead up (4 steps) — a familiar sequence often described as “Lead and cast; cast and lead”. We can never be sure, but let's take Playford literally and see if it makes sense. It seems that everyone needs to be proper after the corners turn, so I would turn 1½, though some people would no doubt prefer to turn half-way and then fall back. Either way that's 16 bars, plus 8 bars for the corners turning, 8 bars for the cross cast and half figure, 8 bars for the setting and casting. That's 40 bars — 5 lines of music. I considered making one full turn of the tune fit two turns of the dance, but that's quite awkward. And of course Jeremiah Clarke didn't write it for a country dance — he expected it to go once through and then stop. If I somehow arranged it to start with two A's and finish at the end of the second turn of the dance with two A's, the next turn of the dance would start with another two A's, giving four A's together which I don't think would be popular. Then I realised that by simply playing each part once I got 40 bars. Agreed it would be more logical for the second 8 bars to be the same music as the first 8 bars, but again I'll point out that Clarke didn't write it with a country dance in mind. I'm sure what happened was that the tune became justifiably popular and someone put together a set of figures to fit it — we still do the same thing today. So here's my version; no doubt there are several others.
|A1:||Ones half figure eight down. Two-hand turn 1½.|
|B:||Twos half figure eight up. Two-hand turn 1½. [All home]|
|A2:||First corners two-hand turn. Second corners two-hand turn.|
|C:||Ones cross over; cast below the twos as twos lead up. Ones half figure eight up.|
|A3:||Twos meet; set. Twos cast, ones lead up; ones cast, twos lead up.|
Note : Each Strain is to be play'd twice over.The dance is interpreted by Bernard Bentley in Fallibroome 2, converted from triple minor to a 3-couple set. The tune is a slip-jig with a 4-bar A and an 8-bar B. Yes it really does say
The first Couple cast off and fall in between the second and third Woman and Man, and lead backward and forward . Then first Woman cast off and fall in between the third Man and third Woman, the Man cast up and fall in between the second Man and second Women at the same Time; then lead backward and forward : The first Man and first Woman meet and fall back, the Man cast off round the second Woman, and the second Woman cast up round the third Man, then Righ and Lift quite round . Back to Back with your own, then Back with the second Couple, then the Man lead his Partner up round the second Woman into their proper Places, Sett and cast off :
Righ and Liftrather than “Right and Left”, and there are other mistakes. I agree with Bentley that
Back with the second Coupleshould be “Back to Back with the second Couple”, and that
second Woman cast up round the third Manmeans “first Woman cast up” — the second woman can't be casting up while the first man is casting round her. And
second Womenshould of course be “second Woman” — we all make mistakes like this in our books!
Bernard Bentley is always very honest about what he's changed, but sometimes I don't see why he's changed things. Here the original clearly means the lines fall back before coming forward, and he mentions this in the footnote, but he's changed both of these to forward and back. And yet in “Saint Margaret's Hill” in Fallibroome 1 he does have the lines falling back and leading forward. I certainly prefer falling back first, and it also means that when the ones meet and fall back that is a different move rather than a pale shadow of the preceding two. He says the tune was in 6/9, but he didn't mean that; the tune was in 9/4 and I agree with him in changing it to 9/8 which is how modern musicians would expect to see a slip-jig. He also changed one note of the B-music from a C to a B, and I've decided to follow him though I'm not sure about it! The
Right and Left quite round would mean four changes of a circular hey for the ones and the couple above them — the twos. The part I really disagree with comes near the end. The ones are in middle place improper, having done a back-to-back with the twos who are above them. The original says
the Man lead his Partner up round the second Woman into their proper Places and Bentley assumes this means finishing proper in second place, so he has
1st man lead his partner up, round the 2nd woman and fall back with her into middle places (proper). In six steps! I don't believe that can be done except as a mad rush. And remember this was a triple minor. The final move is
Sett and cast off which would leave the ones below the threes — right for a 3-couple dance but wrong for a triple minor. In 2008 I wrote: “Surely the original means that the man leads his partner back up to top place, handing her across so that they both finish proper. That's easy and elegant.” But in 2013 I looked at it with fresh eyes. The word “lead” has more than one meaning. I sometimes hear callers say “The man leads up and the lady leads down” and they don't mean that: they mean “move”. “Lead” means taking hands and moving as a unit. But there are still two possibilities. When we see “lead … up” it's so easy to think of “lead up a double”. But “lead” can also mean “draw” with the man in the lead as in “the men lead round the ladies”, and if we think “the Man draw his Partner up round the second Woman into their proper Places” we get quite a different meaning. Notice that Bentley has invented a comma after “up”, so he expects you to lead up the centre and then go round the second woman. Instead I suggest that the first man should draw his partner across, round the second woman, to their original places. Then we have
Sette and cast off. Bernard Bentley understandably leaves out the set (which in triple time I would expect to use up all six beats). But perhaps it just means a step to the side and acknowledge before casting. It's not clear from the original whether this is at the end of the moving up or the start of the cast, and in my previous interpretation I put the step and honour on the last two of the six beats, having taken four to cross up. Now they're going round the second woman that will take all six beats, so I would go for a quick step and acknowledge (just two beats), followed by four steps to cast to second place which is where they should finish in a triple minor. To convert it to a 3-couple set dance the ones need to cast to the bottom as the twos and threes lead up, which I thought might be too busy, especially as the new ones now start by casting to the middle place so the threes (who have now become twos) immediately lead up again. But I've tried it and it worked fine.
|A1:||(4 bars): Ones cast to second place (twos lead up) (6 steps); lines fall back (3 steps) and lead forward (3 steps).|
|A2:||Ones cast right shoulder, the man finishing between the twos, the lady between the threes in lines across; lines fall back and lead forward.|
|B1:||Ones meet and fall back; ones cast right shoulder to finish improper in middle place. Four changes with hands at the top, three steps per hand, ones still finishing improper.|
|B2:||Ones back-to-back; face up, back-to-back with the twos. First man draw partner across behind the second lady and up to original place (twos lead down) (6 steps); ones step right and acknowledge (2 beats), cast to the bottom (twos and threes lead up) (4 steps).|
|For the triple minor version the ones finish by casting into second place as the twos lead up.|
The 1. cu. cast off and lead up all four with the 2. cu . The 1. Man turn the 2. Wo. the 1. Wo. turns the 2. Man : Set all four to the 3. cu. half figure, and cross over below the 2. cu.
Note: The second Strain played once.
I looked at this many years ago and gave up in confusion. The Kennedys have a version in the Country Dance Book New Series. They were using a copy from 1728, but the wording is the same as when it was first published by Henry Playford in the Dancing Master 11th Edition of 1701; the music has one note different and one slight difference in timing. They looked at the music, which was notated in 2:2 time, and decided it should really be in 3:2 time, so they added two extra beats at the end of the A-music to make it four bars of three-time. That seems logical, since the B-music is clearly in 3:2 time, but when I played it I came to the conclusion that the A-music was actually two bars of five-time! I returned to the dance in 2007 when Momentum released their “Interesting Times” CD which has a nice recording of the tune — including the bars of 5-time.
So what are we to make of it? Five steps for the ones to cast and go round their neighbour into the middle of a line of four, then lead up five steps? Because we're starting from the twos' place it should be possible to do this without hitting the threes above. In practice, for the ones to get into the middle of the line in five steps the twos need to move up a little (to reduce the length of the ones' track) and be willing to separate rather than the ones having to force their way into a small gap. As usual the twos are given no instructions — those are directed at the ones and the twos have to fit in as required — and although I don't usually like extra twiddles, in this case I think it better for the twos to cast onto the end of the line rather than just move up and then separate. But then we have the second A — 10 steps — for the first man to turn the second woman and the first woman to turn the second man. It's not clear whether these turns happen simultaneously, but either way the ones have their partner in the way. And there's no mention of leading down again. Surely we must lead down five steps so that the line finishes where it started but facing the threes. That leaves five steps for the turns, which obviously must be simultaneous, but it's still expecting a lot for the ones to cross with their partner and turn their opposite-sex neighbour all the way in just five steps. I wondered about turning half-way, but this puts the ones on the outside of the line and I didn't know where to go from there.
Let's leave that and look at the B section.
Set all four to the 3. cu. must surely mean the ones and twos are still in a line across. The rest of the instructions are for the ones, since nobody is specified. “Half figure” would be obvious if we bent the line so that the ones were back above the twos, but we can still do it from the line — the ones cross down and then cast up above the twos, back to their starting place. The setting and half figure would take four bars of three-time, and there is a very definite break in the music at this point. So we're left with
and cross over below the 2. cu. — presumably six steps to cross (quite a lot) and six to cast, since “cross over” always means “cross and cast” as I keep saying in my notes on interpretation. A “Hole in the Wall” cross seems indicated, to use up the music and make sure the man faces up before the cast rather than just going. Wonderful. But then we notice that the ones have finished improper!
I struggled with this for a long time, and then realised that I had the same problem twice. In the first half I was trying to get the ones crossed over, and in the second half I was trying to get them back to their original side. Inspiration struck — maybe the dance is supposed to be improper. I know it doesn't say so in the little diagram, but the printers would have slapped that in without thinking — I imagine every dance in the book had that diagram. There were a few improper dances even in the early editions of Playford, so it's possible. For instance, “King of Poland” is certainly improper — the original says
First Man on his Woman's side — and yet the diagram is the usual one. The Kennedys have a full figure of eight which cuts across the phrases of the music, so I think my version is more likely.
I agree with the Kennedys that since the threes do nothing except admire the line of four dancers setting to them, it makes sense to condense the dance from triple minor to duple minor.
After writing all this I was shown Pat Shaw's version, available on in the notes to the CD Pat Shaw's Playford by the Assembly Players and now in the 2012 publication “Another look at Playford” compiled and edited by Marjorie Fennessy. Pat also uses two bars of 5-time for the A-music and converts the dance to duple minor. He says the dance can be improper or proper (though the book just says improper), and has a two-hand turn neighbour 1½. He has the half figure eight up rather than down, and he hasn't realised that “cross over” means “cross and cast”, though he does recognise this in his interpretation of “Dick's Maggot”.
In 2011Ian Cutts (musician and historical dancer) read these notes and decided it was more likely that Henry Playford (or his printer) had got some of the note lengths wrong than that the tune was intended to have two bars of 5-time — something I've never seen until the 20th century, though Ian tells me that Chris and Ellis Rogers teach a 5/4 waltz from the 19th century. He pointed out that the last four notes of the B-music (which is clearly in 3-time) are the same as the last four of the A-music, which also suggests the A-music should be in 3-time. Here's Playford's original with the bar-lines for the A-music omitted and the B-music barred in 3-time:
If you look at the second bar of the B-music, above it in the A-music you will see the same 6 notes, except that the first four are half the length. Changing these from quavers to crotchets gives us the first two bars in 3-time with the second bars of A and B identical. Now look at the next 6 notes of the A-music — they're identical to the first 6 except that again the timing is different. Replacing these by the first 6 gives us another two bars of 3-time, and certainly to me the whole thing makes a lot more sense:
The dance instructions can stay as they are, with 6 steps instead of 5 for the moves in the A-music. And if you really want the music with the 5-time bars, here it is.
|A1:||(4 bars of 3-time): Ones cast into the middle of a line of four (6 steps) as the twos lead up and cast out onto the ends of the line. Lead up 6 steps.|
|A2:||Two-hand turn neighbour (6 steps) to finish facing down with the man on the right. Lead down 6 steps.|
|B:||(8 bars of 3 time): Set in line to the (non-existent) threes; ones (in the middle of the line) cross down and cast up (twos move in). Ones “Hole in the Wall” cross (6 steps); ones cast as the twos wait and then lead up.|