BackSession 2: Playford   Session Index  Previous session  Next session

Figures and Steps


Playford!  A word to arouse partisan feelings on both sides!  I was at a folk club where John Kirkpatrick played a couple of Playford tunes and just said they were “from 17th century manuscripts”.  In the interval I said to him “Is Playford a dirty word then, John”, and he rather shamefacedly admitted that it was.  But it shouldn't be!

John Playford was a publisher, mainly of music, and in 1651 he published “The English Dancing Master”.  All the later editions were just called “The Dancing Master” and they appeared until 1728, by which time there were three volumes containing over a thousand dances.  The publication was passed on to John's son Henry, and then to John Young.  By that time there were several other firms publishing English Country Dances, but we tend to lump them all together under the name “Playford”.

When The Round started in 1928 it was very much a Playford club, and that meant doing Cecil Sharp's interpretations of the dances — that's all there was!  These days other people have produced different interpretations, and written new dances in the Playford style, which would have been unthinkable then.  Maggot Pie was one such book of new dances, published in Cambridge in 1932 though predictably it never found favour there.

In Sharp's day Playford dancing was very lively.  He said that the standard step was the running step, and the music was played much faster than it is now — we've been slowing down for the past hundred years!  These days there's a perception that all Playford is slow and boring, plodded through by old people with no evident enjoyment.  This isn't true everywhere — see my page on Zesty Playford — but it is generally true.  Your job is to change that perception!  If your attitude comes across as “These are great dances, really fun to do”, you're half-way towards persuading the dancers.  Here are some of the figures and formations to be found in Playford, followed by some suggested dances.

Up a double and back

The first of the three standard “Playford” introductions.  A double is three steps and close, and you find it in earlier dances such as Brawls or brawles (branles in French), though the double was usually sideways in those.  Face “up” to the presence — originally the Lord of the Manor or some important person watching the dancing; these days merely the caller and band.  Take inside hand with your partner (man's hand underneath) and lead up three steps (I start on the right foot), finishing with a little rise and fall to end with feet together.  Don't be one of those people who creep forward two little steps, then feet together, then start moving backwards on the fourth beat, or I'm likely to walk into you and you'll think it's my fault.  Stand up straight and step it out; it's not meant to be an inoffensive shuffle.  Now move backwards in the same positive way, perhaps ending with a little nod to your partner to say “That was pretty good — let's do it again”.  As a Playford introduction the move is always repeated, though sometimes followed by “set and turn single” or some other short figure.

Siding   Top of page

Actually John Playford didn't call it “siding”; he called it “Sides”, usually “Sides all”.  Everybody knew the move in Playford's day so he didn't explain it, which is a great pity.  Cecil Sharp struggled with it for some time and came up with his own invention, known as “Cecil Sharp siding” or “swirly siding”.  If you want to know more, and even watch a video of Sharp dancing it not the way people think he danced it, see my page on Siding.  See also for Hugh Stewart's “A definitive explanation of Siding”.

I use into-line siding virtually all the time.  Please don't call it “Shaw Siding” as this suggests that Pat Shaw made it up just as Cecil Sharp made his version up — no he didn't.  Point out that it's the same music as for “Up a double and back” in the first figure, so it's again a double — three steps and close — but this time you have a much smaller distance to travel.  It's supposed to be a flirtatious movement, and you're not flirting with your partner if you just sail past them.  So take small steps, and incline your body so that you're looking at your partner as your feet come together.

When you're teaching “Sharp” siding, make sure that you say “left shoulder” before they start to move.  Point out that the object is not to get all the way into your partner's place but to cross left shoulder, looking at each other as you go, to finish somewhere over the other side.  Again it's a double — three steps and together.  I start on the right foot.  Some people say you should come back starting on the left foot, some on the right; I say it doesn't matter so long as you do it with confidence.  (And the same applies to the falling back in “Up a double and back”.)  Make sure people are walking forwards rather than backwards when they come back.

Arming   Top of page

Again that's not what John Playford called it.  His usual phrase was “Armes all” or “Armes as you sided”.

I'm stressing John Playford, because his son Henry didn't add any new dances with these three introductions; in fact he gradually dropped the set dances to replace them with the “longways for as many as will” that had obviously become more popular with the dancers.

I teach it as linking right elbows with arms fairly open and turning once around, again looking at your partner, then detaching and falling back.  Some people like to hang on for grim death, but you need to fall back after arm right so that you're then in a position to arm left.  Some people do it with a forearm hold (as you would use in “Nottingham Swing”) but although I have no evidence I don't like that.  I've seen some people do it with their hands the other way up, so instead of cupping your hand round your partner's elbow your hand is palm down below their elbow.  I think this looks “affected”, but again I have no evidence.  What I do object to is people who hook their arm round mine and then pull me tight against their side — this feels more like a “come along with me” arrest than a dance figure!

Some people feel that by analogy with “Up a double and back” and “Siding” this move should be done in two doubles, so they come to a close with feet together half-way through the move.  I don't think that's justified.  In the first two introductions you're going there and back, so of course you have to stop between the two halves, but I see arming as a continuous movement.

Set and turn single   Top of page

These are movements which both appear on their own, but they often turn up as a pair, taking 8 beats — the same as “forward and back” and most others.

John Playford described the following figures at the start of the first edition:

A Double is foure steps forward or back, closing both feet.
A Single is two steps, closing both feete.

Set and turn single, is a single to one hand, and a single to the other, and turne single.

I've already mentioned a Double.  A Single, which also comes from brawls, is used occasionally in Playford.  The confusing thing is that the “turn single” is actually a Double!  In this case the word “single” means “on your own”, rather than turning your partner.

In Playford's day they started on the left foot (as earlier dancers did in the brawls), so they would have set left and right.  Some time later it changed to a right foot lead, so now we usually set right and left.  You need to demonstrate this clearly — some people do all sorts of odd things!  Step out to your right (it's not a big leap), close your left foot up to your right, and then transfer your weight to your right foot so that your left foot is free to start the second half: step to your left, close the right foot to the left, and transfer your weight to your left foot.  There's no crossing over the legs — that's a kick balance — and it's not supposed to be violent.  It's a movement of courtesy — you're always setting to somebody — so make sure people look at the somebody rather than at their feet!  A set takes two bars of music: if you think of a bar of jig time as being split into six little beats, as in “Nel-lie the El-e-phant”, the moves come on beats 1, 3 and 4, and in the second bar where you're going back to the left the move fits “packed her trunk”.

I've found that some people, as well as leaping a long distance from side to side, think that you come down on the beat, so they jump up before the beat, giving it a “ba-BOOM” rhythm — I don't know where they get that from.

A turn single isn't a spin turn!  It's a double — three steps and together — but instead of moving forwards or backwards you're going round a little circle to your right (clockwise).  If people haven't done the transfer of weight at the end of the set they're liable to turn single the wrong way.

Sometimes setting is on the spot — for instance set and cast, or set and two-hand turn half-way — but if it's followed by a turn single it's much better to move forward to approach the other person as you set to them, and then the turn single can be an expansive move because you've got somewhere to go.  I often demonstrate a very constrained “on the spot” version and then my preferred version.  But do point out that you don't always move forward when you set: if it's followed by a two-hand turn half-way you'll be too close to do a good turn.

Set (step) and honour   Top of page

This is just a half-speed set right and left, and occurs for instance in “Shrewsbury Lasses”.  If you watch the Colin Firth / Jennifer Ehle version of “Pride and Prejudice” you'll see that the choreographer didn't know what it meant, so I use the phrase “step and honour” rather than “set and honour”.  It takes four bars, so explain that it's step right and bow or curtsey, then step left and bow or curtsey.  If you just say “step and honour” some people will do it in one direction only and then have no idea how to fill up the music.

Cast   Top of page

This move also occurs in non-Playford dances, and is often a source of confusion.  If the ones want to get below the twos, the obvious thing to do is to face down towards them and just go.  But there's a danger that you then hit your neighbour — which I demonstrate — so in a cast you start by facing away from where you want to go.  If you're casting down you start by turning up and out (man left, lady right from a normal longways set) and then you have space to move down the outside and face your partner.  When the cast is two bars (four steps) you can't hang about, but sometimes you have an eight step cast.  In that case you have time to move in and up to meet your partner (possibly touching inside hands), then move up and out, taking a much wider track.  As a caller you need to tell people whether it's a four step or eight step cast, and point out (using one of my favourite phrases) that being early is just as bad as being late.  Some people are always in a rush — they're scared of being late, so they're always early.  It may help to count out the beats, and stress that they should arrive at their destination, feet together, on beat 8.  Just accept that some people are never going to get it though — they find the “almost late” approach too stressful!

If you're facing up or facing your partner and you are told to cast, you turn out as above.  But if you're already facing out or down you don't spin round; you just go.  They don't realise this in the States, so callers there say “Ones cross and go below” rather than “Ones cross and cast”.

Be clear on your terminology.  If you say “cast down” or “cast up” you're indicating where the cast will finish.  But “cast right” is ambiguous.  Do you mean “cast over your right shoulder”, in which case you'll finish round to your left, or do you mean “cast and move to your right”?  I've found that phrases like “pull your right shoulder back and cast…” are much clearer.

Gates   Top of page

I know The Round calls this move “Gateposts”, but the rest of the world calls it “Gates”!  As far as I know it never appeared in the original Playford instructions, but it's been added in by various people.  Usually it's done with your neighbour.  Join inside hands, and make sure that the pivot point is where your hands meet: it's not one person rotating on the spot and dragging the other person round them.  You need to give some weight for it to be effective, and it works better if the person moving backwards has the underneath hand.  Make sure that people really are moving backwards, not shuffling round sideways.

Gipsy   Top of page

Usually spelt “gypsy” in The States, and some people in contra dancing have replaced the term because they think it's not politically correct so some callers use “right shoulder round”.  A gipsy right is a right-hand turn without the hand, so you're walking round each other looking at each other.  In the States they tend to give an unblinking stare, but I find that intimidating rather than flirtatious so don't overdo the eye-contact; just make sure there is some.

Poussette   Top of page

Sometimes spelt with a single “s”.  It's the French for “pushchair”, which may or may not help you explain it!

The usual move is a half poussette, for instance in “Orleans Baffled”; you get a full poussette in “Knole Park” and “The Twenty-Ninth of May”.  A half poussette is a way of changing places with the other couple.  Give two hands to your partner — straight, not crossed — and one man pushes and the other pulls for four steps until the couples have passed each other, then four steps to reverse direction and finish in the other couple's place.  “Orleans Baffled” happens to be in 3-time, but usually a poussette is four steps out and four steps in.  Again some people always get there too soon!  It's our old friend the double — three steps and feet together.  And what I particularly hate is the “pseudo-poussette” where one person pushes and the other just bends their arms without really going anywhere.  The arms should be reasonably straight — not ramrod stiff, but with some tension in them — it's another example of giving weight.  When done well it's a satisfying movement, but all too often it isn't.

Formations   Top of page

Dancers need to know what the various formations mean.  Don't throw everything at them in one go; explain each formation and then call a dance in that formation.

Duple minor   Top of page

This is the most common “longways for as many as will” formation and you'll find it in Playford, American Contra and English Traditional.  In the old days the dance was started by just the top two couples dancing, and as the top couple moved down the set they taught the figure to each new couple until everybody was dancing.  The original top couple got to the bottom, waited out one turn, and then came in as twos, moving their way back up to the top.  When they got there they stopped, and the other couples continued, stopping when they reached their original place, until the final turn of the dance was for just the bottom two couples.  It was very egalitarian — everybody was a first couple the same number of times and everybody danced with everybody else.

You don't need to explain all that, but as a caller you should at least be aware of the historical background.

These days we take hands four from the top.  Make sure that everyone has their number before you start the walkthrough.  Explain that after one turn of the dance they will have changed places with the couple they are dancing with, and will repeat the figure with the next couple, and so on.  At the end of the walkthrough it's a really good idea to say, “Now take hands four with your new neighbours”.  Before walking the dance through a second time, it's often a good idea to progress a second time — pass by the new couple to meet yet another couple — which means that if you started with an even number of couples, everyone is in for the second walkthrough.  Also be aware that the hardest position from which to start the dance is one place in from the top or bottom — you do the dance once, you're out the next time, and you're in as the other number the third time.  If there's an inexperienced couple in either of these positions, suggest that they move to the very top or bottom so that they will have an uninterrupted run of the same number.

If you're calling with live music, you should normally do the dance an odd number of times, so that everyone is in for the last time through.  The exception is a few American contras where the progression occurs right at the start of the dance — for instance balance in a wave, pass through and swing the next.  You don't actually need to count — just wait until near the end of a turn of the dance when everyone is in, and say clearly to the band “two more times” — but don't delay this until the start of the next turn or they won't know whether you mean “two more including this one” or “this one and then two more”, and they won't want to have a discussion with you while trying to play the music!

Most recordings are 7 times through, but surely if a dance is worth doing it's worth doing more than that!  I would probably go for 9 times through unless it's a challenging dance and people take some time to get it, in which case I'd run it longer.  (In the States they run longways dances much longer, both English and American.)  And if you're still having to call the last few times through, I'd put that down as a failure — either you have no confidence in the dancers' ability to remember the moves, or you called something too complicated for them.  The idea is that eventually you drop the calling and let people dance to the music.

Almost all original Playford and English Traditional dances are proper — the men on one side and the women on the other.  Most American Contras and some other modern dances are improper — the ones have changed sides — in which case you need to point out that while couples are neutral they must change sides in order to come in as the other number.

In original Playford and Traditional dances the action is entirely within the minor set — you are dancing exclusively with that couple for that turn of the dance.  Don't believe a caller who tells you to take hands in long lines in a Playford dance — they didn't do that.  With modern contras, on the other hand, you quite often have action outside the minor set, which means that when you're neutral you're not as neutral as you thought, and brings in the dreaded End-effects on which I run an entire workshop.

Many modern American Contras are in Becket formation — you stand beside your partner facing across to another couple.  This used to be known as Bucksaw Reel formation, after the first Contra to use it (called “Becket Reel” in the States but “Bucksaw Reel” in England).  I suggest you still get people to take hands four, to make sure that there aren't any neutral couples in the middle of the set.  Becket dances progress clockwise or anticlockwise round the entire set.

Triple minor   Top of page

In this formation you take hands six from the top, so you have ones, twos and threes.  That means you can do figures involving three couples, such as heys (reels) of three.  Again in the old days it would have been started by just the top three couples.  Many triple minors give the threes very little to do, which is why they tend to get converted to three couple sets such as “Shrewsbury Lasses” and “Fandango”, but triple minors are still danced as part of the Playford tradition.  Some examples are “Orleans Baffled”, “The Bishop”, “A Trip to Kilburn”, “Bath Carnival”, “Leather Lake House”, and modern Playford-style dances such as “Key to the Cellar” and “Mary Kay”.  They are very rare in American contras these days, although they used to be standard.  See my other site if you want the progressions spelt out in more detail.

You need to point out that the ones have it easy — they are progressing down the set and they stay as ones.  The twos and threes are moving up the set, and they alternate numbers.  So after the first walkthrough it's absolutely vital to say “Now take hands in your new sixes”.  Then watch and wait while most of them argue for a few minutes until they've all worked out what triple minor means.

At the bottom of the set there are two options.  The boring one — which most dancers in England seem to do — is that if you're a first couple and there's only one couple below you, you move to the bottom and do nothing for that turn of the dance — and the next.  I encourage you as a caller to teach the second approach, which is to dance with a “ghost” third couple.  As I said, often the threes do very little anyway.  This keeps you dancing, and automatically progresses you to the bottom of the set.

At the top of the set you need two couples below you before you can start as a first couple.  This time I don't recommend that people dance with a ghost couple, as they will finish with the ones below the twos and next time when they do have a third couple there will be complete confusion!

Triple progression is a modern invention, pioneered by Tom Cook and best known in his version of “Wakefield Hunt”.  This is very clever.  Instead of the ones finishing in second place, they get to the bottom of their minor set and go down another place to finish below the twos at the top of the next minor set.  Now when you take hands six, everybody is in — the twos reaching the very top are immediately ones, and the ones reaching the very bottom are immediately threes.  This means that twos and threes still alternate as in the conventional progression but the ones whip down the set at three times the normal speed, so many more couples have a chance to be ones.  But it also means that when you reach the top you don't have two turns out to watch the ones below you and see what they're doing — you're straight in!

Square   Top of page

Used in Playford, American and English Traditional.  I explain the formation (slowly) to inexperienced dancers as “Four couples in a set, one couple with their backs to each wall of the room, forming the four sides of a square”.  When it comes to numbering, some people say things like “Ones with their backs to the band, twos with their backs to the river, threes with their backs to the Fish and Chip Shop, fours with their backs to the car park”.  This is absolutely no use to me — I really don't have a sense of direction, and once I'm inside the hall I have no idea where the river is!  What I always say is “Ones with their backs to the band, twos on their right, threes facing the band, fours on their right”.  And I say it slowly enough that people can take it in — you can waste so much time by rushing things like that.  Similarly “Head couples with their backs to the band and facing the band — (pause) — side couples facing across the hall”.  If the band happen to be on the side or in a corner you can change it to “facing me”, but then make sure you're in the right place!

Real Playford squares often have three different figures, so use your judgement in the walk-through.  People get bored if a walk-through goes on for ages, but on the other hand they want a reasonable chance of getting through the dance when the music starts.

I often walk through the first figure and then dance it to the music.  If people are struggling I will then do the same for the second and third figures, and then finally dance the whole thing through.  But if the first figure goes well to the music I might walk through the second and third figures without actually dancing them to the music.  Then we do the whole dance — which starts with the figure they've already danced so they should feel confident.

In either case I then usually dance it all through again, pointing out that we've taken a lot of time learning the dance, so now let's dance it really well.  That's also where you might throw in some technique tips — once people feel that they've got the hang of it they'll be more amenable to exhortations to fit it to the music or whatever.

Circle   Top of page

Can be for a fixed number of couples, often three, or for as many couples as will.  Usually man on the left, lady on the right, but sometimes it's a double circle with men on the inside, ladies on the outside.

Apart from a few genuine Playford dances, circle dances are all change partner dances, which sometimes means you do very little with the person you asked to dance.  In that case, after the walk-through tell them to go back to their original partner, give them time to get there, and then say, “and now go back one more place, so that you'll get to do a whole turn of the dance with your original partner”.  Again, give them time to adjust to this bizarre concept before starting the dance.  If the progression is ladies moving to their right you can instead say, after they're back with their partner, “now change places with your partner, so the man is on the right and the lady on the left”.  That doesn't work if the ladies are progressing the other way though!

Longways, fixed number   Top of page

Usually all proper, sometimes with specified couples improper (even in first edition Playford), occasionally four couples in Becket formation.

Look around to check that all sets are complete before you start the walkthrough.  If you have an extra couple, sometimes it will work with two couples dancing as one, but not always!  One of the great things about The Round is that people are there to enjoy it and they'll have a go at anything rather than arguing about why it won't work.

Other formations   Top of page

Of course there are always exceptions: “Dorset Four-Hand Reel”, “Dargason”, “Levi Jackson Rag” and many others, but you can just teach these formations as they come along.

Let's move on to some suggested dances — and of course there are hundreds of others to choose from.

Upon a Summer's Day        Upon a Summer's Day: Music in PDF/MIDI/MP3/ABC formatPrint this danceTop of page

Source: John Playford — Dancing Master 1st Edition, 1651
Formation: 3 Couples longways
Music: 3 x Own tune (jig) with 3 B's

First figure:
A1:Up a double and back.  Set and turn single.
B1:Lines forward and back.  Bottoms arch with neighbour, top couple lead down, separate, go out through arch; move down to bottom while others move up.
B2/3:Same with the other two couples leading.
Second figure:
 The same but siding right and left.
Third figure:
 The same but arming right and left.

A good dance when teaching the Playford introductions because it has the same figure each time.  As the dancers turn single they need to move away from their partner so that they can do a satisfying forward and back.  Sharp's version has the leading couple casting, coming in through the arches and going down to the bottom, but Playford says, the first on each side goe under the others armes on their owne side, and meet below and I think that makes a lot more sense.  If the ones have to cast before going through the arches they will have difficulty doing that in 4 steps, so the arches will be late moving up, and the ones will lead down to finish close together without any way to go forward a double, whereas if they go out under the arches they're in a good position to join the lines as they go forwards.  Get people to make high arches to avoid the leading couple crawling through.  Some people will still crawl anyway, so then you point out they've been given nice high arches just so that they don't need to do that.  If a tall person is going under an arch made by shorter people it looks and feels much better to bend your knees rather than duck your head.

The timing needs to be precise: the leading couple have to be out of the way before the arches can move up or it can easily look a mess.  Four beats for the ones to lead down and through the arches; four beats for the ones to cast to the bottom while the others do two chassés up.  I might count it out as: “Lead and under and slide and slide”.

Rufty Tufty        Rufty Tufty: Music in PDF/MIDI/MP3/ABC formatPrint this danceTop of page

Source: John Playford — Dancing Master 1st Edition, 1651
Formation: 2 Couples longways
Music: 3 x Own tune (reel)
First figure:
A1/2:Lead forward a double to the other couple and back.  That again.
B1/2:Face partner: set and turn single.  That again.
C1:(6 bars): Lead partner away; change hands and lead back; turn single away from partner.
C2:That again with opposite.
Second figure:
 The same but siding right and left.
Third figure:
 The same but arming right and left.

Again the same figure all three times.  Sharp's version has fussy changing of hands, because he reads Lead your owne with the left hand to each wall, change hands, meet again as leading out left hand in left and leading back right hand in right, but of course Playford was just telling the men which hand to use.  I think he meant lead out using inside hand, turn and lead back using inside hand.  And Playford doesn't tell you which way to turn single either, but turning away from each other seems to flow naturally from leading in and it means you're flowing into the lead away with your opposite.

The formation for a two couple set is that you stand beside your partner, man on the left, facing the other couple, sideways on to the presence.  You can verify this because when you lead out with your opposite Playford says, One man lead up and the other downe. The first man (in case you wanted to know) is the man nearer the presence.

Black Nag        Black Nag: Music in PDF/MIDI/MP3/ABC formatPrint this danceTop of page

Source: John Playford — Dancing Master 4th Edition, 1670
Formation: 3 Couples longways
Music: 3 x Own tune (jig)

First Figure:
A:Up a double and back.  That again.
B1:Give 2 hands to partner: Ones gallop up (4 slip steps); twos gallop.  Threes gallop; all turn single.
B2:Threes gallop down; twos.  Ones; all turn single.
Second Figure:
A:Side right shoulder to right.  Side left to left.
B1:1st man and third lady slip across, right shoulder leading, passing back-to-back; 3rd man first lady the same.  Middles the same; all turn single.
B2:All that again (right shoulder again).
Third Figure:
A:Arm right.  Arm left.
B1:Men reel of three (6 bars); all turn single.  B2: Ladies the same; all turn single.

I do basically Sharp's version, though using into line siding, but with a slight difference in the third figure.  Listening to the B-music it's clear that there are three “galloping” sections of two bars each and a final two-bar tag.  In the first figure each couple gallops up for two bars and then all turn single; the same back again.  Playford doesn't mention all turning single in the second figure but Sharp puts it in.  Playford doesn't mention all turning single in the third figure, just the hey (reel of three) for the men and then for the women, and originally Sharp did the same.  In a later correction Sharp added that the men turn single as the women finish their hey, but this strikes me as half-hearted and inconsistent.  If people are dancing the hey rather than walking it they can certainly get back home in 6 bars, so I do it with everybody turning single at the end of each hey.  Try it — don't get bogged down by tradition!  If you'd like a similar dance which progresses, have a look at Millison's Jig.

The Merry Merry Milkmaids        The Merry Merry Milkmaids: Music in PDF/MIDI/MP3/ABC formatPrint this danceTop of page

Source: John Playford — Dancing Master 1st Edition, 1651
Formation: 4 Couples longways
Music: 3 x Own tune (jig)
First figure:
A1:Up a double and back.  Set to partner and turn single.
B1:(12 bars): Ones and threes meet partner, acknowledge; give two hands, slip down while the others slip up (to change places).  In those same fours, right-hand star.  Left-hand star.
B2:All that again with twos and fours leading.
Second figure:
A1:Side right.  Set and turn single.
A2:Same left.
B1:Men face up, cast to invert the set.  Ladies the same.  All set and turn single.
B2:The same but facing down and casting up.
Third figure:
A1:Arm right.  Set and turn single.
A2:Same left.
B1:Men take hands in lines and fall back a double; lead forward.  Middles face the ends: straight hey.
B2:Ladies the same.

This is not quite Sharp's version.  Here's Playford's original.

I like this dance for many reasons.  I like the tune.  I like the fact that the B-music is 12 bars rather than the standard 8 bars.  And I particularly like the contrast between the three introductions which are walked and the figures which I believe should be danced (the same as in “Black Nag”).  Encourage people to dance the stars, the casting and the reels of four with a skip-change step.  I always point out that if the men are a bit late finishing their hey nobody notices, whereas if the second and third ladies aren't back in time for the honour it's obvious — so you need to go for it!  Emphasise that in the first figure there are three separate movements — meet, acknowledge, then slip down — rather than just grab and go!  But that's just me trying to fill up the music — Sharp added balance back and forward which is equally spurious!

Maiden Lane        Maiden Lane: Music in PDF/MIDI/MP3/ABC formatPrint this danceTop of page

Source: John Playford — Dancing Master 1st Edition, 1651
Formation: 3 Couples longways
Music: 9 x Own tune (reel)
First Figure:
A:Up a double and back.  That again.
B:Ones face down: Full reel of three on each side (passing right shoulder at the top and left at the bottom).
C:Set and turn single.  That again.
Second Figure:
A:Side right shoulder to right.  Side left.
B:All step back, cross right with partner.  That again.
C:Set and turn single.  That again.
Third Figure:
A:Arm right.  Arm left.
B:Top man cross with middle lady; top lady cross with middle man while bottoms cross with partner.  Middle man cross with bottom lady; middle lady cross with bottom man while tops cross with partner.
C:Set and turn single.  That again.
 Repeat twice more.

Playford has: All a D. to the left hand, back againe . The single Hey on each side : which would take more than 8 bars.

Sharp's version has half a hey, which means the set finishes 1, 3, 2 — most unlikely.  Marianne Taylor was teaching the above version in the States in 1984.  And yes, there are several other Playford dances which have the three standard introductions but are also progressive — I've already mentioned Millison's Jig.  It means people get good practice with the introductions!  Please don't call it all 9 times through!  Some callers seem to feel that it's their duty to call solidly through every dance, but I would much prefer people to dance to the music than to the sound of my voice.  So for the C section I would say “There's a chorus at the end of each figure — it's just set and turn single twice”, and then after I've called it once I just say “chorus”.  And for the third time through I warn the dancers that I'm not going to call the introductions or even mention the chorus, I'll just call the figures.

I would walk each figure through, and then I would say “Now you're in progressed place, and the dance starts again.  I'm not going to walk through the first two figures, but let's walk through the progression.”  And then I'd do the progression yet again, so that people are back where they started.

In the progression I find it easier to use positions rather than numbers.  There's a lot to say, and if you say “First man cross with third lady” there's a danger that they're not sure who the first man is because he's now in the second lady's place!  My wording is something like: “Progression: Top man, middle lady cross.  Top lady, middle man and the bottoms.  Middle man, bottom lady.  Middle lady, bottom man and the tops.”  You need to emphasise “and”, otherwise they won't move — trust me!

Hyde Park        Hyde Park: Music in PDF/MIDI/MP3/ABC formatPrint this danceTop of page

Source: John Playford — Dancing Master 1st Edition, 1651
Formation: Square
Music: 3 x Own tune (jig)

First Figure:
A:Heads lead in; fall back.  Sides the same.
B1:Heads give two hands to partner: two chassées in; two hands to opposite: two chassées out through sides.  Cast to place.
B2:Sides the same.
Second Figure:
A:Heads lead in; fall back.  Sides the same.
B1:Sides right-hand turn half-way and make an arch; heads face partner, cross, go outside the sides, lead in through the arch with opposite, fall back in partner's place (12 steps).
B2:Heads turn half-way; sides cross, etc. so everyone ends home.
Third Figure:
A:Heads lead in; fall back.  Sides the same.
B1:Men dance round the set: in front of partner, behind the next, in front of the next, behind the last (acknowledging each one).
B2:Ladies the same.

I believe the above is Playford's version, though in the first figure I think he meant slide through the 2. Cu. rather than slide through the 4. Cu. since the set is numbered clockwise.  Sharp's version has a balance back and forward in the first figure which he sometimes added when he couldn't see how to fit the dance to the music.  He did the same in the first figure of “The Merry Merry Milkmaids” and some people do it in the progressive figure of “Nonesuch”.  There are cases where Playford himself does this, for instance in “Maiden Lane” and “The Phoenix”, but that's as a prelude to crossing over and I think it works there.  I prefer to do two chassé or sliding steps in with partner and two out with opposite.  They may well have done some fancy footwork in Playford's day but with the same timing.

Make sure the men do acknowledge the ladies as they dance round them, rather than just regarding them as slalom poles!

Put on thy Smock a Monday        Put on thy Smock a Monday: Music in PDF/MIDI/MP3/ABC formatPrint this danceTop of page

Source: John Playford — Dancing Master 4th Edition, 1670
Formation: 3 couple circle
Music: 3 x Own tune (jig) played AA BBB  (or 15 times if you don't use my B-music)

First Figure:
A1:Circle left (slip).  Set and turn single.
A2:Same right.
A3:First man lead two ladies (corner and partner) towards the opposite lady and acknowledge her; fall back.  Two-hand turn her (¾ or 1¾), finishing on her left while the other two ladies two-hand turn while the spare men cast left shoulder to finish in the next man's place to the right.  Note that one man must spilt the two turning ladies.
A4:Same man lead two ladies (lady he turned and his partner) towards the other lady, etc.
A5:Same man lead the other two ladies towards his partner, etc.
Second Figure:
A1/2:Siding, etc.
A3-5: Second man (on first man's left) lead the figure.
Third Figure:
A1/2:Arming, etc.  A3-5: Third man lead the figure.

A fun dance for a lively crowd.  If the working man dances the turn with the opposite lady he can manage 1¾, if he wants to walk, it's a slow ¾, but in both cases make sure he finishes on her left.

The casting for the men has been added — it's not in Playford or Sharp but I don't see how it can work without them moving.  The original tune is only 8 bars, and I thought most bands would get fed up playing it 15 times, so I've written a B-music.  (Pat Shaw did that sort of thing too, so it's not heresy!)

Wakefield Hunt        Wakefield Hunt: Music in PDF/MIDI/MP3/ABC formatPrint this danceTop of page

Source: Thompson Volume 4, 1779
Formation: Longways triple minor
Music: Own tune (jig)

A1:First man cast to second place (second man move up); set to third lady.  Two-hand turn.
A2:First lady cast to second place (second lady move up); set to third man.  Two-hand turn.
B1:All six circle left (slip).  Circle right.
B2:Gates down.  Gates up.
C1:Right-hand star at the bottom.  Left-hand star at the top.
C2:Bottom two couples 3 changes with hands (4 steps each); ones do a fourth change with the next couple.

This is the classic triple progression triple minor dance — great tune, and people really dance it with energy.  Tom Cook invented the triple progression — originally it was four changes at the top — and I've taken the liberty of modifying Tom's modification.  After the three changes he had the ones cast below the next couple (the twos from the minor set below them) while they move up.  I think that as it was originally four changes it's nicer to keep it as that but do the final change with the couple below — and it wakes them up!

If you'd like to try a triple minor with heys, I recommend Key to the Cellar.

I'm not including any other longways dances as there are several available in Hugh's book and elsewhere — on my site you will find Playford-style longways dances such as Foxhunter's Jig, Julia, Love is Little, Now Is the Month of Maying, The Olive Grove, La Tambourine and many others (some rather complicated).