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March 21, 2007


HL Eoin

Going to nitpick about the dance notes, because I am a geek like that, and if you are one too, you might find it interesting. If you're not a research geek, take it or leave it as you like.

Black Nag is first set down in the 3rd edition of Playford, 1657. (Grimstock & Godessess are both from first edition in 1651 as you noted.) Why does date matter? SCA period is interpreted differently by various people, and some care more than others about focusing on (while in the SCA) stuff that they think pertains to the period, and leaving stuff outside the period for times outside the SCA. For those who follow the thought (for instance) that SCA period stops with the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, most of Playford's choreographies pertain to a later era (though some, which are mentioned independently in earlier souces, might still find favor, if anyone were patient enough to seek those independent citations).

So there are "no-Playford-dances" purists in the SCA, and compromisers who only accept dances from Playford's first edition (on various, occasionally contradictory, rationales). There are folks who will dance anything, and folks with other biases, e.g. against dances which are "elitist" or "too hard" or "my persona wouldn't have known it", or "no modern inventions following period style". (My own bias is toward dances which show many features typical of pre-1600 western european style, and few features of later/foreign style; I don't care so much when they were written. plus a couple personal likes/hates that I don't pretend to be rational about). And there is a genrally pretty distinct separation between Western/Renaissance and Eastern/'bellydance' styles though dates and locations are often mixed up freely within these categories.

But I digress from dance-commentary to SCAsocial commentary.

Back to dance: The original source only gives one repeat of Black Nag.
I've seen some debate about how the double hey at the end of Goddessess should be reconstructed, whether the first couple cross and lead the two lines in opposite directions around a great circle (as in the version Edwardus taught, probably most common), or whether both lines do the the single hey at the same time, or whether both lines do the single hey at the same time, but with ladies starting to pass on the opposite side so that the figure is bilaterally symmetrical.

Mostly this doesn't matter, unless you dance in various places where different versions are favored.

Some friends of mine who moved to Oldenfeld, Trimaris from Iron Mountain, Meridies, did a version of Hole-in-the-Wall which featured making an arch for the other couple to go beneath rather than releasing hands for them to walk through. They inadvertently whapped some people in the face before they realized different expectations.

Feel free to tell me to shut up at any time. :-)


Hurrah! Discussion!
Re: dates - what do you think about the idea that a dance's popularity probably predates its publication?

Of course a chicken-egg effect seems likely, since those that can afford the book will then learn the dances, and inventing ones for publication would increase the author's renown, but surely he would start by documenting what was going on already, and going on widely. That popularization would take some time to spread.

I tend to take a lenient view of most documentation - if it takes a year now, with all our instant communication, for a trend to hit the national airwaves or to be set down in a definitive book, then how much longer would it have taken then?

Then again, look at the tight windows for some headdresses, and I'm reminded that humans are fickle. Thanks for adding so much to my post, HL Eoin!


p.s. if you thought well of Edwardus's teaching & dancing, you might send a little note of commendation to his laurel, Master Octavio de Flores (the tall guy who led the band Friday & Saturday nights), so he knows his apprentice is doing good work. one address: octavio (at) earthlink (dot) net.


Re: dates:

I tend to think that publication postdated popularity by a certain (not easily determined) amount... which is why I don't subscribe to the way of thinking that bases acceptance on publication dates.

I personally tend to look more at style and context, with a longer-range veiw that compares any example to earlier and later trends.

For example, if we know that people in a certain time period were wearing lots of really long heavy trained gowns with drapey sleves and big hats (to keep warm in the mini ice-age), and that socially, decorous maturity & gravity is more fashionable than youthful enthusiasm (in the wake of some wars and diseases which devoured the enthusiastic youth and made people long for signs of stability) we can suppose with reasonable certainty that they wouldn't at this time be doing a lot of dances characterised by quick, precise movements (which would be hidden & hampered by the huge gowns), militant posturing or showy athleticism (vaguely distasteful).
Thus basse danse in Burgundy in the 1400s. (Like the 'hearts and flowers' dance you met at war.)

IMNSHO, dance doesn't happen in a vacuum, and as one develops a familiarity with the history & different styles, one can see how they developed & influenced each other. With a background in modern sorts of dance, you may begin to see their antecedents in the dances of the Renaissance and (as we get into English Country and 16thc Italian balletti) early Baroque periods.


I know I'm coming in late to this discussion, but I'll throw my two cents in anyway.

As for whether ECDs were done at all in period, I feel confident that something at least similar to what Playford wrote down was being done. There are mentions in the 16c Inns of Court sources to ECDs being done at the revels, and Thomas Morley mentions the style by name in a treatise on music in the latter part of the century, so there was definitely some form of native English "country dance" style going on.

My personal yardstick for ECDs is generally anything from 1651 is fine, except for those that are longways progressive. The progressive dances I feel are indicative of the emerging Baroque dances, while the set dances are similar in form to the Italian dances of the late 16c. For example, Lady Cullen is in 1651, but not one I'd do, while Black nag is from a later edition but fits more with the earlier style.


Okay, commenting again. :-) Dance, music, and poetry are my favorite subjects, so I can't help but chime in.

I completely agree with Eoin and Lorenzo. Dance does not happen in a vacuum. In order to really understand the dances and steps, you need to know what clothes they were wearing, the halls and areas they would have been dancing in, and what socially was going on in the area at the time. It does make a huge difference.

As far as ECD, until we find a manuscript with ECD from pre-1600, the 1651 publication of Playford is the best thing we have. Remember, Playford was only a publisher. He did not choreograph any of the dances. He collected them from all over and published them in a single book. That book was then added to and subtracted from as the popularity of dances changed. After studying The Old Measures, a group of dances done as part of the revels for the Inns of Court in 16th century England, you can see how some of the ECD published in 1651 would easily have fit into that style. Others, however, seem a bit too energetic or complex in their figures. And since Playford does not define most of the steps used in the dances, the reconstructions are subject to some personal preferences, as well.

Just remember, not all ECD has the verse-chorus style of doubles, sides, and armes. In fact, the majority of dances published in 1651 do not have them. Just look at Goddesses. It is not an aberation that it has a chorus but none of the "traditional" steps.

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