[SCA-Dance] advice on starting a small sca dance practice

Alex Clark alexbclark at pennswoods.net
Wed Apr 9 16:24:25 EDT 2008

At 03:03 AM 4/9/2008 +0000, saporling2 wrote:
>i might try to start a small dance practice where i live.  any advice
>on where to start & keeping it simple.  i have danced in the sca twice
>over the years, & remember gathering peascods especially.  just looking
>for the best way to start & keep people interested.  thanks, sap

Unfortunately, in the SCA in recent years you will most likely have been 
taught some modern misconceptions or adaptations for Gathering Peascods. I 
hope you won't mind if I try to explain how to do the dance historically, 
according to Playford.

First, the opening figure around the circle is "Goe all two Dubles round, 
turne [single]". "A Double is foure steps forward . . . , closing both 
feet." The slipping steps often done instead seem to have been substituted 
by Cecil Sharp; I suspect that he adapted them from later sources for a 
different style of country dancing.

The ending of the next figure, going around the middle, is "come to your 
places". You might not be so lucky as to get so many dancers that they 
would find it difficult to come to their places, but in any case I 
recommend that the dance be taught as being for no more than about seven or 
eight couples per circle, because with more couples it gets difficult to 
come back to starting places. BTW, there is no turn single at the end of 
that figure, though in the SCA it is sometimes taught with an extra turn 
single there.

In the next figure, there is no valid distinction between times when men or 
women meet and clap hands, and other times when they meet and don't clap. 
If it looks there is such a distinction, one has not yet finished studying 
the instructions.

Playford's instructions are: "Men meet and clap hands, [women] as much, 
while the men goe back, men meet againe and turne [single] _._ [Women] 
meet, men meet, while the [women] go back, [women] meet againe and turne 
[single] _:_" The symbols after each half of the figure mean that the same 
music is played twice.

The second half of the figure never mentions clapping, but it strongly 
implies that there is clapping as there was in the first half. In fact, 
every action positively indicated in the second half exactly matches the 
sequence of actions of the first half, while the only action not mentioned 
in the second half is clapping. In the absence of any definite indication 
to the contrary, I can only find it reasonable to assume that this means 
that this figure was supposed to have the same actions in the second half 
as in the first half (to a repeat of the same music), just like all other 
figures of this dance.Therefore, although clapping is not mentioned at any 
meeting in the second half, it is apparently supposed to be there. And 
where the instructions don't mention some claps that were almost certainly 
intended, one cannot reasonably assume that the same failure to mention 
claps means that other meetings were done without claps.

In short, one cannot reasonably make a distinction in this figure between 
meetings with claps (where the instructions didn't say to clap), and other 
meetings without claps (where the instructions didn't say not to clap). So 
it is right to do all the meetings with claps.

If you teach the dance as explained above, it may be appropriate to mention 
that those who see it elsewhere may encounter variations, and that these 
variations are mostly compatible with this version in that one can do the 
dance correctly in a circle where others are doing some modern variation.

The instructions quoted above may be found at 
http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/playford_1651/103small.html .

Henry of Maldon/Alex Clark 

More information about the Sca-dance mailing list