[SCA-Dance] Greetings and question

Jane & Mark Waks waks at comcast.net
Fri Feb 8 10:31:24 EST 2008

Mikuláš wrote:
> You can easily check which longways for as many as will are fine for SCA 
> period on

Well, I don't know about "fine". It's a complex question, really, and 
doesn't admit any simple answers.

Let's step back a minute, and talk about theory. The thing is, 
essentially all English Country is, arguably, technically out of period 
-- that is, the first descriptions we have are just outside the latest 
common definition of SCA period (the book is 1651, and few people 
seriously argue the SCA as being later than 1650). Now, we have every 
reason to believe that many of those dances were being done before 1650, 
so you can slip them inside that line with some confidence. But if you 
go by the *technical* definition of SCA period -- the one that's 
actually in the rules, 1600 -- odds are pretty good that *none* of these 
dances were being done in exactly that form.

So what do you do about ECD? Answers vary. Some purists argue that it's 
all post-period, since it's after 1600, and that ECD is entirely outside 
the SCA's purview. Others go the other way, and argue that, since we 
know that Playford was describing these kinds of dances, we have every 
reason to believe they were doing these styles of dance before 1650, so 
all of English Country is pretty much fair game. (By which definition, 
late 17th/early 18th century dances like Hole in the Wall and Female 
Sailor are reasonably okay.) Both of these arguments have some validity; 
neither is perfect.

Personally, I split the difference. The thing is, the set dances in 
Playford are more *like* the dances of the Renaissance. The circular 
ones are vaguely bransle-like; the squares (especially the squares for 
4) vaguely like late Italian stuff. So I tend to consider them "close 
enough" -- forms that are transitioning out of the Renaissance.

By contrast, the longways dances are practically the *defining* social 
dances of the Baroque period. You see the barest traces of them around 
1600; by 1651 they account for something like half of Playford; and by 
1700 they've pretty much taken over completely. So I think of them as 
transitional forms *into* the Baroque.

So putting this together, I personally teach everything in Playford 
*except* the longways dances, on the grounds that they are a bit too 
"Baroque-ish". (Not to mention the fact that we do them *so* badly. If 
you ever get a chance to learn Hole in the Wall taught in proper 1700 
style, take it: it'll make your head spin.) That's a very rough and 
ready rule, no more certain than the others, but it works for me, since 
I am skeptical about artificially sharp lines in history.

So there's no clear definition of "okay for SCA" when it comes to 
English Country. You have to decide what philosophical approach you're 
taking to period, and that determines your answer to the question...

				-- Justin

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