[SCA-Dance] Greetings and question

Alex Clark alexbclark at pennswoods.net
Fri Feb 8 20:59:40 EST 2008

At 04:43 PM 2/7/2008 -0700, Catriona A. Morganosa wrote:
>Female Sailor is "way out of period"? I'm afraid I've learned many dances
>from an old master from almost two decades ago.  The man has since gone on
>to become a Laurel of dance but he no longer does the dances he taught me.

As "Female Sailor", I think it goes back to 1710. As la Matelotte, it goes 
back to Feuillet's _Recueil de Contredances_, 1706.

>Although I have been told that progressive dances like Hole in the Wall and
>Well Hall are not period but I was never told when they were,

In the first edition of Playford (1651), there are many longways 
progressive dances (about a quarter of the dances in the book), but very 
few if any that use progression in the way that it is used in Hole in the 
Wall, Well Hall, and Female Sailor. The usual rule in the first edition is 
that when couples progress along the line, the progression is accomplished 
within a part of the dance, and some other part of the dance is done before 
that progression begins, and/or after the progression is concluded and the 
couples have come to their places.

In the next few decades, a different kind of progression came into frequent 
use: all the figures of the dance were encompassed by the progression, so 
that the figures of the dance came to an end and started over from the 
beginning with the dancers in their new places after a progression. Dances 
of this type became the standard, replacing both the old styles of couple 
progression and the other dances in which couples do not progress. BTW, 
contrary to the impression that might be given by some writings on this 
topic, most of the first edition Playford dances without progressions were 
longways too, and some were longways for as many as will.

Some of the progressive dances from the first edition are, at the least, 
atypical and not formulaic. One noteworthy example is Nonesuch, which is 
for eight instead of for as many as will, and has other figures that match 
the phrasing of the music only with that number of dancers. It also is 
divided (like Gallia) in three parts, and only one of those parts has a 
progression, while the others have different kinds of figures instead. This 
doesn't mean that it is older, but it does make that conclusion seem a bit 
more likely. The choreography could have been bucking the conventions of 
the time, or it could have been done before those conventions were widely 

>  or why they
>are taught and danced so vigorously within the SCA if they are taboo.

They are not taboo. They're just a long way from supporting the SCA's 
purpose as an organization that promotes pre-1600 culture. As for why 
they're done in the SCA, there are many reasons. These are dances that are 
known and done in other contexts, such as among modern country dancers, 
sometimes together with the older country dances. Good and usable 
recordings of the music are in circulation. These dances have sometimes 
been taught without the information about how recent they (and their style) 
are, and once they have already entered the repertoire many dancers are 
reluctant to let them go. And besides, they come from a period for which 
there are large numbers of recorded choreographies, so there are more 
dances to choose from, which (all else being equal) increases the chance of 
finding dances that people will like.

Henry of Maldon/Alex Clark 

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