[SCA-Dance] On siding and arming

Mary Railing mrailing2 at yahoo.com
Mon Sep 28 22:29:42 EDT 2009

In my experience, most SCA groups side by meeting right shoulders first, and most modern ECD groups side by meeting left shoulders first.  (Some still use "Sharp siding" which is a different interpretation of the figure.)  So I would guess that your group may have learned to do it the modern way from having a dance teacher who learned country dances outside the SCA.  As to why one should go one way or the other, Playford is ambiguous.  Scadians seem to take their cue from the general renaissance assumption that steps start by moving the left foot first and taking right hands first. Arbeau's explanation that the reason is because the left foot is weaker is contained is the very beginning of his book, where he is discussing marching.  (As anyone who has ever marched to a cadence knows, to this day soldiers always begin by stepping left.)  Until reading Dafydd's rationale, based on A La Mode de France, I had never heard of rationale from within Playford for
 starting to the left, but I accept the general rationale that starting to the left fits the renaissance esthetic.

Modern ECD groups go back to Cecil Sharpe's interpretations, which were not based on trying to figure out what Playford intended, but on his observations of traditional dancers in his own day. (Someone who knows more about later evolution of dance styles may know why the default assumption stopped being the left.)

Scadians who alternate starting left and right got this interpretation from comparing descriptions of figures in the Inns of Court manuscripts that are similar to country dances.  For instance, one of the instructions for Queens has the second double forward and back start with the right foot going forward and the left foot going backwards.  It doesn't say whether the set and turn following this should also start to the right, but it would make sense. Since these manuscripts are contemporary with Playford, this may also be the way the repeats in Playford dances should be done, but this interpretation has never (yet) caught on in the SCA.


From: Jeffrey Hoskinson <jeffhos at eclecsia.org>
To: "sca-dance at sca-dance.org" <sca-dance at sca-dance.org>
Sent: Monday, September 28, 2009 1:33:30 PM
Subject: [SCA-Dance] On siding and arming

So this is something I've alway been curious about. Here in the  
Debatable Lands (Pittsburgh, PA), we side & arm left first, then  
right. Just for clarification, that means we side to meet left  
shoulders first. At _every_ dance event I've been to outside of our  
local area, siding and arming have been done right first, then left.

So I have two questions here:

1. Are we really the _only_ group in the Known World that sides & arms  
this way? Or have I just not run into any of the others?

2. I know Playford was pretty ambiguous on this (typically saying  
"Sides all. That again" and the like). Is there any reason that one us  
more likely than the other?

Thanks to all who respond.
-- Cai o'r Llyn
Dancemaster, Barony-Marche of the Debatable Lands
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