[SCA-Dance] On siding and arming

Del del at babel.com.au
Wed Sep 30 21:53:16 EDT 2009

> I don't recall that part of Caroso (bad Greg), but Arbeau has section
> about why dance starts on the left, and relates it to military
> marching.  Military and marching bands still all start stepping on the
> left. Master Niall McKennett, who is no longer active in the Society,
> told me ages ago that dance started on the left until the Minuet came
> along, which had something about it that made starting on the right
> more felicitous. Alas, he never published an article about the topic.

It's a pity that never got published because all I have are scraps of 
evidence from various earlier and later dance books that never seem to 
meet in the middle.

It does appear that the bulk of the evidence points to dance always 
starting on the left until about the mid to late 17th C, and dance most 
commonly starting on the right by about the mid 19th C, and there being 
a period or dividing line of changeover somewhere in the middle but no 
hard evidence as to when, where, or why.

Nearly all SCA groups I've encountered start on the left foot.  Most, 
but not all, late period ECD & contra groups I've encountered start on 
the right foot.  All scottish country dance groups I've encountered 
(which isn't many) start on the right foot.  Australian "bush dance" or 
"colonial dance" groups, dancing various styles (quadrilles are quite 
common) imported from the UK and Europe around the mid 1800s to early 
1900s, nearly all start on the left foot.  A different group that I 
encountered dancing the same quadrille in the UK started on the right foot.

In modern latin/ballroom, dance normally starts on the right foot in the 
USA and southern and central Eurpoe, on the left foot in the UK and 
northern Europe (where right foot starts are uncommon but not unknown) 
and also in Australia (where a right foot start will often get you 
excluded from competition).  This varies from style to style somewhat, 
right foot starts are uncommon in foxtrot and derived styles (e.g. jive, 
rock & roll) but more common in samba and rumba.

Going back to the original question of the original poster, if you're 
dancing 1651 and starting a side on the left foot (as would seem more 
logical given the evidence, albeit incomplete) then you should meet 
right shoulder to right shoulder first.  I have not ever encountered an 
SCA group doing different, however I have encountered non-SCA country & 
folks dance groups doing different, usually by starting everything on 
the right foot.


More information about the Sca-dance mailing list