History, Ancient & Modern ~ 2
Cecil Sharp, in his Country Dance Book, Part 2, commented that the contents of the seventeen editions from 1650 to 1728 of John Playford's The Dancing Master show the decline in popularity of the old dances - Rounds; Squares; and "Longs" for four, six or eight dancers - and their gradual replacement by the "Longways for as many as will." This newer form arranged a longways set of indefinite length into sub-sets of two couples ("duple minor") or three couples ("triple minor"), equivalent to the old "Longs" for four and six, but with the couples progressing up or down the entire longways set. It was adaptable to assorted shapes and sizes of ballroom or smaller room. Wide spaces could accommodate two or more longways sets in parallel. This flexibility appealed to hosts wanting to put on a dance at their own home. And so this social dance became more popular.
Cecil Sharp also wrote, in both his Country Dance Book and his
Morris Book, that the figures of these two kinds of dance were so
similar that one must be derived fom the other.
Currently, the earliest reports found of what we call
Cotswold Morris are from the early 18th Century, by which time the
Country Dances had been widely publicised, in print, for
more than half a century.
Somehow, some people with dancing and teaching skills saw
opportunities for creating dances for performance. A Long Set of Six
can perform the Hey-for-Three, Casting,
Gypsy, Siding, Back-to-Back,
Advance-and-Retire, or adaptations of those, plus new, invented,
figures. Seven people,
including a solo musician, are enough for a public performance. Males
and females don't have to be equal in number; all male, all female,
or mixed, will all work. The three-couple set becomes odd side and even
side, opposites rather than partners.
Examples of probably derived figures:
I have become cautious in talking to audiences about the
Morris. "Lost in the mists of antiquity..." can lead to awkward,
questions. The probable origin is fascinating enough for me.