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History, Ancient & Modern ~ 2

Dance Figures

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:
* Hey-for-Three ~ Whole-Hey; in Adderbury done the same (Figure-8), the two sides moving in parallel. In various other traditions, however, the figure was elaborated to start with a Casting by the four corners (tops curving in and up, then out, then down - bottoms mirroring the tops), creating a symmetric pattern with the left mirroring the right, that is appealing to an audience. There are other variations in Morris, also with the symmetric effect - in Pomfret's dances, the ends approach straight along the sides of the set, passing in a Face-to-Face (half a Gypsy) and backing to the opposite end, while the middles Cast out (to get out of the way) and end where they started. (And Country Dancing has mirror Heys, too.)
* Gypsy ~ Whole-Gyp, partners circling each other, facing. In Adderbury, the equivalent is Dance-Round (Hands-Around), inside hands joined, a practical development that helps the dancers keep their relative positions.
* Siding ~ Partners meet-and-retire, first by right shoulder, then by left - as in the Morris Half-Gyp (in Adderbury, Half-Hands).
* Back-to-Back ~ the same, Back-to-Back.
* Advance-and-Retire ~Foot-Up-and-Down (in Adderbury, also the Processionals).

I have become cautious in talking to audiences about the origin of Morris. "Lost in the mists of antiquity..." can lead to awkward, searching questions. The probable origin is fascinating enough for me.