BackColin Hume's Interpretations  Instructions Index

If you've ever looked at the original Playford notation, or indeed most books of dances from the 17th and 18th century, you will be aware that they are in need of interpretation (or reconstruction, as they say in the States).  The instructions are very condensed, with lots of errors, probably intended as a quick reminder to people who already knew the dances.  Playford says “Sides all” and everybody knew what he meant; now we discuss it for hours.

Graham Christian objects to “Playford says”, since Playford was just the publisher, and the same is true of Johnson, Thompson, Young, etc.  There's no evidence that these people edited or even compiled their books; they just published them.  In some cases we do know more: Kynaston was the editor (and possibly the composer); Walsh was the publisher.  And of course if Playford were publishing a book by Purcell I would say “Purcell says” rather than “Playford says”.  But we don't know who contributed the dances or edited them; the only name we have is Playford so that's what I use.  I could say “The instructions in Playford's book say”, but that seems unnecessarily wordy.

My book Playford with a Difference, Volume 1 contains a number of my interpretations, together with my reasoning behind them.  There are dances which I've interpreted since that was published, and I'll be putting most of them on this page.  There are also a few where I've done very little in the way of interpretation but still feel it's worthwhile publishing them here.

You can find various Playford originals online.

You may find the last two easier because they're written in modern letters, but they aren't necessarily accurate!

Here are my Rules for Dance Interpretation:

  1. The dance must fit the music.
  2. You must know how long standard figures take.  It's a common mistake to squash too much dance into phrase of music.  Assume a cast is 8 steps, not 4.  It helps to be able to read music.
  3. Be aware of the different groups of standard figures, and keep in the style — there's a lot of difference between early Playford and the Apted book (Fandango, Bishop, Shrewsbury Lasses).
  4. Be aware that instructions are usually given to the first man or the first couple.  In a triple minor, the twos and (particularly) threes do very little.
  5. “Cross over” always means “Cross and cast”.  Many dance interpreters didn't know this — here are some examples which I have interpreted and I'm sure there are lots more.  “Nampwich Fair”, “Nine Elms”, “The Nobles of Betly”, “Dick's Maggot” in “Playford with a Difference, Volume 1”.  “Draw Cupid Draw”, “Irish Lamentation”, “Mr Beveridge's Maggot”, “The Punch-Bowl”, “Whimbleton House” on this web page.  If you find a counter-example, please Contact me with full details.
  6. Follow the spirit rather than the letter of the original wording.  I realise this is controversial — it gives you the licence to do virtually anything — but I really think this is what makes a good interpretation.  Sharp didn't do this — he stuck to the letter whenever possible — and in my opinion that gave him a lot of problems.

I have run workshops on Dance Interpretation at Festivals and Dance Weeks in England and the States — if you'd like one please let me know.

Bobbing Joe        Added 15-Jul-13Bobbing Joe: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Source: Dancing Master 1st Edition, 1651: John Playford.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2013.
Format: Longways duple minor

Original wording:

Leade up forwards and back  .  That againe  : Set and turn S.  .  That againe  : 
First Cu. slippe down between the 2. they slipping up  .  then they slippe downe  .  hands and go round  : The first two men snap their fingers and change places  .  Your We. as much  :  Doe these two changes to the last, the rest following.
Sides all  .  That againe  : Set and turn S.  .  That againe  : 
First two on each side, hands and go back, meet againe  .  Cast off and come to your places  : First foure change places with your owne  .  Hands and goe halfe round  :  These changes to the last.
Armes all  .  That againe  : Set and turn Single  .  That againe  : 
Men back a D. meet againe  .  We. as much  : First Cu. change with the 2. on the same side  .  Then change with your owne  :  These changes to the last.

The tune is a jig with a 4-bar A and a 4-bar B, presumably both repeated.  The dance appears in all editions of The Dancing Master, though it seems highly unlikely that people would still have been dancing it in 1728 when “Up a double”, “Sides” and “Armes” must have been ancient history.  As I mention in my Connections notes, many of the progressive longways dances from the first edition had the three standard introductions.  We hardly ever dance them now, but I was looking for something different to call at my “Playford for Fun” session at Whitby Folk Week in 2013 and picked on this one.  Playford lays out the instructions so that it is clear which go with the A-music and which the B.  The underlined dots reassure us that there are two A's and two B's except that the line starting “First Cu. slippe down between the 2. they slipping up” has two underlined single dots, but let's assume that's a mistake.  So the first figure starts in an absolutely standard manner: Up a double and back, that again, set and turn single, that again.  The body of the figure starts with a move reminiscent of the “matchboxes” move in the second figure of “Picking of Sticks”: the ones slip down the middle as the twos slip up the outside, then reverse it, and circle left.  The second half needs to progress, and it clearly does.  Playford refers to “first two” or “first foure” because at that time a progressive longways dance was started by just the first two couples, the others watching and joining in as the original top couple reached them.  We might wonder if “Doe these two changes to the last” means that the progressive part is just the B part repeated over and over, with “these two changes” meaning the men changing places and then the women, but I would like to think that you do the body of the figure with each couple in turn, otherwise the progression would be perfunctory indeed.

But what about the timing?  How can we use up 4 bars (8 beats) on “The first two men snap their fingers and change places”?  Sharp contrives this by having the first man snap on the second beat of bar 1, the second man on the second beat of bar 2, then four steps to change places.  But is that really what Playford meant?  Let's see what happens in the other two figures.  The second figure has cross with partner and circle left half-way, which I would expect to be 8 steps.  The third has cross with neighbour and then with partner — again 8 steps.  Sharp gets round this by adding some inventive finger snapping at the start of the second figure, but he still takes 8 steps for the circle half-way in the second figure which seems very slow given the liveliness of the dance and tune.  In the third figure he adds finger snapping before each half of the move, but who's he kidding?  Is it likely that John Playford left all this out?  I know Playford is very concise — Sharp takes three pages to explain the dance — but I don't believe he would have left out so much.  Surely a more likely explanation is that the underlined dots are wrong, and there is only one B.

One other point worth mentioning is that the final figure leaves everyone improper.  I'm assuming throughout the dance that the instructions refer to both couples; I think it was later that the instructions were by default addressed to the first couple.  So the second figure is “cast and lead, lead and cast” rather than just the ones casting and leading back up.  Similarly I believe “Then change with your owne” in the last figure is addressed to the twos as well.  So if we've just danced the first turn of the final figure, the original top couple are now progressed and improper when the figure starts again with “Men back a D.”  I'm guessing that the first man would take the instruction as referring to him, though since he's improper he would be taking hands with the next woman and falling back with her.  For modern use I would start by taking hands four from the top, so everyone except the neutral couples would be improper on alternate turns of the figure.  The other concession to modern taste is that I wouldn't run each figure all the way down the set and back.  Four times through each figure sounds a good compromise, meaning that with an even number of couples everyone will be in at the start of each figure.  Of course if there is a neutral couple at the bottom they can join in the three introductions, just as the whole set would have done in 1651 before the top two couples started the body of each figure.

A final thought is that since Playford wrongly indicated two B's in the body of the figure he may well have the same mistake in the introduction, in which case there should be only one “Set and turn single”.  I'll assume that, if only to make things easier for the musicians!

Bobbing Joe

Format: Longways duple minor

A1 or A2 means two A's to make up an eight-bar phrase.  B1 and B2 are just single 4-bar phrases.

First Figure:
A1:Up a double and back.  That again.
B1:(4 bars): Set and turn single.
A2:Ones give two hands and slip down the middle as the twos slip up the outside; reverse.  Circle left.
B2:(4 bars): Men snap their fingers and change places; women the same.  [Progression.  Do A2 + B2 three more times.]
Second Figure:
A1:Side right.  Side left.
B1:Set and turn single.
A2:Take nearer hand with neighbour and fall back; lead forward.  Ones cast and lead back to place, twos follow.
B2:(4 bars) All cross right shoulder with partner, turn right; circle left half-way.  [Do A2 + B2 three more times.]
Third Figure:
A1:Arm right.  Arm left.
B1:Set and turn single.
A2:Men fall back with neighbour; lead forward.  Women the same.
B2:(4 bars) Cross with neighbour; cross with partner.  [Do A2 + B2 three more times.]

Bulock's Hornpipe        Bulock's Hornpipe: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Source: Dancing Master Volume 3, 1726: John Young.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2009.
Format: Longways triple minor

Original wording:

The first Cu. lead thro' the 2d. Cu. cast up and cast off  .  The 2d. Cu. do the same  :  First Cu. cross over and half Figure at top  .  Then whole Figure with the 3d. Cu.  :  First Cu. turn all four corners  :  And then cross over quite round all the 4 corners  :  Then first Man Heys on his own side and his Partner Heys on hers at the same time  .  First Cu. leads thro' the 3d. Cu. at bottom and thro' the 2d. Cu. at top and turn his partner  : 

The instructions say that there are five sections, and the music indeed gives five sections of four bars, each repeated.

I would like to look at this in conjunction with Ravenscroft's Hornpipe, another dance from the same edition:

Original wording:

Note: Each Strain is to be Play'd twice, and the Tune twice through.

First cu. lead thro' the 2d. cu. and cast up and cast off  .  The 2d. cu. do the same  :  Then first cu. cross over and half Figure a-top with the 2d. Cu  .  Then whole Figure at the bottom with the 3d cu  :  Then First man turn the 3d. Wo. with his Right-hand, and his Partner the 2d. Man with hers, and her Partner with her Right  .  Then first Wo. turns the 3d. Man with her Right, and the first Man turnes the 2d. Wo. with his Right, and his Partner with his Left  : 

Then the first Man cross over on the outside the 3d. Wo. and his partner cross on the outside of the 2d. Man, and both cast into the 2d. cu. place  .  Then first Wo. cross over on the outside the 3d. Man. and the first Man cross on the outside of the 2d. Wo, and both cast into the 2d. cu. place  :  Then the first Man Heys with the 3d. cu. and the 2d. Wo. Heys with the 2d. cu. a-top  .  Then the Man the same a-top, and the Woman the same at bottom  : Then Right-hand and left quite round with the 2d. cu. a-top  .  Then lead thro' the 3d. and turn your Partner  : 

The instructions to the two dances are quite similar, but Ravenscroft's is more explicit about the instructions and the timing — it says there are three 4-bar phrases each repeated and the whole tune is then repeated, giving 6 x 8 bars for once through the dance.  Bulock's implies that there are five 4-bar phrases each repeated, giving 5 x 8 bars.  Both tunes are in triple-time.  Ravenscroft's appears in Fallibroome 6.

“Bulock” and “Ravenscroft” are both in italics, indicating that these are men's names.

Bulock's Hornpipe

A1: Ones lead through twos and cast up, then cast as twos lead up (12 steps).

A2: Twos repeat with ones.

I originally had “Twos repeat with threes” but I didn't mean that — thanks to Norman Bearon for pointing it out to me!

B1: Ones cross and cast, twos lead up (6 steps).  Ones half figure eight up.

B2: Ones full figure eight down through threes (12 steps).

So far this is identical to Ravenscroft.

C1/2: “First couple turn all four corners” (24 steps).  Ravenscroft's has Ones turn first corner right, partner left (in my opinion, though it actually says right), second corner right, partner left.  Six steps for each sounds reasonable, and though the ones each turn two corners, together they turn all four corners.  Let's go along with that (as Bernard Bentley does).

D1/D2: “And then cross over quite round all the four corners” (24 steps).  Ravenscroft's has “Then the first man cross over on the outside the 3d. Wo. and his partner cross on the outside of the 2d. Man, and both cast into the 2d. Cu. place  .  Then first Wo. cross over on the outside the 3d. Wo. and first Man cross on the outside of the 2d. Man, and both cast into the 2d. Cu. place  :  ” I suggest these are describing the same figure, and again I go along with Bentley: Ones cross, turn right, man round the third lady and man, lady round the second man and lady, back to second place.  Repeat going left, round the other couple.  This time each person really does go round all four corners.

Now the two dances differ significantly.  Bulock's has: “Then first Man Heys on his own side and his Partner Heys on hers at the same time  .  The first Cu. leads thro' the 3d. Cu. at bottom and thro' the 2d. Cu. at top and turn his partner  : 

Hey on the side can be done in twelve steps, though you need to start with the ones going down through the threes to make the following move feasible.  I believed that Lead down, cast up, lead up, cast down could be done in twelve steps, but when we tried it the dancers thought otherwise — and there's no time for a turn.  In fact I think there's a number of dances which glibly throw “and turn” at the end of a set of moves which doesn't allow any time for a turn.  So what do we do?  The usual answer is to leave out the turn, but if we compare with Ravenscroft's we see that the lead up and cast doesn't appear there, so next time I try it I'll leave that out instead.

As with many triple minors, the threes don't do much, so to my mind it's better danced now as a three couple longways.  The only change needed is that the ones turn to the bottom as the threes move up or cast up.

Bulock's Hornpipe

Format: 3 couples longways

Each paragraph is four bars of 3-time: 12 steps.

A1:Ones lead through twos and cast up, then cast as twos lead up.
A2:Twos repeat with ones.
B1:Ones cross and cast, twos lead up.  Half figure eight up.
B2:Ones full figure eight down through threes.
C1:Ones turn first corner right hand, partner left.
C2:Ones turn second corner right hand, partner left.
D1:Ones cross left, turn right, round this couple and back to second place.
D2:Ones cross right, turn left, round the other couple and back to second place.
E1:Ones down through threes: symmetrical reels of three up and down.  (Morris hey except ends don't cast at start)
E2:Ones lead down through threes and cast up.  Ones two-hand turn to bottom, threes cast up.
Modified from triple minor.

Chelsea Reach        Updated 12-Oct-13Chelsea Reach: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Source: Dancing Master 3rd Edition, 1657: John Playford.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2011, modified 2013.    Format: Square.

Original wording:

Meet all in and fall back, set each to his own  .  Lead up all a Square, fall back and set to your own  :  The first and third Cu. change places with their women while the second and fourth Cu. meet and clap back to back, the first man and 3. wo. meet the second Cu. and the first wo. and 3. man meet the 4. Cu. the first man and and third wo. take hands round with the 2. Cu. and the 1. wo. and 3. man take hands round with the 4. Cu. and go half round, the first man give his right hand to the third wo. whilst the second man gives his right hand to his own wo. the first man gives his left hand to the second man and turn a whole turn, and the third wo. give her left hand to the second wo. and turn a whole turn and then turn your own the first wo. and 3. man do as much to the fourth Cu. all at one time together, and the second and fourth Cu. do the same to the first and third Cu.  : 
Sides all with your own  .  Set to your own  :  That again  :  Men take your we. by both hands and put all back to back, then change places all with your own we. then we. give right hands across and go half way round, whilst the men go on the outside the contrary way till you meet your we. and fall back with your own we. into the contrary place  .  Men do the same as the we. did, whilst the we. go on the outside as the men did, till you come to your places  : 
Arms all with your own, set to your own  .  That again  :  Men take all the co. we. by the hand and lead out, then lead back again, give all right hands to the Co. and left to the next, and right and left till you meet the same again  .  Then lead out again with the same, and give right and left hands till you come to your own places  : 

I thought I'd been calling Cecil Sharp's version for many years, with one change of my own, but people asked me to put my version on the website and when I looked at the original wording I decided to make some other changes.  I then discovered that I wasn't calling Sharp's version of the first figure, but the way I had learnt it from other callers!  The version I learnt is that described in Palmer's Pocket Playford and I believe that's how everybody was doing it when I started dancing.  In fact Sharp admits:

Playford's description of the First Part is so obscure, that the editors would probably have omitted the dance altogether, had it not been such an interesting and beautiful one.

Sharp then gives two interpretations of the first figure, though he says the second is less probable.  Let's see what we make of it.

As always, Playford is scanty with the details.  “Meet all in and fall back” — do we take hands in the circle, or just with partner, or none at all?  And why does he add that word “in”?  Sharp is equally scanty:

All move forward a double and fall back a double to places

and Palmer is even scantier:

Meet, fall back

This sounds as if it means without hands, but why?  It's the introduction to the first figure — the equivalent of “Up a double and back” — so I would at least take my partner's hand.  But these are minor points compared with the next instruction: “Lead up all a Square, fall back”.  Does Playford really mean that the entire square moves up a double towards the presence and back?  To describe such an unusual move in a mere seven words seems so unlikely that I don't believe it.  Sharp and Palmer (and everybody else except, I believe, Ken Sheffield) interpret this as lead out a double with partner and fall back.  I'm happy to go along with this.  Perhaps Playford was addressing the direction of movement to the first man, who does indeed lead up, and the others are expected to make the corresponding adjustment.  It also explains why Playford adds that extra “in” the first time, though I wish he'd said “out” the second time.

I find people are very hesitant about falling back a double after leading out, though they do it confidently when leading in, so I usually point out that they're falling back to where they've just come from and therefore they know there isn't anybody to collide with.

Now we got to the part that baffled Sharp.  Playford is very clear in his instructions, but remember that in Playford's time the square was numbered clockwise rather than the later American anti-clockwise — the twos are on the left of the ones.  So if the ones change places with their partners the first man is headed towards the fours, not the twos.  Sharp suggests that possibly the couples all started improper, though there seems no reason for that, and his second interpretation is the one that everybody uses: instead of the head couples just passing each other by they do (in effect) a gipsy right, moving away from each other at the end to stand facing their corner.  Meanwhile the sides lead in — everybody seems to ignore the word “clap” — and face out, so you can form circles on the side of the set.  Agreed it's not what Playford says, but it does get you all to the right person and there's certainly enough time for it provided the heads finish the gipsy facing away from each other.

Because the first figure is 48 bars (6 lines of music) and the other two are the standard 32 bars, Sharp directed the musicians to play ABABAB…, presumably to make it easier for them.  But that doesn't fit the dance movements at all.  The leading, stepping and honouring are A1, and much the same move must surely be A2.  The same with the second and third figures.  I ask musicians to play AABBBB for the first figure and then AABB for the second and third figures, and although they give me funny looks they usually manage to do what I ask.  I'm pleased to say that Bare Necessities have recorded my version of the music on Volume 5 of their “At Home” CD — Gene Murrow phoned me from the recording studio to check it!  See their full list of CDs.  Playford isn't totally clear with the underlined dots — he suggests that the first figure moves B1-4 are all done in a single B — but you can see that generally he expects two A's and two B's.

Another thing that Sharp standardised was always crossing by the right shoulder.  This is a good general rule, but sometimes it flies in the face of the figure.  In the second figure Playford says: “Men take your we. by both hands and put all back to back, then change places all with your own we. then we. give right hands across…”  Assuming the men are standing on the left, and putting their women in the quickest way, the dancers are moving anti-clockwise.  Sharp doesn't actually say which shoulder to cross by, but when I started dancing everybody taught it as crossing right shoulder, which is an abrupt change of direction in quite a fast figure — it looks and feels awkward.  I believe it's much more natural to cross left shoulder.  Then there's the further complication that the instructions continue with the women doing a right-hand star half-way — but they have just moved to the outside.  Sharp adds that partners change places again, which I'm happy to go along with, but if both of these crosses are by the right shoulder everyone is now facing the wrong way for the next move.  Left shoulder solves everything.  I had been calling it this way for several years when I danced it to Philippe Callens and instead of “Cross left shoulder.  Cross left shoulder again.” he said “Gipsy left”.  I don't know whether he picked up the left shoulder crossing from me — he may well have come up with the idea himself — but using the work “Gipsy” (or “Gypsy” for Americans) is so much clearer and quicker.  In the second part where the women put the men in you're already moving clockwise, so a gipsy right works fine.  Just make sure the dancers keep moving throughout the figure; some people seem to want to stop before the gipsy and there's no time for that.

In the third figure Sharp originally had each man lead his corner out with his right hand to her left (their nearer hands if they are facing out), change hands and lead back, then the woman has to change hands for the grand chain.  In a set of corrections he changed this to leading out right hand in right, falling back, and the right hands are already joined for the chain.  I can't see why he changed his mind, but I followed Sharp for years — I don't change things just to be awkward you know.  On the other hand Playford certainly says “lead back again” whereas in the first figure he says “fall back”, and in 2013 Neil Stuart read these notes and suggested that the lead out with corner should be right hand in right, keep hold and lead back.  This makes a lot of sense, especially as after the first half of the grand chain both men and women are approaching their corner with the right hand, so I'm now changing my version to that.  Agreed, Playford says “give all right hands to the Co. and left to the next, and right and left till you meet the same again” but I think he's just spelling out what we would call a grand chain (grand right and left in American Square terminology) rather than implying that you don't already have right hands joined with your corner.

Chelsea Reach

First Figure:
A1:Lead partner in a double; fall back.  Step right and honour; left.
A2:Lead out; fall back.  Step and honour.
B1:Sides lead in and about turn while heads gipsy right and finish in front of your corner.  In these fours circle left half-way, face up and down (head lines); give right hand to opposite and cross over.
B2:In same fours, left-hand star.  Two-hand turn partner.
B3/4:Heads lead in, sides gipsy right, etc.
Second Figure:
A1:Side right.  Step and honour.
A2:The same left.
B1:Give two hands to partner and men put the ladies into the middle (4 steps); gipsy left with partner, flowing into ladies right-hand star half-way, men round the outside (the other way) half-way and re-form the square (12 steps).
B2:Give two hands to partner and ladies put the men in; gipsy right; men left-hand star half-way, men round the outside (the other way) half-way to meet partner in home position.
Third Figure:
A1:Arm right.  Step and honour.
A2:The same left.
B1:Give corner right hand: lead out; lead back.  Grand chain half-way (skip-change step).
B2:Same, finishing with left hand in partner's to honour.

The Cuckoo        The Cuckoo: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Source: Dancing Master 12th Edition, 1703: Henry Playford.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2010.
Format: Longways duple minor

Original wording:

The Cookow

The first Man goes back to back with the second Woman; then turn Right-hands with her; the first Woman and second Man do the same.  The first couple take both Hands and go half round, and back again; then cross over and half Figure, then all four quite round.  The first strain twice, and the second once, and Repeat.

I originally had this down as Henry Playford 1703, then Michael Barraclough told me it was Walsh, then Les Barclay told me I was right the first time!  Here's the wording from Walsh: Compleat Country Dancing Master 1718-1760.  Playford spells it “Cookow”, Walsh spells it “Cuckow”, and to add to the confusion there is a different dance with a different tune called called The Cuckoo (or Smith's Rant) in Playford 3rd Edition which you can see here with a clearer copy from the 10th edition here.

I can't really claim this as my own interpretation — I picked the dance up many years ago, and the original instructions are so clear that there's only one point I want to question.  But as far as I know the dance hasn't been published in a modern book, and it deserves to be, if only for the terrific tune which has echoes of Handel's “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” and is not one to give to your average band!

There are no repeat marks in the original music, but there's a letter “S” above the start of what I'm calling the C-music which performs the same function.  Assuming that “all four quite round” means circle left, the only unusual phrase is “The first couple take both Hands and go half round, and back again”.  Surely if he'd just meant “two-hand turn” he would have said so.  It certainly sounds like a two-hand turn half-way and then a reverse two-hand turn half-way, which is actually no stranger than Cecil Sharp siding!  I learnt it with both couples doing a two-hand turn all the way but with a slight hesitation half-way to “listen to the cuckoo”, and the version of the music I use has some “cuckoos” added to the original which makes this feasible.  From Francis Carter I picked up the rise on the toes and fall back at this point — it's totally inauthentic but dancers in England enjoy it.

The Cuckoo

A1:First corners back-to-back.  Right-hand turn (skip-change step).
A2:Second corners the same.
B:All two-hand turn partner, half-way, pause to listen to the cuckoo (rise on toes and fall back, in time with music); reverse turn half-way with the same pause.  Ones cross, go below twos who lead up.
C:Ones dance half figure eight up through twos.  Circle left once around (slip-step).
The two-hand turn was originally for the ones only.

Country Bumpkin        Bluebell Polka: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Source: Heathfield Memorials, 1821-1831: Sylvan Harmer.
Interpretation: Colin Hume — Date unknown.

Format: 4 couples longways.   Music: I suggest 4 x 48 bar polkas such as Bluebell Polka.

A1:Top lady bottom man two-hand turn.  Partners same.
A2:Top lady bottom man set moving forward; fall back.  Others same.
B1:Same people gipsy right [or back-to-back].
A3:Ones cross, go below twos.  Cross again, below threes.
A4:Cross again, below fours.  Cross to own side, lead to top.
B2:Ones cast, others follow.  Ones arch at bottom, others up.
Sylvan Harmer (1803-1884) lived in the village of Heathfield in Sussex.  Between 1821 and 1831 he wrote a manuscript which later became the book “Heathfield Memorials” detailing his life there, and in an appendix he gave the instructions of some of the country dances he remembered dancing.  You can see more information at the end of  I was staying with Jan Nuttall who lived in Heathfield and she showed me the book, so I tried my hand at interpreting some of the dances.  Many of them seemed to have far too much in them, and they all had several titles, no doubt depending on which tune was used.  I don't have the original wording to show you (and since copies were selling at £80 each in 1992 I don't plan on buying one), but the dance as I interpreted it has many similarities to “Sir Roger de Coverley”.

There are at least two other dances called “Country Bumpkin” — one by Mike Barraclough is a 5 couple longways having no connection with this one; the other an 8 couple longways in a book called “The Heathfield Dances” by Harold Downing purports to be an interpretation but admits to being mainly spurious.

Damme        Added 3-May-13Damme: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Source: Dancing Master 10th Ed.,1698: Henry Playford.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2013.
Format: Longways duple minor

Original wording:

All four Sett to your Partners and turn S. and hands four half round  .   All four Sett to your Partners and turn S. and hands four half round into your own places  :   The 2. Man go back to back, the Woman the same at the same time, then right and left with your Partners quite round  .   The 1. cu. go the Figure through into their own places, then right and left with your Partners which brings the 1. cu. into the 2. cu. place  : 

The dance was republished by Walsh in 1718 as “Dampier” with slight differences in the tune.  Walsh also published “Dam it” around 1735, which has the same tune as Dampier but is a different dance, interpreted by Tom Cook in his book “Again Let's Be Merry” in 1979.  “Damme” is pronounced as two syllables: “Damm-ee”, short for “Damn me” — you can hear it in “H.M.S. Pinafore” when the Captain discovers his daughter is in love with a common sailor.

The music has a 4-bar A and an 8-bar B, both repeated according to the underlined dots in the instructions, and gives every indication of being a dotted hornpipe — the sort of tune you would use for “Nottingham Swing”.  Playford never mentions the steps, but I would not consider a walking step to a tune like this: it needs to be a step-hop or a 1-2-3-hop, the latter covering more ground.

So how do you do a set and turn single to a dotted hornpipe?!  I tried doing the set as 1-2-3-hop to the right, 1-2-3-hop to the left (like RSCDS Strathspey setting) but that only leaves one 1-2-3-hop for the turn single and another for the circle left half-way.  It can be done but it's quite awkward, and anyway I would expect the set to take the same amount of music as the turn single.  John Playford defined only three steps in his first edition:

A Double is foure steps forward or back, closing both feet.
A Single is two steps, closing both feet.

Set and turne single, is a single to one hand, and a single to the other, and turne single.

The “turne single” does not mean a single as defined above; it means “on your own” and is actually a double!

The singles (also called simples) and doubles come from the Brawle (Branle), Basse Dance and Pavan(e) of earlier times.  Indeed the Pavan was built solely on two singles and a double, and there are hopped simples and doubles in some of the Brawles in “Orchesography” by Thoinot Arbeau, published in 1589.  So my suggestion for the set and turn single to this rhythm is: step on the right foot, somewhat out to the right, hop on the right foot, similarly left, then turn clockwise on the spot with a 1-2-3-hop.  The step-hop for the set seems to fit the music well, as this starts with three long notes before the dotted rhythm comes in.  I would use the same footwork but starting on the left foot (step-hop, step-hop, 1-2-3-hop) for the circle left half-way, though you could equally use two 1-2-3-hops.

I'm sure that “The 2. Man go back to back, the Woman the same at the same time” should read “Men” and “Women” rather than “Man” and “Woman”.  If Playford had wanted the second couple to do a back-to-back with each other he would surely have said so, and it's very rare for the second couple suddenly to take the lead like that.  A back-to-back probably needs four bars — it would be frantic to do a 1-2-3-hop forwards and moving right, then fall back on the second 1-2-3-hop.  That leaves four bars for four changes of a circular hey.  I would use two 1-2-3-hops for each half of the back-to-back, though of course you could use step-hop, step-hop, 1-2-3-hop, and probably in Playford's time people would have used both; the steps were not codified and improvisation was encouraged.  For the four changes I think you need 1-2-3-hop for each change.

“The 1. cu. go the Figure through” means a figure eight or half figure eight down through the twos, and “into their own places” means it's a full one.  Can you do that with four bars of 1-2-3-hop?  Certainly you can, if you go for it and make sure the hop is travelling forwards (as in a Strathspey) rather than up and down.  And the final move must be three changes instead of four since the instructions end “which brings the 1. cu. into the 2. cu. place”.  I would still phrase it to the music: one bar for each of the first two changes and two bars for the final change which is in effect half a right-hand turn with partner.


A1:(4 bars): All set to partner (R-hop, L-hop); turn S. (R-2-3-hop).  Circle left half-way (L-hop, R-hop L-2-3-hop).
A2:All that again.
B1:Back-to-back neighbour (two steps forward, two back).  Four changes of a circular hey, one step per change.
B2:Ones full figure eight down through twos — very fast.  Three changes of a circular hey.
The B section is all danced with a 1-2-3-hop.

Draw Cupid Draw        Draw Cupid Draw: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Source: Dancing Master Volume 2, 1710: John Young.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2007.
Format: Longways duple minor

Original wording:

The first Couple go the whole Figure of Eight with the second Couple, and then cross over and turn  .   Then the other Couple do the same  :   then cross over and Back to Back, then Right and Left quite round.

The instructions have a repeat for A, and the A and B music are each 16 bars, giving an unusually long 64 bar figure.

It looks straightforward, but there are at least three other interpretations.  Bob Brand has done one but he didn't realise that “cross over” means “cross and cast” and he did some unusual stuff in the second part.  Graham Christian has a much more unlikely version in CDSS News — he admitted that this was a very loose interpretation and if he looked at it now he would come up with something different.  Andrew Shaw likes to keep everyone moving, so he has double figure eights and both couples doing the turns both times, which I think spoils the dance.  It is quite clear that for the first eight bars the ones are doing the figure and the twos are watching them (and possibly learning the figure).  In the second eight bars the twos do exactly the same.  We seem to be losing the concept of watching the active couple — if we're not moving we think we're not part of the dance.

I don't think there's much doubt what John Young intended for the first half.  The ones do a full figure of eight down through the twos.  The ones cross and cast, twos moving up, and the ones two-hand turn.  There's certainly enough music for a turn all the way, leaving the ones improper.  It's possible that it should be 1½ to finish proper; we'll reserve judgement until we see what happens later.  The twos do the same, finishing with the ones above the twos, probably with both couples improper.

The ones again cross and cast, again with the twos moving up, then the ones do a back-to-back, so they are below the twos on their original side — just where you would expect them to finish the dance.  And then four changes of a circular hey.  That's fine for the ones, but the twos are still improper.  And if we decided the turn in the first half was 1½, we would now have the twos proper but the ones improper, so that won't help.

Andrew has the twos doing a right-hand turn half-way as they move up, but this strikes me as very unlikely (and they sometimes forget to do it).  Remember the basic principle: the twos (and threes, for a triple minor) are only there to help the ones as needed.  See the comments on the section Adapting Triple Minor Dances.  So my suggestion is that the ones do four changes but the twos only join in as needed, in other words starting with the second change.  Is it right?  I don't know.  Is it more likely than other suggestions?  I'll leave you to decide!

Draw Cupid Draw

Format: Longways duple minor.

A1:Ones full figure eight through the twos.
 Ones cross and cast; twos lead up.  Ones two-hand turn.
A2:Twos the same, all finishing improper.
B:Ones cross and cast; twos lead up.  Ones back-to-back.
 Ones do four changes of a circular hey — twos don't join in until the second change.

Easter Thursday        Easter Thursday: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Source: Caledonian Country Dances, 3rd Ed., c. 1733: John Johnson.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, around 1995
Format: Longways duple minor

Original wording:

The Sailor's Delight

The 1. cu. back to back with the 2. cu, and back to back with their own Partners.  This to the first Strain played once.  The 1. cu. turn the 2. cu. and turn their own.  This to the first Strain played twice.  Meet and set all four, turn S. and clap hands all four, go quite round.  This to the second Strain played once.  The 1. cu. go the Figure through the 2. cu, and cross over and turn their own Partners.  This to the second Strain played twice.

Katherine Street

The first Couple Back to Back with the second Couple, and then with their partners.  This to the first Strain play'd once.  The first Couple turn the second Couple, then turn their own.  This to the first Strain play'd twice.  Meet all four and Sette, then turn single and clap Hands, all four going quite round.  This to the last Strain play'd once.  The first Couple go the figure through the second Couple, and cross over and turn their own Partners.  This to the last Strain play'd twice.

Sadler's Wells

The 1st cu. back to back with the 2d cu. and back to back with their own Partners  .   The 1st cu turn the second cu. and turn their own Partners  :   Meet and sett, all four turn single and clap hands, all four go quite round  .   The 1st cu. go the Figure thro' the 2d cu. and cross over, and turn their own partners  : 

Easter Thursday

I don't have the wording for the A part to hand, but I know it's very similar to the previous two.  Here's the B part:

Meet all four and sett, then turn single and clap hands all four going quite round  .   Then the 1st Cu. go the figure thro' the 2nd Cu. and cross over and turn their own partners  : 

I know of four dances with exactly the same figures — this happened quite a lot in the eighteenth century.  The first The Sailor's Delight from the Dancing Master of 1696.  The second is Sadler's Well from the Dancing Master Volume 3, 17th Edition of 1728.  The third is Katherine Street from the Dancing Master volume 2, around 1710.  Charles Bolton has a version in “Retreads, Volume 7”, though he has cut down the action for the ones and introduced more for the twos He also dances it improper.  The fourth is Easter Thursday, and it's even possible that the figures were put to this tune by mistake — the tune is in 3-time.  Bernard Bentley, who wrote the “Fallibroome” series of books, is always very honest about what he's added or left out, unlike some other dance interpreters.  In this one he says, NOTE.- B1 a clap and hands four has been omitted.  When you listen to the A music it has perfectly clear phrasing — it's obviously three phrases of two bars each.  Six steps, six steps, six steps.  But the instructions in Fallibroome 5 just say “Neighbours back to back.  Partners back to back”.  And that's how a lot of callers call it — because they haven't thought it through.  I can only see two choices.  You can do one back-to-back in one phrase of the music — 6 steps — and the other in two phrases — twelve steps.  Or you can do what I recommend, which is to take 9 steps for each back-to-back and accept the fact that the second one starts in the middle of a musical phrase.  Here's where it's no use the caller saying “The music will tell you” — it won't!

You could argue that the instructions are addressed to the first couple, so only they should do the second back-to-back and the second turn, and indeed the final turn.  Or you could make the case that throughout the instructions the word is “partners” rather than “partner” meaning that both couples should participate.  I'm sticking with Bernard Bentley; we're interpreting these dances for present day dancers and in this case I have no hesitation in letting both couples move.  There are other cases where I don't feel that way, as you will see when reading through this page.

In B1 Bernard Bentley thought he couldn't fit it all in, so he left out the circle and instead put in a balance forward and back, followed by a set.  I'm sure we can fit it all in, provided you go from the turn single immediately into the circle left.  Four bars is twelve beats — that's four beats for the turn single and eight beats for the circle — standard timing.  In fact I've suggested three and nine in my interpretation, since the music is in threes, but there's really no difference.  As usual, “cross over” means “cross and cast”.  The half figure eight and the cross and cast are much tighter in “Sadler's Wells” and “Katherine Street” — 4 steps for each rather than 6 — so I prefer Easter Thursday (and I like the tune too).

Since you're dancing a lot with your neighbour in the A part, I choose to do this with the ones improper.

Twenty years latter I learnt that Carl Wittman had produced much the same version, though with the final turn for the ones only, except that he has two beats rest after the clap and then allows only six steps for the circle which seems unnecessarily tight to me.

Easter Thursday

Format: Longways duple minor Improper       Note: the tune is in 3-time.

A1:(6 bars:) Back-to-back neighbour (9 steps).  Back-to-back partner.
A2:Two-hand turn neighbour (9 steps).  Two-hand turn partner.
B1:(6 bars): All set moving forward (RLR, LRL); Turn single (RLR) clapping on first beat (3 steps), circle left (9 steps).
B2:Ones half figure eight down (6 steps); ones cross and go below the twos who lead up (6 steps); all two-hand turn partner (6 steps).

Fain I Would        Fain I Would: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Source: Dancing Master 1st Edition, 1651: John Playford.
Format: Square

Original wording:

Lead all out, lead all in again 1. man and 4. Wo. the 1. Wo. and 2. man change places by both hands, the other foure doing the like, then the 1.  man and 1. Wo. the 2. and 4. Wo. change by both hands, the other foure doing the like  .  Then each man hands with the Wo. on his left hand, lead out and in as before, changing places, back again as before  : 

The 1. and 3. Cu. meet, the 2. and 4. falling back, the 1. and 3. Cu. fall back, foure a breast, the 2. man and 4. Wo with the 1. Cu. the 4. man and 2.  Wo. with the 3. the 1. man and third Wo. the 3. man and 1. Wo armes and fall into the 4. and 2. places, whilst the 2. man and 4. Wo. the 4. man and 2. Wo. armes behinde, and fall into the 1. and 3. places  .  The other as much  :  As in Oxford.

Sides and change places as before  .  Sides againe, and change places, back againe.

The 1. and 3. Cu cast off, and come into you places all again, the 4. Wo. following the 1. man, the 2. man the 1. Wo. the 2. Wo. the 3. man, the 4. man the 3. Wo. the upermost and lowermost foure, hands round, to your places  .  The 2. and 4. Cu. cast off, and the other follow, to your places, foure and foure of each side, hands round, to your places.

Armes and change as you sided  .  That againe, to your places  : 

The 1. and 3. Cu. meet, turn back to back, the other foure hands about them, and go round to the right, and fall into each others places, the 2. man and 4. Wo. into the 1. place, the 4. man and 2. Wo into the 3. place, the 1. man and 3. Wo. into the 4. place, the 3. man and 1. Wo. into the 2. place  .  The other foure as much  : 

If you remember that Playford numbering is clockwise — the twos on the left of the ones — you may well struggle with this until you notice that in the diagram all four couples are improper.  I've no idea why, and as Cecil Sharp says,

For simplicity's sake this unusual disposition has not been adhered to in the text, the alteration making no difference to the form of the dance.

I'm not claiming any of this interpretation is unique to me, but I want to explain how I teach it.  If you've never danced it and you go to the Cecil Sharp book (or even worse, the Playford original above), you're liable to be totally bemused by all the numbers:

First man and first woman, third man and third woman, second man and fourth woman, and second woman and first man, change places in like manner.

I call it without mention of numbers and with hardly any mention of sex, and I use the words “corner” and “shadow”.  Corner is well known from American Square, and it's a useful term so why not use it.  Shadow comes from American Contra, and refers to a person other than your partner whom you meet repeatedly during the dance.  Some American callers use the phrase “trail buddy”, but apart from being two words rather than one it smacks too much of the Wild West — “Howdy stranger, guess you 'n' me gonna be trail buddies” — so I don't use it.

I start by pointing out that you have three important people in this dance.  The first of course is your partner.  The second is your shadow, who is directly opposite you; you do half the dance with your partner and the other half with your shadow.  The third is your corner, who manages to stay in position even when you switch between partner and shadow.  I think it's a very clever and beautiful dance, and it appeals to my mathematical mind.

In the introduction to the first figure, you will see that Playford explains the move for the top half of the set and then says “the other foure doing the like”.  I'm confident that he's missed out the word “man” and it should say “the 2. man and 4. Wo.” rather than “the 2. and 4. Wo.”.

The two-hand turns in each of the three introductions are described by Playford as “change places by both hands”, but I've always seen it done as two-hand turn into side lines, man on the left — to be too precise, it's three eighths for the head men and five eighths for the side men.  You don't actually take hands in side lines, but it's a useful reference point.  Then you two-hand turn the one in front of you half-way (heads with partner, sides with shadow, though I wouldn't bother to say that), and the middles of the lines need to fall back from each other — I usually say “push back” to produce a more positive movement — to reform the square, with your shadow.  If you did the first turn literally as a turn half-way there would be great confusion about who “the one in front of you” was, and the heads now in side place would find it very difficult to do the second turn in four steps.

In the main part of the first figure, some people seem to have great difficulty finding their shadow — some automatically make a grab for their partner as a safe option.  And a lot of men can't cope with finishing the arm right on the right of the lady!

In the main part of the second figure when the heads are casting I ask people to imagine a brick wall across the centre of the set, so the sides will have nothing to do with their partner.  It doesn't always work: some people will still walk through the wall.  When the sides are casting, the wall is up and down the centre of the set, and it's the heads who have nothing to do with their partner.  Doing a circle left all the way and falling back to home place requires giving some weight and making good circles; you can't just drift through it.  I prefer the casting people to keep turning in the same direction to get into the circles; it's very tempting for the man to suddenly reverse directions to get into the circle.  Of course Playford doesn't specify any of these details, so it's just my opinion, but I think it looks and feels better to keep moving smoothly rather than turn back on yourself.

By the third introduction people have got the hang of things, and there's a great temptation to spiral straight off from the arming into the two-hand turn with corner.  I don't like this blurring of the edges — you should finish the arming facing your partner, then face your corner — which is why I've put in an acknowledgement at this point.

The main part of the third figure is where I disagree with Sharp.  Playford says: “The 1. and 3. Cu. meet, turn back to back, the other foure hands about them, and go round to the right…” Sharp has the heads doing a back-ring while the sides circle round them, and if you've ever tried that in Playford costume you will agree that it's very awkward if not impossible.  I suggest that “and go round” refers to the outsides; the people in the middle just face out and stand still.  I imagine the circle is to the right because Playford starts with the men on the right of their partners and it's the man leading his partner into the circle.  Since I've followed Sharp in having the men on the left, I follow him in making it a circle left.  I think the timing on this needs to be quite precise: four steps for the heads to lead in and face out; eight steps for the sides to circle left, let go of their partner and finish in head place with their shadow improper; four steps for the middles to lead their shadow out to side place and face in improper.  I know this is disorientating (even more so with a back ring) and I try to remember to tell people that they will finish the move where their corner is now standing, but some people still can't cope with it, or perhaps can't cope with letting go of their partner.

Yes, I know I've written an enormous amount about this dance, but that's because I think it's worthwhile spending the time walking it through because it's such a beautiful and satisfying dance.  Why not try it?!

Fain I Would

First Figure:
A1:Lead partner out a double; change hands and lead back.  Two-hand corner enough to form side lines (man on left of lady); two-hand turn the one you're facing, half-way, middles fall back to reform square (all now with Shadow).
A2:Lead shadow out a double; change hands and lead back.  Two-hand (your same) corner enough to form side lines (man on left of lady); two-hand turn the one you're facing, half-way, middles fall back to reform square (all home).
B1:Heads lead in, sides fall back slightly and face partner; pick up your corner and fall back in head lines.  All arm right with Shadow, (who is either in front of you or on the other end of your line) with the middles moving out to finish improper in a square.
B2:Same with new heads, all arming left with partner.
Second Figure:
A1/2:As first figure, but siding into line right shoulder to right with partner and left shoulder to left with shadow.
B1:Heads face partner and cast out, sides follow your corner, to place.  Circle 4 top and bottom, to place.
B2:Sides cast, heads follow your corner, to place.  Circle 4 on each side, to place.
Third Figure:
A:As first figure, but arming right and left.  Acknowledge before leaving.
B1:Heads lead in and face out; sides circle left and hang on to Shadow to end in head place (4 bars); middles lead out to side place.  [All finish improper, in corner's place.]
B2:New heads lead in; sides circle, all finishing home.

There's a video of a version with the couples starting improper at  They use a reverse two-hand turn half-way with opposite, which is a complete change of momentum and strikes me as unnecessarily awkward given that there is no justification for it in Playford's original wording.  They use a variant of Cecil Sharp siding, first passing right then left, and they have changed the circles so that after the heads casting the circles are on the side and vice versa.  They have dispensed with the back-ring, and they do the circles in the third figure to the right, despite being improper.  They also dance it too fast for my liking: I think of it as a stately dance and tune.

Hobb's Wedding        Hobb's Wedding: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Source: Dancing Master 17th Edition Volume 1, 1721: John Young.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2007.
Format: Longways duple minor

Original wording:

Hobb's Wedding: A Kissing Dance in the Country Wake

The 1. cu. cast off half way, the 2. cross over at the same time, then lead up and turn from each other, the Man to the Right and the Wo. to the Left  .  Then meet the 1. cu. the Wo. the man, and the Man the Wo. then the 1 Man turn the 2. Wo. Left-hands round, the 2. Man doing the same with the 1. Wo. till they come all on a-row with their Left shoulders to each other, the Men with their faces down, and the We. with theirs up  :  Then pass by till you come to a Square, the Men with their faces down, and the We. with theirs up, then all turn S. to the Left-hand with their faces to each other; then Right and Left three times, the 1. Man beginning with the 2. Wo and the 2. Man with the 1. Wo  .  The 1. Man pulls the 2. Wo. back, and the 2. Man puts the 1. Wo. from him till the 2. cu. comes back to back, each Man kissing the contrary Wo. then the 1. cu. cast off, the Man to the Left-hand and the Wo. to the Right, the 2. cu. casting up both to the Right-hand till they come in their proper places.

The Country Wake (1696) was a comedy by Thomas Doggett, staged at Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre and later revived by Cibber in 1711.  Dogget originally played the part of Young Hobb himself.

The tune is a jig: four bars for each A and eight bars for the B.  The instructions imply that each is to be repeated, giving a 24-bar dance.  The instructions give lots of detail and reassurance to an interpreter, but what are we to make of “cast off half way”?  Presumably the ones cast off but finish level with the twos rather than below them.  It will need to be a wide cast, or a meet, move up and then cast, as it takes the 4 bar A1, during which the twos turn half-way, lead up (presumably not very far, to meet the ones) and turn away from each other to face out to the ones.  A2 is left-hand turn neighbour, and indeed once around will leave the men facing down and the women facing up as required.  So B1 starts by passing neighbour left shoulder so that the women are above the men, then turn single left (presumably half-way) to face neighbour up and down the set.  Assuming “Right and Left three times” means three changes of a circular hey, this will be up and down the set, again finishing with the women above the men.  We could allow four steps for the pass through and turn round, and four steps for each of the three changes.  B2 starts apparently with a quarter poussette to bring the four people into a colume up and down the set — crowded but possible — four steps for that and four beats for the kiss.  But now comes the progression.  At the moment the first man is at the very bottom and his partner is at the very top.  She can cast off to her right hand, though it seems somewhat forced given that she is already facing down, but he can't cast off anywhere — he needs to cast up.  I've given this a lot of thought, it seems to me that the column needs to be across the hall rather than up and down, with everyone proper.  So suppose after the pass through at the start of B1 we have the dancers looping one place to their right (clockwise) rather than turning single to their left.  I know that's not what it says, but just consider it.  This puts everyone proper with the second man and first woman above.  The three changes will now be across the set as normal, bringing the other two to the top, and the quarter poussette is also across.  Now indeed the first couple can cast off, the man left shoulder and the woman right shoulder, though they have eight steps and not very far to go — perhaps an invitation to linger a little longer on the kiss.  The twos somehow need to cross over and move up, and at the moment they're facing out.  That's why we get the odd instruction “the 2. cu. casting up both to the Right-hand till they come in their proper places”.  If they both pull their right shoulders back, the woman can move up as she crosses to her own side while the man starts by turning down and then moving up on his own side.  It gets them to the right place, but it is what John Young meant?  I think it may well be.  How else could he have described it, without using a lot more words?

The timing of B1 is now not so obvious.  Four steps to pass through, turn left and move one quarter round?  Or should we take eight steps for this and then surge into life to dance the three changes in eight steps as in Indian Queen?  I think I prefer the latter — but try it both ways and see what you think.

But the basic problem is that the wording is so precise: “all turn S. to the Left-hand with their faces to each other”, and yet I need people to loop to their right.  As I've said before, I don't know all the answers!

Hobb's Wedding

Format: Longways duple minor.  Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2007.

A1:(4 bars)   Ones meet and then cast to finish outside the twos (8 steps) while twos 2-hand turn half, lead up, turn out to face opposite-sex neighbour.
A2:Left-hand turn neighbour once around, finishing with men facing down, ladies facing up.
B1:Pass through left shoulder; loop right, move round a place clockwise.  Face neighbour across the set: dance three changes of a circular hey with hands.
B2:First man pull, second man push until twos are back to back in the middle; kiss neighbour.  Ones cast to progressed place, second lady move up and cross to own side, second man pull right shoulder back and follow her to progressed place.

I've learnt that you don't call kissing dances in the States — they love all that eye-contact, but kissing is going too far.  In England I often say that it's up to the ladies how and where they receive the kiss — they could just offer their hand.

Irish Lamentation        Irish Lamentation: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Source: 3rd Book of The Complete Dancing Master, c.1735: Walsh.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 1995.
Format: Longways duple minor

Original wording:

First Man dances the Minuet Step to the 2d Wo. & turns her  .   the 2d Man the same to the 1st Wo  :   the 1st Cu. cast down & up again then cross over and half Figure  .   then right hand and left quite round and turn your Partner.

I heard the tune on Bare Necessities' “Take a Dance” album and loved it.  The notes didn't say where the modern interpretations were found, so I went to Cecil Sharp House, studied the original wording and produced my version.  Then I discovered that Tom Cook had reconstructed it in “Again Let's Be Merry” (1979).

Let's look at Tom's version.

A1Take hands four.  All “step-set” (left foot to the left, cross right foot over and beyond left foot, transfer weight back onto left foot — same to right) twice, then first man and second woman turn, returning to places.
A2Again take hands four and “step-set” as in A1, then the other two dancers turn.
B1 1‑4All move up the set and face their own wall (that is, half turn single, men to left, women to right).  Neighbours take inside hand and first couple move round outside second couple in as “assisted” cast, all to progressed places.
     5‑8All move down the set and face their own wall.  Neighbours again take inside hand and first couple move round outside second couple in an “assisted” cast up, all to original places.
   9‑16First couple cross and cast down, then go half figure eight up through second couple (who lead up) to progressed places.
B2 1‑8First and second couples, partners facing, circular hey taking hands, four changes.
   9‑16First and second couples dance round each other, returning to progressed places (ballroom hold is suggested).

Tom is at pains to point out that the dance isn't a waltz, and that the basic rhythm should be six beats long not three, but I defy anyone to take ballroom hold and dance round the other couple to this music without waltzing.

So, two questions:

The first is partly a matter of opinion.  I don't like the “assisted” cast business at all; it's fussy and I don't see the point.  And I don't like the anachronistic “waltz round”.  To answer the second, let's look at the original wording.

Most English Folk dancers couldn't do a minuet step (and wouldn't want to), so Tom has replaced it with his “step-setting”.  Yes, but surely that loses the point that it should be just the first corners involved; the second corners have their chance in A2.  I agree with getting rid of the minuet step, but what could the first corners do in four bars before their two-hand turn?  The obvious choice is set and turn single — in fact the setting in 3-time turns out to be similar to Tom's step-setting, though I wouldn't want to start it on the left foot.  You could say that my way is just as “wrong” as Tom's, but I think it's more in keeping with the original.

By the way, I have actually taught the entire dance with a minuet step; see the page on Country Dance Minuet.

B1 starts “the 1st Cu. cast down & up again” — just as you would in the English traditional dance “Soldiers' Joy” or the American contra “Chorus Jig”.  In fact because there are three steps to the bar you would get further than in those dances; it's a good strong positive movement.  I suppose Tom thought this was boring for the twos, so he's got the twos turning out and helping the ones along — I think it destroys the flow of the movement.  Ken Sheffield does the same in “Guardian Angels” where the ones cross and cast, cross and cast — I don't like that either.  So let's do it as the original obviously intended.

“Cross over” practically always means “cross over and cast down a place”, and by implication we're still talking to the ones, so a half figure eight up will bring them to their progressed place proper — no problems with that.  The underlined dot says that this is once through the 16-bar B-music, which all fits fine.  But what about the second B?  “then right and left quite round and turn your Partner”.  Four changes of a circular hey at three steps per change is four bars, and a turn is no more than four bars (12 steps) — total 8 bars.  We can slow down the four changes by allowing six steps per hand, but this still gives us 8 bars (24 steps) for “and turn your Partner”.  This is where Tom puts in the waltz around (and admittedly you are “turning” with your partner) — but that's so out of character!  My suggestion is a right-hand turn and a left-hand turn.  There's still a lot of music to fill up — four bars (twelve steps) for each turn, but I think it works.

I wrote to Tom and asked him what he thought of my version — that's something I couldn't do with Cecil Sharp.  He said in his reply: “…I have come to regret my 9-16 suggestion [that's the dance around] …  and have experimented with a whole-poussette + quarter-turns…  Your suggestion is much simpler, and of course is just as good.”  He preferred the fussy bit because he likes people to take hands when the music allows — which I totally agree with, but I don't think the music does allow this, because the ones should be moving well down the hall.  He didn't object to the set and turn single as such, but he felt you needed to be moving to the right immediately before the two-hand turn — that's why he starts the step-setting to the left.

Nicholas Broadbridge has a version condensed to a single B.  Perhaps he decided there wasn't enough going on in B2, so instead of the waltz around or the slow right- and left-hand turns he's squashed the whole thing together — instead of the ones doing their long cast down the outside and back, he has a short cast going immediately into a figure eight up.  But can you really justify that when you look at the original?

Irish Lamentation

A1:First corners set and turn single.  Two-hand turn.
A2:Second corners the same.
B1:Ones cast, go well down the outside.  Cast back to place.
C1:Ones cross; go below the twos who lead up.  Ones half figure eight up.
B2:Four changes of circular hey with hands (6 steps each).
C2:Right-hand turn partner (12 steps).  Left-hand turn.

Jack Pudding        Print this dance

Source: Dancing Master 1st Edition, 1651, John Playford.
Format: 3 Couples longways.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 1998.

In the Spring 1998 issue of English Dance & Song (the magazine of the English Folk Dance and Song Society), Audrey Town republished an interpretation of “Jack Pudding” by Freda Tomlinson, and then gave her own change to the third figure to make it move more smoothly.  What she didn't give was Playford's original wording, so that the readers could see for themselves which interpretation was the more likely.  I realise that there are plenty of dancers — probably the majority — who just want to do the dance, and don't care who the interpretation is by or how faithful it is to the original.  But I think interpreters owe it to the dancers to keep to the original as much as possible and tell them when they have changed something.  And when I read it through it seemed to me that it wasn't just the third figure that would have the dancers scuttling around — the whole dance with the exception of the three standard introductions seems much too busy.  I suspect this would have been more visible if the instructions had specified in more detail how they are meant to fit the music.  I don't have permission to reprint the two versions, but let me say that they have a first figure with two (short) A's and one B whereas the second and third figure have two B's.  So naturally I went back to the original:

Jack Pudding             Longwayes for six             (with a diagram showing a conventional 3 couple longways set)

First and 2. Cu. leade up a D. and fall back, whilst the 3. Cu. leade up to the top betweene the other, first and 2 Cu. leade up againe and back, whilst the 3. lead downe.

Third Cu. leade up betweene the other, and casting off, goe on the out side under their armes, crosse over and under their armes, and fall to the bottome as at first, then the first foure hands and round, and sit while the third doe as much.

Sides all  .  That againe  : 

Men round and hold up their hands, We. under their armes and turne their own, We. goe round, and each man turne his owne.

Armes all  .  That againe  : 

Third Cu. leade under the first Cu. armes and come face to the We. hands you foure and round, the first Cu. fall into the 3. place, the third Cu leade under the 2. Cu. armes, and hands round, the 3. Cu. fall into the 2. and the 2. into the first place  . 

In each of the three figures the two paragraphs are actually laid out beside each other, making it clear that the three Playford introductions are for the A-music and the figures are for the B-music.  Unfortunately the underlined single and double dots which are supposed to indicate the end of each phrase of music are not much in evidence, so you can't immediately tell how many B's there are in each figure.

It's certainly not obvious what it all means, and there are several interesting points.  For one thing, it's the third couple who are in charge of the dance.  For another, it shares with “Step Stately” and very few other dances the fact that it has the three standard introductions of Up a Double, Siding and Arming and yet is apparently a progressive dance which is done from each position in turn.  The only other which springs to mind is “Maiden Lane”, and that's a confusing example because in Sharp's interpretation you only do half a hey in the first figure so the set is inverted at the start of the second figure — let's not go into that at the moment!  In Jack Pudding it seems absolutely clear that the set ends in the order 2, 3, 1, so Audrey's version (which doesn't) would have to be substantially better than Freda's to convince me to adopt it.

The first question is “How much music do we need?”.  One of my rules of dance interpretation is that if in doubt you should allow more time for the movements rather than less.  Dancers in 1651 wore heavier clothing than we do, and I don't believe they leapt about the way Sharp's dancers did when he published his interpretations.  The three introductions present no problems, except that when Playford directs the first and second couples to lead up a double and fall back, he presumably means this to be without hands, since the threes are leading up between them.  Let's look at the main part of the first figure.  I can't see any disagreement on the track taken by the third couple: they lead to the top, cast to middle place, cross under both sets of arches, and cast to the bottom.  This leaves them improper, so “whilst the third doe as much” presumably means they do a two-hand turn either half-way or 1½ to finish proper.  How many steps is all that?  Freda's version has only one B for the first figure — 16 steps — which seems very rushed to me.  Assuming the circle for the ones and twos is on the last eight steps, the threes have a mere eight steps in which to lead to the top, cast to second place, cross over under both arches and get out of the way of the circle.  I don't think so.  And what about about that strange phrase “and sit”?  I know some Playford-style callers use the phrase “Have a rest”, but that's normally after the dance is over!  What does Playford mean by “then the first foure hands and round, and sit while the third doe as much”?  My guess is that by “sit” he means “stand doing nothing” — in other words the circle at the top is first, then the threes have their two-hand turn.  And certainly that won't fit into a single B — so why not be conventional and have two B's?  This gives the threes a more reasonable 16 steps in which to finish improper in third place.  Then there are 8 steps for the ones and twos to circle left, and 8 steps for the threes to turn 1½.

After the siding introduction, the second figure starts “Men round”.  Freda assumes this means “Men round the women”, and gives her interpretation an air of respectability by relating it to The Phoenix.  But in The Phoenix, Playford spells the movement out in much more detail: “First man go down on the outside of the Wo. to the last, the rest following.  Take every man a wo. by both hands…” Freda's version doesn't specify the timing, but The Phoenix has 8 steps for the men to go half-way round the women.  This leaves 8 steps for the two lines to cross over, face, and then two-hand turn all the way — very busy, and the men aren't turning their own partners as Playford directs.  It seems more likely to me that “Men round” means “Men circle left”.  Playford's more usual phrases for this are “hands and go round” or “hands round to your places”, but he often leaves things out.  This again takes 8 steps, but this time the cross over leaves the dancers improper so the two-hand turn is only half-way — and you do turn your own partner.  It's still a busy move, so keep it tight, and it would help if after the first half-turn the third man hands his partner up into the ladies' circle.

And so to the third figure.  It seems to be in two halves (presumably B1 and B2) each of which involves the threes leading under an arch, circling with somebody, and finishing in a different place.  The threes can certainly lead up under the ones' arch and wheel right to finish on the outside facing the other two ladies.  And they can circle left with them — but where do they finish, and how can the first couple end in third place when the man has taken no part in the circle?  Freda's version starts the third figure with the set inverted, but I think this unlikely (and again don't quote Sharp's version of Maiden Lane).  Neither version has the arch, which is a pity as in Playford all three figures have people going under arches, and the threes finish facing the men rather than the women.  And in the second half the symmetry is lost because the first and second men have to change places.  Also if the threes keep hold of their partner the whole time, at the end of the second circle they are likely to finish improper.  I'm really not happy about this figure at all.  Audrey's version is smoother and avoids the asymmetry — but it's even less like what Playford says, and I still find the threes finishing improper.

I'm starting from the standard position.  So the threes lead up to the top, under the ones' arch, and wheel round to the right to face the ladies.  This sounds like more than eight steps to me, particularly as the man is on the outside of the wheel around.  But fortunately the next move is less than eight steps.  These four circle left about one quarter, then the third man draws his partner out of the circle so that they are in the middle of the set, proper, facing up, the first lady keeps going to finish at the bottom, and the second lady finishes in top place.  If the ones are to “fall into the 3. place”, the first man needs to cast to the bottom while the second man moves up, and the twos can now make an arch at the top.  The threes lead up, wheel round to the left to finish on the outside facing the men — and my inclination is to circle right at this point, since that's the way the threes are moving.  But now we're in trouble; I can't see any way of finishing that circle with the threes in middle place and the first man at the bottom.

So is there any answer?  John Playford and his contributors certainly made plenty of mistakes, but can we detect the mistake at this distance in time?  I'd been writing this article for English Dance & Song in a hurry (as usual), and hadn't actually worked out this figure until I'd written the article up to here — and I really didn't think I was going to work it out!  The problem is that B1 gets everyone to their progressed places, and I couldn't get B2 to work — it seems strange that if B1 and B2 are symmetrical there can be a progression in B1 but not in B2.  And then I had an inspiration.  As I said earlier, I didn't like the first man casting to the bottom in B1 but it seemed the only answer if the first couple is going to finish B1 in the third couple's place.  But suppose Playford meant that the first woman was to finish in third place while the men stayed where they were?  This means the second arch is now made by the people at the top — the first man and the second woman — rather than the twos as Playford prescribes.  Deciding what Playford got wrong is always tricky: I say that other interpreters aren't following what Playford actually said, and now I'm doing the same thing myself!  But this way the symmetry is preserved: the women progress in B1; the men progress in B2.  And the threes finish in middle place facing up with inside hands joined — just where they want to be to lead up a double at the start of the next turn of the dance.  Is it right?  I don't know.  It's quite awkward for the second woman to finish the circle at the top, ready to arch with the second man — she wants to circle much further.

I published all this in the next edition of English Dance & Song , and finished by saying “If readers have other suggestions for this figure, please write in and give them”.  I had an amazing response to this — four letters, no less.  And if you think I'm being sarcastic here, you're wrong: I frequently wrote what seemed to me controversial articles and got no response at all!

Mike Rothon, an excellent guitarist from the Beckenham and Croydon Group who also does historical dance, said that I had transcribed Playford's original instructions wrongly, and that in the final figure it says that the first couple fall into the 2. place rather than the 3. place.  He says it's clearly a “2” in the 4th edition — and when I looked at my photocopy of the 7th edition it was a “2” there as well.  But if you have the Margaret Dean-Smith facsimile of the first edition, see what you think.  I'm pretty sure that it's a “3” with part of the tail missing, and that when they reset the type for the fourth edition they misread it as a “2”.

Mike suggests that in the first figure the third couple lead up to the top, cross and cast, lead through both arches and finish in their own places (8 bars).  Then the top two couples circle half-way, then the bottom two couples circle half-way — giving a standard progression but with the top two couples finishing improper.  Do this three times and everyone is home.  Clever stuff, eh?!  In the second figure he has yet another interpretation of the phrase “Men round”, suggesting that the men turn single half-way and hold up their hands (2 bars), the ladies go under the arches and turn back (4 bars) and all two-hand turn partner half-way (2 bars).  This is then repeated with the ladies making the arches.  In the third figure he has the ones arching and the threes leading under (4 bars), then these two couples two-hand turn partner half-way (4 bars — rather a lot of music there, I would say).  Now the threes lead under the twos' arch while the twos lead up to take their place at the top, and the threes about turn to circle half-way with the ones.  This gives a standard progression, and twice more will get everybody home, but what's happened to the symmetry?  Anyway, Mike is suggesting six B's for the first and third figures, and two B's for the second.

Jennifer Kiek, Historical Dance teacher from Bromley in Kent, prefers a right-hand arch in both halves of the third figure.  She has the threes continuing the circle movement after letting go of the two ladies, to finish facing down in middle place.  They then lead down through an arch made by second man and first lady, wheel right to face the men, circle left until the threes are in middle place, and again the threes continue the circle movement to finish proper.  As soon as I read the part about facing down I decided that it made a lot of sense, so that's the way I now teach it (as you will see below).

Jim Blagden, the man who collects the money when I dance in Ashford, Middlesex, says he agrees with my interpretation of the first figure, but wonders whether the two-hand turns in the second figure should be all the way rather than just half-way.  The ladies would then circle on the men's side, and the second two-hand turn would get everyone home.  I feel that this would be rather busy.  He also proposes a different explanation of the third figure.  The threes lead up through an arch made by the ones, then about turn and circle all the way with the two ladies (the second lady moving up into the circle and then falling back again) — leaving the threes at the top.  As the ones cast to the third place, the threes lead down through an arch made by the twos, then about turn and circle left with them, finishing 2, 3, 1.  In this version the arches would have to move as well, but Jim rightly points out that the original instructions don't say the threes have to come up under the arch.  It will certainly work, but to my mind once again we have lost the symmetry.

Andrew Shaw, the well-known caller from Manchester, says he has long had a fondness for this dance and enjoys teaching it, partly because the alternative title from the 4th edition onwards is “Merry Andrew”.  He is unconvinced by my interpretation of the first figure, which he feels is based on a very forced interpretation of the phrase “while the third doe as much”.  The second and third figures are meant to be symmetrical, and Andrew would much rather start from the premiss that the first figure is also.  He learnt this version from Tom Cook:

B1:Threes lead up to the top and cast around the twos.  Ones and twos take nearer hands with neighbour and make arches, threes cross straight over, going under both arches; threes cast to the bottom improper while ones and twos circle left half-way, to 2, 1, 3, all improper.
B2:Repeat the whole figure to original places.
Andrew points out that there is no instruction that the threes should finish proper at the end of B1 — only that they should finish in bottom place.

He says he has played around with the final figure for years, feeling (as I do) that when faced with seemingly irresoluble problems the best one can do is devise a figure which accords with the spirit of the original, if not with the letter, and is pleasing to dance.  The following particularly appeals to his purist tendencies for being as close as he can get to the original wording:

B1:Threes with inside hand joined, man in front, lead up the middle under the ones' arch, turn right and go round outside the two ladies who turn right to face out.  Those four circle left half-way; the sides (2nd lady and first lady, first man and second man) move down one place as the threes, keeping inside hands, loop clockwise, moving up slightly, to face down.
B2:Threes with inside hand joined, man in front, lead down the middle under an arch made by second man and first lady at the bottom, turn right and go round outside the two men who turn right to face out.  Those four circle left half-way; twos move up into top place as the threes, keeping inside hands, loop clockwise, moving up slightly, and fall back into middle place.
This is very similar to what I have come up with using Jennifer Kiek's correction.  I describe the circle as a quarter rather than a half, otherwise the second lady will overshoot and then have to fall back into top place.  Andrew also mentions other three-couple dances in the first edition with a progressive third figure: “The Night Piece”, “Millison's Jig” and probably “Shepherds' Holiday” and “Stingo”.  All but the last use variations on a crossing figure found also in “Maiden Lane” — where I think Sharp got the progression wrong, and the whole dance should be done from each of the three positions.  Sharp is obviously worried by “The Night Piece” ending with a progression, since he gives an alternative third figure “in order that the dancers may finish in their proper places”.  He uses the same trick in “Shepherd's Holiday” but presents this as the actual figure rather than an alternative, and he did not try interpreting the other two.  In Boston in the States they use the progressive version of Maiden Lane, and to me it makes a lot of sense.  I noticed Dorothy Frawley complaining in the last issue about callers who go to the States and come back telling people how they do English Country Dancing there, but the fact is that people over there take their Playford very seriously and think hard about it; I don't see why we shouldn't benefit from their fresh ideas.

Andrew says that Freda Tomlinson's version of “Jack Pudding” was evidently widely taught in its day, and many dancers in his area remember learning the dance from Olive Macnamara and William Ganiford.  He believes that Audrey Towns' revision addresses the difficulty of the third figure well and will be most useful to those dancers who find it difficult to drastically change the way they are used to doing the dance.

Jack Pudding

Format: 3 Couples longways.  Interpretation: Colin Hume, 1998.

Music: 3 x Own tune (two B's in each figure)

First Figure:
A:Ones and twos up a double and back twice (dropping hands as necessary) while threes lead up 8 steps, change hands and lead back.
B1:Threes lead up to the top and cast around the ones.  Arch on the sides with neighbour (ones and twos take nearer hands with neighbour and make arches), threes cross straight over, going under both arches, cast to the bottom improper and wait!
B2:Ones and twos circle left.  Threes two-hand turn 1½ to place.
Second Figure:
A:Side right shoulder to right.  Side left.
B1:Men circle left, open out and raise your joined hands to make arches.  All cross right shoulder with partner, ladies going under the arches, and turn to the right; immediately two-hand turn partner half-way to place.
B2:Ladies circle left.  All cross right shoulder with partner, men going under the arches; two-hand turn partner half-way to place.
Third Figure:
A1:Arm right.  Arm left.
B1:Tops (ones) face down and make a single-hand arch while threes lead up under the arch and wheel round to the right.  Threes continue wheeling to face the two ladies (who turn to their right to face them), then these four circle left about a quarter, threes continue wheeling clockwise to finish in the middle of the set facing down, first lady keep going to the bottom, second lady finish in top place — and the second man needs to move down to bottom place ready to make an arch.
B2:Bottoms (second man and first lady) face up and arch while threes lead down under the arch and wheel round to the right.  Threes face the two men, then these four circle left about a quarter, threes continue wheeling clockwise to finish in the middle of the set facing up, finishing back in a longways set in the order 2, 3, 1.

Repeat the whole dance twice more, so that each couple in turn lead the three figures.

As I say in “Playford with a Difference”, I am not trying to claim that my version is right and everybody else's is wrong, just that there is more than one possible interpretation.

Anyway, that's my version; see what you think.  I've used into-line siding, since I believe that's what they did in Playford's time, but if you're into “banana” siding that's fine by me.

In 2012, Ann Hinchliffe from Yeovil wrote via this web page:

Have you come across the Lovelace manuscript, the dances in which are likely to date from around 1630-40, according to Carol Marsh's “Preliminary Study” (Freiburg, 2004)?  Its layout for Jack Pudding is an eye-opener; I haven't yet worked out all the figures but suspect it may answer lots of questions.  Layout also slightly confirmed by MS Sloane 3858 which seems to describe Jack Pudding layout as triangle.
A triangle (with the ones and twos side-by-side but separated, and the threes behind them) would certainly allow the ones and twos to lead up a double and back twice while the threes lead up eight steps and back, but I haven't seen either of the manuscripts she mentions.  So I may revisit this dance!

Jamaica        Jamaica: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Source: Dancing Master 4th edition 1670: John Playford.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, about 2000.

Original wording:

The first man take his wo. by the right hand, then with his left, and so holding hands, change places, then do the same to the 2. wo.  the first wo. and the 2. man do the same  :   Then fall back from your own, the first Cu. being in the second place, go the Figure of 8.  .   Do this to the last.
The first man take hands with the 2. wo. and turn her round, the first wo. and the 2. man do as much  :   Then the two men take hands, and the two we. take hands, and turn once and a half, and then turn your own  .   Do this to the last.
In England if you announced “Jamaica” people would line up in 4 couple sets, expecting to do the very popular version by Tom Cook, whereas in the States they would expect to do the longways version by Cecil Sharp.  When I looked at Sharp's version I didn't agree with it, so I thought I would publish my version here; I know other people will have come up with the same thing.

I'm ignoring the fact that in the 7th edition (from which I took the above instructions) both figures have the underlined dots the wrong way round — suggesting that the band would play the B music and then the A music!

Sharp has

First man and first woman fall back two small steps, and then go the Figure-Eight…
but why would they want to fall back two small steps before a figure eight?  I think it's much more likely that they fall back a double, come forward a double and then do a half figure eight which puts them back on their own sides.  Sharp then has a footnote:

In the next round the first couple will be proper, the second couple improper.  Couples will be alternately proper and improper throughout the movement.  If on their wrong sides, partners should change places when neutral.
This sounds very unlikely, and without any confirmation from Playford.  And I can't see that it makes sense anyway; the twos remain proper throughout and the second time through the ones would be turning a same-sex neighbour.

In Playford's day the top couple would have started the dance with the next couple, then they would have progressed to the next, and so on all the way down the set as ones and all the way back up as twos.  They would then started the second figure (while other people were still doing the first figure), and again gone all the way down and back, when they would have waited until all the other couples were back to their original places.  Sharp obviously intends to follow the two-part pattern.  At the start of the second part he says:

Partners, who are on their wrong sides, change places.
But it's only a 16-bar figure, so I much prefer to alternate the two figures (unlike my approach in “The 29th of May”, admittedly).  The other decision is for the ones to fall back with their neighbours before the half figure eight, and for everyone to do the final two-hand turn.  I imagine both these moves were for the ones alone; if Playford had intended the twos to join in he would have said so.


Format: longways duple, double progression.  Interpretation: Colin Hume, around 2000.

A1:Ones give right hands, give left; turn partner half-way.  Same with neighbour.
B1:Fall back a double with neighbour; lead forward.  Ones half figure eight up through the twos.
A2:In new fours, first corners two-hand turn.  Second corners two-hand turn.
B2:Two-hand turn neighbour 1½ (skip-change).  Two-hand turn partner once (walk).

Love's Triumph        Love's Triumph: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Source: Dancing Master Volume 2, 1st edition 1713: John Young.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2007.
Format: Longways duple minor

Original wording:

All four meet and turn single, then Hands half round  .   The first Couple meet the third Couple and turn single, then Hands half round  :   The first Couple being in the third Couple's Place, cast up into the second Couple's Place, then Back to Back with your partner, then turn single, and Right and Left quite round with the second Couple  .   The first Couple being in the second Couple's Place, the first Man turn the third Woman, and the first Woman the second Man, then the first Man turn the third Man, and the first Woman turn the second Woman, then Back to Back with your partners, then lead thro' the second Couple and cast off, and lead thro' the third Couple and cast up  : 
The music consists of an eight-bar A and a 16-bar B, and the instructions indicate that each is played twice.  Looking at the similarity of A1 and A2 we conclude that A1 starts with first and second couple meeting.  Even that has two possible meanings: each couple leads to meet the other couple, or all four people move towards the centre of their foursome.  I would incline to the first interpretation, since the next part says “The first Couple meet the third Couple” rather than “The first and third Couple meet” but I don't feel strongly about it.  However, “Hands half round” surely means the two couples circle left half-way, which is not very far to go in eight steps.  Leaving this aside for the moment, the two A's finish with twos at the top improper, threes improper, ones proper.  Bernard Bentley interpreted this dance in Fallibroome 1, published in 1962, and he does the first turn single with people turning towards their partner and the second with them turning away.  This strikes me as unnecessarily fussy and likely to go wrong, and has no justification that I can see; I would suggest a turn single right to go into the circle left both times.

The start of the B is surely directed to the ones alone — cast up to the middle place, back-to-back and turn single.  Bernard Bentley has everyone doing the back-to-back and turn single, which may make it more interesting for the twos and threes but is less likely.  This is also one of the many cases where he gives instructions without explaining how they fit the music.

1st couple cast up into middle place.  All back to back and turn single.  1st and 2nd couples four changes of a hey.
The full stop (period) after “place” suggests that there are eight steps for the cast up, then eight steps for a back-to-back with a turn single tacked onto the end.  But is this likely?  What is the usual purpose of a turn single (when it's not part of the composite “set and turn single”)?  Surely it's a device to use up two bars of music without going anywhere, as in the A part!  So it seems more likely to me that it's four steps to cast up, eight steps (across the music, admittedly) for the back-to-back and four for the turn single.  Then there are four steps for each of the four changes at the top, as we would expect.  Whatever the timing, we now have the ones proper in middle place, as is very common in a triple minor dance — but the twos and threes are improper.  And looking at the rest of the instructions, they never have a chance to get back to their own sides.  Bernard Bentley gets round this, and at the same time converts the dance from triple minor to a three-couple set, by changing the ending (the ones leading down through the threes and casting back up to middle place) to:
Lead through the 3rd couple, who move up.  All half-turn with the left hand.
He has the ones improper at this point, so it works — but is that a cop-out ending or what?!  I just can't accept it.  I think things went wrong right at the start — the twos and threes got improper in the circle left half-way, and there seemed far too much music for that.  So instead of a spurious left-hand turn at the end, how about doing a circle left half-way followed by a two-hand turn partner half-way in A1 and A2?  Of course you can say this is just as much an invention as Bentley's half left-hand turn, but to my mind it has two major advantages: it fits the music much better, and it's more conventional.  By 1713 English Country Dances had become much more standardised than they were when John Playford started publishing them in 1651.  The “longways for as many as will” was king, and there were no dances with the quirkiness of Dargason, Newcastle or many of the other early set dances.  It's just so unlikely that the twos and threes would spend the majority of the dance improper, that I'm prepared to say it must be wrong.

So, let's have everyone proper at the start of the B section.  The second half is a perfectly standard finish: the ones lead up through the twos and cast back to middle place, then lead down through the threes and cast up to middle place.  We can be confident that this will take sixteen steps — the second eight bars of B2.  So we have sixteen steps available for the turns and the back-to-back.  Notice that this time Playford describes the back-to-back as “with your partners” rather than “with your partner” as earlier, implying that all three couples do it.  But how can we fit the move in?  I can see one possibility, which is to do two-hand turns and drift from the first to the second.  So the first man goes down to do a two-hand turn with the third woman until he is below her, leaves her and turns her partner about half-way to finish where all this started.  The first woman is doing the mirror image at the other end.  But again it's such an unconventional move that I find it hard to believe, and it would be very busy to do all that in eight steps and have everybody ready for the back-to-back.  Bernard Bentley presumably felt the same way — he just leaves out the back-to-back without mentioning the fact.  So if we leave it out, we can do what I feel is more likely — a right-hand turn with the first person about three-quarters and a left-hand turn with that person's partner about one and a quarter.  However this leaves the first woman moving down the set, and the next move is the ones leading up.  Bernard Bentley's version has the turns on the other sides, since the twos and threes are improper, and this finishes with the ones coming in to meet from side positions.  My solution, for which I have absolutely no justification, is for the ones to meet after the two turns with a gipsy left three-quarters to finish facing up, proper.  It will work, and I suggest flowing from one turn to the next to the gipsy without worrying about how many steps you need for each move.  Do I think it's right?  Probably not, but I think it's more right than the Fallibroome version!  I agree with Bernard Bentley that for today's dancers it's a good idea to convert this from a triple minor to a three couple set, so instead of the ones leading down and casting up at the end I have the ones leading down and turning single away while the threes cast up to middle place.

Another approach is to switch hands for the turns.  The ones would then be going through the couple to start each of the turns — left with first corner, right with that person's partner — and would meet coming in from the side of the set, ready to lead up through the top couple.  But it seems natural to start with the right hand, especially having just done four changes which finish with a left hand.  And as usual the woman has the awkward transition; she's just done a left change with the top woman and she has to turn back on herself to turn the top man — she really doesn't want to think about giving the same hand twice in a row.  So I still prefer a right-hand turn first, even though we need the gipsy left to get the woman in position for the lead up.

Love's Triumph

Format: 3 couples longways.  Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2007.

A1:Ones and twos lead towards neighbour, acknowledge; turn single right to place.  Circle left half-way; two-hand turn partner half-way.
A2:Ones and threes the same at the bottom, finishing 2, 3, 1.
B1:(16 bars):  Ones cast up to middle, threes lead down (4 steps); ones back-to-back partner (8 steps); ones turn single right (4 steps).
 Ones and twos: four changes with hands.
B2:Ones right-hand turn first corner, left-hand turn that person's partner, ones gipsy left ¾ and face up.
 Ones lead up through twos; cast back to middle place.  Lead down to bottom place (threes cast up); turn single away.

Mad Moll        Mad Moll: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this danceRecordings

Source: Dancing Master 9th Edition, 1695: Henry Playford.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2007.
Format: Longways duple minor

Original wording:

The 1. cu. take hands and draw into the 2. cu. place, the 2. cu. at the same time hands to the 1. cu. place; then each cu back to back with their Partners  .   The 2. cu. does the same, which brings the 1. and 2. cu as they began  :   All 4 Right-hands a-cross half round, then Left-hands a-cross back again to the same  .   Then the 1. cu. cross over above the 2. cu. to the 2. cu place, then go the whole Figure of Eight, which brings the 1. cu. to the 2. proper

I had never heard of this one until I played the “Interesting Times” CD by Momentum.  It's a good lively slip-jig, so before my next booking with them I looked at the original instructions.  It didn't seem complicated.  The music has two A's and two B's, each of which is twelve beats (four bars).  I know that “Draw poussettes” are fashionable these days, but I believe they are a twentieth century invention (or rather misunderstanding) — see my essay on Poussette — so I'm using the normal push-pull poussette, though either would work.  Three steps to push, three to pull and six for the back-to-back sounds fine to me.  For the stars I would just specify six steps each, and not worry that with a walk or skip you will actually get more than half-way round in that time.  So what about the final twelve steps?  For once the phrase “Cross over” is qualified by “to the 2. cu place”, so there's no arguing about it — it's a cross and cast, which is tight in six steps but can be done if the twos move as required.  I would probably dance this with a single-skip — not a skip-change which doesn't fit a slip-jig.  But then Playford says “whole Figure of Eight”.  This is certainly not possible in six steps, and anyway would leave the ones on the wrong side; having crossed over they need to do a half figure of eight to finish proper.  Usually Playford says “Go the figure” and leaves the interpreter to decide whether it's a half or a whole, but in this case he's been very specific and yet it's not possible.  My conclusion is that whoever contributed the dance got it wrong — possibly he had forgotten that the ones would start the move improper.  To me this seems the minimum change necessary to make the dance work, and I really don't believe anyone is going to come up with a better version!

Mad Moll

A1:(4 bars): Half poussette, first man pull (6 steps).  All back-to-back partner.
A2:Half poussette, second man pull.  All back-to-back partner.
B1:(4 bars): Right-hand star (6 steps).  Left-hand star, and I suggest at the end of this the ones give left hand to partner so that they can pull by (left shoulder) into the next figure.
B2:Ones cross and cast; twos lead up (6 steps, single-skip).  Ones half figure eight up (single-skip).

The Mask        The Mask: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Source: Dancing Master Appendix to the 7th Edition, 1688: Henry Playford.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, around 1992.
Format: Longways duple minor

Original wording:

Note: The first Strain twice, and the last but once over.

The first man goes above the first woman into the second womans place, the second woman into the second mans place, and the second man into the first mans place ; then all four turn single.

The first woman goes above the second man into the second womans place, the second man into the first womans place, and the second woman into the second mans place ; then all four turn single.
All four hands across half round ; then fall back, and hands across half round.  Back again.  Then lead to the wall the two men, and the two women at the same time.  The other do the like.  Then all four meet and jump, and clap hands , then take hands half round, and so cast off; then lead down,and the other lead up; then all four meet and jump,and clap hands all together ; then turn their own Partners.

The tune is a notey jig, which suggests to me that it should not be played too fast, with an 8-bar A, an 8-bar B and repeat marks for both (despite the instructions saying the last strain is played but once over).  The first paragraph seems straightforward, though busy for the first man.  The second is straightforward once we realise that “place” means “current place”, and we finish with the twos above the ones, all improper.  It's odd that although there are horizontal lines dividing the three paragraphs, the first two seem to be four bars each and the third must therefore be the remaining 24 bars, but I don't see how we could elongate the first and second paragraphs to 16 beats each.  “All four hands across half round” presumably means “right-hand star half-way”, then fall back on the side.  If we remove the full stop and capital “B” from “hands across half round.  Back again.” it means “Left-hand star back again”, and presumably having fallen back you need to lead forward before doing this.  Then the men lead to the wall, and the women do the same — but who are “The other” who are supposed to do the like?  I feel inclined to miss out the “jump, and clap hands” — maybe that's just personal prejudice.  “Take hands half round” presumably means circle left half-way, which gets everyone home, then “and so cast off” is directed at the ones, giving the progression.  In total, “Lead out, lead back, circle half, ones cast” sounds like eight bars, so we provisionally assign this to B1.  The phrase “then lead down” is directed at the ones, and this time it's clear that “the other” means the twos.  So the couples lead away from each other, lead back, and turn partners, giving B2.  I had envisaged this as being a very short lead, acknowledging new neighbours before turning and leading back, but when I called the dance both sets decided that the ones would lead down the centre and the twos would move individually up the outside, so I think I will stick with that version.

The Mask

A1:First man cross, go round partner to second lady's place while twos move one place clockwise; all turn single.  First lady cross, go round to second man's place while twos move round one place clockwise; all turn single.
A2:Right-hand star half (home); fall back with neighbour.  Lead forward; left-hand star half-way.
B1:Lead neighbour out to the wall; change hands, lead back.  Circle left half-way (home); ones cast, twos lead up.
B2:Ones lead down, twos move up the outside; come back.  All two-hand turn partner, fall back.

I have missed out “jump, and clap hands” half-way through B1 and B2.

Millison's Jig        Added 3-May-13Millison's Jig: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Source: Dancing Master 1st Edition, 1651: John Playford.
Formation: 3 couples longways.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2011.

Original wording:

Lead up all a D. forwards and back  .  That again  : 

First man take his wo. by both hands and four slips up, and stand, the much, the much, turn all S.  .  Third Cu.four slips down, the much, first as much, turn all single  : 

Sides all  .  That again  : 

First Cu.change places, the much, the much, turn S.  .  Third Cu.change places, the much, first as much, turn all single  : 

Arms all  .  That again  : 

First man change places with the 2. Wo. first Wo. change with the 2.the last change with his own, turn S.  .  First man change with the last wo. first wo.change with the last man, tother change, turn single  : 

No difficulties of interpretation, and I'm sure other people have come up with exactly the same version.  In the third figure it seems obvious that “first Wo. change with the 2.” means “first Wo. change with the” and that “tother” (or “t'other”) means “the other couple”, in other words the twos who are at the top.  The dance is very similar to “Black Nag” (which first appears in the 4th edition of 1670), but is progressive — the ones finish at the bottom and the twos and threes have moved up.  This means you need to do the whole dance three times through (nine times through the tune) to get everyone home, so it's ideal for a Zesty Playford session!

Millison's Jig

First Figure:
A:Up a double and back.  That again.
B1:Ones give two hands and slip up; twos the same.  Threes the same; all turn single.
B2:Back in reverse order.
Second Figure:
A:Side right shoulder to right.  Side left.
B1:Ones change places; twos the same.  Threes the same; all turn single.
B2:Back in reverse order.
Third Figure:
A:Arm right.  Arm left.
B1:First man second lady cross; first lady second man cross.  Threes cross; all turn single.
B2:First man third lady cross; first lady third man cross.  Twos cross; all turn single.

Mr Beveridge's Maggot        Print this dance

Source: Dancing Master 11th Edition, 1701: Henry Playford.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2007.

Original wording:

Note: The first Strain twice, and the last but once over.

The 1. Man cross over and go back to back with the 2. Wo. then the 1. Wo. cross over and go back to back with the 2.Man at the same time  .  Then meet and turn S.then 1. Man turn the 2. Wo. with his Right-hand, and 1. Wo. turn the 2. Man with her Right-hand at the same time, then 1. cu. take Left-hands and turn into their own places  :  The 1. cu cross over into the 2. cu. place, and go back to back with their Partner, then all four lead up hands a-breast, then go the Figure through, and cast off into the 2. cu. place  . 

The tune is in three-time: four bars for each A and eight bars for the B.

The two best-known interpretations are by Cecil Sharp (with two B's) and Pat Shaw (with one B).  Playford says there is only one B and I see no reason to doubt him.  It also seems clear that the back-to-back in the B section is for the ones alone, whereas Sharp has both couples doing it.

A quick look at Playford's instructions might lead us to think that the first man does the move and then the first woman does it, but then we notice that A1 ends with “at the same time”.  Sharp says “First man and first woman cross over and change places”, but one assumes there would be some kind of acknowledgement to fill out the six steps.  Shaw's version uses a “Hole in the Wall” cross — three steps for the ones to cross and face, finishing close together, and three steps to fall back from each other.  This can be a beautiful and satisfying movement, but I don't know any historical justification for it; Playford's instructions for “Hole in the Wall” just say “The 1. Man cross over with the 2. Wo. and the 1. Wo with the 2. Man”.  There's also the odd feeling that having done this intimate movement with your partner you immediately abandon them to dance with your neighbour.

Sharp gives six steps for the ones to turn single and then do a right-hand turn all the way with their neighbour, which I simply don't believe.  To me the most worrying part in Shaw's version is that the right-hand turn with neighbour is across the music: three steps for the ones to turn single, six steps for a right-hand turn with neighbour, three steps for the ones to do a left-hand turn half-way to place.  There's another version where the ones do a turn single on the end of the back-to-back with their neighbour — but why would they do this?  Surely Playford would have indicated such an unusual move more clearly.  And that would also ignore “Then meet” which Playford puts before the turn single.

And then Victoria Bestock reminded me of the rule which I keep stressing in my notes on dance interpretation: “Cross over” means “Cross and cast”.  Suddenly the whole thing fell into place!  The ones cross over and cast below the twos who move up or lead up — certainly feasible in six steps.  These days people assume that a back-to-back is right shoulder unless told otherwise, but that's just a default — this move would naturally flow into a symmetrical back-to-back with neighbours, the ones moving up the centre to start and then falling back down the outside, finishing somewhat further away from each other than they would normally be.  Then of course they can meet and turn single.  I suggest turning single downwards, so that they both turn three-quarters — probably the same reason why Pat Shaw has them turning upwards in his version.  So this could be well-phrased to the music: three steps to meet, then three steps to turn single ¾.  Victoria has all four meeting and turning single, on the principle of giving the twos more to do, but she agrees that having just the ones move is probably more historically accurate.  And then three steps for a right-hand turn neighbour half-way and three steps for the ones to left-hand turn half-way.

For the B part I have no argument with Pat Shaw's version except that he specifies the ones crossing right shoulder and after a left-hand turn I find it more natural to cross left shoulder.  This time Playford actually says that the one are crossing into the twos' place, and now we see the symmetry of the two halves — they both start with the same move, then the first half has ones back-to-back with neighbour while the second half has ones back-to-back with partner.  Obviously the twos need to move up in order for the ones to move into their places, and one of my principles is that you shouldn't suddenly have to turn back on yourselves, so after the twos moving up it's surely better for them to keep moving forward and casting onto the end of the line rather than separating and falling back.  (Using the same principle I would suggest that when the twos lead up at the start of the A figure they should turn out to flow into the symmetrical back-to-back.)  Three steps to lead up and three to lead back leaves us with six steps for the final move.  The phrase “go the Figure through” means a figure of eight or half a figure of eight; the question is whether to bend the line as it falls back so that it's a real half figure eight, or whether the ones start the move from the centre of the line.  If it were eight steps I would vote for the first option, but with only six steps the second seems a better bet.

Mr Beveridge's Maggot

Format: Longways duple minor.  Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2007.

A:Ones cross and cast below the twos, twos meet, lead up and turn out to face down (6 steps); symmetrical back-to-back neighbour, ones leading up the middle to start (6 steps).  Ones meet (3 steps), turn single downwards (3 steps); right-hand turn neighbour half-way (3 steps), ones left-hand turn half-way to place (3 steps).
B:Ones cross left shoulder and cast below the twos, twos meet and lead up (6 steps); ones back-to-back while twos cast to the end of a line facing up.  Lead up three steps and back; ones cross and cast while twos move in and lead up.

Mr Isaac's Maggot        Mr Isaac's Maggot: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Source: Dancing Master 9th Edition, 1695: Henry Playford.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 1996.

Original wording

The 1. man turn the 2. wo. with his Right-hand, and cast off below the 2. man, the 1. wo. turn the 2. man with her Right-hand, and cast off below the 2. wo.  : 

The two men take hands and fall back, the two we. doing the same at the same time, all four meet and turn S. then go the whole Figure thro' then all four hands a-breast, and then lead thro' and cast off  : 

Note: Each Strain is to be play'd twice over.

Here's another one where it's difficult to see how Sharp came up with his version.  I've run Dance Interpretation workshops where (without giving the title) I've read out Playford's words and invited the dancers to follow them, and they tend to come up with my version without any prompting — just a reminder that the instructions are usually addressed to the ones and that “go the whole Figure through” means a figure of eight.  So why did Sharp have the first man turning the second lady until she was home but he was below the second man, then casting up rather than off, to finish in his original place?  I don't know.  And then having established this odd procedure, he had to change the first woman's turn from right-hand to left-hand to make it symmetrical.

Garth Notley has pointed out that the original says each strain is to be placed twice — I had misread this (and mispublished it) as once.  His interpretation can be seen at and indeed uses two A's and two B's, but having used the first A music for the turns and casts he then has to fill up the second A and both B's with what I have shown as the second paragraph in the original wording, and I just don't believe it, though he has pointed out that he would take the dance faster than me and would use steps rather than walking — as they would have done in 1701.  I know the easy way out of interpretation problems is to say “Clearly this is an error”, but I think it more likely that the editor or printer got one word wrong than that the dance is really supposed to be twice as long as the instructions seem to indicate.  And notice that there are no underlined single dots to show where A1 and A2 are supposed to end, just underlined double dots for the end of (presumably) A2 and B2.  I'm going for a single A and B.

The A-music is 8 bars of three-time, the second half clearly related to the first half but resolving on the tonic rather than the dominant.  Twelve steps for a turn all the way and a cast seems perfectly reasonable.  Notice that the dance is not as symmetric as it appears on paper, because when the first woman turns the second man he is directly opposite her rather than diagonally below her — maybe that's why Sharp changed it.

The B-music is 12 bars of three-time, clearly in three chunks of four bars.  Sharp has neighbours falling back for six steps (usually problematic), leading forward for three and moving forward turning single for three.  Another possibility is to fall back for three, lead forward for three, and turn single for six.  Either way, that will fill the first chunk of four bars.  The second chunk is then “go the whole Figure thro'”.  Notice that in the first and third chunk it actually says “all four” — the default is that instructions are addressed to the ones, so they alone do the second chunk.  This gives them twelve steps for a full figure eight — possible with a skip-step (not a skip-change, which goes across the phrasing of the bars), though not comfortable with a walk step.  I assume that they have to go slightly further, to finish in the middle of a line facing up.  It's certainly busy, which is why I would not want to go into it from a turn single while moving forwards, so my money is on taking six steps to do the turn single and be ready for the figure of eight.  Another suggestion is to fall back for three steps, come forward turning single for three steps, and then use the second half of the C music and all the D music to give a comfortable six bars (eighteen steps) for the figure of eight.  I really don't think this makes musical sense — surely the figure eight needs to start at the start of a line of music.  The C music is in two identical halves, making it even more unlikely that you would start something so different for the second half.  In fact the D music is in a different style from the rest of the tune — it's busy and dotted whereas the rest is smooth and flowing, as if the music were saying “You need to get a move on here”.  Then “hands a-breast” I would take to mean lead up three steps and fall back three steps.  The final instructions are addressed to the ones: they're not exactly leading through the twos, but they're leading up from the line before casting off.

I've split the instructions into four-bar chunks.

Mr Isaac's Maggot

Format: Longways duple minor.  Interpretation: Colin Hume, 1996.

Each paragraph is four bars of three-time.

A:First man right-hand turn second lady (all the way), then cast to second place, second man moving up.
B:First lady right-hand turn second man, then cast to second place, second lady moving up.
C:All fall back three steps with neighbour; lead forward.  Turn single (6 steps).
D:Ones dance a full figure eight up through the twos (skip-step), finishing between them in the middle of a line facing up.
E:Lead up three steps and back (stay in the line).  Ones lead up and cast while twos meet in progressed place.

Never Love Thee More        Never Love Thee More: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Source: Dancing Master, 7th edition 1686: John Playford.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 1996.
Format: Longways duple minor

Original wording:

Honour to the Presence, then to your own.  Lead up all forward and back, that again.
The first man back to back on the right of his wo. and back to back on the left hand of his wo. to their own places, then cross over the second Cu and the Hay through the second Cu.
Next, hands half round and fall back all four, then side over to one another's places, then right hands being across, go half round, then left hands being given across, go half round.

This is not particularly controversial or original, but someone was looking for it on my website so I thought I might as well put it here.

The musical notation is an unbroken tune of 16 bars with no repeats, but I find it easier to think of it as one A and one B of 8 bars each.  The horizontal lines in the instructions suggest that there are three figures, but most people would accept that the first is an introduction and would be performed once only.  I have always seen the dance finish with the introduction in reverse, so I have followed this practice in my interpretation, but I don't know any historical justification for it.

So the first real figure starts with the ones doing a back-to-back right shoulders and a back-to-back left shoulders.  We assume the woman moves too, particularly as Playford ends “to their own places” rather than “to his own place”.  These days the twos would expect to do the move as well.  I'm not arguing with that, though it's worth pointing out that dances which have everyone doing a back-to-back or a two hand turn can be very crowded, and in Playford's day it would have been just one couple doing the move and the other couple watching.  That's 8 bars, fitting what I'm calling the A-music.  As usual, we remember that “cross over” means “cross and cast”, so the ones cross and cast below the twos who move up.  Eight steps for that, leaving eight for “and the Hay thrrough the second Cu.”.  They certainly can't do a hey (reel of four) with the second couple in that time.  They could do half a hey, but I think Playford would have given more instructions for such an unusual movement.  My guess is that by “Hay” the instructions mean “half figure eight”, giving a very standard sequence of moves to produce a progression.  It would be clearer if the book had said “go the figure”, but there were many contributors to Playford's book and they didn't all phrase things in the same way.  Certainly this works, fits the music and gets the ones and twos to their correct progressed positions.

The second figure starts with circle left half-way and fall back (presumably with neighbour).  The phrase “then side over to one another's places” is unorthodox, and I don't believe it has any connection with “siding” or (as Playford would have phrased it) “Sides all”.  Sharp's interprets this as “Partners cross over and change places”; I would prefer four steps to come forward, hesitate, then four to cross right shoulder and turn to the right to face partner.  All of that fits the A-music.  The B-music then has right-hand star and left-hand star.  It's quite common for the original instructions to specify “half round”, and this may be because of the steps they were using; with a walk or a skip-change I would certainly opt for the stars going all the way round.

In Playford's day they would have done the first figure all the way down the set and back, then the top couple would have started second figure (while couples below them were still doing the first figure).  Because each is only 16 bars long, Sharp has joined them together into one 32-bar figure.  But (of course) each figure has a progression, and in Sharp's day no-one had heard of a double progression.  I imagine that's why he changed the B part of the first figure to the ones doing a full figure eight down through the twos and thus starting the next move with the same couple.  I'd prefer to admit that these were originally two separate figures and do a double progression dance.

Many years after I had come up with this version, I discovered that Pat Shaw did it the same way — and I expect other people have come up with the same version independently.

Never Love Thee More

Format: Longways duple minor.  Interpretation: Colin Hume, 1996.

Double progression

A:Step right and honour presence; and left.  Partner same.
B:Up a double and back.  That again.
A1:Back-to-back partner.  Bacl-to-back left shoulder.
B1:Ones cross, go below twos; twos lead up.  Ones half figure eight up.  [First progression]
A2:With the next couple, circle left half-way; fall back with neighbour.  Lead forward; cross over with partner.
B2:Right-hand star.  Left-hand star.
A:Up a double and back.  That again.
B:Step and honour partner.  Step and honour the presence.

Newcastle        Print this dance

Source: Dancing Master, 1st edition 1651: John Playford.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 1996.
Format: Square

Original wording:

Meet all, back againe, set to your owne, and to the next  . That againe  : 

Armes all with your owne by the right, men all fall with your left hands into the middle, We. go round them to your places  .  Armes againe with your owne, and We. left hands in, men goe about them towards the left to your places  : 

Sides all with your owne, and change places with them  .  Sides with the next, and change places with them  : 

The first man and 3. Wo. take hands and meet, the first Wo. and 3. man, lead out againe then holding up your hands, the other foure cast off and come under your armes to their places  .  The other foure the like  : 

Armes all with your We. and change places  .  Armes with the next and change places  :  Now every man is with his owne Wo. in the Co. place.

Fall back from each other, foure and foure a brest to each wall, turn and change places with your opposites  .  Fall back from each other foure and foure along the roome, turn S. change places with your opposite  :  So each falls into his place as at first.

Rather to my surprise, dancers in both England and the States seem quite willing to have a go at Mike Barraclough's interpretation of “Nonesuch” published in the first volume of “Playford with a Difference”, and some of them have said they prefer it to the Cecil Sharp version.  So again I'm rushing in where angels fear to tread — this time looking at that other classic Sharp dance, “Newcastle”.  Again, I'm sure some people will be horrified.  You get the same response from people who go to church regularly, believe themselves committed Christians or whatever, yet refuse to listen if anybody questions any article of faith.  They're saying: “This is what I've been taught; how dare you question it?” That's not real faith; it may be comfortable but it doesn't have any solid foundation.  Anyway, we wouldn't want to make a religion out of Sharp's interpretations — would we?

One problem is that “Newcastle” is so well-known that you can read through the original wording and convince yourself it actually says what you expected it to say — that's why proof-reading is such a difficult job.  So let's actively look for other possible meanings.

The tune is a reel with a standard 8-bar A- and B-music, so we would assume each figure to be 32 bars unless there were good reasons to think otherwise.

The first introduction doesn't say whether you take hands in a ring, take just your partner's hand (as in “Up a double and back”) or do it without hands.  I'm not disagreeing with Sharp — I think it's a gesture of solidarity at the start of a challenging dance, and the fact that you are all “meeting” rather than “going forward a double” makes the joining of hands a natural thing to do — but can you afford to be dogmatic about it?!  “Set to your owne, and to the next” — which next?  Well, of course he means your corner — that's how I learnt it!  But if I said in an American Square: “Swing your partner, and swing the next”, you'd probably pass your partner by and the man would swing his right-hand lady.  In fact that's what I believe “the next” means in the second and third figures.  I'm not saying that's what it means in the first figure, but it's an interesting possibility, particularly when we discover that the second and third introductions (most unusually) are where the progressions occur.

Arm right” we think we understand (but who knows — maybe it actually meant a right-hand turn) and “men all fall with your left hands into the middle” must surely mean a left-hand star.  We assume the men take their star round rather than just standing there while the women dance round the outside — but Playford doesn't actually say so.  If he'd written “Men left hands across” I'd be more comfortable about it — but these are all minor issues, just to get you thinking about other possibilities behind these seemingly straightforward words.  He does however say “to your places”, which means to me that the star and the single file are once around rather than half-way as some people have suggested.  For some reason Sharp doesn't want to use the phrase “arm right”, even though that's what Playford says; instead he has “Partners link right arms and swing round once”.

However, now we come to a serious disagreement with Sharp.  If the men are doing a left-hand star and the next instruction is “Armes againe with your owne”, the natural, obvious thing would be to arm right again.  If Playford had really meant “arm left”, wouldn't he have said so?  Then he says: “Women left hands in” which nails it down.  And finally, to make absolutely sure that no-one could be in any doubt, he says that the “men goe about them towards the left”.  That's not ambiguous, the way some of the things I've mentioned earlier are; it's perfectly clear.  Sharp dismisses it (in the introduction to part VI of “The Country Dance Book”, 1922) with:

The second half of this figure was intended no doubt to be complementary to and symmetrical with the first; but it is not so noted.  The last sentence should of course read: “Armes again with your owne by the left, and We. right hands in, men goe about them towards the right to your places.”
Who would have dared to question Sharp about this?  But times have changed, and I'm always suspicious when someone uses phrases like “no doubt” and “of course”.  Sharp has deliberately changed it to an arm left, even though this makes an awkward transition from the previous movement.  So why did he do this?  I think there were two reasons.  First, he wanted the symmetry of an arm right followed by an arm left.  And if it was in the introduction to the third figure I would totally agree with him — but it's half-way through the first figure, which is quite a different context.  And second, if the women do a left-hand star and the men go round clockwise you end in your partner's place facing the wrong direction.  Perhaps Playford was aware of this, and that's why he again specified “to your places” to make sure the dancers realise they've got to get home.  There really isn't a problem; you just do a gypsy right half-way as you meet, and I'm sure you've noticed that the women have to skip round the outside much faster than the men do, because the second arming (whichever arm you use) is only half-way.  But to go from that into Cecil Sharp siding is an abrupt change of direction.  Guess what — if you side into line right shoulder to right, one movement flows perfectly into the other.

In fact Dick Shilton has pointed out to me that in the first (1911) and second (1913) editions of Part II, Sharp does use arm right both times.  It's not until the 3rd edition (1927) that it becomes arm right and then arm left.  The first and second editions say

B2   1 — 2     Partners link right arms and swing round three-quarters of a circle.
        3 — 8     Women left-hands-across, counter-clockwise, to places (sk.s.); while men skip round them, clockwise, to places, not joining hands.

whereas the third edition says

B2   1 — 2     Partners link left arms and swing once round (r.s.).
        3 — 8     Women right-hands-across, clockwise, to places (r.s.); while men skip round them, counter-clockwise, to places, not joining hands.

So the siding is with “your owne”, which confirms that the first figure is non-progressive.  Is it just right shoulder, or is it right then left?  In the first figure, both A1 and A2 started with forward a double and back, so I would expect the second figure to work the same way: right shoulder in A1, left shoulder in A2.  The difference this time is that instead of setting to partner and corner we're actually changing places with our partners to that we can side with “the next” — of course we all know who “the next” means even though it isn't the same “next” as in the first figure!  We could pass through in two steps, stretch it out to four if necessary, but we can't really take eight steps for it.  Sharp puts in “Partners go a single to the right and honour”, which is the decent thing to do before abandoning your partner for the rest of the dance.  I agree that something is needed to fill out the music — I'm just saying it's not in Playford.  In fact Sharp's approach means that this is the only slow movement in the entire dance, so maybe it's not a good choice.  To be more consistent with the first figure I would put in a set rather than a step and honour.

Michael Barraclough has an interpretation on his website at, and he says,

I believe that one should adopt a starting point of assuming that what is required is not new.  The first question to ask, therefore, is “is there any well known choreographic unit that takes four bars for you to change places with the person you are dancing with” and the answer is YES.  The movement known as a “Hole in-the-Wall” change (which I prefer to call “paunch-to-paunch”) meets the requirements exactly, doesn't cause us to invent something new, doesn't cause us to do things that we aren't told to do, and even more importantly, seems to echo the music perfectly.
I just don't believe this.  The modern interpretation of “Hole in the Wall” indeed has a move where you cross with someone in three steps, finishing close, and then fall back.  But there's no justification for this — the original (Henry Playford, Dancing Master 9th Edition, 1695) just says:

The 1. Man cross over with the 2. Wo. and the 1. Wo. with the 2. Man
And that's in a longways set, where you have room to fall back, and only takes six steps.  I've tried Mike's version, where you're in a square, using eight steps with nowhere to fall back to, and I'm not convinced.

In the arching and casting figure I don't have any argument with the moves as Cecil Sharp described them, but I do argue with the timing.  It looks straightforward enough: four steps for the heads (now in side position) to lead in with their original opposite, four steps to lead out again, then eight steps for the original sides to cast away from their current partner, meet their original partner, lead under the nearer arch and fall back to places with their current partner.  But in my experience that final section needs more than eight steps — especially if you're wearing period costume.  It usually looks rushed — and remember, having flung themselves back into head places they immediately need to lead forward again.  Playford doesn't specify any timing beyond saying that the whole arching and casting figure takes eight bars, and then eight for the other couples.  So I prefer the sides to lead out as the heads start their casting movement, and vice versa.

And so to the third figure.  Note that Playford says “with your We.” rather than “with your owne”, just to remind you that you're not with your original partner.  But then note how similar the introduction is to the second figure.  Quite clearly it's the same pattern, with siding replaced by arming — as you would expect.  So, arm right, set, move on to the next.  Arm left, set, move on to the next — and there you are with your original partner, half-way round the square.  But what does Sharp do?  He sees a way of getting rid of that step and honour, which he felt guilty about because it wasn't in the original — Sharp follows the letter rather than the spirit of the original wording.  Siding — whether Sharp-style or Playford-style — is a there and back movement: you always finish where you started.  But with arming you can arm right and left, push round a bit faster on the arm left, go once and a half rather than once — and you've followed the letter of the original wording: “Armes all with your We. and change places”.  With a set of good dancers you can even make it look very convincing.  But can you tell me any other genuine Playford dance where the arming movement as an introduction to the third figure gives you a progression, or where you arm right, left, right and left?

And then Sharp has that really awkward movement: arm left one and a half, and finish with the woman on the man's left (strange how it's always the women who have to make the awkward turns) in side lines close together, ready to fall back.  Yes, I can do it — I can even throw the woman into the correct place and catch her in my left hand ready to drag her backwards with the next phrase of music.  And some people who have spent years perfecting “Newcastle” bitterly resent me saying that it shouldn't be done like that at all.  But Playford doesn't say that the introductory movement for the third figure finishes in side lines.  It finishes — like the introductory movements for the other two figures — in a square (or round, if you prefer).  Can you really give me any other interpretation of the line: “Now every man is with his owne Wo. in the Co[ntrary] place”?

So we're in a square, and we've met our original partner after the progressions in the second and third introductions.  Then, at the start of the body of the figure, we fall back in side lines, since “wall” always meant the wall at the side of the dance hall.  Presumably we fall back a double: four steps.  Do the lines then lead forward?  Playford doesn't say so.  The difference between B1 and B2 is that the first says “turn” where the second says “turn S.”, and I agree with Sharp that Playford missed out the “S.” the first time — I'm sure he meant “turn single” both times.  So, four steps to fall back, four steps to turn single.  That gives us a whole eight steps to cross over and form those new lines across the hall — it's not nearly as frantic as people make out.  It's not really a difficult dance at all.  If you ask people what the hardest part of “Newcastle” is, what do they say?  Forming the lines — both times!

But when you cross over with your opposite, should you finish in those second lines?  Surely at the start of B2 you should be in the same formation as at the start of B1 — in a square.  Then you fall back into head lines.  If you're teaching this version, make sure both times that everybody falls back in the lines, though of course the ends have to fall back further.

So that's my reconstruction.  Would I call it this way at an evening dance?  I'm not sure.  As I said at the start I've been surprised by the positive response to a “new” interpretation of “Nonesuch”, and I've certainly had people requesting my version of “Newcastle”.  But to many long-term dancers, “Newcastle” is the pinnacle of Playford dancing.  They're proud of the fact that they can do it, and they'd be horrified at the thought of me changing it so that a bunch of amateurs could get through it.  I've met the same resistance to my interpretation of “Step Stately” in “Playford with a Difference” — “Oh, we got through it for the first time ever, but it wasn't the real thing — Colin Hume was teaching his simplified version”!

However, for those of you who are willing to be experimental, here it is.


Format: Square (or round, if you prefer).  Interpretation: Colin Hume, 1996.

First figure:
A1:All join hands, move forward a double and back.  Set to partner; set to corner.
A2:All that again.
B1:Arm right with partner, then men left-hand star once around while women dance round the outside clockwise.
B2:Arm right half-way, then women left-hand star once around while men dance round the outside clockwise, finishing with a gypsy right half-way into original place.
Second figure:
A1:Side right.  Set right and left; pass on (right shoulder) to the next.
A2:Side left.  Set; pass on to the next.
B1:Original heads (now in side place with original opposite) lead in (inside hand); as they change hands, lead out and make an arch, original sides cast away from current partner, meet original partner, lead under the nearer arch and fall back to place with current partner (6 bars).
B2:The same led by the original sides.
Third figure:
A1:Arm right.  Set; pass on to the next.
A2:Arm left.  Set; pass on to meet original partner on the other side of the square and all join hands.
B1:Heads break from partner and all fall back into side lines; turn single right.  Cross right shoulder with opposite to reform the square and all join hands.
B2:Sides break from partner and all fall back into head lines; turn single right.  Cross right shoulder with opposite to reform the square in original places.

The Opera, or The Apes Dance        The Opera, or The Apes Dance: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Source: John Playford, Dancing Master 5th Edition, 1675.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2007.
Format: Longways duple minor

Original wording:

Longways for as many as will.

Honour to the Presence.  Lead up all forwards and back  .  That again  : 
First man and 2. wo. change places, then first man and 2. wo. and first wo. and 2. man take hands and walk round till you have just changed places, then fall back, then all four cross over in each others places, then take hands and do the same thing again, and at the second crossing the 2 (?) men take hands with your own and put back, then right hands to your own, and left to the other wo. then first man go down behind the 2. wo. and the first wo. in the middle, the man up in the middle, and the wo. up behind the man, set then to each other and cast off.  So to the bottom.

The tune has an eight-bar A and an eight-bar B.  Once again Playford gives us the underlined dots where they're obvious but not where they might help an interpreter!  It seems clear that we have an introductory figure (for which I would use one A and one B) and then a progressive figure.  The phrase “do the same thing again” suggests that this is B2.  So let's go through it.  The first man and second woman change places, so the men are now below the women.  But what does the next instruction mean?  It's tempting to think that it means “circle left one place” which puts everyone proper again, ones below the twos.  Fall back with neighbour (one step) and cross over with partner.  And indeed if we do all that again (the first corners are still in first corner positions, so the same people cross) it gets everyone back home at the end of A2.  But why then is Playford so specific in naming the four people for the circle — why not just “hands all”?  Surely it's because he doesn't mean a circle but two pairs of people doing a two-hand turn half-way.  And yet that doesn't make sense — the two pairs are diagonally across from each other, and I really can't believe he meant interlocked two-hands turns.  So maybe he got something wrong.  The original is rather smudged, so can we make ourselves believe that “2. wo.” at the start really says “1. wo.”?  No we can't!  Every time Playford refers to a “first” person he uses the whole word, and every time he refers to a “second” person he uses the number.  Nevertheless, he might not have meant what he said.  Perhaps he intended it to start with the ones crossing.  Then you can turn your neighbour half-way (I would use a symmetrical turn, so the ones continue down the outside).  Step back and cross with partner is fine, which leaves the twos improper at the top, ones proper at the bottom.  If the ones repeat this from second place everyone gets back to their own place, which is what I expect.

Let's leave that for the moment and look at the second half.  “Put back” always means poussette in my experience, and a half poussette will put the ones below the twos.  This is followed by two changes with hands which puts everyone improper, ones above the twos.  That will fit into eight bars, so it's B1.  There's no mention of the twos doing anything else, though no doubt they move up as the ones do their final cast, so everyone would appear to finish improper.  Well, we can get round that by having the twos do the cross in A2.  That means the first half of the dance finishes with everyone improper, which I'm dubious about, but it's possible.  That means that B2 starts with everyone in home place.  Now the ones can do their solo as in “Mad Robin” — first man down the outside and up the middle and first woman down the middle and up the outside.  In fact after the two changes the ones are facing in the correct direction for this move.  All very reasonable, you might think.  But we're not reading the instructions carefully enough.  The two changes are described as “right hands to your own, and left to the other wo.” and the instructions are directed to the men — but it would be left to the other man, not the woman.  And in the next move he specifically says the man is going down behind the second woman, and then the woman up behind the man.  One of these might be a mistake, but when we have three pieces of evidence we surely can't just dismiss them.  And of course if one couple was improper, both the men could “put back” in the poussette.  It seems to me that the only possibility is that one of the couples is improper.  There's no mention of this in the words, and the diagram is the standard one with four men in one line and four women in another.  Did they have longways improper dances in those days?  Yes they did, though not many.  Old Simon the King (John Playford 1679) says “First man on his woman's side”, and King of Poland (Henry Playford, 1698) says “First man being on his Wo.side” even though in both the diagram is again the standard one.  Bartlett House (Thomas Bray, 1699) says “First Man begins improper”, and in the same book The Woman's the Man says “The Women begin all Improper” though that's just a gimmick — the instructions are addressed to the women, who are very much in charge of the dance.  That's all I know about, ignoring dances such as Childgrove which are frequently danced with ones improper today although the original was proper.  I think we can dismiss the twos being improper — that would require the entire set to start improper except for the first couple, which would surely require mention.  But even having the ones improper without mention is pretty unlikely.  And why should they be improper?  What difference does it make to their passage through the dance?  (Though you could say the same about King of Poland.)  In Bartlett House it makes a lot of sense because the entire dance is symmetrical, like most modern American contras — when you got to the end of the set you just changed sides and did exactly the same moves as before.  But what's the advantage in the other two dances?

OK, I'm leaving this one for the moment — I hope to come back to it when I have time.  Or maybe someone will email me with an interpretation which satisfies all my objections.

The Princess        The Princess: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Source: Henry Playford, Dancing Master 11th Edition, 1701.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2009.
Format: Longways duple minor

Original wording:

The two first men and two first women fall back, and meet and turn all single, the 1st couple lead down the middle and set to their partners, the Second couple do the same.  First strain twice.
The first man and woman take hands, and the second man and second woman take hands and draw their Partners into each other's place, the 1st man and 1st woman lead through the second couple and come into the second couples place, then right and left quite round, and turn their own Partners till the Tune is done.  The second strain twice.

The tune is in jig time, though I certainly hear it as a slow jig, with an 8-bar A and B music, and the instructions say that each is repeated.  The dance was interpreted by Cecil Sharp in part 6 of the Country Dance Book, and I mainly agree with his interpretation, but there are two points where I don't.  The first is that I see the ones as being the active couple in A1, so I would have the ones leading down and setting while the twos take eight steps to cast up.  In B2 the roles are reversed.  My main disagreement is with the draw poussette.  Sharp doesn't use that phrase, but he spells it out clearly enough:

First man, joining both hands with his partner, falls back, pulling his partner after him, bears to his right and falls into second place (improper); while second woman, joining both hands with her partner, falls back, bears to her right and falls into the first place (improper).

As I say in my essay on Poussette, I think the Draw Poussette is a 20th century invention.  Certainly Playford uses the word “draw”, but who does the phrase “and draw their partners” apply to?  He doesn't specify that the first man and second woman are the “drawing” people, and he uses the word “draw” in situations where we now do a normal poussette.

Possibly Sharp used (invented) a draw pousssette here because it finishes with the two couples improper.  That means he can use six bars for the four changes and then the final two bars for a two-hand turn half-way.  I don't think this fits the music, and it's possible to do four changes in four bars.  Sharp used this in “A Trip to Kilburn”, though he hedged his bets somewhat — originally he specified four bars for the four changes and four bars for the two-hand turn, but in the later set of corrections he was deliberately vague and specified eight bars for the whole thing.  So here's my suggested version — you may well think I'm being unnecessarily fussy and Sharp's version works perfectly well!

The Princess

Format: Longways duple.    Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2009.

A1:Fall back a double with neighbour; come forward turning single.  Ones lead down and set, twos do a long cast up.
A2:Fall back a double with neighbour; come forward turning single.  Twos lead down and set, ones do a long cast up.
B1:Half poussette: first man push and second man pull to start.  Ones lead up through the twos; cast back to progressed place.
B2:Four quick changes of a circular hey without hands (two steps per change); all two-hand turn partner.

The Punch-Bowl        The Punch-Bowl: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Source: Henry Playford, Dancing Master 11th Edition, 1701.
Interpretation: Colin Hume, possibly around 1995.

Original wording:

The 1. cu. cross over below the 2. cu. and lead through the 3. cu. and hands half round with the 2. cu. and cast off  . 
The 2. cu. do the same  : 
The 1. wo. change places with the 2. man, and the 1. man change with the 2. wo. hands half round, and cast off and turn your Partner, the 2. cu. turns above at the same time.
The last strain played once.

The tune is in three-time, with an A and B music of eight bars each, and the instructions say that there's only one B — it's assumed that there are two A's.  Pat Shaw's version starts: Ones cross, go down outside the twos, lead down through the next twos and cast up while the twos wait for one bar, move up outside the ones above them, turn in and lead down to face their original ones.  Then in A2 the twos repeat this.  I've danced this version and find it very confusing because everyone is moving — and it's clearly not what the original says.  Pat presumably wanted to keep everyone busy, but surely this is a dance where the ones do the movement while the twos admire them, then the twos have their moment of glory.  And what's wrong with that?  (He does the same thing in Holborn March, giving the two-hand turn to both couples both times, and I don't like that either.)  So let's look at the original.  The threes are just posts for the other couples to lead through, and I'm not such a purist that I would keep it as a triple minor dance; I agree with Pat that it's better as duple minor.  What do we make of “The 1. cu. cross over below the 2. cu.”?  Pat interprets it as “The 1. cu. cross over and then go below the 2. cu.”.  But in my experience “cross over” always means “cross and cast below the next couple”, so for this interpretation the wording would be redundant.  I suggest that it means the first couple cross while moving down through the twos and cast below the next couple — the threes (or for a duple minor version, the next twos).  They then lead up through the threes, ready to circle left half-way with the twos and then cast off.  Pat has them leading down through the next couple, and then has to invent a cast up which is not mentioned in the original wording.

A1 finishes with the twos improper at the top and the ones proper below them.  After the twos have done the same movement in A2 the ones finish above the twos, both couples improper.

The B part seems straightforward except that if the final turn is all the way everyone finishes improper.  Maybe A2 is supposed to finish with everybody proper, but I don't see how.  In fact the wording spells out who crosses first, and it's the first woman and second man which is certainly the easy option with both couples improper (they're in first corner positions), so maybe it is right.  What about the timing?  If the corners do a “Hole in the Wall” cross this will take two bars for each, then two bars to circle left half-way and two bars for the ones to cast and the twos to lead up, leaving no time for any turn.  So we assume the crosses are three steps each.  Now there are two bars (six steps) left for the turn half-way, which is rather a lot, so I would finish the turn close to partner and then fall back on the last couple of steps.

So here's my interpretation:

The Punch-Bowl.

Format: Longways duple.    Interpretation: Colin Hume, around 1995.

A1:Ones cross moving down through the twos (twos move slightly up and in), down outside the next twos, meet and lead up through them (12 steps).  With original twos circle half-way; ones cast, twos lead up.
A2:Twos the same.  [All now improper]
B:First corner positions (first lady, second man) cross; second corners cross (3 steps each); circle left half-way.  Ones meet, then cast, twos lead up; all two-hand turn half-way finishing close to partner and then fall back.

I taught this at Buffalo Gap at English/American Week in 1998, and Sharon McKinley was so taken by it that she decided to use it at the forthcoming Ball in Washington DC, even though they had already started teaching the Pat Shaw version.

Red and All Red        Print this dance

Source:Thompson, 1757.  Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2003.
Format: Longways triple minor

Original wording:

The 1st. man foot it and turn his Partner  . 
then set to the 2d. Wo. hands all three round  : 
1st. Man leads his Partner behind the 2d. Man and Hands three with 2d. and 3d. We. and the Wo. Hands three round with the 2d. and 3d. Men  . 
Hands six round and turn your Partner  : 
John Riley (dancer and caller from Bedford) gave me a sheet of paper on which he had written out his objections to Charles Bolton's version of “Red and All Red” — particularly that Charles had moved some of the instructions for the A music to the B music to fill this out.  John produced (what seems to me) an equally spurious version in which he had condensed the moves to a single B.  This made me think about the dance, and I came up with my own version — I'd say it's much closer to the original than Charles's, though I've been forced to add in “Lines fall back and come forward” to use up some of the music.  Charles's version has a nice move where the circle six is followed by the middles stopping and the ends continuing half-way to finish proper, giving a reverse progression, but as you can see it's not there in the original.  What do you think?  Do you care whether a dance is an accurate interpretation of the original?  I'm not giving Charles's version here since it's in copyright — it's available in his collection “Retreads 5” and on the CDSS website

Graham and Maureen Knight suggested that the dance would flow better if the ones and second lady circle right rather than left, so I've now changed my instructions.  In B2 I originally had the circle first, but then I decided it was much better to have the lines fall back and come forward before the big circle — both to vary the texture and because it fits the music better.  I must have changed my card but forgotten to change the version on the website, so if you picked it up from here before 21st May 2009 please correct your card!

Red and All Red

Format: 3 Couples longways

A1:First man step and honour partner right and left.  Ones two-hand turn.
A2:Ones step and honour second lady.  Those three circle right.
B1:(14 bars) First man draw your partner behind the men, leave her there, go round the threes, finish behind the ladies (12 steps, finishing with the descending octave).  In those threes, circle left.  Circle right.
B2:Lines of three fall back a double; lead forward.  Circle 6 left (12 steps).  Ones cast, the others two-hand turn (threes moving up); ones two-hand turn half-way.

Red-House        Updated 2-Nov-13Red-House: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Source: Henry Playford, Dancing Master 9th Edition, 1695.

Original wording:

The 1. cu. meet and set and cast off into the 2. cu. place  .  Then meet and set again, and cast off into their own places  :  The 1. Man cast off below the 2. Man, and go above the 2. Wo. into the 2. Man's place, his Wo. follow him at the same time  .  Then the 2. Wo. cast up above the 1. Wo. and go below the 1. Man into her own place, the 1. Man following her at the same time  :  Then the 1. Cu. and 2. Man go the Hey, till they come into their own places  .  Then the 1. Cu. and 2. Wo. go the Hey on the other side, and so cast off into the 2. Co. place  : 

The dance appeared in the 9th Edition of the Dancing Master and in every edition thereafter; the facsimile link above is to the 10th edition.  It has a great driving tune 48-bar consisting of three lines of 8 bars, and the instructions say that each is repeated; there's no problem fitting the instructions to the tune.  As usual it's very easy to see what you expect to see, and if you know the “English” version you may well say that this is exactly the way you do it.  But perhaps if you knew the “Scottish” version you would say the same thing — and having danced that I found it so different that I felt compelled to study the original wording more closely.  Of course there's nothing Scottish about the “Scottish” version (published in RSCDS Book 7, 1931) — they got it from The Dancing Master just as Douglas and Helen Kennedy did for their interpretation (published in the Country Dance Book New Series, 1929).  The Kennedys actually got it from John Young's 1728 edition, but the wording is virtually identical, and yet they came up with a very different dance.

In the first part, the underlined dots show that the meet, set and cast are A1 and the reverse is A2 — it seems clear that it should say “cast up” rather than “cast off”, since the ones finish in their original place.  The Scottish version leaves out the “meet” and just has set and cast, set and cast up, so they condense the whole thing to 8 bars and only have one A-music.  That seems wrong to me: A1 and A2 are a matched pair, as are B1 and B2, C1 and C2.  There are two more likely possibilities.  Either we have two bars to meet, two to set and a long cast of four bars, or we follow the Kennedys and put in a fall back after the meet.  I'm with the Kennedys; there are dances which have a lead up and make no mention of falling back though the dancers obviously need to return to place, and I think this falls into the same category.

In the second part the instructions don't make sense!  In the first eight bars the first man casts below the second man, crosses up through the twos, down behind the second lady and across to second man's place, and his partner follows him to her progressed place.  But in the next eight bars the second woman is supposed to lead the opposite version of this — casting up and crossing down — yet it's the ones who are below, and it's said that she is followed by the first man.  The most likely explanation is that it's the first couple doing the move; the person notating the instructions was imagining that the lower lady was the second when in fact she is the first.  And that's what the Scottish version does, which means the twos do nothing for a whole 24 bars (and it would have been 32 bars if A1 and A2 hadn't been compressed into a single 8 bars).  Once again we hit the question: why are we interpreting these dances?  I believe the Scottish version is correct, but I much prefer the English version where the move is shared out equally between the two couples — though I've no objections to dancing it using the Scottish formation of three working couples in a four couple set.

In the third part the reels in the Scottish version seem bizarre to me.  The instructions say “Then the 1. Cu. and 2. Man go the Hey, till they come into their own places”.  They don't say whether the hey is across or up-and-down, so there are two reasonable possibilities.  The second man could go up through the ones to start a hey across, as in the Fallibroome interpretation of “Top and Bottom”, or the first woman could go down through the men to start a hey up and down (as in the Sharp interpretation of “Jack's Maggot”).  But the Scottish version is that although the hey is up and down it starts with the two men passing each other left shoulder as the first lady crosses down below them to join the hey passing her partner right shoulder.  Why does it do this?  Presumably so that the men can finish progressed and then the corresponding second hey will progress the ladies.  But this is in defiance of “till they come into their own places” and is really awkward.  In her book “Won't you join the dance”, Jean Milligan says “The reels in this dance are difficult” and devotes 18 lines of explanation and two diagrams to them.  Surely if it were that obscure Playford would have given some indication.  And yet the second reel is described as “on the other side”, implying that both reels are on the side rather than across.  How would that work?  The first reel leaves everyone back in place.  The second reel, started by the first man going down between the two ladies, would finish with the first man reaching the top and looping left back to his own side while the two ladies cross right shoulder to their original places.  The first man could keep going to loop behind the second man who moves up, and the two ladies could continue to loop right shoulder round each other, all finishing in progressed places.  This seems to fit the instructions better than either of the other two versions.  You can dance a hey in 6 bars so there is time for the extra progression.

After I'd written this I realised that there is a third “reasonable” possibility.  We tend to be wedded to the idea that heys are either across or up-and-down, but why shouldn't they be diagonal?  In fact I sometimes suggest this when calling “Jack's Maggot”, where the heys on the side are usually crowded and unsatisfactory — I probably got the idea from Tom Cook.

So let's start the first hey by the ones crossing right shoulder, the man going all the way over to his partner's place as she passes left shoulder with the second man: a hey on the second corners' diagonal.  All finish in home place.  Now the ones cross left shoulder and the lady goes all the way over as the man passes right shoulder with the second lady to dance : a hey on the first corners' diagonal.  At the end the first man is home facing out: he casts into second place and the second man moves up as the two ladies loop round each other into progressed places.

I've tried this twice (with mixed results), and for the A-section I'm suggesting a version I picked up in the States which keeps the twos moving in the A part as well.  The ones do exactly as in the Kennedys' version, but the twos do the opposite.  It works well provided that people remember that it's always the ones who cast and the twos who lead, otherwise there will be collisions!


Format: Longways duple

A1:Ones meet and fall back as twos fall back and meet.  All set; ones cast into second place as twos lead up.
A2:Ones meet and fall back as twos fall back and meet.  All set; ones cast up as twos lead down — all home.
B1:First man cast, lady follow, below the second man, up through the twos, round the second lady into second place — twos lead up on the last four beats.
B2:Second lady cast, man follow, below the first lady, up through the ones, round the first man into second place — ones lead up on the last four beats — all home.
C1:Ones cross right shoulder (first man go all the way across) into diagonal reel with second man — finish home and first man loop left.
C2:Ones cross left shoulder (first lady go all the way across) into diagonal reel with second lady — at end first man loop into progressed place, second man move up, ladies loop right shoulder round each other into progressed places.
Don't think of the progression as a separate move — the ones loop round their neighbour into progressed place.  The reels are better danced with a skip-change step rather than walked, but be aware that you can't go so far in the second reel because there's the extra move at the end.  And it flows beautifully into the next turn of the dance: the ones have just cast so they're coming in to meet, while the twos have just led up and are ready to fall back.

Rumford Assembly        MusicPrint this dance

I was booked for the Romford & Brentwood Folk Dance Festival in Essex in March 2003: displays by local dance groups in the afternoon followed by an evening dance.  A dance called “Rumford Assembly” (“Rumford” is the old spelling of “Romford”) had been found in the Central Romford Reference Library, and they were keen for one of the teams to display this and then for me to teach it to everyone in the audience.  It was found in a magazine published in 1754 whose title page proudly proclaimed it to be:
The Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure
Arts and Sciences
Which may render it Instructive and Entertaining
To which will occasionally be added
An Impartial Account of Books in several Languages
and of the State of Learning in Europe.

Original wording:

The first couple cast off hands four round with the third couple  .  ; cast up hands four round with the second couple  ..  ; lead down two couple, the second and third couple follows  .  ; cross over and turn your partners  ..  ; lead down and cast up, lead through the top, and cast off  ..  .
You will notice that “Punctuation” was not in the list of contents!  The music is an 8-bar A and a 16-bar B, both repeated, giving a total of 48 bars.  But when we look at the instructions we see that the underlined double dot (meaning the second occurrence of a phrase of music) appears after “cross over and turn your partners” and again at the end of the instructions.  It seems to be saying A1, A2, B1, B2, B2.

Let's go through it from the beginning.  Eight steps for the ones to cast (twos implicitly moving or leading up) and eight steps for the circle left will certainly fit into A1, and the reverse of this will fit A2.  “Lead down two couple, the second and third couple follows” is not immediately clear, so let's ignore that.  “Cross over” in my experience always means “cross and cast”, which suggests that the ones are back in home place and this movement gets them into second place improper.  “Turn your partner” is likely to be a turn half-way or 1½ to get the ones proper again.  And the final section is one of the standard endings (the reverse of that used in “Love's Triumph”, above): ones lead down through the threes and cast up to middle place, then lead up through the twos and cast down to middle place, which is where we would expect them to finish at the end of a triple minor.  So “lead down two couple, the second and third couple follows” is a move which gets everyone back to place, and the most likely interpretation is that the ones lead to the bottom and cast up again while the twos and threes move up the outside and follow them.

The instructions seem clear enough, but what about the timing of the second part?  The lead to the bottom and cast back will be eight bars.  I would say there's enough time for a two-hand turn 1½ after the cross and cast, so this pair of movements would also take eight bars.  And the final lead and cast, lead and cast will take eight bars.  The underlined dots would appear to be eight bars apart, and perhaps the final one should be three underlined dots, meaning three eight-bar B's.  Fine, except that the B-music is 16 bars!

At this point we look through it all again, to see whether we've made any unjustified assumptions.  I can't see any; the dance will certainly work using the timing I've suggested, and any other timing would not work nearly as well.  So what's happened?  The musical notation suggests two 16-bar B's, but the underlined dots suggest three eight-bar B's.  Looking at the music itself, we see that the second eight bars of the B-music are a repeat of the A-music with the last two bars modified to finish on the tonic rather than the dominant.  My conclusion is that the music is printed wrongly.  We should play the first eight bars of the B-music twice, and then the final eight bars (which I refer to as the C-music) once.  So here's my modified version of the music (with the length of the notes doubled, since that is what folk dance musicians expect these days) and my interpretation — I've modified the final cast to convert it from a triple minor to a three-couple dance.  It was danced in costume by my old display team, the Jovial Beggars, and then by the assembled company.

Rumford Assembly         Music

Format: 3 Couples longways.  Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2003.

A1:Ones meet and long cast to second place; twos lead up.  At the bottom, circle left (slip).
A2:Ones meet and cast up; twos down.  At the top, circle left.
B1:Ones lead to the bottom and cast up to the top, the others move up the outside and follow them, all finishing home.
B2:Ones cross over; cast below the twos as twos lead up.  Ones two-hand turn 1½ (skip-change).
C:Ones lead down; cast up.  Lead up; cast to the bottom (threes lead up).

The Temple        Trumpet Voluntary: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatThe Temple: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Source: Henry Playford, Dancing Master 11th Edition, 1701.  Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2010.

Original wording:

The 1. cu. Figure through the 2. cu and turn hands above  .  The 2. Cu does the same  :  The 1. man turns the 2. wo  .  And the 1. wo the 2. man  :  Then cross over and go the Figure through the 2. cu. the 2. cu. being in the 1. cu place, meet and set and cast off, then the 1. cu. cast off and begin again.

I first heard about this dance from Mike Barraclough, and my interpretation of the dance is similar to his.  The tune is a variant of Jeremiah Clarke's famous “Trumpet Voluntary”.  In the 14th Edition (see the source link above) the second line of music switches from D to B flat, which is very striking (and most people would say very wrong) — that's the only Edition to do so, and I'm therefore ignoring it.  I've also sharpened the G's in bars 1 and 5 of the B-music since that's how everybody knows it today.  The links to the music also give Trumpet Voluntary chorded more or less as you would hear it played today, and that't the version of the tune I recommend unless you're a real Playford purist.  Playford gives 4 lines of music, the third identical to the first except for one difference in dotting, and we would describe it in modern terms as A, B, A, C with no mention of repeats.  But anyone who has heard the tune will know that it doesn't finish with the C-music, which ends in the dominant — it simply has to go back to the A-music.  The tune is in rondo form and is played A, B, A, C, A, with or without repeats.  Most modern recordings seem to be A A B B A C C A A, though some leave out the second B or the second C.  Let's look at the dance and then worry about the music, except to point out that the music needs to be played at twice the speed of most modern performances.

“Figure through” means a full or half figure of eight, so in the first eight bars the ones do a half figure eight down through the twos and then two-hand turn — but how much?  Half-way would bring them back proper, once around would leave them improper, one and a half would bring them back proper.  The second eight bars (presumably A2) is the same for the twos, so either both couples are improper or both are proper.  Now we get first corners two-hand turn, and I don't believe we can stretch that out to 16 steps so I suggest that this is combined with the second corners turning to form a unit of 8 bars.  I know Playford has single and double dots after each, but I just don't believe it, and you can see that at that point he abandons the underlined dots altogether, so maybe he realised he was on to a loser there!  “Then cross over and go the Figure through the 2. cu.” means cross and cast, then half figure eight up, which is 8 bars.  I assume a new sentence starts with “the 2. cu. being in the 1. cu place”, and indeed the twos are now above the ones.  If the twos meet (4 beats) and then set (4 beats) we will need an eight-step cast to make up an 8-bar phrase.  But what about “then the 1. cu. cast off”?  Does it mean that they do the meet and set before the cast, which would be another 8 bars?  Or does it literally mean that the ones simply cast?  In that case we could have the twos cast as the ones lead up (4 steps) and then the ones cast as the twos lead up (4 steps) — a familiar sequence often described as “Lead and cast; cast and lead”.  We can never be sure, but let's take Playford literally and see if it makes sense.  It seems that everyone needs to be proper after the corners turn, so I would turn 1½, though some people would no doubt prefer to turn half-way and then fall back.  Either way that's 16 bars, plus 8 bars for the corners turning, 8 bars for the cross cast and half figure, 8 bars for the setting and casting.  That's 40 bars — 5 lines of music.  I considered making one full turn of the tune fit two turns of the dance, but that's quite awkward.  And of course Jeremiah Clarke didn't write it for a country dance — he expected it to go once through and then stop.  If I somehow arranged it to start with two A's and finish at the end of the second turn of the dance with two A's, the next turn of the dance would start with another two A's, giving four A's together which I don't think would be popular.  Then I realised that by simply playing each part once I got 40 bars.  Agreed it would be more logical for the second 8 bars to be the same music as the first 8 bars, but again I'll point out that Clarke didn't write it with a country dance in mind.  I'm sure what happened was that the tune became justifiably popular and someone put together a set of figures to fit it — we still do the same thing today.  So here's my version; no doubt there are several others.

The Temple

Format: Longways duple

A1:Ones half figure eight down.  Two-hand turn 1½.
B:Twos half figure eight up.  Two-hand turn 1½.  [All home]
A2:First corners two-hand turn.  Second corners two-hand turn.
C:Ones cross over; cast below the twos as twos lead up.  Ones half figure eight up.
A3:Twos meet; set.  Twos cast, ones lead up; ones cast, twos lead up.

A Trip o'er Tweed        Updated 9-Aug-13A Trip o'er Tweed: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Source: John Young, Dancing Master Volume 2, 1713.  Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2008/2013.

Original wording:

Note : Each Strain is to be play'd twice over.

The first Couple cast off and fall in between the second and third Woman and Man, and lead backward and forward  .  Then first Woman cast off and fall in between the third Man and third Woman, the Man cast up and fall in between the second Man and second Women at the same Time; then lead backward and forward  :  The first Man and first Woman meet and fall back, the Man cast off round the second Woman, and the second Woman cast up round the third Man, then Righ and Lift quite round  .  Back to Back with your own, then Back with the second Couple, then the Man lead his Partner up round the second Woman into their proper Places, Sett and cast off  : 

The dance is interpreted by Bernard Bentley in Fallibroome 2, converted from triple minor to a 3-couple set.  The tune is a slip-jig with a 4-bar A and an 8-bar B.  Yes it really does say “Righ and Lift” rather than “Right and Left”, and there are other mistakes.  I agree with Bentley that “Back with the second Couple” should be “Back to Back with the second Couple”, and that “second Woman cast up round the third Man” means “first Woman cast up” — the second woman can't be casting up while the first man is casting round her.  And “second Women” should of course be “second Woman” — we all make mistakes like this in our books!

Bernard Bentley is always very honest about what he's changed, but sometimes I don't see why he's changed things.  Here the original clearly means the lines fall back before coming forward, and he mentions this in the footnote, but he's changed both of these to forward and back.  And yet in “Saint Margaret's Hill” in Fallibroome 1 he does have the lines falling back and leading forward.  I certainly prefer falling back first, and it also means that when the ones meet and fall back that is a different move rather than a pale shadow of the preceding two.  He says the tune was in 6/9, but he didn't mean that; the tune was in 9/4 and I agree with him in changing it to 9/8 which is how modern musicians would expect to see a slip-jig.  He also changed one note of the B-music from a C to a B, and I've decided to follow him though I'm not sure about it!  The “Right and Left quite round” would mean four changes of a circular hey for the ones and the couple above them — the twos.  The part I really disagree with comes near the end.  The ones are in middle place improper, having done a back-to-back with the twos who are above them.  The original says “the Man lead his Partner up round the second Woman into their proper Places” and Bentley assumes this means finishing proper in second place, so he has “1st man lead his partner up, round the 2nd woman and fall back with her into middle places (proper)”.  In six steps!  I don't believe that can be done except as a mad rush.  And remember this was a triple minor.  The final move is “Sett and cast off” which would leave the ones below the threes — right for a 3-couple dance but wrong for a triple minor.  In 2008 I wrote: “Surely the original means that the man leads his partner back up to top place, handing her across so that they both finish proper.  That's easy and elegant.”  But in 2013 I looked at it with fresh eyes.  The word “lead” has more than one meaning.  I sometimes hear callers say “The man leads up and the lady leads down” and they don't mean that: they mean “move”.  “Lead” means taking hands and moving as a unit.  But there are still two possibilities.  When we see “lead … up” it's so easy to think of “lead up a double”.  But “lead” can also mean “draw” with the man in the lead as in “the men lead round the ladies”, and if we think “the Man draw his Partner up round the second Woman into their proper Places” we get quite a different meaning.  Notice that Bentley has invented a comma after “up”, so he expects you to lead up the centre and then go round the second woman.  Instead I suggest that the first man should draw his partner across, round the second woman, to their original places.  Then we have “Sette and cast off”.  Bernard Bentley understandably leaves out the set (which in triple time I would expect to use up all six beats).  But perhaps it just means a step to the side and acknowledge before casting.  It's not clear from the original whether this is at the end of the moving up or the start of the cast, and in my previous interpretation I put the step and honour on the last two of the six beats, having taken four to cross up.  Now they're going round the second woman that will take all six beats, so I would go for a quick step and acknowledge (just two beats), followed by four steps to cast to second place which is where they should finish in a triple minor.  To convert it to a 3-couple set dance the ones need to cast to the bottom as the twos and threes lead up, which I thought might be too busy, especially as the new ones now start by casting to the middle place so the threes (who have now become twos) immediately lead up again.  But I've tried it and it worked fine.

A Trip o'er Tweed

Format: 3 Couples longways  (or triple minor)

A1:(4 bars): Ones cast to second place (twos lead up) (6 steps); lines fall back (3 steps) and lead forward (3 steps).
A2:Ones cast right shoulder, the man finishing between the twos, the lady between the threes in lines across; lines fall back and lead forward.
B1:Ones meet and fall back; ones cast right shoulder to finish improper in middle place.  Four changes with hands at the top, three steps per hand, ones still finishing improper.
B2:Ones back-to-back; face up, back-to-back with the twos.  First man draw partner across behind the second lady and up to original place (twos lead down) (6 steps); ones step right and acknowledge (2 beats), cast to the bottom (twos and threes lead up) (4 steps).
For the triple minor version the ones finish by casting into second place as the twos lead up.

Whimbleton House        Whimbleton House 3-time: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatWhimbleton House 5-time: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this danceRecordings

Source: Henry Playford, Dancing Master 11th Edition, 1701.  Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2007, revised 2011.

Original wording:

The 1. cu. cast off and lead up all four with the 2. cu  .  The 1. Man turn the 2. Wo. the 1. Wo. turns the 2. Man  :  Set all four to the 3. cu. half figure, and cross over below the 2. cu.

Note: The second Strain played once.

I looked at this a few years ago and gave up in confusion.  The Kennedys have a version in the Country Dance Book New Series.  They were using a copy from 1728, but the wording is the same as when it was first published by Henry Playford in the Dancing Master 11th Edition of 1701; the music has one note different and one slight difference in timing.  They looked at the music, which was notated in 2:2 time, and decided it should really be in 3:2 time, so they added two extra beats at the end of the A-music to make it four bars of three-time.  That seems logical, since the B-music is clearly in 3:2 time, but when I played it I came to the conclusion that the A-music was actually two bars of five-time!  I returned to the dance in 2007 when Momentum released their “Interesting Times” CD which has a nice recording of the tune — including the bars of 5-time.

So what are we to make of it?  Five steps for the ones to cast and go round their neighbour into the middle of a line of four, then lead up five steps?  Because we're starting from the twos' place it should be possible to do this without hitting the threes above.  In practice, for the ones to get into the middle of the line in five steps the twos need to move up a little (to reduce the length of the ones' track) and be willing to separate rather than the ones having to force their way into a small gap.  But then we have the second A — 10 steps — for the first man to turn the second woman and the first woman to turn the second man.  It's not clear whether these turns happen simultaneously, but either way the ones have their partner in the way.  And there's no mention of leading down again.  Surely we must lead down five steps so that the line finishes where it started but facing the threes.  That leaves five steps for the turns, which obviously must be simultaneous, but it's still expecting a lot for the ones to cross with their partner and turn their opposite-sex neighbour all the way in just five steps.  I wondered about turning half-way, but this puts the ones on the outside of the line and I didn't know where to go from there.

Let's leave that and look at the B section.  “Set all four to the 3. cu.” must surely mean the ones and twos are still in a line across.  The rest of the instructions are for the ones, since nobody is specified.  “Half figure” would be obvious if we bent the line so that the ones were back above the twos, but we can still do it from the line — the ones cross down and then cast up above the twos, back to their starting place.  The setting and half figure would take four bars of three-time, and there is a very definite break in the music at this point.  So we're left with “and cross over below the 2. cu.” — presumably six steps to cross (quite a lot) and six to cast, since “cross over” always means “cross and cast” as I keep saying in my notes on interpretation.  A “Hole in the Wall” cross seems indicated, to use up the music and make sure the man faces up before the cast rather than just going.  Wonderful.  But then we notice that the ones have finished improper!

I struggled with this for a long time, and then realised that I had the same problem twice.  In the first half I was trying to get the ones crossed over, and in the second half I was trying to get them back to their original side.  Inspiration struck — maybe the dance is supposed to be improper.  I know it doesn't say so in the little diagram, but the printers would have slapped that in without thinking — I imagine every dance in the book had that diagram.  There were a few improper dances even in the early editions of Playford, so it's possible.  For instance, “King of Poland” is certainly improper — the original says “First Man on his Woman's side” — and yet the diagram is the usual one. The Kennedys have a full figure of eight which cuts across the phrases of the music, so I think my version is more likely.

I agree with the Kennedys that since the threes do nothing except admire the line of four dancers setting to them, it makes sense to condense the dance from triple minor to duple minor.

After writing all this I was shown Pat Shaw's version, available on in the notes to the CD Pat Shaw's Playford by the Assembly Players and now in the 2012 publication “Another look at Playford” compiled and edited by Marjorie Fennessy.  Pat also uses two bars of 5-time for the A-music and converts the dance to duple minor.  He says the dance can be improper or proper (though the book just says improper), and has a two-hand turn neighbour 1½.  He has the half figure eight up rather than down, and he hasn't realised that “cross over” means “cross and cast”, though he does recognise this in his interpretation of “Dick's Maggot”.

Whimbleton House

Format: Longways duple improper

A1:(2 bars of 5 time):   Ones cast into the middle of a line of four (5 steps) as the twos lead up slightly and move apart.  Lead up 5 steps.
A2:Two-hand turn neighbour (5 steps) to finish facing down with the man on the right.  Lead down 5 steps.
B:(8 bars of 3 time):   Set in line to the (non-existent) threes; ones (in the middle of the line) cross down and cast up (twos move in).  Ones “Hole in the Wall” cross (6 steps); ones cast as the twos wait and then lead up.

In 2011 Ian Cutts (musician and historical dancer) read these notes and decided it was more likely that Henry Playford (or his printer) had got some of the note lengths wrong than that the tune was intended to have two bars of 5-time — something I've never seen until the 20th century, though Ian tells me that Chris and Ellis Rogers teach a 5/4 waltz from the 19th century.  He pointed out that the last four notes of the B-music (which is clearly in 3-time) are the same as the last four of the A-music, which also suggests the A-music should be in 3-time.  Here's Playford's original with the bar-lines for the A-music omitted and the B-music barred in 3-time:

Whimbleton House unbarred

If you look at the second bar of the B-music, above it in the A-music you will see the same 6 notes, except that the first four are half the length.  Changing these from quavers to crotchets gives us the first two bars in 3-time with the second bars of A and B identical.  Now look at the next 6 notes of the A-music — they're identical to the first 6 except that again the timing is different.  Replacing these by the first 6 gives us another two bars of 3-time, and certainly to me the whole thing makes a lot more sense:

Whimbleton House revised

The dance instructions can stay as they are, with 6 steps instead of 5 for the moves in the A-music.