Three New Dances of My Lady Caterina Etcetera
The inspiration for the first two dances was Master Cathal Sean O'Connluin, who remarked, at a dance practice, on how the dancers learning a new and energetic dance resemled milkmaids among whom a mouse had been set loose, and that one ought to be able to write a dance about the subject.
circle dance for as many couples as will with one extra lady "mouse" in the centre, adding appropriate squeaking and scared noises and gestures as desired
Double left 4 beats
Double right 4
Double left 4
Double right 4
Ladies and mouse jump 2
Ladies weave clockwise around the circle, passing first in front and then behind the gentlemen, the mouse to steal the spot of one of the ladies 12 beats
repeat AB ad libet
This dance is written in the style of the mimed bransles of Arbeau, such as the Washerwomen's Bransle or the Pease Bransle. Part A is a very typical part A for an Arbeau bransle: it occurs in the two dances I just mentioned as well as most of the other Arbeau bransles that I know. The hopping in part B is similar to the hopping which occurs in the Pease Bransle, and the weaving is intended to be executed in a similar fashion to the weaving in the Bransle Montarde.
I am not aware of any bransles in which an extra participant has the opportunity to "shark" in to the dance, although there are bransles which need not be danced specifically in couples or with an even number of participants, such as Bransle Charlotte, and bransles and other dances in which the dancers change partners during the dance, such as the Bransle de la Torche or the Ballo del Fiore (Caroso, Il Ballarino). I have played an SCA game called "Miller in the Middle" which is similar to the modern game of musical chairs except that players of one sex compete for a smaller number of players of the opposite sex. This game informed my choreography of this dance, but I am unaware of any documentation for this game being period. I consider it somewhat unlikely that a dance with this particular choreography could have existed in period; nevertheless I feel that this dance fits within the SCA dance aesthetic.
The Mouse that Scared the Milkmaids
English country dance in a circle for as many couples as will with an extra lady "mouse" in the centre
8 slip steps to the left 8
8 slip steps to the right 8
Facing your partner, Pas de bas (set) left 2
Pas de bas (set) right 2
Turn single 4
Passing by left and right shoulders, the ladies hay clockwise around the circle while the men hay anti-clockwise, the mouse to steal the spot of one of the ladies 8 beats
Facing your new partner, Pas de bas (set) left 2
Pas de bas (set) left 2
Turn single 4
Passing by left and right shoulders, the ladies hay anti-clockwise around the circle while the men hay clockwise all back to place, the mouse to steal the spot of one of the ladies 8 beats
Side left with your partner 8
Side right with your partner 8
Arm left with your partner 8
Arm right with your partner 8
This dance was written in the style of the dances in Playford's Dancing Master. While not period (the first edition of Playford was published in 1651), Playford dances form an accepted and integral part of SCA dance repertoire. Most Playford dances are organised in a verse-chorus format, with the verses occurring in the order doubles-siding-arming. Two circle dances with this pattern are Gathering Peasecodds and Jenny Pluck Pears. The slip steps which replace the doubles verse in this dance are from a later Playford dance, Sellenger's Round (1670)
The chorus consists of a set and turn single, a very common English country dance step. I notated it two different ways, because what I learned as a set and turn single in Montengarde is very different from what is called a set and turn single in Seagirt, and I wanted to make clear which step I intended. Since this is an energetic dance, I chose the Montengarde version over the Seagirt version, which is more elegant and sedate. The second part of the chorus is a hey. I based this particular style of hey on the hey in Fickle Ladies, which is an SCA dance. However, similar heys for the entire set may be found in such Playford dances as If All the World Were Paper and Peppers Black.
As I mentioned in the documentation for the Milkmaids' Bransle, the "mouse" element of the extra dancer is not found in any period dances I am aware of, but seems to fit the SCA dancing aesthetic as well as the theme of this particular dance. The Milkmaids' Bransle and The Mouse that Scared the Milkmaids contain similar elements because I based both of them on the same inspiration, although they are written in different dance styles.
La Serenissima (Loreena McKennitt, The Book of Secrets)
Once I had written the two milkmaid dances discussed above, I began to flip through my extensive CD collection for some appropriate music. This may have had something to do with the fact that my first year law finals, worth 100% each, were coming up in the next week. I didn't find any good music for either, but I decided that Loreena McKennitt's La Serenissima would make a very fine dance in the style of Easter Thursday, one of my all-time favorites. Easter Thursday is not listed in my documentation, because I was unable to find it in any written sources and am not certain of its origin.
Progressive dance for as many couples as will; Active couples are improper, inactive couples are proper. During one full repetition of the dance (Part A followed by Part B), the active couples will progress 2 spots.
Side left with your partner 8
Side right with your corner 8
Arm left with your partner 8
Arm right with your corner 1 1/2 times around 8
At the end of part A, the active couples have progressed one space
For part B, the active couple is now dancing with the inactive couple below them, not the inactive couple they danced with for part A
Active couple full figure 8 around inactive couple 16
Turn 2 hands with your partner 8
Turn 2 hands with your corner 1 1/2 times around 8
At the end of part B, the active couples have progressed one space
This is a progressive dance, like some of the later Playford dances such as Hole in the Wall (Dancing Master 1690) and Jamaica (Dancing Master 1670). Progressive dances are extremely popular dances in the SCA branches that I have played in, so I decided to write one. Like Jamaica, in this dance, for every one repetition of the dance, the active couples progress two spots.
The first part of the dance contains choreography elements similar to Childgrove and Heartsease. Arming with a 1-1/2 rotation can be found in Saint Martin's. The first figure in the second part of the dance is a full figure 8. I was not able to find this figure in any first edition Playford dances, but it occurs in several later dances such as Childgrove, Jamaica, and the Female Saylor. The final figure, turning two hands first with the partner and then 1-1/2 times with the corner, may be found in a reverse order in Jamaica.
Because there is no "odd" element to this dance, analagous to the mouse in the two milkmaid dances, I feel that this dance is a much more accurate representation of the style of dance it was modeled after. However, the style that this dance was written in dates from the latter half of the sixteenth century (in some cases, as interpreted by Cecil Sharp in the early 20th century), so it cannot be said to be truly "period".
The most influential sources for me in this project were the dances themselves as I had learned them. Here I list the people I learned the dances from:
- Master Thorvald Grimsson, Montengarde
- Bransle Montarde
- Gathering Peasecodds
- Jenny Pluck Pears
- Sellenger's Round
- Easter Thursday
- Hole in the Wall
- Female Saylor
- Chris Jessop, Calgary
- Bransle Charlotte
- Ballo del Fiore
- HL Eleanor the Everlasting, Loch d'Or
- Lady Anastasia Deight, Seagirt
- Washerwomen's Bransle
- Pease Bransle
- Fickle Ladies
- St. Martin's
Books in which the dances mentioned can be found in modern transcription or translation:
- Orchesography, Thoinot Arbeau. New York, Dover Publications Inc., 1976.
- The English Dancing Master, John Playford. New York, Dance Horizons, 1977.
- The Playford Ball: 103 Early English Country Dances, 1651-1820, as interpreted by Cecil Sharp and his followers, Kate van Winkle Keller. Pennington, NJ, A Cappella Books, 1990.
Websites which were indispensible in helping me determine which dance steps I had borrowed from which existing dances, and which original source those dances came from:
The Renaissance Dance cheat sheets list Ballo del Fiore as coming from Fabritio Caroso's Il Ballarino. I was unable to find a modern translation or reprint of this work.