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September 27, 2008


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I knew that I had seen this dance before and finally I have found the source. The dance was published in a small booklet entitled "Three More Dances of the Yorkshire Dales, together with The Boosbeck traditional Long Sword Dance, 1st edition. Collected and described by L. M. Douglas. Pianoforte arrangement by Miss H. Milvain". It is not dated, but is believed to have been published in 1935.

The country dances in this book (or at least Holly Berry) were then reprinted in "Dances From The Yorkshire Dales". This is a small collection of Folk dances collected by Leta M. Douglas. Clear notation and dance instructions are provided for the following tunes: Meeting Six/Buttered Peas/Kendal Ghyll/The Holly Berry/ Turn Off Six/Brass Nuts/Huntsmans Chorus. This was first published in 1979 by The English Folk Dance and Song Society (ISBN: 0-85418-120-2).

The dances were ostensibly "collected". However, some care may be required as the dance published as The Square Eight (Buckden and Rathmell, both villages in Yorkshire) and republished in the Community Dance Manuals as The Yorkshire Square Eight, is rumoured to have been made up by Leta Douglas to represent typical square (quadrille) dances in the area.

The Holly Berry is said to come from Grassington (a picturesque village in Wharfedale, North Yorkshire) and is set to the tune My Love She's But A Lassie Yet. It is described as a 4 couple dance. The dance is similar to that reconstructed above, but there are some significant differences. Both A and B musics are 8 bars in length. Total dance is 40 bars.

A1 Lines forward and back, change with partner passing right shoulder.
A2 Repeat A1 back to places
B1 (in minor sets of 4) Star right and left
B2 Top couple slip (chassay) to the bottom (other couples moving up)[4 bars]
(in new minor sets) Star right [4 bars]
B3 Bottom (1st) couple (with crossed hands, followed by the others) cast right up to the top of the set and back down again.

Michael Barraclough

Interesting, but I'm looking at mid-19th century dance, not modern folk dance traditions (which are fascinating, but not the purpose of this blog). A 1935 source is a source for 1935, not the mid-19th century. An 1835 source would be interesting and useful, given the obvious choreographic connections with that decade's dances.

I am amused that a dance probably choreographed by an internationally famous and sophisticated London dance teacher and author is perceived after 80 years of folk-processing to be from a village in North Yorkshire. It's a perfect illustration of the entire "country dances are from the country" misapprehension!

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