The annotated Orcadian Strip the Willow

A dance hailing from the Orkneys, a reckless stream of people dancing a never-ending Strip the Willow down a longways set, so quite at home in the eCeilidh repertoire

Longways Set

The caller will likely say just Orcadian Strip the Willow. There'll be lines forming starting at the band and people joining onto them. Find someone to dance with and join in. It's likely that men will be joining one of the lines and women the other. There's nothing in the dance to say that this is necessarily so, but if you follow the trend, you'll surprise fewer people as you do the dance.

There's no sorting yourselves out into little circles of four as you meet in other longways dances, it will be single continuous mellée.

The music is likely to be the band's favourite Slip Jigs.

The Dance: Double Strip the Willow

Starting at the top of the set, you'll be doing a two-person "Strip the Willow". There is a mantra:

  • Right arm to your partner. Left arm down the line

See the 'Strip the Willow' description in the Elements

The top couple heads towards each other and take their partner's right arm. Do this by each cupping their hands round their partner's elbow rather than grabbing a forearm. Avoid the temptation to grab too hard, particularly with your thumb, you'll know why when someone does it to you.

Swing round one and a half times to get yourself going (this is the right arm to your partner bit of the mantra). Watch for the next person in the opposite line, they should be watching you and holding out their left arm (this will be the Left arm down the line bit of the mantra).

Normally people in the 'opposite line' are the 'opposite sex', but don't get fazed if this is not the case.

Turn that person with your left arm, a "short arm grip" with your left arm, round to head back to your partner. Stick your right arm out towards your partner and ...

... Carry on, with a right arm to your partner and then your left arm to the next person in the opposite line.

And so it continues...

Cascades of dancers

With the first couple heading down the set, the couple now at the top of the set can think about starting, they too swing round one and a half times with their right arm and then dance with next person on the opposite side with their left as per the mantra.

When this couple has headed off down the set, the next couple starts. And the next couple starts. And the next couple. Each waiting just enough time to avoid collisions...

This continues until there's a stream of dancers stripping down the set. When the couples reach the bottom of the set and there's no-one more to dance with, they stop, join the sides and watch for the next couple coming down so they can do the left hand turn with them...

Shuffling up the sides

If you are on the sides, watch the couples stripping down towards you, you'll see that you have to give your left arm to each person as they come down, make sure they see you and know that it is your left arm they should be aiming for, turn them and aim them back toward their partners.

The sides also have to remember to shuffle a little towards the band every time a couple strips past.

More information: Variations...

If you've a long set, a number of couples can start the dance. The caller can split the set in sections and tell a number of couples to start.

The Strip the Willow figure...

The 'Strip the Willow' figure appears in many dances. You'll find a 'single reel' in Drops of Brandy but you'll find the 'double reel' appearing elsewhere; the Stoke Golding Country Dance, the Foula Reel and in some variations of Sir Roger de Coverley.