The annotated Portsmouth

This is one of times you've got a collection of 'speculative' reconstructions; there are so many ways of reading the description or doing the dance. Webfeet's annotated descriptions are not committed to giving a 'correct original' (you can check the writeup of the Horse's Branle for an extreme case of this :-) and will quite happily select one variation on the basis that it works better in a typical eCeilidh environment.

With that in mind, the words in bold are as they were originally published, courtesy of Robert Keller's The Dancing Master compendium and the annotations may (or may not!) help....

Form: Longways for as many as will

  • The Longways means you are in couples and in long lines down the room, like the Nottingham Swing.
  • The For as many as will means that you don't need a particular number of couples, as many as want to dance can dance.
  • It does not say but, like Nottingham Swing, this is a progressive dance. You dance in a group of four people each time through the dance and find that you have 'moved' along the set, up or down, each time through.

The music is in '32 bars' and you can think of the dance in two halves, with 'A' music and with 'B' music.

A1: The First Man Hey with the first and second Woman...

  • First man starts a hey with the first and second women, starting by going between them, passes right shoulders with the second woman and turning right. The three people hey. He heads back to where he started and...

A2: The first Woman do the same with the first and second man

  • First woman starts a hey with the first and second men. Goes between them, passes the second man with left shoulder and turns left. The three people hey. Returns to place and faces the first man..

B1: ... then the first couple cross over

  • The first couple cross over the set, passing each other right shoulders (not that it matters but it's better not to hit each other)...

... and Figure inn

... and head into a 'half figure 8'. Which means that they go behind the second couple - so the man turns behind the second woman and the woman turns behind the second man - and they need to get back to their own side and move 'down' the set one place.

  • For the woman; she goes left around the second man and catches sight of the second woman and aims to turn right round her. She's heading diagonally, without hesitation (*), between the second couple, turning round the second woman, goes round the back of her with the aim of ending up next to her.
  • Meanwhile the man is goes left round behind the second woman, keeps watch on the second man (with a most gentle delay as his partner will also be heading for the gap, see the without hesitation above), avoids a collision and aims to turn left round that second man.

If you draw your path on the floor with chalk, each person is drawing a half of a figure 8. Everyone ends up on the 'correct' side (so there is a line of men facing a line of women, just as you started) but the people you were dancing with are 'above you' in the set. You are still dancing with them but they have ended up closer to the band. ... Which works well but is a bit of guesswork and interpretation. There are other ways of looking at a very brief description, as discussed below

B2: ... then Right and Left quite round.

Which is sometimes called Four Changes of a Circular Hey.

  • What happens is - everyone faces their partner (across the set) and gives them their right hand and crosses into their place

That's 'one change'. There are four of them and you are going to be marking out a square on the floor. You will get back to your partner at the end if the four changes..

Where are you? If you are first couple you ended up 'below' the second couple at the end of the 'half figure 8'; if you are the second couple, even if you didn't do a lot, you ended up 'above' the first couple.

  • So, first man and woman turn to face up the set and stick out their left hand ...
  • ... and the second man and woman have to face down the set and make sure the first man and woman notice them. It's generally the first couple who do the forgetting.

That was the 'second change'.

  • For the third change, you face you partner again across the set, give your right hand and change places
  • .. and for the last you aim to get back to where you started the square with your left hand.

It's a 'hey' as you are giving right hands, left hands, right, left. You are going in circles (or a square) with the first man and second woman going clockwise all the time and the first woman and second man going anticlockwise all the time.

At the end of the fourth change, the first man keeps going and starts the Hey with the first and second Women.

Variations: Hey across the set...

The above description has heys along the sides of the set - it is the first man crossing between the two women and dancing a hey on their side, the first woman crossing between the two men and dancing a hey on the mens side. Fine if there are a few of you in a large enough room but troublesome if the longways sets are packed tight. To avoid this, make the hey go across the set

A1: The Second Woman Hey with the first couple

  • Second woman starts a hey with the first couple, starting by going between them, left shoulders with the first man and turning left. The three people hey. She returns to place, the first couple don't stop and...

A2: the Second Man do the same...

  • The second man sees the gap as his partner escapes back to place, he heads between the first couple, passes right shoulders with the first woman and turns right. The hey continues. When done, he returns to place and faces his partner..
  • Then it continues with the B1 as above...

... and then there's Cecil Sharp's version

The above description fits 32 bars of music; an A1, A2, B1 and B2. Cecil Sharp's reconstruction assumes all the second half movement fits into a single B. 24 bars in total with half the time for the cross over and half the time for the right and left through. The first couple have just finished their heys, the man with the two women (A1) and the woman with the two men (A2)..

B: then the first couple cross over and Figure inn

  • The first couple cross down between the second couple; they aim for the gap with the man letting the woman through first. The man turns left round the second woman and heads back to place; the woman turns right round the second man and heads back to place. They don't have to go so far and they end up where they were.

... then Right and Left quite round.

  • Everyone then does a Circular Hey - but just for 3 changes rather than 4 changes. People face across the set, give their partners their right hand and change places, left hand and then right hand to get back to the original side (but avoiding the last change which would get them back to where they started)

Yes it's a rush...

More information: Origins...

  • Yup, this is a Playford dance, appearing in editions from 1701 to 1721


See also...