One of those dances with a Strip the Willow in it and the caller gives up and goes away...
A four or five couple set. So, as usual, you need a partner and you join up with 3 or 4 other couples. Men on one side, ladies on the other. It's good to make sure that you know where your set 'starts' and 'stops'; the top man needs to recognise he's the top man and the bottom lady needs to recognise she's the bottom lady.
The 'top' of the set is the end closest to the band and the bottom furthest away. The terms 'top couple' and 'first couple' are used interchangably
This dance is most often danced to slip jigs and 'unphrased' (like Drops of Brandy). The slip jigs give a certain urgency and you bound and scoot through the dance. Where people write it down, they ask for a 40 bar tune. The Community Dances Manual suggest a 32 bar Hornpipe.
The dance starts with the 'first diagonal', the top man looks down the set and works out where the end is and who the 'bottom lady' is and catches her eye. They are going to dance together. This sounds simple.
For how long?
Well... this dance is unphrased meaning that the band will play and the various sets will get on with it and very likely have their own ideas about how long a swing should take. So swing for as long (and as fast) as you like. Nevertheless you are likely to recognise 'the natural places for a change' and decide to stop when the music says.
If you are getting used to this dance, yes, the top lady and bottom man wait until the first diagonal have finished swinging and then head in and do their bit. However, if you've got the hang of it, you can do the variation.
This is the first man who was waiting and the first lady who has just flown out of the swing...
The mantra for the Strip the Willow⬀ is right arm with your partner, left arm along the line. This is a strip the willow for both people. You start with a right arm turn with your partner, once or twice round, and then a little bit more and think who you need to turn next. The man looks out for the lady standing at the top of her line (who with luck is holding out her left arm) and the lady looks out for the man standing at the top of his line (who, also with luck, is holding out his left arm).
These left arms are a hint, you do left arm turns with these people; don't get carried away though, you are not even going round once. Halfway round, get your right arm ready and you watch out for your partner again. You are going to be doing a right arm turn round with them. Halfway. It's hectic. It's frenetic. And it carries on. Left arm turn round to the next person in the line, halfway, right hand to your partner...
Due to strange rules of geometry, the men in this Strip the Willow figure
will have to dance further then the ladies. It's not that the ladies are always faster than
the men (depite what they make it seem), they just don't have to go so far.
If the men want to see why it is easier for the ladies here, they need a dance where the Strip the Willow starts at the bottom of the set and works up, as in the Foula Reel
Don't get confused and try to grab a person in the 'wrong' line. As always with English Ceilidh, it's not mandatory for the people dancing 'as men' to be male or vice versa, you will meet two ladies or two men dancing together, don't let it throw you.
When you've got to the bottom, you're going to have to do a co-ordinated change of direction so that you form an Arch and start dancing up over the line of ladies.
In a crowded hall, there might not be a lot of space for this. The lady is dancing up the outside of the set and the man up the middle. At the end of the set if the man goes just that little bit further, keeping his arm raised, and lets the lady dance underneath it to head round the back of the men. Works quite a bit better than the man stopping short at the end of the set and waiting while the lady dances round him. Needs to be done with confidence otherwise the lady doesn't know to go round or duck under.
Arch down over the men. This time the man does stop at the bottom and acts as a pivot, swinging the lady so she can head up the middle of the set. She's suddenly become the bottom lady and off to start the right arm turn with the new first man
It's quite possible for the bottom man to dance up behind the men and start the 'Top Lady and Bottom Man' swing without waiting for the 'Top Man and Bottom Lady' to decide they've had enough. You then have two pairs swinging at the same time in the set. It's then sort of polite to finish at the same time as the first diagonal and let the top man get back to place to start the Strip the Willow with the top lady.
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