What's a Strip the Willow? A dance or a figure? Do just I do it or do we both do it? How far do I have to go? Where's my partner gone?
Look at your lines; look at your partner; look at the people in the opposite line. You will be dancing with your partner and the people in the "opposite line". This description is for the most common version, where both people strip down the set. See below for variations Traditionally people in the 'opposite line' are the 'opposite sex', but don't get fazed if this is not the case.
You say to yourselves:
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.
Due to strange rules of geometry, the men in this Strip the Willow figure
normally have to dance further than 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 Halfway. It's hectic. It's frenetic. And it carries on. Left arm turn round to the next person in the line, halfway round, right hand to your partner...
When you turn someone, turn them with a forearm/elbow grip. Think of this as each person cupping their hands round their partner's elbow rather than linking elbows, holding hands or swinging.
The forearm grip comes with some advice: as always avoid the temptation to grab too hard, particularly with your thumb, you will know why when someone does it to you.
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.
Similarly, try to keep an eye on your partner, know that you'll need to get back to them and dance with them with your right arm. Make sure that they know that they are going to be dancing with you with their right arm.
Webfeet has some annotated dances that include a Strip the Willow, there are also others.
What to watch for... The Drops of Brandy, is different as it starts off with 'just the man' stripping down the line of ladies (a single reel), then 'the lady' stripping up the line of men, followed by them stripping down the set as a couple (described as a double reel)
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