The annotated Strip the Willow

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?

Getting prepared...

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.

There is a mantra: A phrase to repeat to yourself as you get the hang of things...

You say to yourselves:

  • Right arm with your partner, left arm along the line

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).

Being helpful...

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...

Leave no bruises...

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.

Watch out in case...

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.

I want more

Webfeet has some annotated dances that include a Strip the Willow, there are also others.

  • Stoke Golding, which has a Strip the Willow for the couple down the set.
  • Foula Reel, where the couple strip, but coming up the set.
  • Drops of Brandy, where the "man" strips down the ladies, the "lady" strips up the mens side and then both strip down the set as a couple
  • The Orcadian Strip the Willow, where people strip as a couple all the way down a long, long set.
  • The Strip the Willow Square, where you and your opposite strip the willow with people around a square set.

Variations: Drops of Brandy

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)