The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH)
Information: A dance.
Jim Saxe, Palo Alto, California, wrote
In an article, Erik Thor requested historic information about contra "chestnuts" chestnuts such as Rory O'More, Chorus Jig, etc.
Erik, I don't know if anyone can supply the "definitive" history of any of these dances (well, maybe Tony Parkes can for Shadrack's Delight), but I have a number of references that you may find useful. Since we live in the same area, I'll bring some to a dance sometime and let you have a look. I've found more information than I care to put into a posting, or even type in at all right now, but as a sample of the kinds of things you run into when you start digging, here's a little about Rory O'More.
Was Rory O'More ever a triple minor?
Yes, Rory O'More was once a triple minor. Contra corners was originally a figure for a group of six (think about Sackett's Harbor).
I'm not sure just when people figured out that you could do Contra corners in a duple minor set if you have the inactives do double duty by being first corner to one active dancer and second corner to another.
Here are the directions to Rory O'More, as given by Beth Tolman and Ralph Page in "The Country Dance Book" (originally published in 1937):
Music: The Same
Formation: Country Line-up (Six or Eight Couples in a Set).
First couple cross over, down outside below (two times 4 bars)
Up center, cross to place and cast off (four bars)
Give right hand to partner and balance (four bars)
Step two steps to right by each other; join left hand and balance again (four bars)
Swing contry corners (eight bars)
Balance partner (four bars)
Swing partner to place (four bars)
Fourth couple also start dance.
The instruction "Fourth couple also start dance" indicates a triple minor set. Note that the action in A2 is done by the actives dancer with their partners only, not in a long wave.
Note also that two of the three balances (the first balance in A2 and the balance in B2) are given as 4-bar (8-beat) actions, and that there is no instruction for the active dancers to step to the left past each other after the second balance in A2. Even bearing in mind that eight-count balances were once more comon than they are now (a topic on which I won't elaborate further in this message), it's tempting to think that the sheer asymmetry of the action in A2 must indicate an error in the description. However, the two earlier descriptions of Rory O'More that I've found in my library (from 1918 and 1858) also omit stepping to the left after the second balance. Remember also that Contra (/contry/country) Corners has not always and everywhere begun with actives turning by the right hand (consider the English country dance "Prince William").
In "The Caller/Teacher Manual for Contras" (1973), Don Armstrong offers a more familiar (to us) version of the A2 action in Rory O'More, giving "BALANCE AND SLIDE TO RIGHT" for counts 17-24 and "BALANCE AND SLIDE TO LEFT" for counts 25-32. However he still describes the dance as a triple minor. I think that Rickey Holden gives similar choreography, but in a duple minor setting, as early as 1957, but I don't have his book in front of me to check as I write this.
Finally, here's a version of Rory O'More as given by Jean C. Milligan in 101 Scottish Country Dances (first published 1956, reprinted with corrections 1957, reprinted 1960):
Music: Original TIME 6/8
This is a longways jig-time dance for 2 couple. A new top couple begins on every 2nd repetition.
1-4 1st and 2nd couples advance towards partners and retire. 4 skip change of step.
5-8 They cross over to change places, ladies passing under the arch made by the men. 4 skip change of step.
(Illustration showing a 4-couple set with W1 and W2 about to go under arch made by M1 and M2, while the couples 3 and 4 stand in original places.)
9-16 They repeat all this back to places, the men passing under the arch made by the ladies. 8 skip change of step.
17-24 1st man leads his partner down the middle an up again.
25-32 1st and 2nd couple change places with poussette.
1st couple repeat dance with next couple.
This illustrates one of the pitfalls that lie in wait for the naive dance historian: the same name may be applied at different times and places to totally different dance sequences. Of course, the converse also holds: the same dance sequence, or closely related sequences, may appear under totally different names.
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