“The Art of Dancing called by the Ancient Greeks Orchestice, and Orchestis, is a commendable and rare Quality fit for young Gentlemen, if opportunely and civilly used. And Plato, that Famous Philosopher thought it meet, that young Ingenious Children be taught to Dance. It is a Quality that has been formerly honored in the Courts of Princes, when performed by the most Noble Heroes of the Times! … This Art has been anciently handled by Athenæus, Julius Pollux, Cælius Rhodiginus, and others, and much commend it to be Excellent for Recreation, after more serious Studies, making the body active and strong, graceful in deportment, and a quality very much beseeming a Gentleman.”
As the lady’s partner, the gentleman was expected to help the lady through the paces and make her comfortable. He’d offer his hand palm up, cradling hers in strength. Even the names of the dances evoke manly thoughts: Old Man be Full of Bones, Merry Merry Milk Maids, Once I Loved a Maiden Faire, Paul’s Wharf, Row Well Ye Mariners, and so on.
A dance that is a favorite now among English country dancers and contra dancers is Hole in the Wall, which dates from 1695. So, young ladies and gentlemen, study the steps and you might be able to dance it as ably as those from the 1996 television version of Emma. The couple closest to the music is the first couple (or ones), and the couple farthest from the music is the second couple (or twos).
First four measures: First couple casts off around second, leads up the middle back to place
5-8: Second couple casts up around ones, leads down the middle to place
9-10: First man and second woman change places
11-12: Second man and first woman change places
13-14: All hands halfway round
15-16: Ones case down while twos lead up the center to progress.
Repeat, with the twos moving up the line and the ones moving up. When you reach the end, you get to stand out for one cycle and flirt! Then you return to the dance as the other couple.
Still not ready to join the set? No worries! Next week Marissa and I will have more info on dancing. Then the week of the 16th, we’ll have special guest posts from the Oregon Regency Society on English Country Dancing. Don’t miss them!