pennsicdance: Gathering Peascods and "GOOP"

Jane & Mark Waks waks at
Wed Sep 7 06:57:27 PDT 2005

Alex Clark wrote:
> At 09:35 AM 9/6/2005 -0700, Greg Lindahl wrote:
>> On Sat, Sep 03, 2005 at 12:10:11PM -0400, Alex Clark wrote:
>> > The "GOOP" version of Gathering Peascods that I described
>> ... is not a GOOP. Please, Henry, try to use the term like other
>> people use it. . . .
> My usage is compatible enough with that of others to be correct.

Sorry, Henry, but I really don't agree. The word "grossly" implies a 
strong pejorative -- that this dance is not just a bit inappropriate, 
but that it is wildly inappropriate for our setting. Overuse in a case 
like this renders the term essentially meaningless.

I mean, for heaven's sake, look at what you're talking about. We're not 
talking about a whole dance that's wrong in many particulars -- we're 
talking about one choreographic element. And it's not even an invented 
choreographic element, it's an *omitted* one.

Is the omitted clap Playford's intent? I would say that it's likely that 
you're correct that it wasn't, but I think it's genuinely ambiguous, and 
you're overinterpreting to claim that it isn't. I think it *is* clearly 
within the realm of typical regional variation in dance, however.

You're making a big deal about precise interpretation of the text, but 
in that respect I think you're doing the form a disservice. Playford 
wasn't like a modern choreographer, describing a desired dance with 
crystalline perfection, where every nuance has to be correct to 
accurately represent the artistic intent. He was the editor of a squad 
of researchers, redacting a living dance tradition. The odds that those 
dances were precisely the same from place to place is pretty damned low 
-- that's not how dance traditions work. So saying "this was the one and 
only way that things were done" is itself a gross misrepresentation of 
period dance, and by over-emphasizing ambiguities like this, you're 
mis-teaching more important and fundamental lessons. A real period dance 
teacher wouldn't be focusing on nits like this -- he'd be worrying about 
whether the style was broadly right, and generally not worrying about 
small variations. Variation was, if anything, far more accepted, even 
expected, in period dance than it is today.

Yes, this is subjective territory. Deal with it: that's why 
reconstruction is work. Yes, there are judgement calls in what is 
"grossly" OOP, what is "slightly" OOP, and what is "maybe" OOP. (The 
latter being how I would characterize this particular nuance.) Such 
judgement calls are why we spend time learning this stuff deeply.

In this case, I believe you've lost perspective -- you're on such a 
crusade about this particular detail that you're making a mountain out 
of a molehill. And that does a grave disservice to your students, 
because it doesn't teach *them* perspective. Equating the missing clap 
in Gathering Peascods with something wholly and completely wrong like 
Korobushka (which is essentially what you're doing here) just confuses 
people to no good end. A minor reconstruction error (presuming that this 
*is* an error) does not make a dance "grossly" out of period -- if it 
did, then most SCA dances, even the ones being taught by the experts, 
would fall into that category. Hell, half the dances that we originally 
learned from the serious scholars of the field have proven over time to 
have far worse errors than that.

Just to put a different perspective on this: the clapping thing *pales* 
in seriousness compared to how badly most SCAdians generally do the 
steps -- the usual gallumphing style used for *all* ECD would probably 
be considered far more "wrong" by Playford and his contemporaries than 
this minor detail. We take dances whose original context was courtly, 
and treat them as if they were modern folk dances.

Your usage is *not* compatible with that of others. I don't know anyone 
else, anywhere in the Society, who stretches the term to anything 
remotely resembling that level. If the use of the word "grossly" is 
considered as a statistical spectrum, you are way, way over to one side 
here, several sigmas out from the average. As such, you're simply 
introducing confusion to no good end. It's counterproductive, and 

				-- Justin

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