pennsicdance: Gathering Peascods and "GOOP"

Maugorn at Maugorn at
Wed Sep 7 09:10:59 PDT 2005

In a message dated 9/7/05 9:56:24 AM Eastern Daylight Time, waks at 

> 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 also agree that Henry seems to be confusing a matter of degree with the 
fact that there ARE ends of the spectrum that vastly differ.   It's a common 
rhetorical fallacy often called "argument of the beard"  (ie, how many whiskers 
does it take on a man's face to call it a beard?  Clearly the line is hard to 
demarcate, but nonetheless a man who's face is visibly covered with hair has a 
beard and a man who's clean shaven does not)

But there's another point Henry makes that I HAVE to agree with, and that is 
the danger of making "rules and policies" about this without having any real 
"authority" to do so.

You can't and shouldn't tell people what to dance.

You can like a dance or dislike it (for whatever reason)
You can teach a dance or not teach it (for whatever reason)

But when you start trying to police what others do, you start to create 
police states.
And like I said before, this isn't a wedding, or (Really Big Social 
Occasion/Event), or a matter of personal or national security.  There are no "laws" 
being broken.

It's all a matter of personal aesthetic that is being influenced by a 
cultural aesthetic that is as regional as it is subjective.

Nobody is dying or being gravely wounded here doing GOOP who's not dying or 
being gravely doing any other kind of dance.

And I'd like to reiterate another observation:  dances of all stripes, 
styles, and periods come on the coattails of or are themselves fads.  A dances 
popularity is usually limited and ephemeral.  People get bored and move on to the 
next big new shiny thing.    So, most of the time, if you don't like a dance, 
all you have to do is wait it out.

But there ARE exceptions, and there are reasons for these expceptions.  Some 
people oppose the notion that, for instance: "Hole In The Wall" should be 
granted some sort of "grandfatherly" or "traditional" status in SCA culture and be 
"allowed" anywyay.   If the goal is to foster "period" dance, then tradition 
and ignorance of it's historical status can and ought to be trumped by what we 
know now, is what they claim.
But I think that the reason that HITW persists as a popular diversion in the 
SCA has little to do with it's periodicity and everything to do with the SCA's 
sociological culture.  And the reason I think this is that There are PUHLENTY 
of dances that were 
also popular back when I first learned HITW that aren't so popular now.  A 
prime example is the Earl Of Salisbury Pavanne.  When I started playing in the 
barn lo those many (OMG is it really becoming decades plural?!?!?!) ago, EOSP 
was a MUST have in the musicians' repertoire.  The fact that it was a 
questionable modern reconstruction didn't matter then.  It matters more now, and other 
Pavannes that fit EOSP's niche have come along and quite frankly, as much as I 
like the music for EOSP, I ALSO want to hear what some of the other actually 
extant Pavannes sound like and to wrap my fingers around them.

Thing is, HITW was hugely popular then, and wouldn't be such a controversy if 
it wasn't hugely popular still.   One would think that the intervening 
GENERATION of people between when I learned it and now would have had it going to 
the same popularity of EOSP.  But that's not the case. For an astonishingly 
large number of people who learn this dance, as soon as they learn it, they love 
it and want to do it-  still.    
And if this wasn't true, there wouldn't be such fervent calls to "stop 
teaching" it.

What I'm saying here is that many fads are simply social trends, but based on 
my observations of this dance over the (OMG) decades that I've played it, 
watched it, and sometimes danced it, HITW persists, not because it's a trend, but 
because it answers a social need in the psychosocial structure of the SCA in 
our time and place.

If you want to eliminate HITW, without a replacement that fills that need, 
you are going to risk actual HARM to your community, and not just the dance 
Actually I should say needs-plural.
Before you can even hope to get rid of HITW, you'll need to know
What makes HITW so popular?  Ask the people who love it.
Ask LOTS of them.  Find the recurring themes.  Also ask alot of people who 
experience the dance itself differently- you'll probably find something in the 
movements themselves that is very pleasing to a whole lot of different people 
for a whole lot of different reasons.  

I predict that this dance is so popular and so widely appealing because it 
meets alot of social and individual needs regarding dance.  The reasons will be 
legion, but the themes driving those reasons will overlap and reinforce each 
other ALOT.  And the end result of all of that is that alot of very nice people 
are very very happy as a result of doing this dance.

Now ask yourself:  What right do I REALLY have to take that away from them or 
deprive them of it?  What do I have to offer in return if I do?

What is it that really makes it more important to get your way on this issue 
than to simply let people do what makes them happy in this case?

We all pay the same price to attend Pennsic and we all should get to play. 
Not everyone has to like the same thing or for the same noble or ignoble 
reasons.  But when something strikes a chord, and resonates, and sustains the way 
this dance has, I think that tampering with that without really knowing what it 
is you're going to affect and basing that tampering on a projection of your 
values onto someone else is GOING to have alot of unintended consequences.

Social engineering has a spectacular history of failures, because, well, 
humans are both brilliant and morons collectively and individually.

For myself, I don't mind playing HITW once a night or so, and can and do 
amuse myself thru the endless repetitions.  All I ask is that it not be TOO many 
times and not more than once a night, same as any other dance.  I even like the 

It ain't no big deal.


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