Mara's Carman's Whistle Canary

Notes for my canary arrangement are below. If you were at the Caroso-style ball this past Pennsic, this is the dance Mistress Catrin called for as the first dance. I did this arrangement for Carolingia's production of The Tempest this past April - act IV calls for a masque with a dance in it, the director wanted a dance that supported the theme of the masque (don't have sex until you're married) and wasn't in our current dance repetoire, and I wanted something that the social-dancer actors could look good doing without heavy rehearsal, and could be added to our social dance repetoire afterwards.

To borrow a phrase from Del, the canary is "sex on a stick" - an evocative expression, although one I don't care to analyse too closely. This is definitely a Mating Dance, and we've had a lot of fun with it in Carolingia.

The catch is that there's no commercial recording for it. The sheet music and (I think) the MIDI file for the (synthesized) practice music should be on Mustapha's web site. If that doesn't work and you really want this, send me email and we'll figure out a way for you to get it.

[ This MIDI file is now available on the CD "Del's Dance Disc" -- GB ]

Mara's Stripped-Down-To-Basics Canary

aka Mara's Canary from The Tempest aka Mara's "Carman's Whistle" Canary

from Mara Kolarova, October 1997

This is a Canary arrangement that should be easy enough for beginners to enjoy, with plenty of opportunities for experienced dancers to show off with variations. It goes with a particular piece of music, that being Mistress Gwendolyn of Middlemarch's arrangement of "Carman's Whistle", but could be adjusted to go with whatever Canary music you have handy.

The Canary is a 16th-century dance, popular internationally. Arbeau describes a version of it, and Negri has a very complex arrangement of it. Many Caroso and Negri dances contain Canary sections. There are English references. It appears that the dance could be done either improvised, or following a set arrangement.

This Canary arrangement derived from my memories of various Canary lessons I've had over the years, from Ingrid Brainard, Patri Pugliese, and Charles Garth - none of them very recent.

The Canary rhythm pattern is syncopated: YAAA ta dah, YAAA ta dah, YAAA ta dah, ... In the "Carman's Whistle" music, 1 measure is 2 canary patterns. It has a 1 measure intro, a 13 measure melody which is played 5 times (with A and B variations alternating), and a 2 measure ending.

A number of interpretations of how to do these steps are possible, so if you don't like my descriptions, use whatever others you're happy with. This is a deliberately rough description, enough to jog your memory if you got this handout from me at a class - if you got it some other way, please consult your favorite source for 16th-c Italian dance step descriptions.

The stamping step (seguito battuto al canario): With your weight on your right foot, scuff the left heel forward so that your left foot is in the air in front of you, then brush back the ball of the left foot, then stomp on your left foot (put the left down beside the right, and transfer your weight to your left as you do so). Now you can do the same thing with the right foot. And it all goes in canary rhythm - SCUFF (YAA) brush (ta) stomp (dah), SCUFF brush stomp, SCUFF brush stomp, YAA ta dah. Keep your knees just a little bit bent, and swagger them. Make as much noise as your shoes and the floor permit. (Keep in mind that over-enthusiastic stomping on concrete can be painful.)

The sliding step (seguito spezzato al canario): Slide the left foot forward a small step (and put your weight on it), lift your left heel and put the toes of your right foot underneath the left heel (that's the 'cut under'), then step forward on the left again. Now you can do the same thing starting with the right foot. And you do it in canary rhythm - SLIDE (YAA) cut (ta) step (dah), SLIDE cut step, SLIDE cut step, YAA ta dah. Try to keep your weight well forward, as if you were ice-skating.

The steps that don't count towards dance complexity:

Riverenza: takes 2 measures, or 4 canary-patterns - on 1, men move the left foot forward a tiny bit, on 2, men move the left foot back, on 3, everyone bends both knees, on 4, everyone straightens up.

Continenza: takes 1 measure, or 2 canary-patterns - on 1, step sideways (with the left foot for cont. left), on 2, bring the right foot beside the left with a bit of a rise-and-sink motion.

Ripresa: takes half a measure, or 1 canary pattern - pretend there's a log on the ground, and step over it (ending with feet together).

Walking steps: I'm not gonna tell you how to walk!

The pattern:

The melody is 13 measures (or 26 canary-patterns) long.

Form a longways set*, face forward, join usual hands. Wait out the 1-measure introduction.

1st time through the music:

1-2 riverenza
3 continenza left
4 continenza right
5-6 4 sliding steps (seg. spez. al canario) forward (start left)
7-10 drop hands, men go left and ladies go right: 8 sliding steps around a circle about 8-10 feet (3 meters) in diameter - everybody make your own individual circle, this is not a 'cast off' figure
11-12 4 more sliding steps to go half way around your circle again
13 2 walking steps straight towards your partner, ending 4 or 5 feet apart (1 and a half meters)

repeats 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the music:

1-4 men only: 8 stamping steps (seg. battuto al canario)
5-8 ladies only: 8 stamping steps
9 all together: ripresa left, ripresa left, going diagonally back left
10 ripresa right, ripresa right, going diagonally back right
11-12 4 sliding steps around to your left in a little circle about 4-5 feet in diameter (1 and a half meters), end facing your partner
13 2 walking steps straight towards your partner, ending 4 or 5 feet apart (1 and a half meters)


measures 1-2 riverenza

* Yeah, I know, it should be a single couple, and you can do it that way for a Caroso-style ball or a performance. For ordinary SCA social dancing, using a longways set formation provides easy feedback to casual dancers who need to be able to glance sideways to resync on the rhythm or the figure.

Once comfortable with the basic form, put in step variations such as alternate stamping patterns in the solo sections, use trabuchetti to retreat instead of plain ripresa, or anything else that seems like a good idea.


Meredith Courtney
12 Melville Ave.
Boston, MA 02124

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