Dance Games

[ This article appeared in volume 2 of the Letter of Dance. ]

by Mistress Caitlin de Courcy

Dances that involve some element of fun or competition always seem to go down well at our feasts. Apart from the challenge of getting them right at all, the first `game' we adopted was to do the dance with the musicians playing faster and faster: the interest being to see who gave up first, the dancers or the players. At a ball held a year ago I decided to invent some other games for the amusement of the participants, and came up with the following two.

Whispering Pavane

The basic dance is the Known World Pavane [sometimes known as The Carolingian Pavane -- Justin] -- couples stand in line and do three pavane sets forward and one back; the woman circles the man with two pavane sets; then the man circles the woman with two pavane sets; repeat from start. A slight alteration is required: the man should circle the woman behind him, returning to his partner.

The first woman is given a message to pass on (I usually use a collection of 6-8 phrases about dancing taken from period descriptions, each 8-15 words long). When she circles her partner she whispers the first line to him, and as he circles the woman behind, he passes this line on to her. Then the next time the circling occurs, the second woman passes the first line to her partner (who then passes it to the woman behind) while the first woman passes the second line to her partner (who then passes it to the second woman)... and so on, till the last line is sent on its way. The man at the end has no woman behind him to circle, instead he should note down the phrases as he hears them from his partner, and the dance continues till he has received all the lines of the message.

Note that the dance will have to repeat for each line in the message plus each couple in the set, so if you have a large number of dancers you should break them into groups of eight couples or fewer or the dance will last forever. Any 16-bar pavane music will suffice: as it will be repeated a lot, the musicians may wish to stave off boredom by playing several different pavane settings. At the finish, reading the original and the resulting messages usually affords much entertainment!

Jenny Pluck Partners

The basic dance is Jenny Pluck Pears: I'll describe for the simplified version but it could equally be done with the complete version (i.e. with set and turns, armings and sidings - see Playford). The music has two sections, fast and slow, and in the simple version the dance goes:

Fast: In a circle all go round 8 slips left, 8 right, 8 left, 8 right.

Slow: Women move to the middle and face their partners, Reverence.

Fast: Men do 16 slips left around the circle, 16 right to end back in front of their partners.

Slow: Men pull their partners back into the circle, Reverence and join hands.

Repeat the above but with men going to the middle and women going round.

Repeat from start.

Now the alteration is this: when the women go to the middle, one of them `hides' by standing inside the outward facing circle of women. As the men do their 16 slips left and right, the musicians choose some arbitrary point to stop playing. And as in musical chairs, the men then have to find the nearest partner, and whoever is left partnerless is eliminated. When they pull their partners out, the `hidden' lady will be left in the centre, where she remains while the rest do 8 slips each way together. Then when the men go to the middle, she moves out to join the circle of women (so they have one too many, no man needs to hide) and as they do 16 slips round the music stops, they grab a partner and one of them is eliminated ... and so on, until one couple remains the winners! If you have a large number, two or three women can hide each time so that people are more quickly eliminated.

I devised a different elimination dance for our most recent feast, which celebrated the death of Mary Queen of Scots. This one doesn't require live musicians but does need a long piece of music or a tape loop. I will describe it for music that has three short sections (repeated), but it can be adapted for almost any music -- a bright, bouncy tune by preference -- with the changes of the dance fitted to the pattern available, or done arbitrarily at the leader's whim.

The Queen of Scots Farandole

For the first section, all participants stand in a line and the leader (on the left) leads them skipping or walking where they will. In the second section, the leader forms an arch by taking both hands of the second person, and the rest of the line passes underneath, the new leader turning back and joining onto the end so that there is a circle passing under the arch. Then in the third section, the people forming the arch bring their arms down round the head of each person passing under and whoever is caught underneath when the section ends has their head `chopped off' and falls to the ground. The person who was next in line is now the new leader and leads the line away, the people who formed the arch join on the end of the line, and the dance continues until the hall is littered with bodies and the last three people are the winners.


Webbed by Gregory Blount of Isenfir (Greg Lindahl) (