Sellenger's Oval, or The End of the World (As We Know It)

[ This article appeared in volume 3 of the Letter of Dance. ]

by Fideleco de Rocheforte

Sellenger's Round, sometimes called The Beginning of the World, was first published on the last page of the third volume of Playford's The Dancing Master, and went through several permutations in subsequent volumes to become the dance we know and love today. Originally, it was for three couples in a line and only had three verses. But it grew into a circle for as many as will with four verses.

Unbeknownst to most scholars and laymen alike, the dance went through more permutations than previously thought before that first publication. Found on a scrap of parchment, wrapped around a four century old haddock, were the notes for a dance entitled Sellenger's Rhombus. Since then, notes for Sellenger's Trapezoid (on a discarded napkin from Miller's Delicatessen, conveniently located just across from the Temple Church), Sellenger's Triangle (on a portion of a woodcut discovered on the scrapheap of a famous British Museum), and Sellenger's Polygon (found taped to the underside of a desk drawer, on the back of an I.O.U. for 15 pounds sterling to a Signore Guido "Scarface" Scarlotti of Sicily) have been found. But recently while cleaning my closet, I unearthed my original copy of Bill Watterson's Magnum Opus, Yukon Ho! I made a most startling discovery when a scrap of paper fell from between the pages. Undecipherable squiggles met my eyes, but I knew it was important.

Using unforeseen talents I knew not I possessed I turned the paper over and translated the English into American, and present my findings for the first time here in the Letter of Dance. Thus I proudly present Sellenger's Oval, perhaps the earliest setting of the dance found to date.

The tune is astonishingly similar to Sellenger's Round, and is either a brilliant rearrangement of a few notes, or vice versa, or none of the above.

Sellenger' Oval
For a Circle of Lots and Lots of Couples

Part 1
A1(All join hands in a circle) Eight slips left (clockwise).
A2Same as Part A1 (keep going left).
B1Lords (using a stamping step) Double into the center; while Ladies giggle and point. Lords fall back a Double. Turn partner by both hands.
B2Ladies double into the center; while Lords mumble appreciatively about their ankles. Ladies fall back a Double. Turn contrary by both hands.
Part 2
A1 (All join hands in a circle) Double into the center and shout "Egglplant!" (I have no idea why; shouting 'whoosh' is much better). Fall back a Double.
A2 Double into the center and shout "Parmesan!" (I still don't get it. Personally I can't stand the dish.) Fall back a Double.
B1 (Partners join inside hands) Double into the center. Lords turn single and a half (in place, end facing partner); while Ladies fall back a Double. Turn partner by both hands.
B2 Partners change places (passing right shoulders). Lords turn single; while Ladies Double to places. Turn contrary by both hands.
Part 3
A1 Side Right shoulders with partner.
A2 Side Left shoulders with contrary.
B1 All fall back a Double. Double forward. Set and turn single.
B2 Set and turn single with contrary. Double forwrd. Fall back a Double.
Part 4
A1 Arm Right with contrary.
A2 Arm Left with partner.
B1 Same as Part 1, B1.
B2 Same as Part 1, B2.

As you can see, Sellenger's Oval is much more difficult to keep straight than Sellenger's Rond, which was a considerable simplification. The apparent arbitrariness used to perform one action with one's partner, and the next with one's contrary, and vice versa, seems extremely amateurish. It is no wonder that the dance changed again before becoming the standard.

While the historical accuracy of this dance is questionable at best, its historical import remains to be determined.

Source: Rochefort, Paul. A Small Scrap of Paper Found in the Back of a Book in my Closet. Unpublished.

Webbed by Gregory Blount of Isenfir (Greg Lindahl) (