medieval dancing in England

Black Nag

This is a spritely little dance that practically dances itself once you get a feel for it. One of those that’s simple enough you can sweep up one volunteer per couple and still keep things basically intact. A great way to do it is to dance it once, then have each confident dancer grab a volunteer partner to bring into the dance and do it all again! Since the most complicated step (the hay) is at the end, it’s easy enough to let it dissolve into laughter when it inevitably turns into a hot mess. Just barely in the first half of the Society’s grey period, this dance is nevertheless a common one at balls throughout the known world.

Source: The Dancing Master,3rd Ed. written by John Playford and published in 1657.

Step Review:

Double up: Step forward with your L foot, then your R foot, then your L foot again. Bring your R foot next to your L to finish the step.
Double back: Step back with your R foot, then your L foot, then your R foot again. Bring your L foot next to your R to finish the step.
Slip step ‘up the hall’: Step sideways towards the top of the set (where the head couple is). With as quick of a hop as you desire, bring your feet together. Sometimes labeled ‘flip steps’ because of changes in how the letter ‘s’ looks.
Slip step ‘down the hall’: Step sideways towards the bottom of the set (where the third couple is). With as quick of a hop as you desire, bring your feet together. Sometimes labeled ‘flip steps’ because of changes in how the letter ‘s’ looks.
Turn single: Turn once, clockwise, in place.
Side/Siding: Facing your partner walk forward four steps, angling slightly so that your R shoulders are even with each other. Walk back four steps to your original place. Repeat on the L. Can be broken down into Side R and Side L, where only one side is done.
Arm R: Grasp your partners R forearm at the elbow, holding your forearms together. Walk four steps clockwise around each other. Switch arms and walk four steps counterclockwise back to your place.
Arm L: Grasp your partners L forearm at the elbow, holding your forearms together. Walk four steps counterclockwise around each other. Switch arms and walk four steps clockwise back to your place.
No hands hay for three: The lord or lady from the first couple faces down the set while the other two lords or ladies face up the set. All walk forward on the beat making a figure eight pattern on the floor and returning to their original places.

Steps:

English Renaissance Dance

Lords form one side of the set and ladies stand opposite them.  All hold their partners hand and face the top of the set after acknowledging their partners. The couples are numbered sequentially starting with the couple at the head of the set.

  • 4 Counts. Starting on the L foot.  Forward L, R, L, bring the R foot together with the L one.
  • 4 Counts. Backwards R, L, R, bring the L foot together with the R one and turn your face in to nod to your partner on the last beat.
  • 4 Counts. Starting on the L foot.  Forward L, R, L, bring the R foot together with the L one.
  • 4 Counts. Backwards R, L, R, bring the L foot together with the R one.  Turn your body to face your partner and take both of your partner’s hands on the last beat.
  • 4 Counts. 1st couple does 4 slip steps up the set.
  • 4 Counts. 2nd couple, same.
  • 4 Counts. 3rd couple, same.
  • 4 Counts. All turn single over R shoulder.
  • 4 Counts. 3rd couple does 4 slip steps down from the set.
  • 4 Counts. 2nd couple, same.
  • 4 Counts. 1st couple, same.
  • 4 Counts. All turn single over R shoulder.
  • 4 Counts. All walk forward until their R shoulders are even with their partner’s.
  • 4 Counts. All walk back to their spots.
  • 4 Counts. All walk forward until their L shoulders are even with their partner’s.
  • 4 Counts. All walk back to their spots.
  • 4 Counts. 1st lord and 3rd lady slip step to trade places, passing each other back to back.
  • 4 Counts. 3rd lord and 1st lady, same.
  • 4 Counts. 2nd couple, same.
  • 4 Counts. All turn single over their R shoulder.
  • 4 Counts. 1st lord and 3rd lady slip step to return to their original places, passing each other back to back.
  • 4 Counts. 3rd lord and 1st woman, same.
  • 4 Counts. 2nd couple, same.
  • 4 Counts. All turn single over their R shoulder.
  • 8 Counts. All arm their partner with their R arm, turning in a clockwise rotation.
  • 8 Counts. All arm their partner with their L arm, turning in a counter-clockwise rotation.
  • 16 Counts. The lord from the first couple faces down the set while the other two lords face up the set. All walk forward on the beat making a figure eight pattern on the floor and returning to their original places.
  • 16 Counts. Women, same.

Practice Playlist:

This playlist is ordered with the slower versions starting first. I haven’t judged any of the recordings on being time period appropriate, just made sure all of them seemed good to dance to.

You may want to listen to the first repetition of the melody to see if it has an extra long intro, sometimes musicians like to get fancy to keep the dancers on their toes. That’s why I decided, after some consideration, to leave the last one on the list. Enjoy! 😉

Resources:

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