This stately dance is well into the grey period of the 1600’s and doesn’t fit the SCA criteria of pre-1600 culture, but it’s an old favorite within the society. We have our own subtle styling in the way we dance Hole in the Wall, so it’s not going anywhere soon. Musicians have a tendency to feel it’s overplayed, but that’s probably just because they have to play it so many times. Dancing is a different thing. If you’re lucky, you’ll be changing your steps part way through the dance. It’s a nice slow one though, so just enjoy the simple intricacies of this beginner level English Country Dance from John Playford’s English Dancing Master. This video shows the preferred SCA stylings for this 17th c dance.
Acknowledge: My name for a mini-reverence that is included in a dance but not given time for a full reverence. You usually have 1 count to execute something along the lines of a reverence.
Cast: A step to move around the set. Turn the OPPOSITE way that you’re casting out of the set, walk to your destination in the time allotted for the cast. Usually 4 or 8 counts. 6 counts in Hole in the Wall. The number of positions moved is indicated, as is the direction (up or down the set, right or left in a circle).
Circle: Take hands and move in a circle. Usually in a clockwise direction.
TO BEGIN couples form a line of MEN and WOMEN, each facing their partner. The couple at the top of the set is a FIRST COUPLE, the next couple is a SECOND COUPLE. This number convention continues down the set. If there is an odd number of couples the last couple in the set will rest during the first repetition and enter the dance as a SECOND COUPLE.
- FIRST COUPLES acknowledge their partners, turn to the head of the set and then hook down to the empty space made by the next FIRST COUPLE casting two down the set. 6 COUNTS.
- FIRST COUPLES meet in the middle with another acknowledgement of their partner and walk back up the set then back into their original places. While assuming their places they acknowledge their partner again. 6 COUNTS.
- SECOND COUPLES acknowledge their partners, turn to the bottom of the set and then hook up to the empty space made by the next SECOND COUPLE casting two up the set. 6 COUNTS.
- SECOND COUPLES meet in the middle with another acknowledgement of their partner and walk back down the set then back into their original places. While assuming their places they acknowledge their partner again. 6 COUNTS.
- FIRST MAN meets SECOND WOMAN with their RIGHT palms together. They rotate to the RIGHT and switch places. 6 COUNTS.
- SECOND MAN meets FIRST WOMAN with their RIGHT palms together. They rotate to the RIGHT and switch places. 6 COUNTS.
- FIRST and SECOND COUPLES join hands in a circle of four. Rotate CLOCKWISE one 1/2 rotation until the FIRST COUPLE is back at the top of the grouping of two couples. 6 COUNTS.
- FIRST COUPLE drops hands and faces the top of the set before turning and hooking down the set to the spot previously held by the SECOND COUPLE (cast down one). SECOND COUPLE stays with their hands held and advances up one place in the set to the spot that was held by the FIRST COUPLE. 6 COUNTS.
- REPEAT until the music runs out. In a set with an even number of couples one couple will be at rest on the second and every subsequent even repetition of the dance. In a set with an odd number of couples one couple will be at rest at one end of the set or the other on every repetition, including the first time through, as noted above. AFTER RESTING for a repetition the couple will switch to the other numbering. FIRST COUPLES become SECOND COUPLES, etc.
This animation is a bit hard to follow, but does give a good idea of the whole figure. If you can’t quite figure out where you’re supposed to go in this dance, have a look at this.
A scan of the original notation from the Playford’s Manual
A seriously advanced ‘variation’ is to include partner kidnapping. It can be fun, and is supported by evidence that it happened historically. Something to think about. A larger ball will announce poaching and non-poaching sets, then you know you can have some fun!