May Heydays at Evesham:
2022 Dance-writing Competition

A personal view

from Colin Hume

Andrew Swaine was the perfect choice to run this event!  Before the event he had to go through the instructions for eight new dances and understand them (which wasn't always easy).  On Sunday morning he walked each dance through, called it, then controlled the process of getting comments on each dance after it had been danced, making sure people had their say without anyone monopolising the discussion.  At the same time he managed to ensure that everyone enjoyed the event — which was a double-length session — no time for the usual half-hour break to relax and drink some tea or coffee!  Albireo played all the tunes in their usual gutsy style.  Daisy Black was recording all the votes in a spreadsheet, so that at the end — after Mecki had told us who each of the eight was by (choreographers from England, the USA and Australia) — Andrew could immediately announce the top three dances.

Thirty or more people were there to try out each dance, discuss it, and then vote on it at one of four levels (or abstain):

1. Would avoid   In its current form, I'd sit out this dance if I knew it was being called.
2.IndifferentI'd do this dance but it wouldn't be one of my favourites.
3.EnjoyableI'd enjoy doing this dance again if it was called.
4.ExceptionalThis is a great dance I'll be talking about – I'd actively ask to do it again or would call it myself.

People who knew who the choreographer was were asked not to vote on that dance.  Everyone else who danced a dance was encouraged to vote on it regardless of experience, as we wanted to understand what real dancers felt about the dances, not just a few callers.

The winner was the dance with the highest average score: sum of scores divided by number of votes to allow for differences in the number of people dancing each dance.

There was great variety among the dances and a high level of innovation.  Strong and conflicting opinions were expressed, sometimes for the same dance.  Andrew asked for positive comments first, and there were always some, even if only "It was different".  There were probably negative comments on all the dances, and there were certainly dances where some people voted "Would avoid" and others voted "Exceptional".  I'd heard before that there are many reasons why people dance, and therefore many different opinions on what makes a good dance, but it was fascinating to experience that first-hand.  Daisy told me she had learnt so much about dance choreography just by listening to the comments.  The band also had some comments about the tunes, though we were voting on the dances rather than the tunes — they said my dance would go better to a different tune.  Some people were suggesting changes to the choreography, or that there would be more time for the moves if the dance were to a jig rather than a slip-jig, but we were there to judge the dance as it had been submitted rather than working out how to improve it.

All the dances have links to tunes.  Click the treble clef button and the tune will appear in a new tab where you can hear and print it.

The rules specified "A Playford-style dance suitable for a club evening rather than a workshop" — see whether you think the choreographers followed this!

First Prize
Renée Camus

As you were     YouTube

by Renée Camus from San Fernando, California, USA

Formation: 3 couples longways
Music: 3 x As You Were by James McNally (recorded by Afro Celt Sound System, 2003)    Music

Part I
A11-4Partners lead up a double and fall back, holding inside hands.
 5-8Partners set and turn single.
A21-4Partners lead down a double and fall back.
 5-8Partners set and turn single.
B11-4Middles go to their left and star L for 3 with end couple.
 5-8Partners L-shoulder back to back.
B21-4Middles go to their right and star R for 3 with other end couple.
 5-8Partners R-shoulder back to back.
Part II
A11-4Partners Cecil Sharp (swirly) siding.
 5-8Partners Hole in the Wall cross, ending in partner's place.
A21-8Repeat A1 (siding and Hole in the Wall cross), ending at home.
B11-4Top 2 couples double Mad Robin CCW WHILE bottom couple R-shoulder walkaround (gypsy).
 5-8Bottom 2 couples double Mad Robin CW WHILE top couple R-shoulder walkaround (gypsy).
B21-8“Mad Morris Hey”: a Morris hey where partners face each other the whole time, starting with the middle couple moving (sideways) up the center, the top couple separating to go down the outside, and the bottom couple preparing to separate and come up the outside.  All end at home.
Part III
A11-4Partners arm R.
 5-8Partners 2-hand turn (CW).
A21-4Partners arm L.
 5-8Partners 2-hand turn the other direction (CCW).
B11-8Perpendicular Heys: Middles cast over their R-shoulder and go outside the set to hey for 3 across the set with the end couple on their left (man up, woman down).  Middles pass L-shoulder with their 2nd corner person to start the hey.  Do a full hey plus a little more, so that middles go in between end couples a second time.  Then…
B21-8Middles go through home place to hey for 3 along their line, passing L-shoulder with the end person (M2 with M3; W2 with W1).  All finish at home.

Teaching Notes:

Andrew says…  A three part dance following an early Playford structure that was less challenging than its length would suggest thanks to a good storyline.  The band loved the tune and considered it worth its challenges.  The "Mad Morris Hey" was a great idea and well received, although I found that walking an actual Morris hey first to explain the path confused more people than it helped!  Some felt the stars in the first figure would have been better going right first, and the transition from Mad Robin to Mad Morris Hey wasn't as good from all positions, but overall there was enough magic in this dance to get our only majority "Exceptional" vote.
Second Prize

Three Heys in May     YouTube

by Colin Hume from Letchworth, Hertfordshire, England

Formation: Longways duple
Music: Own tune (3-time) — 3 steps to the bar.    Music

A11-2Ones right-hand turn (6 steps).
3-8First man hand your partner down into a hey for three across the set, ones acting as a unit, passing second man right shoulder to start, finishing home but with the ones improper (18 steps).
A21-2Twos left-hand turn (6 steps).
3-8Second man hand your partner up into a hey for three across the set, twos acting as a unit, passing first lady left shoulder, all finishing home and improper.
B1-3Right-hand star (9 steps).
4All turn single left out of the star (3 steps).
5-7Left-hand star.
8All turn single right out of the star.
C1-2First corner positions (first lady and second man) Hole in the Wall cross.
3-4Second corner positions the same.
5-8Four changes of a circular hey, no hands, 3 steps per change.
Andrew says…   A great club dance and fit to the brief.  Provided the dancers kept to the intended timing of 6 steps for the first turn, which is the natural timing if giving some weight, there was plenty of time.  A cracking storyline meant it was always clear what to do next — despite this being the 6th dance called it was the first one where I could drop the call.  A great demonstration of the dance-writing principle of "one clear idea executed well".
Third Prize

Trip to Evesham     YouTube

or, "The Weekend That Wasn't"
by David Smukler from Syracuse, New York, USA

Formation: Longways duple minor
Music: Hatfield House (9/8, 4 bars per part)    Music

A1 Hey-for-3 across for couple two, with the ones taking turns as follows:
 1-2M1 initiate a hey by passing left shoulder with W2, M1 stops in W1's place, as…
 3-4W1 passes W2 by the right shoulder and then loops right into her partner's place, the twos completing their hey
(For the twos it is a complete hey across the set; for the ones it is, in effect, half of a figure 8 for each dancer in turn, so that the ones are now improper)
A2 Similarly, a hey for couple one where the twos take turns as follows:
 1-2W2 initiates the hey passing left shoulder with W1, W2 stops in M2's place, as…
 3-4M2 passes W1 by the right shoulder and then loops right into his partner's place, the ones completing their hey
(For the ones it is a full hey; for the twos a half figure 8 for each dancer in turn)
A2 ends with all in original positions, but improper
B11-2Two changes of rights and lefts (starting with partner)
 3-4Partners two-hand turn
B21-2Ones lead down through the couple below and cast back to progressed place while twos come up the outside, meet, and lead down
 3-4Ones lead up through original neighbours and cast back to progressed place while twos separate down the outside, meet, and lead up (and then immediately separate again to begin the next round)

Written for the 2020 Evesham May Hey Days. The A-parts and B2 are both hey-inspired figures.  Note: There are just 3 steps to each measure.  Each figure will fit, but there is no time to waste!

Andrew says…   Lots of love for the novel idea here of "shared heys" — although it did result in confusion for some, and felt more different for first and second couples than I expected.  The second part of the dance gave the brain a welcome rest and flowed really well.  Due to the decision to use a 9/8 jig, the timing is tight, as the choreographer observed in the notes, which was felt especially for the transition from the heys to the rights and lefts.  This meant I needed to keep the call going and it would need a quite experienced group to be suitable for a club night, but the reward for getting it right was well worth it for most.

Winter in Asheville     YouTube

by Carl Dreher

Formation: Longways duple minor
Music: based on Sonata No. 3 in F-mjr, 4th movement by G.F. Handel arranged by Carl Dreher.    Music

A11-21st cpl cast to 2nd place, 2nd cpl lead up.
 3-41st cpl cross to end of lines facing up, 2nd cpl in middle.
 5-8All up a double and back, end facing nbr.
A21-4R-shldr half hey across, end facing down.
 5-8All down a double and back, bending ends in.
(2nd cpl improper, all progressed.)
B11-4Mirror back-to-back, first cpl splitting 2nd cpl to start.  Stay facing nbr.
 5-82nd cpl, half Fig 8 through 1st cpl.
B21-8Four changes of R&L, starting with nbr.

A straight-forward dance, accessible by beginners but with enough twists to keep experienced dancers interested.  It has a happy tune that feels like a jig but was written by Handel as triplets in 4/4 time.

Teaching notes:

Written to honor of the arrival of Winter Louise Meyer to parents Susan Fruchey and Christopher Meyer in Asheville NC.
Andrew says…   A nice idea with great symmetry.  I could drop the call on this one and it was well enjoyed.  The hey across really is very tight (as noted) and was difficult to execute well, and while I understand the desire to link the rights and lefts back to the A1, the link from a half figure 8 to rights and lefts with neighbour was a little awkward.  While we weren't judging the tune, the band did comment that it had lots of notes in that gave less space for improvisation and variation — something to think about when taking music written by classical composers that was not intended to be played as many times as we do!

Cornercopia

by Andrew King

Formation: Longways duple
Music: Horses Bransle (Arbeau)    Music

A11-4All up a double and back.
5-81st corners change places with each other by casting behind neighbour and crossing the set and all face down.
A21-4All down a double and back (with same sex neighbour.)
5-82nd corners (similar to 1st corners) cast behind partner and cross the set to change places.
B11-4Circle 4 left half way and 1st corners cross left.
5-8Circle right half way and 2nd corners cross right. (All are back to 1st positions at this point)
B21-4Right hand star half way and turn single away from the star and face partner.
5-8Set to your partner and hole in the wall cross.
Andrew says…   Love the name.  This was the first one we did and got us off to a great start.  The novel idea in the first part flowed well and was interesting, and the fit to the music gave great energy to the dance.  The flow from the circles into corners crossing was a bit awkward though (circle left into corners cross left, and the same the other way) and the high "piece count" (number of distinct components) meant this was harder to do than expected.  On music, Horses' Bransle is a 48-bar tune in 3 parts and the dance is 32 bars long — I assumed AABC was intended.  Colin has since pointed out that Gary Roodman has a dance (Horseplay) that uses just the first two parts of Horses' Brawl, so it's possible that this was the version the choreographer had in mind, which would be a shame as the C part is the best bit!

Not There but Here

by Pat George from Bedford, England but at the time of the festival marooned in Australia

Formation: Longways triple minor
Music: "House by the Stream" by John & Sue Stapledon (waltz)    Music

A11-41's cast down, meet in middle 2's lead up.  1's lead down through 3's and round them to middle.
 5-81's and 3's do half poussettes with 1st corners pushing.  (1st man and 3rd lady.)  3rd couple continue the poussette with 2nd couple moving up the set.  (3rd lady pull and 2nd man pull.)
Order of couples from the top 3, 2, 1.
A21-41's (now at the bottom of the group of 3) cast up and meet in middle as 2's lead down.  1's lead up through 3's and round them to middle.
 5-81's and 3's do half poussettes up with 1st corners pushing. (1st man and 3rd lady.) 3rd couple continue the poussette with 2nd couple moving down the set. (3rd lady pull and 2nd man pull).
All couples back home.
B11-8Start a full hey on the side. Middles (2's) and Tops (1's) passing right shoulder first.
B21-4Bottom 2 couples, 4 changes of a hey, starting with their partner.
 5-8As 2nd couple finish they end facing up and 1s and 2s join hand in circle.  Circle half way, 2 bars.  Couples now improper and 2's above 1's.  Then half a 2 hand turn to progress and become proper.

When reaching the bottom of set change with other couple, otherwise the same couple is stuck at the end unable to join back in the dance.

The tune can be found in the book and CD "Not Quite the Two of Us"
Available from Richard Stapledon:
Primrose Cottage
Dee View Road
Heswall
Wirral
Merseyside
CH60 ODJ

Tel: 01513 425947.  Email: You must enable JavaScript to see this email address.

Andrew says…   A triple minor dance where all the roles were interesting, and the first part worked well when people got the poussettes right.  In the second part, while contrast of speed is good, the hey on the side really had too much time.  The instructions were contradictory for the direction of the poussettes in the A2 — I assumed from the flow that 1st corner positions were indeed intended to start the pousette, which would be 3rd man and 1st woman roles pushing, not 1st man and 3rd woman.

The dance has now been changed, is called Chelmer's Charm and details can be obtained from Pat George: You must enable JavaScript to see this email address.

Maybe We Can Hey This Way

by John Sweeney

Formation: 3 couples longways
Music: The Venus of Levenshulme or any suitable 32 bar tune    The band played "The Gallery" and this tune.   Music

A1-21-16All Single Cast, #1s Leading
#1s Lead a Full (nearly) Progressive Hey with hands, across the line of the #2s (start with Right Hand)
When #1s get back to their own side they Lead a Cast to the Bottom and Lead Back to the Top (all are home)
B11-2Long Lines Fall Back
 3-4Ends Face Middles and Set to them (Middles Face Up)
 5-8Double Oval: #1s Gypsy #3s
B21-8#1 Lady Leads a Dolphin Hey to the bottom (Just #1s) WHILE
 1-4#2s Face Partner: Set & Mirror Turn Single Up (and moving together) to Progressed Places
 5-8#3s The same.

Double Step/Polka Step/Skip Change Step recommended for the A part.
Lots more teaching tips at contrafusion.co.uk/Dances/ MaybeWeCanHeyThisWay.html

Andrew says…   Great pun on the festival name!  This was lots of fun and it was nice to have one that really invited to you dance to it rather than walk it.  Lots of novel ideas in here — perhaps too many packed into one dance, and some felt it was more of a workshop dance as a result.  The first part was quite tight and lines having fallen back never really came forward again.  I think this fared better than its position might suggest — while there were three votes of "Would Avoid", there were also two of "Exceptional", and it's far better for a dance to excel in a few settings than to be nondescript everywhere.

Kerry's Keepsake     YouTube

by Keith Wood from Sydney, Australia

Formation: Three couples in a circle, numbered clockwise
Music: 9 x 32 bar reels (preferably ABBA).    The band played the Sussex version of Bonny Breast Knot.  Music

  First Part
A11-4Hands six, circle left, slip-step
 5-83rd man drop hand with 1st woman, lead others under an arch made by 1st couple, individually men cast right, women left, into lines of three (1, 2, 3) facing partner
B11-4Lines of three advance a double and fall back a double
 5-8Two-hand turn partner once around
B21-8All that again
A21-41st couple make an arch, others dance under the arch (2nd man, 2nd woman, 3rd woman, 3rd man), 2nd couple individually casting to the right, 3rd couple to the left, back to place in the circle
 5-8Hands six, circle right, slip-step
A1,B1,B2,A2 Repeat with 2nd couple leading
A1,B1,B2,A2 Repeat with 3rd couple leading
   
  Second Part
A11-8Same as A1 in First Part
B11-4Into-line siding right shoulder with partner
 5-8Gypsy partner right shoulder
B21-8All that again but left shoulder
A21-8Same as A2 in First Part
A1,B1,B2,A2 Repeat with 2nd couple leading
A1,B1,B2,A2 Repeat with 3rd couple leading
   
  Third Part
A11-8Same as A1 in First Part
B11-4Arm right with partner
 5-8Back-to-back right shoulder with partner
B21-8All that again but left arm/shoulder
A21-8Same as A2 in First Part
A1,B1,B2,A2 Repeat with 2nd couple leading
A1,B1,B2,A2 Repeat with 3rd couple leading
   
   

For a shorter version, you can dance the three parts only once through with a different couple leading each time.

Andrew says…   There was lots of laughing and smiling faces for this!  However the core idea didn't work particularly well and was extremely confusing spatially, with no discernable orientation to align to.  We did the proposed (long) version, but there wasn't really enough here to sustain interest for this period.  The band also found it confusing to play the music as ABBA.

In 2023 the competition will be for a contra dance that will be enjoyed by a typical dance club in England — see the rules here.