May Heydays at Evesham:
2023 Dance-writing Competition

As last year, 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.

Here are the dance instructions and information about some of the choreographers — the others haven't given any!  There are links to some videos taken at the session: just click the “Video” arrows.  This is my standard layout rather than the way the individual choreographers may have written their instructions.  Unless otherwise stated, a full stop (period) is 4 or 8 bars (8 or 16 steps); a semicolon is 2 bars (4 steps).

Colin Hume

First Prize
John Sweeney

May the Serpent be With You

by John Sweeney from Kent, England

Formation: Double Contra — Mescolanza — Four Facing Four

Music: Smooth reels at around 108 bpm such as “Charlie Mulvihil's / Gigue Du Salon”:

 Note: A1 and A2 are in fours with the facing couple:
A1:Ladies' chain.  Mad Robin anti-clockwise — ladies through the middle first.
A2:Half hey, ladies start right shoulder — men ricochet: all should be back where you started.  Balance the ring twice – now focus on being with your neighbour, not your partner.
B1:Serpentine hey, ladies leading their neighbour men.  [In fours circle left half-way (4 steps); two middle couples open back ring half-way (4 steps), ends stand still]  All that again.
B2:Partner gypsy right and swing — finish facing a new line in your original direction, on the other end of your line.

Teaching notes:

The men's ricochet follows the same path as their Mad Robin — basically they do two Mad Robins, but meet with both hands on the second one.

The ladies need to finish their half hey by curving to the left into the circle of four.

The Serpentine Hey is as in Gary Roodman's Terpsicourante (but two cycles, not Gary's three).  The ladies are doing a hey, leading their neighbour men along behind them. They do hold hands with the other pair in the circle lefts; they don't hold hands with the other pair in the back rings.  It is important for the ladies to let go early at the end of the circle left and curve over their left shoulder to go behind the other couple. It should be one smooth serpentine movement.

When a circle left half-way leaves you at the left or right end of the set, stand still!

You can also see the dance instructions on John's website MayTheSerpentBeWithYou.html for any further teaching tips and updates that he may make.

And you can see Keith Wood's animation of the dance at dance.html#MayTheSerpentBeWithYou.

Second Prize

Cherry Season

by Keith Wood from Sydney, Australia

Formation: Becket

Music: 32 bar reels

A1:With partner, promenade across.  Circle right ¾.
A2:With partner, weave the line, moving forward to the right past current neighbours, then left to face new neighbours.  Swing new neighbour.
B1:Hey for four, men passing left shoulders to start.
B2:Men allemande left once around, while women orbit half-way clockwise.  Swing partner.


The circle/weave/swing path reminded me of a bunch of cherries, and cherry season is just starting — hence the name.
Alternative timing in A2 is only 4 beats for the weave the line and 12 beats for the neighbour swing.

Keith has animated his dance at dance.html#CherrySeason

Third Prize

May Heydays Magic

by Lynne Render from Loughborough, Leicestershire,

Formation: Becket

Music: 32 bar American reels

A1:Slice left.  Right and Left through straight across the set.
A2:Ladies chain straight across.  Mad Robin (Ladies in front so anticlockwise).
B1:Petronella balance and spin one place.  Swing partner on side of the set.
B2:Ricochet reel — man start by passing left shoulder.
(For both men and ladies, you pass by first time and ricochet the second time you meet.)


Slice left is lines forward on left diagonal and fall back straight so you move one couple round the set — this is the progression.

The ladies chain / Mad Robin / Petronella / Swing should all flow naturally into each other.

The reel will put you back on your original side of the set.
Start by men passing left, the second time the men meet they ricochet back.
Similarly, the ladies pass each other the first time and ricochet the second.
As the ladies fall back from their ricochet all take nearest hands with partner (and, in fact, along the line) ready for the next slice left.

Lynne Render is well known as a caller and dancer, calling both mixed and American style dancing for clubs and festivals.  However, she has not written many dances herself (with the exception of the series of lockdown virtual dances created during the Covid pandemic).  The May Heydays dance competition produced a new challenge.

Hey both ways

by Colin Hume from Letchworth, Hertfordshire,

Formation: Double longways

Music: 32 bar American jigs/reels

A1:Lines of 4 forward and back. With the opposite couple, right and left through.
A2:Allemande left corner (for the ends it's your opposite) 1½ into a square.
Side ladies pass right shoulder: hey across half-way.
B1:Heads right and left through.   Head ladies pass right shoulder: hey up and down half-way.
B2:Original partner balance and swing — finish facing original direction but you've changed ends of the line.

Yay Shy Dame

by Trevor Monson from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England

Formation: Longways duple improper

Music: Leisurely American contra-style 32 bar reel or jig

A1:Men left hand turn half-way then go left shoulder round your neighbour back to home place (6 bars); with partner box the gnat.
A2:Ladies left hand turn half-way then go left shoulder round your neighbour back to that place (6 bars); with partner box the gnat [all home].
B1:In same fours circle left half-way and swing partner to end facing next couple [progressed and on original side].  In these new fours …
B2:Men pothook right shoulder and ladies pothook left shoulder [4 bars — changed sides with partner].   Men pothook left shoulder and ladies pothook right shoulder [4 bars — changed back, still progressed, ready to start again in these fours]


You can think of pothooks as interlocking chevrons, or lopsided do-si-do's.   In 1-4 men pass right shoulder and go slightly wide of the set, immediately followed by ladies starting by passing left shoulder who stay slightly closer together. Then, at the same time, all fall straight back, up/down the set, ladies between the men.  Keep facing the same end of the room all the time as in a do-si-do.   5-8 is the reverse to change sides back again.   Always pass 'nearest' shoulder on the diagonal.

“Yay Shy Dame” is an anagram of May Heydays — I hope it's not taken as sexist.

Trevor Monson started folk dancing in school, and has enjoyed dancing ever since.  He has been asked to call at various clubs and festivals, and has also written some dances.  These have been mainly English style, this one being only his third contra-style dance.

Double Gypsy

by Jeremy Child

Formation: Longways duple improper

Music: 32 bar smooth reels

A1:Do-si-do neighbour.  Swing.
A2:Gypsy right partner, ladies gypsy right half-way, give left hand to partner for a courtesy turn.
B1:Half a hey, ladies passing right shoulder to start.  Partner swing.
B2:Balance the ring; Petronella twirl.  Balance the ring; California twirl partner.

Love's Evolution

by David Smukler from Syracuse, New York,

Formation: Becket (clockwise progression)

Music: 32 bar smooth jigs, not too fast (112-116 bpm)

A1:Gents allemande left once around, and release hands a bit early to ease out to place.  Partners “Cecil Sharp” siding: left shoulder to change places, right shoulder back.
A2:Circle left ¾, neighbours pass through, and form a wave across with new neighbours.  Balance the wave; swing through: neighbours right-hand turn half-way, in the centre left-hand turn half-way.
B1:Repeat: balance the wave and swing through (partners right-hand turn, in the centre left-hand turn).  Neighbours swing, stay connected.
B2:Revolving door (see note).  Partners swing.


“Cecil Sharp” siding is a figure borrowed from Playford-style dancing, variously called “swirly siding”, “crescent siding” or “banana siding”.  In this dance, the flow from siding into circle should happen without pause.  Allowing the circle to begin a bit early is fine, as it will create a little more time to get into the wave half-way through A2.

“Swing through” is Modern Western Square Dance terminology.  In a wave-of-4 the two pairs right-hand turn halfway, and then the centres left-hand turn halfway, re-forming the wave there.

“Revolving door” is a term invented by Ron Buchanan and the figure works like this: At the end of B1, neighbours end their swing facing across in “half shoulder-waist position” (i.e., still connected).  Without releasing the neighbour, ladies begin a right-hand turn once around, thereby bringing their neighbour along to the other side of the set as in a star promenade. Drop the gents off there, and complete the right-hand turn unencumbered to flow smoothly into a partner swing on original side.  (Once released, gents also keep moving, looping clockwise into their partner's arms for the swing.)

Although these figures come from different traditions, all can be described in familiar terms, and so I believe this dance is “suitable for an ordinary UK dance club”.

David Smukler is a caller and choreographer who has been dancing since the 1960s.  David is President elect of the Board of the Country Dance and Song Society of North America, and the author (with David Millstone) of “Cracking Chestnuts, The Living Tradition of Classic American Contra Dances”.  David and his wife had expected to attend May Heydays at Evesham in 2020, but this plan was scuttled by the COVID-19 pandemic.  He hopes to attend in a future year.

A Hey in May

by Michael Totham

Formation: Mescolanza

Music: 32 bar steady reels/jigs

A1:Lines go forward and fall back but not too far.  At each end, ladies chain across.
A2:Same fours flutterwheel and Sweep a Quarter, ending close (10 steps, ending beside partner facing across the hall), then step to a wave (2 steps) (In right hand waves across set, with neighbour in right hand); balance the Wave (4 beats)
B1:Pass the Ocean (4 steps) to form right hand waves across the hall with partner in right hand — in effect a tidal wave of eight); Swing Thru (6 steps), Cross Trail Thru and face partner (6 steps)
B2:Half a hey across the hall.  Swing partner, end facing original direction but on the other end of the line.


If dancers have trouble understanding Pass the Ocean and Cross Trail Thru from waves, get then to take one step backwards during first walkthrough.

Pass the Ocean: Pass Thru; Face your partner; Step to a wave.
In this scenario dancers are half-way thru the Pass Thru part of call; just drop hands and complete Pass Thru, then complete rest of call instructions.  In effect middles have done a quarter turn by linked hands, and ends are still on the end of a wave.

Swing Thru: Half turn by the right, then half turn by the left if you can.
As dancers appear to be in a Tidal wave there may be a temptation for a Left half turn in middle between the two waves: DON'T.  Call is for groups of 4 dancers on each end.

Cross Trail Thru: As one smooth motion, Pass Thru and Half Sashay.  Ends in couples back-to-back.
This is the same situation as Pass the Ocean: just drop hand and complete Pass Thru, then complete rest of call instructions.

Half Sashay: Dancers exchange places with right-hand dancer moving in front of left-hand dancer as they swap places.  Also known as Half a Mad Robin

Michael Totham got into writing dances during lockdown when he learnt how to do Modern Western Square Dancing to Plus level.  Then he started to do the dancing once it was possible.  MWSD has a larger repertoire of dance calls, many of which don't reference gender, so he has done Flutterwheel from longways, all proper.  It's given him numerous ideas for dances.  He refers to his dances with the preface “Where dancers can Expect the Unexpected and need to think Outside the Box”.

Evesham Flippers

by Andrew King from Hertfordshire, England

Formation: Longways duple improper

Music: Cooley's Reel or any 32 bar reel

A1:Do-si-do flip neighbour: (When you pass left shoulder at the end of the do-si-do, pull your left shoulder back so you turn towards your neighbour, look into their eyes and fall back into their place — like doing a quarter left-hand turn when you are almost touching left shoulders in the do-si-do.) (6 bars); circle left half-way and if there's time, two-hand balance to your neighbour along the line.
A2:Swing neighbour along the line and face across (man on left, lady on right).  Mad Robin with neighbour (sideways do-si-so) all the way to current position (men go in front).
B1:Do-si-do flip partner (same movement as with neighbour but slightly quicker).  1st corners (ladies) cross; 2nd corners (men) cross.
B2:Balance and swing partner — end facing next couple, man on left, lady on right.

Andrew King is a bell ringer, musical director, euphonium player and dancer.  Andrew has many interests including volunteering for the Woodland Trust and visiting traction engine and classic car rallies and heritage railways throughout the year.  He came into calling a few years ago training with Kathryn and David Wright as a new caller at Chippenham folk festival in 2019.  Since then he's become chairman of the Welwyn Garden City Folk Dance Club and called at some clubs around Hertfordshire.  He enjoys dancing at Cecil Sharp House once a month with the London Barn Dance Company.

Louisa's Contra

by Helena

Formation: Longways duple proper

Music: Own tune (32 bar polka)     Music

Danced with skip change / polka steps.

A1:First woman right-hand turn partner. First woman left-hand turn second man, ending in promenade hold (woman on man's right) facing first man.
A2:Diagonal hey of three starting with first man, left shoulder, the couple in promenade hold acting as one, first woman ending in her place facing out, second man goes to his place.
B1:First woman cast, followed by partner, ending improper in second place (twos move up). Neighbours right-hand turn one and a half (first woman with second man, first man with second woman).
B2:Second man cast up followed by partner, ending improper in first place (ones cross down). Twos half figure eight down, to progressed position on their own sides.