May Heydays at Evesham:
2024 Dance-writing Competition

The double-length session was run by Andrew Swaine, who called all the dances and led the discussion after each one, assisted by Daisy Black who kept the scores.  The music was provided by Momentum.

Andrew says…

As in previous years, for each dance, everyone who danced it had a vote of 1 to 4, except those who knew (or were) the choreographer; the average score was taken as the score for that dance, with the highest score winning.  We also for the first time added an option for people to vote “Did Not Meet Brief” before giving their score, which effectively reduced their score by 1.  The brief was, as always, that it should be suitable for a regular dance club night (rather than a workshop or display dance), and this year that the dance should be in a circle.  Sicilian circles were excluded — that's basically a longways set with its ends joined together — we chose the brief to explore a form of dance that we felt is generally under-represented by dance choreographers.

The ratings of 1-4 had the same meanings as before:

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.

Having constraints can be a real source of innovation, and there was indeed much innovation in these dances, with several cracking dances that would have been worthy winners and I expect callers in the room to be using in future! They were all, not surprisingly, mixers, but that was about the only common theme, with lots of rhythms, speeds, and styles represented.

Five of the nine dances came without their own tune, allowing the band to choose the tune, and the dancers generally felt that this was a good thing — if you have a great tune that you want to use for a dance then that's fantastic, but the music that a band is going to enjoy playing the most is typically music that they've chosen themselves, and you don't want people to not do your dance just because they don't like the tune!

Generally the dances that did the best were the simplest, finding a novel idea with no more complexity than necessary to present it. That's especially important for circle dances, which are most likely to be of use early in a programme to hasten people mixing with each other.

Many thanks to all the choreographers, both experienced and inexperienced, who took part. As it's a competition there has to be a winner, but just as important is the learning that comes from analysing the dances and seeing what makes a good one — every dance taught us something and we enjoyed dancing and talking about all of them. Thanks also to the band, Momentum, for providing excellent music, as well as having a very appropriate name when it came to talking about dance choreography!

Here are the dance instructions and information about some of the choreographers — the others haven't given any!  We were going to add links to videos of all the dances but there was a mix-up and the dancers weren't warned that this would happen so they didn't give permission.  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
Trevor Monson

Circle to a Hey in May

by Trevor Monson from Yorkshire

Formation: Circle, man on left, lady on right

Music: Any 32 bar tune — but preferably a reel or jig.

A1:All circle to the left and back.
A2:Face partner and balance forward and back while holding both hands; Petronella turn ¾ to face partner, so men are facing in and ladies facing out (like spokes of a wheel).  Forward and back to partner (touching both partner's hands — use all 4 steps forward and 4 steps back).  [This is a good time to check who is on the right and left of your partner!]
B1:Figure of eight (hey):
All pass partner by the right shoulder, move right passing next person right, loop right to find partner then pass partner left, move left, passing next person left and loop left to face partner again (men on outside facing in, ladies on inside facing out).
B2:Left hand turn partner once round.  With next person on right diagonal (your new partner) 2-hand turn once round and reform the circle.

Trevor started calling in the late 80's and has now called/taught at many of the major dance and folk festivals around the UK, as well as some in America and Canada, and also calls at many club nights.   He has a broad repertoire ranging from Playford through to modern Playford-style dances (having written some himself) and can also include American squares and contra dances in his programmes.

Andrew says…  A really great dance should do one thing well, and this dance does that perfectly — it has a clear distinguishing figure with plenty of space around it so that anyone who can do that figure can do the rest of the dance too.  You naturally get to see your previous and next partners, and the 'storyline' (how obvious each next figure is based on the previous one) was very clear and meant it was easy to drop the call.  Fun for beginners and experienced dancers alike.
Second Prize

A May-ry Chase

by Keith Wood from Australia   Website: keith-wood.name

Formation: Circle, man on left, lady on right

Music: 32 bar smooth reels

A1:Couples advance into the centre; as the women retire, men turn right to face their partner and follow them out.  Partners do‑si‑do.
A2:Chase: Women turn to face out and partners chase out (4 steps); women turn to face in, women advance, men retire (4 steps).  Men turn to face in and partners chase in (4 steps); men turn to face out, men advance, women retire (4 steps).
B1:Partners right-hand turn ¾ to face neighbour (4 steps) (this neighbour will be your new partner); neighbours left-hand turn once around to face partner (4 steps).  Partners pull past by the right (2 steps), with the next, left-hand turn once around (4 steps), and partners pull past by the right (2 steps).
B2:Swing new partner.  Promenade around the circle and finish facing in.

Keith has been calling dances for several years, usually in Contra and English Country styles, at regular dance workshops in Sydney, Australia.  He also composes dances in these styles and in Australian and Scottish Country styles and has published four books of his dances so far.  His dances have won dance-writing competitions within Australia.

Andrew says…  The chase / back away concept was great fun, and while it does appear to have a very high 'piece count', or number of distinct moves (14!), they join together in such a way that the dance as a whole was far easier than you'd expect and made it well worth it.  Also wins the prize for the most pun-tastic title.
Third Prize

May Mania

by Colin Hume from Letchworth, Herts   Website: colinhume.com

Formation: Circle, man on left, lady on right

Music: 32 bar bouncy jigs

A1:Right-hand turn partner 1¼ so that women are on the outside facing clockwise, men are on the inside facing anti-clockwise.  Single file in two circles for 6 steps, then “switch”: change circles and turn right.
A2:Single file the other way.  Right-hand turn partner, keep hold and give left to the next person (previous partner) in a circular wave, men facing in, women facing out.
B1:Balance forward and back; quick left-hand turn.  Swing partner.
B2:Promenade for 6 steps, then women turn out to your right, men keep going.  Do-si-do the next (new partner).

Colin is a regular at the Festival, and not just because he's the webmaster.  He's written a large number of dances and is also a well-known caller and a not-so-well-known pianist in various folk dance bands.  He came to the festival to dance this year but ended up leading the Regency Ball when the booked caller lost her voice.

Andrew says…  Another clever idea, dancing from one concentric circle to another, and even more opportunity to interact with lots of people in the circle — engaging enough for experienced dancers but clear enough storyline for me to drop the call.  An interesting choreographic point came up: to make sure each dancer had their “own” gap, one person wondered if it would be better to be explicit how many people to pass.  Personally I think that this is an example where the dance is better for being less specific, as the ideal number varies depending on the size of the room, the speed of each dancer, the speed of the music, the slipperiness of the floor — and the fact that sometimes you take the same gap as someone else adds to the fun of the dance!

There & Back Again

by John Sweeney from Kent, England   Website: contrafusion.co.ukVideoyoutu.be/S5mQ2SeSpXE

Formation: Circle, couples facing anti-clockwise, holding nearest hand

Music: Marches, polkas or other suitable 32-bar tunes at around 118bpm.  John uses The Kissing Dance and The Goulash Archipeggio by All Blacked Up.

A1:Dance Forwards, on the fourth step Turn Halfway, towards each other, changing hands (4 steps); Dance Backwards (4 steps).  All that again — finish where you started.
A2:Lasso the Man: The Lady stands still and raises her joined hand, the Man dances around the Lady until he is facing her — releasing hands as he finishes the figure.  Foot It. [e.g. Set R/L Twice or Heel-Toe-1-2-3 x2]
B1:Men Slip In; Men Slip Out WHILE Ladies Slip In.  Ladies Slip Out WHILE Men Slip In; Men Slip Out Diagonally Forwards to end facing the next Lady.
B2:New Partner Dosido.  Swing — finish Facing anti-clockwise holding nearest hand.

Teaching notes:

A1 is as in La Chapelloise.

A2: Lasso: Emphasise that the ladies do NOT turn, they keep facing anti-clockwise around the circle.  After the man dances once and a quarter around the lady everyone is in a single circle, with the men facing clockwise with their right shoulders pointing at the middle and the ladies' left shoulders pointing at the middle.

Emphasise to the men that they need to go straight into the Lasso and dance it quickly to reach their destination on time.

A2: Foot It: I always give examples.  With inexperienced dancers I usually just tell them to Set Right & Left twice, forwards then backwards.  Or if they want some stepping then go Right Heel, Right Toe, Right, Left, Right, etc.

B1: I have found that some people don't like Slipping, so I always give them the option to Grapevine instead: Men: Step to the right with the right foot, step behind with the left foot, step to the right with the right foot, tap with the left foot.  Reverse that to get back.  Ladies the same with the other foot.

A call of “Men Slip, Everybody Slip” usually works well.

B2: For a group that is not into Swinging then B2 can be: Dosido; Two Hand Turn 3/4.

Of course, if you don't give options and everyone does the same stepping in the Foot It and everybody Slips, then it looks much better to an observer.

Andrew says…  Chapelloise is a great dance so it makes perfect sense to reuse half of it as the start of a 32 bar dance.  The “Lasso the Man” figure is a cunning way to get from that formation to facing your partner.  This has a great ceilidh vibe and was another one where I could drop the call.

Whirlpool

by Cara King from Pasadena, California, USA.

Formation: 5 couple circle mixer

Music: “Rushin' For the Ferry” by Dan Page (AABB, A minor, 2/4)     Music
The tune is recorded on Track 1 of the Dancehall Players' CD “Fresh From Dan's Hall”.
More information at thedancehallplayers.com/recordings

A1:With hands, in a double and back.  Partners set and link, ending facing partner; into…
A2:Partners Cecil Sharp (swirly) siding by right shoulder.  Partners left-hand turn once and a little more, into…
B1:Men right-hand star WHILE women orbit anti-clockwise (all leave partner, then pass one more dancer); with next dancer, left-hand turn halfway to trade places, into…  Women right-hand star WHILE men orbit anti-clockwise; partners left-hand turn a bit more than halfway, until all home but facing neighbor.
B2:Two changes of a grand chain around ring (starting right hand to neighbor: 4 steps per change).  With next person (new partner) two-hand turn one-and-a-half times — end facing in.

Teaching notes

Cara King lives in Pasadena, California, where she dances and calls with the Monrovia English Country Dancers and the Historical Tea & Dance Society.   She loves choreographing new dances, and with Whirlpool she now has a round dozen.   Her passions include acting in Shakespeare's plays, reading Jane Austen and Diana Wynne Jones, and going to dance camps.

Andrew says…  While the rules stated that dance could not number the couples, there was nothing in rules against having a specific number of couples!  One of many dances where the dancers enjoyed the momentum (with delight from the band!)

Oranges and Lemons

by Pat George from Australia and Bedford

Formation: Two Circles, Men on the inside facing out, Ladies on the outside facing their partner.  Distance between dancers normal to allow holding two hands across.

Music: “Bright Shining Sea” and “Rosemary's Off to Prince George Town” by Dan Page: See below.     Music

A1:Men dance around partner by Right Shoulder:  Partners facing, Man moves towards partner so that he can dance around her and back to place, passing by his Right Shoulder with hers.  Lady dance around partner by Left Shoulder:  Partners facing, Lady moves towards partner so that she can dance around him and back to place, passing by her Left Shoulder with his — Ladies end back in place facing anti-clockwise, men turn to face clockwise.
A2:All dance single file for 4 dance steps in Jig time: Men dance clockwise and on 4th step turn over Left Shoulder to change direction, Ladies dance anti-clockwise and on 4th step turn over Right Shoulder to change direction.  Return to place and face partner.
B1:Facing partner set right and left and change places with half a right hand turn.  Facing next dancer on the left diagonal set left and right and change places with half a left hand turn — end facing across to the next person, your first new partner.
B2:Hold two hands across with your new partner.  Set forwards and back; drop hands and turn single over Right Shoulder, to face back to your partner.  Left Shoulder Gypsy once and a bit more, Ladies moving to next place Anticlockwise and Men next place Clockwise.

Notes

Ann Schau, leader of The Dancehall Players has given me permission to use the music from Track 4 of their CD “Fresh From Dan's Hall” for my entry into the Competition.  The musicians on the CD are: Gregory Brown, Susan Larkin, Keith Malcolm, Dan Page, Ann Schau, Lael Whitehead with Barry Webster and Victor Smith.  I am delighted to use this lively and creative track.
More information at thedancehallplayers.com/recordings

After creating the dance I struggled to choose a title.  I then realised that 'Oranges and Lemons', was suitable for a circle dance that weaves and changes direction.  There is the well-known rhyme that is thought to have originated in London, as a way for illiterate people to learn their way around the streets, by listening for the church bells.  It is also a children's singing game, and John Playford published a dance with this title in 1665.

Pat George lives most of the time in Australia having moved from England in 1968.  She became very interested in English Country Dancing around 2003 when she moved to Bedford, joined Bedford Fine Companions and developed a love for dancing and calling.  She now calls in England and Sydney and this year at Easter will be running a workshop in Canberra.  She hopes to return to England more frequently to enjoy the festivals, club dancing and calling in the Bedford Area, and was a regular dancer at the Eastbourne Festival.

Andrew says…  A lively dance that remembers to give everyone a brief rest at some point!  Generally enjoyable but at the end some felt that the flow was a little awkward.

May Daydream

by Renée Camus from the Los Angeles area, USA   Website: reneecamus.com

Formation: Circle, man on left, lady on right
Music: This Dancing of a New Day, by Rebecca King, 2020 — a slip-jig, so there are three steps to the bar.     Music

A1:With hands: All balance forward and back; neighbors gate clockwise once around.  All take hands and balance forward and back; Partners gate anti-clockwise once around, and face partner.
A2:Two changes of a Grand Chain: Pull by partner with R-hand (3 counts), pull by the “2nd” person with L-hand (3 counts); then R-hand turn the “3rd” person once round (6 counts) to head back the way you came.  Repeat back to home: Pull by the “2nd” person with L-hand, pull by partner with R-hand, then L-hand turn original neighbor once round to end facing partner.
B1:Partners Hole-in-the-Wall cross (6 counts); then cast back over your R-shoulder AROUND the person behind you (your “2nd”), and end facing them.  Repeat to home: Hole-in-the-Wall cross with “2nd”; then cast back over your R-shoulder AROUND the person behind you (your partner) to end facing your partner.
B2:Partners 2-hand turn once and a half to change places, then open into…  Circle L; turn single out over L-shoulder and reform circle.

Teaching Notes:

Thanks to Rebecca King for her permission to use this beautiful tune.

Renée is an English dance caller and choreographer.  She has taught dancing from ballroom to clogging to tap to historical dance in camps such as Pinewoods, Terpsichore's Holiday, and Cincinnati Vintage Dance Week.  She started writing English dances in 2018 and has written around 12 dances so far, available on her website www.reneecamus.com/english-country-dance-choreographies.  Her dance “As You Were” won first place in the May Heydays competition in 2022.

Andrew says…  This had a great idea for a distinctive figure in the B1, but some found that they got quite dizzy from it, especially as the first move to follow that sequence turns in the same direction.

Bewitched

by Linda Simans

Formation: Double circle. Men on inside, facing partner.  Women progress clockwise, men anti-clockwise.

Music: 32 bar waltz.  Recommended tune: Daria, by Calvin Vollrath, calvinvollrath.com     Music

A1:Set right and left; turn single right ¾ (women now facing clockwise, men anti-clockwise) .  Partners take inside hands: move 2 waltz steps clockwise (women forward, men backwards); 2 waltz steps anti-clockwise.
A2:Balance towards and away; drop hands and about turn over left shoulder.  Partners take inside hands, move 2 waltz steps clockwise (women backwards, men forwards); 2 waltz steps anti-clockwise.
B1:Half left-hand turn; loop right into…  Tight gypsy right once and a fraction more (⅛) to face partner on diagonal (women now inside, men outside).
B2:Fall back 2 single steps on slight diagonal; turn single coming forward to meet partner.  Right-hand balance forward and back; turn the lady under to change places and meet new partner round the circle.

On the last turn of the dance, there are an extra 4 bars of music.  Step right and honour, step left and honour.

Andrew says…  Lots of very different opinions on this dance across the whole range — although we average the scores for judging the winner, in general a dance that some people really like is more likely to be danced than one which everyone thinks is “ok”!  Those that liked it liked the experiences it gave, while others felt it was lacking a 'hook', with more complexity than was necessary for the reward.

Don't be Square

by Michael Totham

Formation: Circle for 5 or more couples, man on left, lady on right. Men progress Right, Ladies progress Left.

Music: Number of couples x 48 bar reels/jigs

A1:Allemande Left to an Alamo Ring (8 steps).  Balance the Ring; Alamo Swing Thru (Half turn by Right, then — across the music -
A2:Half Left); Balance the Ring.  Next, (one in R hand) Do-si-do and remain facing. (Your temp partner) (All progressed 2 places, Men R, Ladies L)
B1:Do Paso — that's Partner Left Turn, Corner Right Turn, Partner Courtesy Turn, end facing in.
B2:Allemande Left lady on the Left and face partner for…  (2nd lady) Right & Left Grand (Chain) for 2 changes (4 steps) (In 5 couples circle all facing original corner); Next, Box the Gnat.
C1:Chain right back — that's a Wrong Way Right & Left Grand, for 2 changes (4 steps); With next, take Right hands for a Bernard Bentley Allemande to Promenade hold (8 steps) (See Teaching notes below); Promenade (4 steps)
C2:Ladies Backtrack on the outside track and All go Single File.  Pass your partner by, and with next — your new partner — Gypsy right (If time) and Melt into a Swing.  (aka Gypsy Meltdown) (In effect your new partner is your old partner, corner, partner.)

Teaching notes

Dance can be done with 4 or less couples.  How many couples in circle can be limiting factors on dancers ability.  If get to 8 or more and is an issue, then suggest then split in 4s or 5 & 4 for 9.  Dance is designed to get partner back but it's not crucial.

Bernard Bentley Allemande to Promenade hold — As normal Bernard Bentley, them about ¾; that's until both facing promenade direction, then take promenade hold.

Ladies Backtrack — Ladies cast away from partner to face opposite direction on the outside of men.

How much Gypsy and Swing depends how quick dancers can get around.  So Gypsy, if time and at least one Swing turn to get dancers to face in.  Can be an issue with increased number of dancers in circle.

Name Derived

“Square (Being Square)” is a slang term for a person who is conventional and old-fashioned: you're boring or not cool.  This is not to be confused in that a square is also noun being something that has 4 equal sides.  So for this dance I have used calls or adapted calls to create something different from the usual calls used in a circle dance.  Some of the calls you might recognised from its Noun namesake.

Michael got into writing dances during lockdown when he leant Western Square dancing.  This started him thing about breaking convention and writing dances differently.  He doesn't reference gender, but dance position.  He describes his dances as “Where dancers can Expect the Unexpected and need to think Outside the Box”.

Andrew says…  This might work better with a room of modern Western square dancers, but I'm afraid we weren't that room!  Too many challenging figures thrown at the dancers too quickly made it really too difficult to execute successfully.  It was fun trying nonetheless!