[Nz-folk] Social Dancing in New Zealand
chrisjbrady at yahoo.com
Wed Apr 9 10:06:13 NZST 2008
Following on from the fascinating newspaper accounts, and hopefully not contradicting what Phil has written in his new bok (!!), I have to opine the following from my own research.
In the 1880s when 'home' meant the mother country social dancing and fashions in NZ very much emulated what was popular in the UK. By that I mean that the dances enjoyed were mainly quadrilles and late country dances such as Roger d'Coverley. These would have been danced to whatever music was available from musical boxes to a concertina or melodeon to a fiddle and even to the local brass band.
Tjhere was no such thing as bush dances or folk dances, excepting maybe in the north the Yugoslavian gum diggers probably held onto their own cultural activities, as I guess the Irish did on the gold fields in the south. But the English tried to emulate everything English in Christchurch and Auckland (as remembered from 'home' before the long sea passage to NZ). As indeed did the Scottish in Dunidin - hence the Highland Games.
So what were danced at woolshed balls in NZ - as indeed was mirrored in Australia - were danceds such as The Lancers, The Caledonians, The Alberts - all quadrilles; and couple (or two-hand dances) such as Polkas, Gallops, Schottische, Varsoviana and Waltzes. These were all widely known standard dances in England up until the 1920s - when the latest American dances took over such as the Jive.
But Country Dancing - both English and Scottish - did not really arrive until enthusiastic teachers arrived in the early 1900s. This type of dancing was really hobby dancing as promoted by Cecil Sharp (English) via the English Country Dance Society and Miss Milligan (Scottish) via the Royal Scottish Country Society. [Incidentally 'country' does not mean 'from the countryside' - it is a corruption of 'contre' meaning 'opposite' as in two lines of dance partners facing each other.]
And so-called bush dancing was an invention of city folk in Australia based on the Community dances Manuals importedf from the EFDSS in London in the 1960s.
The 19'th and 20'th social dance scene in NZ seems to have been mirrored that in Australia. And I refer interested researchers to Shirley Andrew's and also Peter Ellis's books. A web search will quickly list a number of them.
Coming to the present it is interesting that at the recent Auckland Folk Festival we danced at least three versions of a dance I wrote which includes three couples making arches - a kind of six-handed star - and then pulling the opposite through each arch. Tjhe dance is called Kentucky Reel in the UK (although it is not a true reel with stepping), The Coathanger in Australia and Auckland Bridge in NZ. It dates from the 1980s. It is widely popular in the UK, and it seems that it has been recently re-collected and brought back to NZ but slightly changed - in my opinion not for the better. Indeed the fun part has been lost in the folk process.
This is how I originally wrote it:
3 cu. circle
Start in circle with each man's partner on his right
A1 Circle left and circle right
A2 Each man turns the lady on his right once round by the right hand, into a 'grand' chain, passing the next lady with the left, the next with the right, then the next with the left - at this point tucking in *behind* this lady - whilst the ladies make a right handed star - then the men complete the six-handed star taking the opposite lady's hand and forming three separate arches. This is the fun part - the lowest arch gets the longest swing - so the arches tend to fight for the lowest position.
B1 Turn the star once clockwise - whilst arches jostle for lowest position
B2 The man with the bottom arch pulls his new lady across and swings her, the man with the next lowest arch pulls his new lady across and swings her, the third man pulls his newest lady across and swings her.
End up with each man's new partner on his right in a circle.
Repeat three times to regain original partner
The current modern version whereby everyone dashes about looking for a new set of copuples kind of detracts from the close contact of swinging a new partner each time through.
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