Friday, 29 August 2014

Bobbin Dancing @ Yan Tan Tethera (part 2/3)

When dancing around the Maypole, ribbons wrap around its length from the top down to create the 'weave'. When making bobbin lace, stitches are spaced out using pins on a pillow. Both the pole and the pins and pillow allow the weaving and lace making to grow. Dancing with only bobbins offers no such luxury; only a limited number of 'turns' and 'crosses' (see previous post) can be made before the threads twist over each other and the pattern disappears.

The question was then how to make the dance long enough to match the duration of the song we would be dancing to.  We explored various ways of doing this. We switched from using bobbins with fixed lengths of rope to using bobbins with handmade ribbon, the length of which could be unwound at will, allowing us to travel away from and extend the weave. This offered many more possibilities and resulted in two dances being created.

Following the performance of a circular hey, also described in the previous post, Bobbin Dance #1 split dancers into two groups of four. Stepping in opposite directions and now performing something close to a straight hey, the dancers wove their bobbins to the tune of Off Jumps Jack and Yan Tan Tethera, sung by the Cecil Sharp House and Dulwich Folk choirs. This a created a four-way plait worked simultaneously in both directions.

In Bobbin Dance #2, six dancers all stepped in the same direction, 'turning' and 'crossing' their bobbins and eventually weaving around two rows of singers performing do si dos and straight heys. The dance floor became a 'lace pillow' (with  the singers as ‘pins’) onto which a network of knots was created.

photo Fay McNulty
photo Faye McNulty
photo Fay McNulty

To rehearse the dances, various scores were produced to help memorise the moves, as illustrated below. More on this and Bobbin Dance #3 in my next post on this blog.

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