Thursday, 28 August 2014

Bobbin Dancing @ Yan Tan Tethera (part 1/3)

When thinking of folk dance and weaving (see previous post), Maypole dancing is an obvious reference and, practicing this in the initial stages of developing the bobbin dances for Yan Tan Tethera seemed inevitable.

During early rehearsals when developing the dances, accompanied by Ben Moss on the fiddle and later Aimée Leonard on the drum, we danced as in around a maypole, i.e. forming two concentric circles that moved in opposite directions - see drawing above of a Circular Hey, from Cecil Sharp’s Country Dance book. 

Holding handmade bobbins, dancers crossed each by the left and right shoulder alternatively and weaved the knots pictured below. Images on the left are a knots 'danced' with 6 bobbins, and on the right with 8 .

Music helped both the dancing and the weaving. It made us step in unison and keep our positions and helped produce a regular weave. This in turn allowed us to undo the knots by simply reversing the steps and repeating the process in order to explore pattern variations; holding the bobbin up or down for instance as you crossed one another (either by left or right shoulder) meant a dramatic change in the pattern (or weave). We later referred to these specific ways of crossing the bobbins in terms of a ‘turn’ or a ‘cross', terminology used when making bobbin lace - see my own explanatory diagrams and score below.

Practicing these steps and figures with bobbins highlighted a clear connection between folk dance and textiles and these were used at the beginning of the first 'bobbin dance' performed during Museum Night on May 15th at Cecil Sharp House. I'll describe in my next post what came next.

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