This is the first of what will be a many-part (6? ish?) series on the dance ‘Hanter Dro’ by Boggarts Breakfast, which I learnt at IVFDF 2013 in Sheffield. All of this will be the dance as I understand it from that workshop (and having seen it danced out a couple of times); I believe there isn’t a written crib for it. Apologies if I get anything wrong, or am too prescriptive about bits!
I thought I’d start by talking about the music and the step, and introducing you to my glamorous assistants who will be helping me to demonstrate how this rather delightfully complicated dance works.
The dancers: Bunny, Clown, Hat, Ninja, Red, and Storm.
I think the lightsabers might chop some of the other sticks in half
The musicians: (they don’t get names. Unless you suggest some in the comments )
There’s totally a violin in that case! What else would it be?
The music used for this dance is Nothing Hill (Hanter Dro) by Zef – they’re a French band who are, I’m assured, happy for this tune to be used for morris dancing. The version I’ve got written down is in 6/4 time – things in 6s are unusual (for Morris; Hanter Dro is a Breton dance/dance style which works in 6s).
To use the 6 beats, it’s a double-step-single-step. This is not symmetrical, don’t assume that it is or you’ll end up on the wrong foot very quickly and get rather confused! The double-step starts on the right, and the single-step on the left, so you go “Right-left-right-hop1-Left-hop2“. As a rule, you move on the double-step (Right-left-right-hop) and step on the spot on the single-step (Left-hop)3. Also, there is lots of beautiful turning as you move (looks great with tatter jackets). These turns are always right (aka right-shoulder-back4, or ‘the same way as in a Petronella’) and take place during the double-step, ideally on the right-left-right bit (because turning while hopping is awkward).
This dance has a beautiful stick-throwing chorus. In the whole dance, there are only two kinds of sticking – and they’re the same, really, just one of them you throw your stick to your partner and in the other you clash your stick with your partner instead. All sticking is right handed – although it would all work if everyone did it left-handed, a mixture of the two would probably end badly. You don’t step while you’re sticking.
In my head, the sticking goes up-down-flip-and-throw-(catch), and the sticking-clash goes up-down-flip-and-clash (you clash on beat 5 and hold through beat 6, so in my head it’s in bold as it’s twice as long).
In more detail:
UP – holding your stick towards the bottom, raise it in the air in with your arm extended straight, and the stick roughly following the line of your arm. Your arm should be slightly in front of you – maybe a 20 or 30 degree angle with the vertical?
DOWN – bring your arm/stick down to bash the floor (this is why you needed to be holding your stick at the bottom; if you’re holding it in the middle you won’t be able to reach the floor!). As before, the stick is held roughly in line with the arm.
FLIP – let go of your stick and sort of throw it to yourself, making it do a 180-degree spin. It should essentially look like the end which hit the floor bounced back.
AND – catch the stick, in the middle, and prepare to throw by pulling your arm back until the stick is at least level with your shoulder (further back is probably OK too). You should be holding the stick in the middle, with the stick vertical (roughly though not exactly at right angles to your forearm).
(momentarily, between ‘and’ and ‘throw’, catch your partner’s eye. If they don’t catch your eye, do not throw your stick at them. Carry out the rest of the movements, i.e. do draw your stick back and extend your arm towards them – this helps you not to lose the rhythm – just don’t let go of the stick.)
THROW – throw the stick to your partner, by using your arm to push it forwards vertically through the air. You should be aiming at their left shoulder (i.e. not their stick-shoulder, the other – empty – one) and they should be aiming at yours. This makes it unlikely that your sticks will collide in mid-air; also if one of you misses the catch the stick is more likely to hit an arm/shoulder than a head, which is a Good Thing.
(CATCH) – catch the stick your partner threw at your empty shoulder, with your right hand (by reaching across your body). OK, catching in your left and swapping to your right is probably fine too …
Sticking-clash: Up-down-flip-and as above (except that if you’re really thinking about it you’ll want to end the ‘and’ holding the bottom of your stick, not the middle) and on the 5th beat bring your stick up into a forehand clash with your partner and hold.
… and that’s all there is to it! It’s an unusual sticking pattern (or at least I haven’t come across anything else like it) and manages to make the 180-spin look good, which is quite an accomplishment. I think it’s all very, very cool.
More posts to come: probably 5 of them (chorus + 4 figures). Until then, happy dancing!
1hop on your right foot
2hop on your left foot
3Er, unless you’re standing still.
4when dancing, I think about turns in terms of right-shoulder-back or left-shoulder-back. I don’t cope well with ‘turn right’ or ‘turn left’ or ‘turn towards X’ which I think is because I associate directions like that with moving forwards (e.g. while driving, ‘turn left’ = ‘continue forwards until the next turning on the left, turn into it and keep going forwards’) which doesn’t help when dancing and turning while staying on the spot or moving backwards or sideways.