Here are some of the dances that we perform. If the dance title is highlighted, you can click on it to see a picture of us dancing it.
We also perform a Mummers’ Play, and have performed a Christmas show called Carols and Capers. As well as dancing, we sing copiously.
Arsenic and Old Lace
This is properly called “Greensleeves and yellow lace”, and is a Playford dance, but the Squire always announces it as “Arsenic and Old Lace.” After fifteen years, even the most pedantic have given up trying to correct him.
Cornish Six-hand reel
A traditional country dance for 6 people, all of whom presumably have only one hand.
A traditional Playford dance, with much galloping, often accompanied by some un-Playford-like chanting of “gallopy gallopy gallopy gallopy.” Tends to get called “Black Bess” by accident.
Derry down derry
A traditional country dance
Tune: Cock o’ the north
A dance which causes us to bring out the Big Sticks and hit each other very hard with them, although we do sometimes chicken out.
Tune: Staines Morris
This was our very first dance. For a while, it was called “Steve’s surging stick dance”, but this was deemed not to be catchy enough, so it got changed in the end to “Greenwood.” We start the dance by singing the first verse of the Staines Morris May song – “Come ye young men, come along” – though with the word “greenwood” substituted for “Maypole.”
Jenny plucks pears
A genuine Playford dance!
A dance in the street dance style. I really can’t remember why it’s called what it is.
The Maypole Dance
This is our portable maypole dance. One of our dancers stands in the middle holding up a pole. When the ladies dance into the middle, they kiss him. When the men dance into the middle, they thump him. Needless to say, everyone has great fun, but the maypole ends up a total mess. We once dramatically messed this up in front of crowds of thousands in Hastings, only to perform it perfectly to crowds of nobody a few minutes later. Whenever child dancers are around, we deny all knowledge of this dance. Children always dance maypole dances far more neatly than we do, and they’re cuter, too.
Tune: Byker Hill
A dance in the Molly tradtion. Only a few brave souls can dance this dance without their legs packing up, so we haven’t done it for a while, but keep meaning to resurrect it. Or us.
This is a traditional drinking dance. Dancers start with full tankards of beer, which they take swigs from at various points, as and when the kind, lovely, nice musicians let them. At the end, they invert the tankard over their head. The dance has a distinctive “two steps forward and one step back” step. It is named after the seventeeth century General George Monck, a Parliamentary general, though apparently a not-very-convinced one (he used to be a Royalist, and ended up taking a lead in the restoration of King Charles II). According to the story, when ordered to take his army and join in one particular battle, he made them march there in this peculiar fashion, with the consequence that they arrived too late to join in, and he was spared from having to openly commit to one side or the other. It’s probably a pack of lies, though.
Another Playford dance, which we often end up accidentally calling Northampton or Newquay or Nottingham or any other place name starting with N. Do you get the impression that we have trouble with our dances names?
A short but energetic stick dance. Of course, everyone our there knows that Pompey is the real name for the place some people insist on calling Portsmouth.
Rose of Rochester
A traditional Playfordy country dance
The Shaking of the Sheets
Tune: The Shaking of the Sheets, and Black Joke (“High ho fiddly dee”)
This is danced after our Mummer’s Play, and it is all about wrapping up the dead bodies of St George, or the Turkish Knight, or any member of the audience who annoys us. We always expect this dance to go horribly wrong. Even though it never has gone wrong in four years, we still have expressions of intense concentration and terror on our faces when we dance it.
Tune: Speed the plough
This was written way way back in 2003. It is therefore a very ancient, traditional agricultural dance, that ye olde Oisle o’ Woight peasants danced when planting their plants in Oisland sods.
Three Jolly Sheepskins
Tune: Baa baa black sheep, and The Keel Row
Being clever, we actually perform this as Five Jolly Sheepskins. Five sheepskins (well, raggy jackets, actually) are put on the floor in a cross shape, and two lines of three dancers dance around them, trying very hard not to bump into each other, or go wrong.
A dance with a military look and feel to it (that is, if the military put their hands around each other’s shoulders and skipped merrily with bells on.) We kick of this dance off with a rendition of “Over the hills and far away” (which many will know as the theme tune from Sharpe), and we tell our audiences some pack of lies about this being a traditional dance of the Isle of Wight Rifles.
The Wassail Dance
Tune: Here we come a wassailing.
Only done at Christmas
White Ladies Aston
At a festival a few years ago, late one evening, we saw a dance side dance this. “That looks good!” we said. “Let’s do that!” So we did. And it’s looong! Fun, though. It’s a traditional Morris dance from a place in Worcestershire, co-incidentally called White Ladies Aston (so called because a group of white-clothed nuns used to live there, presumably dancing this dance in their cloisters.)