During a dance, the dancers form geometric patterns on the ground, called 'figures'. Of these, the two most ancient are the 'Foot Up' (or 'Foot Up and Down'), in which the dancers advance and retire (or advance, retire and turn to repeat in the oposite direction) in two columns to define the dancing space--originally probably a sacred space or temenos, and the 'Rounds'--in origin a sun symbol--as seen here.
The Bouwerie Boys of New York City doing the figure 'Rounds' in the Upton-Upon-Severn Stick Dance
View a 'Foot Up and Down' in a stick dance.
(2.5MB Quick Time file
20 secs. 240x180 pix)
View a 'Foot Up and Down' in a handkie dance.
(2MB Quick Time file
18 secs. 240x180 pix)
All dances consist of a set of figures interspersed with variable choruses which define the dance. In some cases, the chorus is divided into a 'challenge' where pairs of dancers advance towards each other and retire, and crossings where pairs of dancers dance across the set (usually from corner to comer) ending in each other's places (corner dances).
Several other figures, though differing slightly from tradition to tradition, are common: a figure in which the dancers dance accross the set in lines or dance into a singe line in the middle, and retire, variably called 'Cross Over', or 'Half Gyp'; one in which the dancers dance across the set in lines, the dancers in each line passing back to back as they return to place, called 'Back to Back'; one in which the dancers dance across the set and around each other (facing each other), usually called a 'Whole Gyp'--several variations of this figure under different names such as 'Face to Face' occur; and a figure done at the end of dances called 'All In' in which the dancers dance in to the center in a small circle, arriving with a shout.
The Kingsessing Morris Men of Philadelphia dancing an 'All In'
The Marlboro Morris Men with "Mother" acheive this remarkable position in the chorus of the Lichfield dance Castlering, danced in Newfane, VT. The Lichfield tradition is characterized by 8-man sets.
The Royal Earsdon Rapper Sword Team of Eccles near Newcastle in Northumbria, England, holding up a 'nut' or 'swordlock' at the end of a dance
View part of a Rapper Sword dance with a 'nut'.
(918K Quick Time file
8 secs. 240x180 pix)
The Grenoside Sword of Sheffield, England,
forming a swordlock around the neck of a dancer with longswords.
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