|John Leyland's description of the dance in
"The Memorials of Abram", the hand-written notation in Richard
Porter's personal dance notebook, Maud Karpeles' correspondence concerning
the dance over a period of some 40 years, her original and amended
published descriptions of the dance and the passed-down teaching of
Douglas Kennedy have all contributed to the dance performed by the Abram
Morris Dancers today.
|The following notation is intended to
describe the dance as danced in Abram annually on the last Saturday in
June. In 1880 there were fourteen dancers and in 1901 there were eighteen.
We have danced it with anything from twelve to eighteen dancers and in our
experience we have found that the dance works best with fourteen dancers.
The absolute minimum number of dancers required is twelve.
|Dancers are in pairs, or couples and the
dance starts with the dancers standing evenly spaced around a circle all
facing the centre, with the "outside" dancer standing on the
left of the "inside" dancer in each pair. The Maypole bearer and
the Queen, with her attendant King, pass to the centre of the circle and
when all are ready the music strikes up.
|Feet and Hands:
|The dance is performed using a gentle
"single step" or "skip step" throughout i.e. step
right, hop right; step left, hop left, and so on. All movements start by
stepping onto the right foot.
A white handkerchief is carried in each hand, held by one corner, and the
arms are swung alternately in time to the music to just above shoulder
height so that the handkerchief "stands up" naturally (without
any "flick"). The pattern is exactly the same as when walking -
i.e. the right hand starts to rise as the step is taken onto the right
foot and is fully raised as the hop is made on the right foot with the
left foot lifted (opposite hands and feet in the air!)
|Once to yourself (8 bars):
Dancers stand in the circle as described above. During the last two
bars, the "outside" dancers take 4 paces backwards, moving in an
arc and turning 90°
to their left while the "inside" dancers take 4 paces forwards
also moving in an arc and turning 90° to their left to finish standing side by side and facing
clockwise around the circle.
|A: (8 bars):
Couples dance clockwise around the circle. During the last bar they
face each other, "inside" dancers with their backs to the centre
of the circle and all throw up both hands overhead on the last beat of the
|B: (8 bars):
1-4 Partners dance "back-to-back" passing right
shoulders, throwing up both hands overhead on the last beat of the 4th bar
5-8 Partners dance "back-to-back" passing left shoulders,
throwing up both hands overhead on the last beat of the 8th bar and
turning to face clockwise around the circle once again.
|C: (8 bars):
1-4 Couples dance clockwise around the circle as in A: During the 4th
bar they make a 180° turn (started by turning in towards each other) to
finish facing anti-clockwise round the circle and throw up both hands
overhead on the last beat as before.
5-8 Couples dance anti-clockwise round the circle, turning to face
each other during the final bar and throwing up hands on the last beat as
|D: (12 bars):
1-2 Standing still, dancers raise their right hand to head height and
sweep it down and round in a large circle in front of the body in an
anti-clockwise direction to finish with the arm stretched out to the
right, just below shoulder height and at the same time making a small bow
3-4 Repeat with the left arm swinging round in a clockwise
direction, bowing as before
5-8 Dancers throw up both hands overhead on the first beat of the
5th bar and dance round in a small individual circle to their right
(clockwise) to finish facing partners
9-12 Dancers throw up both hands overhead on the first beat
of the 9th bar and dance round in a small individual circle to their left
(anti-clockwise) back to partners and continue for another quarter turn to
finish with the "outside" dancers facing clockwise round the
large circle while the "inside" dancers finish facing
anti-clockwise in their own inner circle.
N.B. There are no other hand movements in this figure, arms hanging
naturally down by sides.
|E: (16 bars):
"Outside" dancers dance round clockwise while the
"inside" dancers dance round anti-clockwise. The number of
circuits is dependent on the number of dancers and the size of the circles
which should not be allowed to get smaller! It is important that each
dancer finishes the movement facing the centre of the circle with the
"outside" dancer on the left of his own partner. The
"inside" dancers should continue just past their partner and
then make a three-quarter turn to their right to finish facing the centre
of the circle to the right of their own partner. Ideally this occurs
during the last bar of the music. All throw up both hands overhead
on the last beat of the final bar as before, facing the centre of the
|F: (16 bars):
1-8 All advance slowly towards the centre of the circle forming a
tight ring around the Maypole, Queen and King and throw up both hands
overhead on the last beat of the final bar as before.
9-16 All dance slowly back to place forming an evenly spaced
circle. During the last bar couples turn to face in a clockwise direction
around the circle as they did during the "Once to yourself" but
still stepping. All throw up both hands overhead on the last beat of the
|The whole dance is then repeated but this
time during the final bar the dancers continue to face the centre and on
the first beat of the bar the feet are placed together and both hands are
swung up overhead and on the second beat they continue to be swung, with a
very firm movement, down and out to the sides to finish held out wide at
The dancers remain in this position until the Leader lowers his arms to
signal the end of the dance.
|Printed Notation © Abram Morris Dancers