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If you are interested in joining us, you are always welcome to come and attend a practice to try it out, regardless of your level of experience.
For the good are always the merry
Save by an evil chance
And the merry love the fiddle
And the merry love to dance.
- William Butler Yeats
Duel of Honour
Duel of Honour
A dance created by Anonymous Morris. It is our method of settling side disputes. It covers a surprisingly large amount of room for a dance often danced with only two, and works particuarly well at the end of a set (especially if followed by a broom dance, with the broom dancer sweeping the corpses off the dance area before starting).
Number of dancers: This dance can be done with any even number, but it probably looks best when done a single pair. If you do have multiple sets up, make sure there is space between the to swing the sticks without hitting anyone you shouldn't be. Each pair is dancing their own private self-contained duel with no interaction between one pair and any of the others.
Notes on the music: This dance needs a good drummer. Different figures require different drumming and it’s mostly a matter of experience working it out. As a rough guide, while most of the dance will be drummed on the first and third beat as normal, ‘Drill Square’ will benefit from drumming on every beat, as this matches better to what the dancers are doing.
The band will also find that varying their style of play is useful. On the more flowing figures like 'Parade' and 'Go Right', play smoothly. On more militaristic figures like 'Guard' and 'Drill Square', go for a more staccato style.
The band should miss out the last note on the final figure, except for the drummer who should strike as hard as they can to give us a nice distinctive gunshot. (If you haven’t got a drummer, just have as many people as possible shout ‘Bang’.)
The dance is mostly standard stepping, but there are several figures that involve marching/stomping.
This piece can be played without a normal introduction, as the entire first A is effectively intro.
For the duration of the first A, the dancers trade insults/gesture furiously with their hats/etc. Other theatricalities can be organised/improvised as desired, e.g. a 'choose your weapons' scene, seconders helping their combatants prepare.
The only real requirement is that the dancers are in position by the end of the A music, ready for the chorus.
The chorus is done in a sword-fighting stance, with the stick in your right hand. Some amount of theatricality works here, with the dancers moving either forwards and back along the line between them, or in a circle as they fence.
One-handed stick strikes on every beat, alternating between forehand and backhand (forehand first).
The dancers draw back the stick to their right hand sides and take a two handed grip ready for the next strike.
Dancers strike forehand with a larger clash in the two handed hold.
One-handed stick strikes on every beat, alternating between backhand and forehand (this time backhand first).
The dancers draw back the stick to their right hand sides and take a two handed grip ready for the final strike. Important Note: this final strike is still forehand, even though a simple continuation of the alternating strikes would make it a backhand.
Dancers strike forehand with a larger clash in the two handed hold.
Take two small steps forward, passing right shoulders with your partner and clashing sticks with them on two.
Continue forwards with two large steps.
Step back onto right foot, while doing a quarter turn left on spot, which will keep your stick hand on the outside of the set. This breaks the normal ‘turn right’ rule, but it makes the ground strike work better.
Step back onto your left foot and strike your stick on the ground in front of you. Keep your weight on your left foot. Really extend your arm out for the ground strike.
Do another quarter turn left to face your partner, and take two large steps forward, back into line opposite your partner. This will mean dancing in a slight curve due to the two backwardsa steps.
This is an exact repeat of the fist 8 beats, starting from the other position.
All the way through this figure, it is the striker's responsibility for ensuring a lack of stick/head interaction.
Dancer 1 attacks first. Dancer number 2 holds their stick horizontally above their head (and as far in front as possible, for additional safety), one end in each hand. Dancer 1 raises their stick two-handed (for better control) over their heads and bring them down to strike on 2. It is not important to hit hard - this figure can look really dramatic and theatrical with fairly gentle strikes.
Repeat beats 1-2.
Dancer 2 performs a half-turn left, keeping their stick high, only now reaching as far back behind their head as they can. Dancer 1 strikes on beat 6, again not too hard.
On 7, Dancer 2 again performs a half-turn left, letting go of the stick with their left hand in the process and bringing the stick into standard one hand grip ready for a strike. Dancer 1 also switches to a single hand hold. The dancers then perform a single handed forehand strike on 8. This forehand strike is the reason that dancer 2 turns left on beat 5, everything flows together nicely whilst making the stick clashes as safe as possible.
The entire process is repeated, but with the dancers swapping roles.
Go Right (A)
Quarter-turn right and step four along the set. This is a great opportunity to use as much of the space as you can, and allows this dance to take up a lot of room, even with only two dancers.
Half-turn right and go back again. Clash sticks in the centre of the set on eight as you pass your partner. You can get up quite a lick of speed in these steps.
Half turn right and take four steps back to place.
Drill Square (A)
For this figure, rest the stick on your shoulder as though it was a rifle being carried at inspection. Stand straight and move crisply. March throught the figure, lifting one foot into the new position and bringing the other down smartly beside it.
Each dancers' facing does not not change throughout this figure. Take a small step to the right.
Step forward with right foot, passing left shoulder with your partner.
Step left with left foot, now facing out of the set.
Step backwards with your left foot.
Unwind the figure, stepping forwards with the right foot, passing your partner right shoulder.
Step backwards with the right foot.
Step left back into place.
As with the previous figure, the stick is held as though it was a rifle on the soldier and march step. The dancers step towards each other on 1 and face up against each other on the spot for 3 beats.
The dancers turn smartly right half way and march away from each other.
Facing away from each other, the dancers march four stpes on the spot.
Sharp half-turn right to face each other.
Step forward with the right foot, whilst also leaning down and striking the butt of the stick on the ground.
Step with the left foot, this time striking the tip of the stick on the floor in front of you. Note that this is the final beat of the music (apart from the drum).
Each dancer takes aim, holding their stick as a rifle - held horizontally, braced against the shoulder and looking down the length of the stick at the other dancer - and pretends to fire. This is accompanied by a loud drum strike (or the band shouting 'bang', in lieu of a drummer). Both dancers then die theatrically, hamming it up as much as they wish. Optionally, this can be followed by the funeral march and/or an inspection of the corpses.
Rules of Thumb
Unless otherwise specified, the following general rules apply:
Always start right foot first.
There are 4 beats to a bar. This works out as two steps.
The top of the set is towards the band. Likewise, the bottom of the set is away from the band.
When resting stick on shoulder, the tip of the stick should be level with the middle of your ear.
Turns on the spot will usually be right-hand turns (clockwise). Common exceptions are when dancers need to turn in or out of a set the shortest way.
When passing shoulders with another dancer, the first pass will be a right-shoulder pass. Many dances will have figures that alternate right and left shoulders.
Where a fast turn on the spot is needed, it will be on the first beat of the bar. E.g. If you need to turn and then move across the set, you can count it as 'turn, two, three, four'.
Swings with a partner will be right-hand (clockwise), with the stick held in the left hand, unless otherwise specified.
Figures are usually in multiples of four beats. If you mentally keep counting 'one, two, three, four', then you'll have a good idea of when to move and change.
We are DANCING OUT generally on Thursdays from 7:30 to 9:30pm. Check our events page for details on where to find us.
Practice will resume in September at our practice hall: St John's Heatherlands, 378A Ashley Road, Poole, BH14 9DQ