This page was written by Willa Bandler '01 in the spring of 2001. Many thanks for the time she spent, both in organizing demos and in writing about them.

For general info on the club, go to the folkdance website

DEMO STUFF as of June 2001:

Typically, the folkdance club does demonstration dances at least three times a year: once at the beginning of the year at the Activities Fair where freshmen sign up for the mailing lists of the clubs they're interested in; once for Parents' Weekend in the spring; and once for Spec Weekend to try to impress prospective students.

The demos done to attract students as dancers are fairly informal, and have typically consisted of one or two demo dances (at least one Scottish, and possibly one other either English or Scottish) and then an English participatory dance. The demos should be exciting, fun-looking dances, with more emphasis on how much the dancers are enjoying themselves than on anything else. Also, for these demos it's not that important to choose a dance that hasn't been used as a demo before, since none of these people will ever have seen us dance before.

For Parents' Weekend, demos are a little more elaborate; we generally do at least three dances, and some years have done four or five. There's always a Scottish dance and an English participatory, and there's generally a Maypole dance and another demo of some sort, whether English, Scottish, or something else (in recent years we have had Sword, Highland, and Morris demos, but in order to do something like this you must begin either fall semester or immediately after winter break to learn a new dance form before Parents' Weekend). Even if you're only doing Scottish, English and Maypole, it's a good idea to have AT LEAST six weeks to get everything together; Parents' Weekend 2002 is April 12-14, so you should start a week or two after the English-Scottish Ball, just when you think you're done with folkdance stuff for the time being...

A demo team coordinator should be chosen at the same time as other club officers, though it can get a little more complicated than that. If there are more than three dances, there should be more than one organizer, and if Maypole is being done, it can be a good idea to have one person organize just that. Getting sixteen (hopefully eighteen--more on this to follow) Swarthmore students in one place at one time a couple of times a week for several weeks is no easy task, and maypole needs a lot of rehearsal.

The demo team coordinator is responsible for choosing dances (this means talking to other dancers and to our teachers about what dances are good demo dances, as well as finding instructions and music for those dances), recruiting dancers, organizing rehearsals, organizing music (live or recorded--if the former, organize musicians, and if the latter, talk to Rattech about using their equipment. The current Rattech contact person is Dan Ingersoll. For rehearsals, use the little tape player I bought for the club [in the upper right TIC locker, combination 2-16-2]) and reserving the space for rehearsals and for the performance (email Paula Dale).

If it's sunny, demos are traditionally on Sharples Patio; our rain location is Upper Tarble, which it's prudent to reserve waaaay in advance before they can plan all-day affairs there for the day you want it. The maypole doesn't fit much of anywhere else, so this is important. We have rehearsed for maypole in the dance studios instead of Upper Tarble in a pinch, but it doesn't look very good as a performance space and is a pain to get the maypole into.

The patio is also a nice place to be because people stop to watch on their way out of Sharples. This year we did something which turned out to be a great idea, which was to turn on some music about fifteen or twenty minutes early and just fool around for a while until we actually started dancing; that way, people coming out of Sharples during that time were apt to hang around for a while to watch, so we got a bigger audience. During that time we danced Gay Gordons and a bit of polka (to a random quick-time tune we had on) and had a quasi-audience-participation waltz.

Now, a bit more about specific dances:

MAYPOLE: The dance we have been doing for a long time is one written by Line Farr (Terry Harvey's wife). It is to the tune "Christchurch Bells." Two versions of this exist on tape in the folkdance lockers: the old version, taped off a record, complete with ringing bells; and the new version, recorded by Josh, Jennifer, Alastair, and Will (I think that's the whole group...) two years ago. It has the advantage of not being the old version, and the disadvantage of not having a totally consistent tempo (also the disadvantage that I couldn't find the tape this year, but Jennifer knows where the DAT recording is, and there's a DAT player in Underhill that can be used to re-record it to tape). Instructions for Line's maypole dance are at the end of this, along with a few style points.

There are two maypole heads, a practice one and a performance one. The practice one has dull, dirty, starchless ribbons, while the performance one has primary-colored ribbons we iron every year before the performance. Neither set of ribbons should ever be allowed to touch the ground (except in the performance when the ribbons are dropped at the end). It's sacreligious, any case, at the end of each use, the ribbons get rolled neatly and tied as high up as one can conveniently reach (in a knot you have to figure out by feel--wrap the ribbon around your hand, then pull the rolled-up part through the loop in the direction you can tell it's supposed to go).

The maypole head gets held onto the top of the maypole by means of two pins, one fixed on the pole and one inserted (a cheap ballpoint pen works well for this, but not one of the clear-plastic ones because they're too brittle and can result in ink everywhere).

The maypole itself lives in a basement somewhere. Contact Alice Balbierer well in advance to get facilities folks to get it out of storage for us. It may also be dirty and need to get re-painted, which facilities will do if they have enough time, so for your own sake, give them enough time.

When I have been in charge, I have found that it's very, very difficult to get everyone to come to rehearsals at the same time. Maypole needs sixteen people, and it's good to have eighteen signed up and ready to do the dance in case something goes wring on the day of the performance. To get people to come at all, you have to keep rehearsals pretty short (~45 minutes). I have found that sending out emails asking for lists of available times simply doesn't work; people either don't reply or reply saying they can come any time, but then when I actually schedule a rehearsal, everybody starts saying "Oh, I can't do it then, but I could come half an hour later...." So do yourself a favor, come up with half a dozen times, list them on a big sheet, and take it to class so people can put their names down for those times. Or something. Scheduling rehearsals is by far the hardest part of demo organizing, even if you do everything the smartest way possible.

If you cannot get everyone to rehearse together on a regular basis, it is possible to fake it at least some of the time; with twelve people, you can have a reasonable facsimile of a rehearsal, and with any even number you can learn the figures somewhat, though twelve is the smallest number that really works decently. You must have at least a couple of rehearsals with sixteen people, though, to work on the weaves that involve the whole group together (the Couple Weave and the Grand Weave).

The dances we have done in the last few years are: {'97-'98???}; Major Ian Stewart/Reel of the 51st medley ('98/'99); The Silver Square ('99/'00); Cranberry Tart and a medley of The Wild Geese and Fuller Jig ('00/'01)

Scottish dances generally are not repeated as demo dances, so pick a dance you like that is not one of these. Things to work on: covering, eye contact, everyone pas-de-basqueing exactly together (it's worth a little step practice), and little picky details like when exactly everyone's hands come up for balances-in-line and that sort of thing.


DEMO: Picking Up Sticks ('97/'98)

PARTICIPATORY: Juice of Barley has been used repeatedly, as have one or two others

OTHER: Morris, Highland, Sword, and other dance forms can be done as demos if you learn them long enough in advance. This depends entirely on the interests of current students

So, to recap Parents' Weekend demos:

Who: Demo team coordinator(s) and appropriate numbers of dancers (alumni and others should only be recruited if there's no other way for demos to happen; the club is supposed to be run by and for current students).

What: Choose dances, organize rehearsals, reserve space, organize music.

When: Start at least six weeks in advance; Parents' Weekend is usually in late March or early April, so this means starting right after the ball. Demos themselves typically happen on Saturday at around 1 or 1:30.

Where: Sharples Patio or Upper Tarble for performances, any space you can reserve for rehearsals (usually Upper Tarble for maypole and LPAC lobby for English/Scottish).

Why: To impress people's parents, of course!

How: Choose dances with nice symmetry, clearly identifiable figures (dances with lots of reels are poor choices since it may not be clear to non-dancers what is going on), and plenty of "ooh-aah moments" (as our teachers seem to call them). Make sure the music is loud enough for dancers and the audience to hear clearly. Sound-check the music early, then leave it on for a while before the performance to attract an audience. Also, everyone should try to wear coordinating clothing (usually white tops with bright skirts for women, pants for men [or kilts for Scottish]).

Maypole instructions:


I Forward a Double/Back & Grand Chain Weave 2 x 24

II Slipping and Barber Pole Weave 1 x 24

III Siding & Open Web Weave 2 x 24

IV Arming & Couple Weave 4 x 24

V Circle & Grand Weave 3 x 24

Full Instructions and Performance Notes:

Maypole Dance

Choreographed at Swarthmore College

Danced to the tune of Christchurch Bells

12 x 24 bars for 8 couples

I Forward a Double/Back & Grand Chain Weave 2 x 24

8 bars Forward & back a double, Set and turn single.

16 bars Grand right and left half way round; start passing right shoulders. Ribbons move up or down on beat one of each bar, creating weaving effect visually and avoiding decapitation.

4 bars Set to partner, Turn half way to face home.

16 bars Grand right and left to place, curving round to face partner at end.

4 bars Set and turn single, finish facing partner.

II Slipping and Barber Pole Weave 1 x 24

8 bars Slip right and left, Set and turn single

8 bars Women run in and circle the pole clockwise 16 running steps, men set and circle the maypole counter clockwise for 14 running steps.

8 bars Turn out and return home in 16 running steps. Finish facing partner.

III Siding & Open Web Weave 2 x 24

8 bars Side with partner, Set and turn single

16 bars Weave around partner by the right, go, in line of direction, to the next and weave by the left, next right, next 1/2 left.

8 bars Side, Set and turn single.

16 bars Unwind, starting right. Finish facing partner.

IV Arming & Couple Weave 4 x 24

8 bars Arm right, Set and turn single

8 bars Arm left, Set and turn single. Ribbons are passed to the men at the end.

32 bars Couples weave, passing right shoulder to start (8 passes with 8 steps to each pass. Finish couple facing couple.

8 bars Step right and honor, step left and honor (this is stately). Turn half way round (men backing)

32 bars Unwind (starting right)

8 bars Step right and honor, step left and honor. Women reclaim ribbons as all form a circle round the maypole.

V Circle & Grand Weave 3 x 24

8 bars Slip circle to the left and back to the right, finishing in line facing line formation for the grand weave.

64 bars Grand Weave: Couples 1, 2, 3 & 4 face couples 5, 6, 7 & 8 across the maypole in two lines and pass the person opposite by the right. The full pass to opposite places takes 12 counts (steps) with everyone crossing in a line of 6. On count 12, everyone is on the sides of the square facing OUT. The lines split, half going right and half going left to form new lines on the other sides of the square (4 steps). Note that outside people become inside people (and vice versa) on each pass of the weave. Finish facing the maypole and dropping ribbons in with an honor.

General Notes on Ribbon Handling & Phrasing:

Always hold the ribbons with two hands, right above left. The right hand controls the tension on the ribbon which should be gently taut with the pole. Too little tension and it sags which hurts the visual effect as well as the uniformity of the weave; too much and the pole gets pulled around, or worse, over. The left hand controls the tail. As the dancers move in and out they gather up the ribbon and let it our adjusting the tension, unless the dance calls for it to be left loose. On the last weave, gather it in hand over hand on the way in and let it slip out on the way out. It takes a while to feel that there are not two left (or right, depending) hands attached to your arms but it will come.

Keep the same light tension when moving the ribbon which will cause your right hand (and arm) to travel in an arc. This applies especially to the grand chain weave, turning single and weaving or arming right round another dancer. It looks beautiful and it helps make the weaves precise.

This dance is very big on precise phrasing and spacing as well as grace (the grace part is to do it beautifully and not like robots.) The more attention is paid to phrasing and spacing of the figures and the dancers the better the weave will look. Note that sometimes you are spaced as couples (8 points around the pole) and sometimes as individuals (16 points.)

Always keep the ribbons off the floor / ground to avoid tripping on them or getting them dirty. This set is from 1976 and should have a lot of years left! When rolling them up start with a wide flat fold to keep the surface as flat as possible, then halve it an keep going. Tie off in a loop as high as possible without straining which makes it easier to handle the head when it is off the pole.

When attaching the head to the pole always keep the same side up. Changing it will change ribbon colors for people, which is very confusing.

Finally, don't worry about "getting it". It may start out rough but it gets better VERY quickly and gets more and more fun as the team works together. Relax, focus, let the music tell you what to do and have fun!