Headington This year, I plan to simplify the Headington teaching and keep the sessions moving by concentrating on a very small number of points. There will of course be some details that are specific to individual dances, but the following shows four sets of three simple rules or guidelines. I will focus almost entirely on these, plus, of course, the sequences for each dance.
Headington should be unfussy, look smart, and be danced with spirit.
Step, Look, & Listen
Dance every step including the single steps or back steps and the jump. Even a small jump is better than no jump.
•Make eye contact with your opposite, or corner.
• Actively move your head to look up and down the set to check the lines are straight.
There’s more to music than speed and a 1 2 3 hop beat. Listen to the surge and flow of the phrases. Dance to the pulse of the tune, not just to the count.
Keeping the shape of the set
In every figure, go to a definite place with each step.
• Everyone should work together to straighten the lines.
• If necessary, straighten lines by moving forwards.
• Where possible, use the back steps/single steps to adjust the line.
Don’t fade into turns:
• Foot up and down: turn on the last jump (last caper in Laudnum Bunches). Choruses: finish the movement facing across the set, then turn into the half hey on the first beat of the next phrase.
3 details of style
Right foot lead throughout. All the choruses make more sense if you don’t have to do a fudge step before or after.
• No higher than shoulders in doublesteps or capers.
• Above head height in twists or circles, and when landing from jumps.
Timing of the snatch:
• Twist, twist-snatch, raise and high
• Doublestep-snatch, feet together jump
Raise sticks only to face height on 2 notes.
End dance with sticks at the same level.
When waiting to be tapped, present your stick horizontally at chest height. It’s easier to keep it horizontal if you hold it loosely.
When clashing your own sticks together, or clashing with your opposite, do so just above eye level.
There are a dozen other points I could have chosen, but with 5 teachers and 6 core traditions, plus Badby, Bledington, Upton and others, I want to focus on the smallest number of things that we need to do in order to dance Headington well.
Being definite: Every Headington figure is made up of two equal phrases of 4 bars. One “bar” is exactly enough music for one of the following: • one double step • or two single steps • or two capers • or a “feet together jump” (or “jump & land”).
For each of those sets of four bars, you should have a definite idea where you’re going to before you set off — not just a direction, but a destination.
The rhythms of tunes vary but these words should fit what your feet are doing in each of the main figures. Generic figure: | 1 2 3 hop | 1 2 3 hop | 1 hop 2 hop | jump & land | Using the same rhythm: Foot up: | One step forward | on the spot & | back to place & | jump & land | Cross over: | One across & | one to turn & | on the spot & | jump & land | Back to back: | Around the man & | into line & | back to place & | jump and land | Cross over close (corner dances): | Half way round him | face to face & | back away & | jump and land | Half hey or hey: The exact timing of the half hey varies depending on your position in the set. If everyone moved and surged at exactly the same time, 1 & 2 would collide with 5 & 6. However, as near as possible, everyone should aim for: | Turn & move & | really shift & | step in place & | jump & land | In a half hey or hey, as soon as you see your way clear to the place you’re aiming for, go for it. If you dawdle, you will be in someone else’s way, whether you realise it or not.