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The Bledington dances DDMM do

  • Bean Setters
  • Black Joke
  • Gallant Hussar
  • Idbury Hill / Morning Star
  • Trunkles
  • Young Collins

Not done nowadays: Over the water to Charlie, Leapfrog, Cuckoo’s Nest, William and Nancy/Bonnets so Blue. We used also to dance with ‘hooking to rule’ (see Black Book p75/6) but we’re unruly now.

Last updated 15 4 20

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General stuff about Bledington dances

A majestic tradition, characterised by ‘hook legs’, hands overhead and a range of ‘caper’ types. We make an effort to keep it distinct from Fieldtown, with its galleys and feint steps. Bledington has a good range of dances, including corner dances, stick dances, and jigs
Usual stepping sequence: No feint steps, at all, otherwise normal stepping is 2 bars of double step (DS) followed by a ‘Hook-leg’ (HL) and a ‘step caper’ SC
(see below)
Usual common figures (cf):  OY, Foot up (FU), Foot down (FD), half gyp (HG), Whole Gyp (WG), rounds (R), Hey (H)
Other general info:

  • OY is a Foot together jump (FtJ), in which the hands are ‘gathered’ the beat before the jump. Gather =  hands first go outwards a little at side of body and are brought up towards navel, then outwards as the DS starts. Done with stick or handkerchiefs. Use this ‘gather’ whenever about to start DS after standing still (eg in corner dances)
  • DS leap straight in on the beat (no feint step). In handkerchief dances, hands above and in front of head, circle wide twists from back to front (‘brushing hair forwards’), at 45° forward and 45° to the side. DS is usually followed by HL. In stick dances, hold stick loosely at side unless doing something else with it.
  • HL is sort-of like a galley, but significantly different. Plant the foot (right or left), bring the free foot from the floor,round and up in a sweeping motion until the thigh is horizontal, then hop and kick forward with the free foot (so no two twists, or the two hops that characterise a galley). Hands held in balance position. ‘Hook right’ = right foot on ground, left foot free. ‘Hook left’ is left foot down
  • HL can be used to travel or/and turn, like galley. Same ideas and cautions apply while doing so (see galley notes). ‘Hook into the hey’ means hook-leg so that your free foot is the one you need to leap onto to start the hey from the position you are in. Eg no 1 starts hey on rt foot, so must hook left, no2 starts on left foot so must hook right etc. It is very easy to overbalance trying to do a hook-leg and tavel at the same time. Do your very best to get to your destination before staring the hook leg!
  • After HL can ‘leap into’ (the Dadd leap is mandated!) a DS, or end with an SC.
  • SC following a HL = free foot comes down under you, and you spring off it, while the other foot kicks forward a few inches and comes back under so you land either on both feet together, or on the foot you didn’t jump off (depends on what comes after the SC). Hands go up to about shoulder height from the balance position, then down quite strongly as you jump. When you land they go back up, above head height. In stick dances SC end feet together and clash high with your partner.
  • Sidesteps (ssr and ssl) are closed, one foot comes in front of the other, turning the body, and ‘leading’ hand (same hand as the foot which goes in front), held high, with handkerchief twists in the same ‘down the nose’ direction as in DS. The other hand hangs relaxed by your side. Stepping usually 1,2,3, hop, turning body from side to side on the hop – but see also Idbury Hill ‘long sidestep’.  ssr, starts with right foot coming over left. ssl is the other way round
  • FU, FD 2 bars DS starting outside foot. Then HL out of the set, SC. From FU, the HL leaves you facing down the set (not across as in Fieldtown). From FD (also outside foot start), HL, SC leaves you facing into the set.
  • HG Start left foot, 1 bar ds almost to the other side of the set, 2nd bar brings you back into a line down the set middle, then HL left and SC, using the HL to turn to face back across the set. Repeat, starting rt foot, hooking rt, SC.
  • WG Same idea as HG, but go round your partner, facing him, into centre line, then HL, SJ, repeat
  • R Form a cw round. 2 bars DS, starting left foot, HL to turn back round, SC, return ccw on 2 bars DS starting right foot, HL into place, SC. In some dances (where a stick clash is involved) you form a set half way through, clash, then re-form rounds, ccw for second half (If so number 1 should call ‘set’ as you start rounds)
  • H Normal pattern hey, 2 bars DS, starting on inside foot (the one to the inside of the set when you are facing in the direction you will start the hey in). HL and SC out of the set, and round to face across, repeat, ending face across or, if at end of dance, ‘hook up’ to face up with the HL, SC. Ends must move fast in hey or else middle couple can’t get back to place. Hay may start from HL in previous figure: if so that HL must leave in the air the leg on which the hey DS starts. Nice point is to brush feet with partner when hooking into a hey, and also, after the 2 bars of DS but before the HL, for partners to face across, and make eye contact before doing the HL which finishes that half of the hey.
  • The 3 Bledington ‘capers’ often feature in the df of Bledington dances. In each case they are different from figures of same name in other traditions:
    • Forries or forry capers (FC) Pattern is right, left, right; leap off right, land on l, quickly shift onto right again leaving l foot in the air. Can do lrl instead. Can do several, r start, l start, r start etc. Hands go up high on the leap, return to waist level on the quick shift. Rhythm is R on beat 1, l on beat 3, r on beat 4 (and similarly for L.rl)
    • Fore capers aka RTBs (RTB) Rt foot goes behind as you lower yourself by bending left knee (but don’t overdo the bending), hands out in balance. Body remains upright – don’t look down. Bring rt foot under body, spring off it (this leap on beat 3 is the point of emphasis), and land on l with rt now in the air. Usually followed by another, this time, put right foot down and at the same time, left foot goes behind etc
    • Upright capers (UC) Are 3 cross hops, weight on back foot, front foot crossing over it and touching floor alongside. On 3rd cross leap off the back foot (while front is still crossed over it, land on that back foot, with crossed over foot up in the air out in front of the body. It’s now ready to put down for next X hop (it becomes the new ‘back foot you put weight on) or for HL at then of the UC sequence. Can do r,l,r or l,r,l according to which foot crosses first.

About how DDMM do specific Bledington dances

Bean setters

Dance with ‘rustic’ sticks. A dance not in the Black Book (ie made up). Pattern: OY, FU, FD, df1, HG, df2, WG, df3, H (no rounds). Df = (Cross, sticking) X2. Cross = all cross the set on 2 bars, striking floor with butt twice and then low (shin height) fore-hand clash with partner as you cross. Then 4 capers, turning up the set to face across. Sticking: all stand with stick held out low to right (‘receiving’). On being hit on front of stick from your right, swing stick in big arc backwards and round to hit the front of the person on your left’s stick. Then quickly return to receive position. Sticking propagates round the 6 men in the set until it returns to first hitter. Then, on 7th bar of music all raise stick high, and strike floor with tip. Df1, sticking starts with no1 only. Df2, Nos 1 and 5 start sticking round simultaneously. Df3, 1,5 and 4 start the sticking simultaneously (so must return to receive position quickly!)

Black Joke

Vigorous stick dance. Although there is a dance of this name in the Black Book, other sides usually do the sticking differently from the way we do. Pattern: OY, FU, FD, df, HG, df, WG, df, R df (all up at end of 2nd half hey). In this dance face and do ‘btbt’ (= clash across, butts, tips, butts, tips) half way through and at the end of each common figure (FU and FD count as 1 common figure) and at the end of each half hey in the df. Feet do 4 capers while sticking btbt. Df = (stand facing, legs braced, swing stick to strike floor at your side with tip, swing it up to strike partner, high, forehand, backhand with tips, then much more gently clash butts tips across, half hey) repeat. Main sticking gets more vigorous with each successive df (though the gentle butts tips does not)

Ian Trouse video 2012 Black Joke Bledington at Hartley Ring Meeting

Gallant Hussar

Complex handkerchief dance requiring full concentration! Can be done ‘short’, which needs even more focus and good calling from no 1. This describes normal version. Pattern OY, FU, FD, df1, HG, df2, WG, df3, R, df4. All ‘hook up’ at the end of df4 half hey. Df = (face across set, starting right foot cross on 2 bars with ‘figure’. On reaching other side, all hook right to face across, then immediately hook again into the hey (so need to know in advance where you will be going in the hey from your new position on the other side of the set). If you are dancing in positions 1,3,6, you will need to hook leg right twice in succession (according to the Black Book ‘this is assisted by briefly taking the weight on the left foot between the two HLs – perfectly feasible and pleasant to do once the knack is acquired’). Positions 2,4,5 have it easier: they hook-leg left into the hey. You will find that you always hook-leg into the hey on the same foot in this dance.

After half hey, repeat crossing on ‘figure’ (right foot start again), hook right then hook into hey. ‘Figure’ = sidestep (df1), FC (df2), RTB (df3), UC (df4).

Idbury Hill / Morning Star / Sidestep

A dance with several tunes. OY, FU, FD, df, HG, df, WG, df, R df (all up at end of 2nd half). Df =(long sidestep, half hey) X 2. Long sidestep = both sides turn 90° ccw (so odds face up, evens down, then 3 ss starting rt to turn cw to face, continue with 4 ss on spot, right foot should be on ground, hop on it bringing left foot across, and turning 90° cw (so odds face down, evens up) to start first of 3 ssl turning ccw to face across. Then HL into hey (which may require a fudge step HL on the correct foot). ‘Leading hand’ does 1 high twist for each sidestep.


Corner dance with handkerchiefs. Pattern is OY, FU, FD, df1, HG, df2, WG, df3, R, df4, H. All up at the end of the H. Df in 2 parts: challenge and cross. All 3 corners do challenge, then all 3 cross. Challenge = Use a bar of DS, rt foot start, to come close to and facing your corner partner. Do FC up close (l, r, l), then turn and HL right, back to place, then SC facing across your corner. Stay facing opposit corner ready for crossing-with-figure. 2nd, 3rd corners challenge (coming in with a gather). Then 1st corner crosses to corner partner’s place on a figure, then, in place, do a HR right, SC to finish and face across. 2nd, 3rd corners cross (no preparatory step) in same way. Df1 figure is ssr,ssl, ssr, ssl. Df2 is 4 FC (start right), Df3 (‘slows’ music), 4 RTBs, Df4 (‘slows’ music), 4 UCs. In each case, try to space the horizontal travel evenly (don’t go too far on first capers in Df1,2,3). Travelling on UCs isn’t easy!

2019 video of DDMM doing a variety of dances at Peterborough Day of Dance: from 3.34 mins, Bledington trunkles.

Young Collins

Stick dance. Pattern is OY, FU, FD, df, HG, df, WG, df, R df (all up at end of 2nd half hey). Df is (sticking, half hey) X 2. Sticking = stick across,  3X tips hit floor, 3X tips low clash (between knee and ankle height) across, 3X tips hit floor, 3X tips high clash across. Then leap straight into half hey (no HL). Embellishments are singing while sticking (adult nursery rhymes), syncopated sticking on the final df.

Blurry video from 2009 Ale - sticking is OK but the eagle-eyed will notice that the hooking in the hey looks wrong - that's because we're 'hooking to rule' - not the way we do it now!

Bledington jigs

Bledington jigs has detailed instructions for dancing the three of the Bledington jigs which we have videos of: Ladies Pleasure, Lumps of Plum Pudding and Princess Royal.