Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Geud Man of Ballangigh

by David Wilkin

As noted before and elsewhere, I have spent some time teaching the dances that have been done in the Regency Era. I have spent the time doing this because I found tremendous enjoyment performing them as well as guiding others through them. The advent of devices like the iPod and now our iPhones have allowed me to store some of these tunes on the device and other technology has allowed my favorite tunes to become my morning radio show. The other day whilst driving in the dark to work in the morning, Gued Man of Ballangigh cycled through and it brought a smile to my face. I then thought that this would indeed be a good number to translate for my article. As I dedicate my most recent book, Jane Austen and Ghosts to those who dragged me to Regency Dancing as well, I found this thought to be further reinforced.

Here at English Historical Fiction Authors we often write about the history from the eras of our books are written in, so this is not an event, or a biography of some famous person. This is an activity that was done, dancing, at balls, parties, and on the spur of the moment. We know that these country dances made their way into formal society over a few hundred years. Before the country dance made it’s way into the ballroom we might find the minuet and gavotte being done by the aristocracy and upper classes in their halls and manors. In the Regency though, we do find these dances that started on the village green now the centerpieces of social gatherings where dance was the focus.

I hope that you will find this dance as enjoyable as I do. And that the directions below are those you can practice at your leisure. You can purchase a copy of the music on iTunes. There is a rendition by Jeremy Barlow and the Broadside Band that I have owned for a number of years available there. Another that you may find is by the Gadsby’s Tavern Musicians. (That may be harder to come by.)

Notes about the Geud Man of Ballangigh:
This is linked to James V of Scotland. The dance is traced to 1696, 150 years after the death of James V. Caroline Bingham in her biography of James V found references to James wandering the countryside and when meeting people identified himself as the “gudeman of Ballengiech” which means a tenant in the hollow of Stirling Castle. These tales may have come to us from Sir Walter Scott. Sir Walter helped to invent many “authentic” Scottish Traditions when he arranged for George IV (Prinny) to visit Scotland in 1822. William H. Murray then developed the story into a play, Cramond Brig; or the Gudeman O’Ballangeich.

The Call:
A longways dance for as many as well. It is a duple minor.
1) A Couple lead down between B Couple and cast up to place. Two men lead out between two women and cast back to place.
2) B Couple lead up between A Couple and cast down to place. Two women lead out between two men and cast back to place.
3)A man sets towards B woman. Turns single back to place. A woman sets to B man and turns single back to place.
4)All circle four hands half way and fall back in lines, (Improper and progressed.) Partners set forward, and change places by right.

Longways-Couples line up facing each other and form a long line. Men on the left, women on the right. The first couple is that closest to the music, and the line becomes perpendicular to where the musicians are, for instance the stage.

Duple minor-The dance is performed in sets of two couples.

Lead Down-A couple walks away from the music. The man holds his hand palm up so that the lady may place her hand upon it gently. (No playing touchy feely here). Using about four steps to walk down between the other couple, the other couple who is not moving will actually part enough to ensure that the active couple can walk between them. In Gued Man, as the music is sprightly, the active couple move quickly (though there is no skipping in the Regency. Many other dance teachers will say there is. I contend that most will not have worn what we men wear in the Regency and find how tight our clothes have been made. That does not allow for much in the way of skipping.)

Cast-Once the active couple is on the other side of the non active couple, they must get back to place. We call this casting and it does not mean turning around and going directly back to place. We drop the hands of our partners and turn away from them and walk around that inactive person we just passed to return to our spot that we started from.

Setting-This is the step that the men can show off their footwork and calves in the Regency. The ladies legs are generally hidden so if we are lucky we might see a toe poke out from under the hem of their dress. I show off my setting when I can but it took me months to go beyond the basic pattern of shifting my weight, and years to master. For the purpose of simple instruction, you would hop very lightly or shift your weight to your right foot. Bring your left foot over to close together on just the ball of your left foot. Then your left foot back and bring the ball of your right foot to close. In Geud Man of Ballangigh this step is done while slightly advancing towards the the person diagonally across the set (not your partner, but the person of the other sex in the set who is not your partner.)

Turn Single-Here the dancer will take four steps to turn around in place. The dancer turns around to his right. In Geud Man of Ballangigh one turns while also returning along the diagonal so you get back to place.

Circle four Hands-Often called as four hands round, though all four people and all eight of their hands (two each) are used. Everyone joins hands in the square, making a circle. The circle now advances a certain number of places, in Geud Man of Ballangigh, it is two, or half way around the circle.

Fall Back in lines-Joining only inside hands with the person of the same sex in your set, you break the circle and are once more in a long line. (Men are now on the Womens side and Women are on the Mens) We take steps backwards (two.)

Improper-This would be the Men on the Women’s side of the line and Women on the Men’s side.

Progressed-Mentioned below (see A giant note bullet point) we discuss how every other time through, there is a couple out at each end, and that they will wait one time through before coming back in as the type of couple they were not before. Progression is how we keep moving down the line, or up the line to dance with new couples. So the first time through, the Smith’s are dancing with their B Couple, the Bakers. Behind them is the next set and that has the Jones and the Farmers. At Progression, right before the dance phrase is over and getting ready to start anew, the Bakers are the top of the couple, followed by the Smiths, who are still A Couples. Then the Farmers, followed by the Jones’. When everything starts again, the Smiths will be dancing with the Farmers.

Change Places-This last part of the dance, when we have been in our long line that fell back is so that men get back to their side of the dance line and women to theirs. This is just a walking step where you cross your partner by right shoulders and then turn back into the set by your right shoulder as well.

Figures spelled out:
What I find that is so fun is how quickly this moves. The first two parts are continuous and flowing. The first couple is moving and as they return to place the A man does not stop but immediately grabs the hand of the B man and they are moving towards the ladies. The pattern continues with the B Man grasping his partners hand so that they then can pass through the A couple and cast back to place...

*We first form the long line of dancers. The men are on the left of the their partner were they to hold hands and face the head of the hall (generally the stage, or where the musicians sit and play) Thus the man’s right hand grasps the ladies left. Then facing across the set, so you now look at your partner, from the very first couple, who are the A couple, they are dancing in the beginning with the next couple, a B couple. The 3rd couple is once again an A couple and the 4th, a B Couple, and so on.

*A giant note, that every other rendition, couples become out. (If you start with 10 couples, you have 5 active sets. The first time through.) Then on the 2nd time through, a couple at the top and one at the bottom, are out for one rendition. The couple at the top nearest the musicians had been Bs the first time through. When the come back in, the third time through, they will be As. At the bottom of the set, they had been As and will return as Bs.

*After lining up in the long lines, you grasp your partners hand across the set and from the first couple down, they grasp the hand of the couple next to them. The couple closest to the stage is the A Couple, the next is the B. Then we have an entire new set of As and Bs. And then a third set, etc.

*The first half of the dance, leading through and casting.

*This part never stops.
*A Couple
*B Couple
*The group mentioned in the list above join inside hands and proceed across their set of four people to split the other two and cast around them back to place where one of these two are still active and grasps the hand of the next person in the grouping to proceed across the set again.
*A Man is thus active first with A Woman. He remains active and grasps B Man’s hand and splits the women with B Man who is now active. In the next phrase B Man grasps his partners hand, which will lead to B Woman grasping A Woman’s hand to split the men and complete the first phrase of the dance.

*The second phrase is setting, circle and progression
*The A couple is active, while the B couple is passive
*A Man sets to B Woman advancing towards her on the diagonal, then turns single back to place.
*Most regency dances have a symmetry and here we have the A Woman setting to B Man and then turning single back to place.
*Now we are at the last part of the dance, that leads into Progression.
*All join hands even as we start to walk in a circle (Don’t join hands and then start walking the circle, start walking as you reach for the other dancers hands.) Only advance two places along the circle, so you will be standing diagonally from where you started in your set.
*We now have the As below the Bs in the line and everyone on the wrong side. Dropping the hand of our partner we keep holding the hand of the dancer who is the same sex as we and fall back two paces in a line.
*We now advance toward our partner with a setting step and then as we near our partner we can stop and walk to our place on the correct side of the set. We pass our partner by right shoulders and then turn right into our place on the line.

*We are now ready to dance again.

At the Regency Assembly Press pages there is one page devoted to Regency Dancing, as you would find at the time and that is recreated today.

Kate Van Winkle Keller and Genevieve Shimer The Playford Ball, 1994

Mr. Wilkin writes Regency Historicals and Romances, Ruritanian and Edwardian Romances, Science Fiction and Fantasy. He is the author of the very successful Pride & Prejudice continuation; Colonel Fitzwilliam’s Correspondence. His most recent work is the humorous spoof; Jane Austen and Ghosts.

His work can be found for sale at: David’s Books, and at various Internet and realworld bookstores including the iBookstore, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords.
He is published by Regency Assembly Press
And he maintains his own blog called The Things That Catch My Eye
You also may follow Mr. Wilkin on Twitter at @DWWilkin


  1. I am very in awe of your ability to perform these dances particularly after reading through this piece about the moves. I'm also more understanding of why dancing a dance at some of these balls took possibly a half hour.
    Fascinating post, thans!

  2. This is awesome! I had the chance three weeks ago to attend a Regency ball. I had the money...just no date. My hubby wouldn't go with me and I couldn't find anyone to go with me. But my co-worker and his wife went and had a blast. I wanted sooooo badly to learn a Regency dance. Thanks for this post!


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