Source: Playford, interpreted by Freda Tomlinson; published in English Dance & Song, April May 1953, Vol XVII. No. 5
Formation: Three Couples Longways or in a Triangle
This dance appears in three documents from the 17th century. The best known is, of course, from John Playford's English Dancing Master, 1650:
But it also appears, albeit truncated and hard to read, at the bottom of the "Sloane Manuscript" from around the same period. While the Playford version shows symbols indicating that it is "Three Couples, Longways, Proper", the Sloane Manuscript appears to reference a triangular formation.
The third document is the "Lovelace Manuscript" which is from around 1630-1640, definitely pre-Playford. If you look at the bottom of that page you will see that it says "Jack Pudding for 6:" and then a diagram showing three couples in a line, with the middle couple having stepped back to form a triangle.
The Lovelace Manuscript is not easy to read, so have a look at Dafydd Cyhoeddwr's transcription.
Many people have tried very hard to make Playford's instructions work for a longways set. But if you assume that it was really a triangle then many of the instructions make a lot more sense! Was the formation shown in Playford an error?
Here are some interpretations of, and lots more information about, Jack Pudding:
Jack Pudding was a clown, as was Merry Andrew, which was another name for this dance. Graham Christian's book "The Playford Assembly" uses Colin's version and has historical information about the clowns.
- Colin Hume
- Andrew Swaine
- Dafydd Cyhoeddwr
- Freda Tomlinson's version from English Dance & Song - shown below
- Audrey Town republished Freda's version in the Spring 1998 issue of English Dance & Song, with Audrey's version of a smoother third figure
I did my own analysis, based on the Lovelace Manuscript, then found that I had come to most of the same conclusions as Andrew Swaine.
I like Playford's first figure when done in a triangle as it gives the third couple something different to do in the first figure, and you get to go through two arches in the first chorus.
My second figure and chorus, from Lovelace, are the same as Andrew's "Purist Lovelace version".
The third chorus in Lovelace is challenging as it is one long confusing description that doesn't make clear which couple is being referenced at any point. The original diagram is repeated, but it makes more sense to me to stay in the circle. The description is:
"the couple that leade shall goe up to the top apace, and the man shall leade his woeman towards his left hand, higher, then that couple that stands towards the left, and then leade her in betweene them both, and then all 4 joyne hands, and goe round once and that couple being left goe, they shall goe into the place, of the couple, that leade the dance, and then doe the like to the other couple; and put them in the place which is on the left hand, and your selfs on the right, and then the other couple doe the like for his part; doing the very same thing putting himself on the right hand, and the couple that leade the dance on the left, and the other couple at the bottome, and then that couple doe the like, soe that att last they shall come all in theire places in doing after this manner;"
Is that clear? Hmmm… I didn't think so!
Let's try using the same words (with some minor improvements to the spelling and punctuation), but with clarification as to who is doing what to whom, and where. Let's call top left #1s, top right #2s and bottom couple #3s. The "move" described in the first paragraph just switches two couples around.
The #3 couple that lead shall go up to the top apace, and the #3 man shall lead his woman towards his left hand, higher, than that #1 couple that stands towards the left, and then lead her in between them both, and then all 4 (#1s & #3s) join hands and go around once. And that #1 couple being let go, they (#1s) shall go into the #3 place, of the couple that lead the dance. (Leaving #3s in the #1 place.)
And then #3s do the like to the other #2 couple; and put them (#2s) in the place which is on the left hand (#1 place), and yourselves (#3s) on the right (#2 place)
(So, #3s have done the move twice, first changing places with the #1s, then with the #2s. #1s at the bottom now take the lead and do the same move twice.)
And then the other couple (#1s, now at the bottom) do the like for his part; doing the very same thing (i.e. switch with the #2s, then switch with the #3s) putting himself on the right hand (#1s now in #2 place), and the couple that lead the dance on the left (#3s now in #1 place), and the other couple (#2s) at the bottom.
(Now #2s take the lead and do the same move twice.)
And then that couple (#2s) do the like, so that at last they shall come all in their places in doing after this manner.
So, whereas most interpretations leave the couples in progressed places ready to repeat the dance, I would suggest that the last figure is done six times leaving everyone where they started: "they shall come all in their places".
This will, of course, require more music, as in a dance like Picking Up Sticks where the choruses vary in length and the musicians keep playing until everyone is home
I have found that the first part of the move can be quite awkward for the lady, so I prefer for the man to set off by himself, then beckon his partner who follows him around #1 Man without holding hands; then hold hands in a circle.
If you go for it you can just about get through the move in 16 steps, but, if you want to do a full Circle Left (which I find more satisfying) then it is much more pleasant to do it in 24 steps, so #3s take three B musics to do the move twice.
Here is John Sweeney's version (still a work in progress):
Formation: Three Couples in a Line #1s:#3s:#2s - #3s take about six steps back to make a Triangle
#1s & #2s: Up a Double & Back x2 - Wheel Around to face the other couple as you fall back the second time and make Arches
WHILE #3s Lead Up, Turn Alone (8), Lead Down, Turn Alone (8)
#3s Lead Up, Lady Crossing in Front of the Man, Separate, Cast Down one place
Dance straight across through two Arches; Cast Down to the Bottom
||#1s & #2s Circle Left; Circle Right - Fall Back at the end so that all three couples are in a wide Circle facing the Middle
||Partner Into Line Siding: Right Shoulder; Left Shoulder
Men Fall Back (4), Come Forward and make a Circle of Arches (fingertips) (4)
Ladies dance AC around your Partner - Men Fall Back to Place (8)
Ladies Fall Back (4), Come Forward and make a Circle of Arches (fingertips) (4)
Men dance CW around your Partner - All Fall Back into Place (8)
||Partner Arm Right; Arm Left - finish in the same circle
|B1, B2, B3
The Men lead all the moves: #3s dance AC around #1 Man (Lady following the Man, without holding hands) - finish facing #1s
#1s & #3s Circle Left
Flow out of the Circle: #1s lead to #3s Place; #3s flow into #1s Place and keep moving to:
#3s Repeat the move with #2s
|B4, B5, B6
||The same with #1s Leading
|B7, B8, B9
||The same with #2s Leading
Own tune, 24 bars. Repeat the Bs as many times as necessary in the last part.
My version can easily be made progressive by dropping some of the repetitions in the last part, and having the couples flow out of the last Circle Left into their progressed positions, facing up.
With so many interpetations, and so much confusion about the formation, I will leave you to decipher Freda Tomlison's version yourself.
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