Pandemic Panaceas

ECD: Harmonious Handel

By Diane Bell

One day my husband, Don, was upstairs in our old house traipsing back and forth on the squeaky floor boards composing a one-couple dance to a jaunty tune by Handel called “The Harmonious Blacksmith.” (He had asked Jean Monroe and Catherine Miller to create and record a danceable version of the tune.) I was down in the kitchen doing dishes while Don played the tune over and over again, as one has to do when figuring out a new dance. Finally, having heard the tune umpteen times, I said to myself: “Darn! I can make up a dance to this tune, too!” And soon I found myself prancing around the kitchen in my apron imagining figures, this time for a longways dance.

I’d done plenty of English country dancing over the years but had never written a dance before, so this was a new challenge. After playing the tune myself a zillion times, I came up with figures that fit the music and pretty much flowed together, except for one transition that just didn’t work quite right. Fortunately, Orly Krasner was coming for a visit, so I enlisted her expertise as an experienced choreographer to sort out the problem. She came up with some simple adjustments that made the dance click and voila, my first dance was finished.

Don had started to think that one-couple dances might be a good way to keep our joy of dancing alive while waiting out the pandemic at home, and this is what led him to create his version of “The Harmonious Blacksmith.” As more and more of us were vaccinated, he began to think that doing small group dances (with two and three couples) would be a great way to transition from lockdown to a semblance of normalcy. There are, of course, plenty of such dances that have been in the repertoire for a long time. Adding to this list are numerous longways dances, now including my version of “The Harmonious Blacksmith” (which I titled “Harmonious Handel”), that can be easily converted into two-couple versions.

We wanted to test out Harmonious Handel as a two-couple dance, so we asked our friends Katie Sanger and William Brearly to join us and we recorded a video of us dancing together (bit.ly/HarmoniousHandel). I think you can see by the smiles on our faces that being together in this way really lifted our spirits. So until it’s safe to gather again in larger groups, we hope you’ll try out my dance and explore the many other ways you can get together in groups of two, four, or six to relish each other’s company and keep alive the pleasure of dancing together (rather than alone in your kitchen).

Listen to the tune:

Musicians: Jean Monroe (piano), Catherine Miller (violin)

Harmonious Blacksmith sheet music by Jean MonroeHarmonious Handel

By Diane Bell (with some edits by Orly Krasner), 2021
Tune: “The Harmonious Blacksmith,” George Frideric Handel’s Suite No. 5 in E major, HWV 430.

a two couple or duple minor
Note: the tune has four steps to the bar. Recommended tempo: 104 BPM

 

A1 1-2 All lead up a double and back
  3-4 1s cast, 2s lead up and cloverleaf turn away
A2 1-2 All lead up a double and back
  3-4 2s cast, 1s lead up and cloverleaf turn away (all end at home)
B1 1-2 First corners step forward to acknowledge and back
Second corners step forward to acknowledge and back (all end facing partner)
  3-4 Partners do 3 quick changes of rights and lefts with no hands (end facing out, all progressed)
  5-6 Neighbors lead away, change hands and come back
  7-8 Circle left once around
B2 1-2 Neighbors fall back a double and come forward*
  3-4 2s cast, lead up, and cast (end on the ends of a line of 4 facing up)
While 1s lead up, cast, and lead up (end in the middle of the line of 4)
  5-6 Line comes forward a double and falls back (bending the line)
  7-8 Partners two-hand turn once around

*1s end close while 2s stop further back so they can start the first cast just before the downbeat, thus allowing them to execute both casts and arrive in the line of 4 on time.

Diane Hamilton Bell has been dancing all her life starting with ballet, then international, contra, Scottish Highland, rapper sword and finally English country. She met her husband, Don, at Pinewoods English Week in 1990 and married him in Toronto in 1992. She then imported him to New York’s Capital District where he started an ECD series in Troy with Diane’s band, Heartsease, providing the music.

     
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