The Artful Dodsons

This is a new English country dance called The Artful Dodsons. It was written on July 19, 2022, for Allen and Alisa Dodson, who won the dance at the Hey Days auction in June 2022. The tune is Paddy Fahey’s Jig (#1, according to this video), played here by the Syncopaths. Used with permission from Jeff Spero (Thanks Jeff!).
(jump to instructions)

The Artful Dodsons English country dance, filmed on September 20, 2022, at Skandia Hall in Pasadena. Thanks to dancers Christina Walley, Todd Brun, Cara King, Katy Muzikar, Renée Camus, and Alex Bradley. Thanks also to Sean Lake for sound engineering help.

At the 2022 Hey Days dance camp, I decided to offer a new English country dance as a service in the fundraising auction. Lots of people have done that in the past, and I wanted to try my hand at it, even though most of the attendees don’t really know me that well, especially as a choreographer (though I’m delighted that Bruce Hamilton taught my prize-winning dance As You Were in his advanced class that week). I also talked to a few people and it seemed that no one else was going to offer a similar thing this year… though perhaps I just beat them to it. 🙂

I fortunately had two (well, three) friends who did know me, and they got into a little bidding war. It’s so wonderful to have friends who support you! ❤️ Katy Muzikar, one of the HTDS Dance Kitchen dancers, got the bidding started. Then Alisa and Allen Dodson, who were also running the auction, bid on it too, creating a little back and forth. Katy finally won the dance, for $250! As the auctioneers moved onto the next item, Allen approached me and asked if I would be willing to write a second dance if they agreed to match the bid. Of course I said yes. So I had two brand new dances to write! (Katy’s dance is also finished, called Wink.) I’m pleased that I was able to raise $500 for the camp, and huge thanks to my friends for their encouragement.

This is my first commissioned English dance, and it was really fun. I talked with Allen and Alisa about what they wanted. We both wanted to use a minor jig, and I had been thinking about this tune for years now (I choreographed an Irish step dance to it back in the 2000s). They asked for 1) an accessible dance that 2) still had a little “meat” to it. We talked about what figures they liked (eg, heys) and what figures they didn’t want (mad robins, poussettes). Alan also specifically wanted some moments of rest, unlike the current trend (which I personally love) of dances that never stop moving. I think I’ve given them all they asked for here. It was fun!

Huge thanks (again!) to the Dance Kitchen dancers, who helped me test it and work out the kinks.

In some ways, the hardest part was coming up with a title. My husband Alex thought of the perfect title, “Through the Looking Glass,” because of the first two figures (a mirror hey ending with the 1s passing through to a Morris hey). Problem was, there is already a published English country dance by that title, so we needed to find another title. I crowdsourced and got some great suggestions, many tied to Alice in Wonderland and to mirrors, such as The Red Queen’s Gambit, Paddy’s Hey Day, Alisa’s Looking Glass, Mirrors in Motion, and Upon Reflection. But none felt quite perfect. Then Alex and I were talking about it on a drive and seemingly out of nowhere, he suggested “The Artful Dodsons.” It was astounding! Great play on words and pays homage to the people (both people) who commissioned it. And though it doesn’t point directly to the figures the way “through the looking glass” did, the figures do illustrate the movements in the kind of slinky, sleight of hand cleverness of the two heys. Perfect! 🙂

The Artful Dodsons

An English Country Dance by Renée Camus
©July 19, 2022
Final instructions: January 19, 2023
Tune: Paddy Fahey’s Jig, by Paddy Fahey

3-couple longways set
AABB (8 bars each)
6/8 (dotted quarter = 108)

A11-6Mirror Hey: ends go toward the center while middles separate to go
up the outside to start.
7-81s (approaching home) cross R-shoulder, into…
A21-6Morris Hey: 1s go down the outside (on the opposite side), 2s continue
straight up the center of the set, and 3s cast to go up the outside to start.
7-81s (approaching home) wheel or gate around into home places (bars 7-8),
partner on the right moving forward. All end at home.
B11-4Top 2 couples (1s and 2s): First corners balance forward and back,
then change places.
5-8Second corners balance forward and back, then change places.
B21-4Bottom 2 couples (1s and 3s): 3 changes of a circular hey (no hands),
starting R-shoulder with partner across.
5-8Top and bottom couples (2s and 1s) pass partner R-shoulder then loop left
to face in, WHILE middles (3s) 2-hand turn once around. End 2, 3, 1. Be ready
to start again: ends toward center, middles go up outside to Mirror Hey.

Teaching notes:

  • A2 7-8: The 1s wheel around with the person on the Right moving forward so that their momentum leads them into the 1st corners balance in B1.
  • B2 1-4: The circular hey should remain within the set lines as much as possible, keeping it square. This makes a nice contrast to the roundness of the heys.
  • B2 5-8: the “pass R loop L” for the end couples is rounded, like an S-shape.
The Artful Dodsons instructions
Click to download instructions for The Artful Dodsons.
Click to download the music for The Artful Dodsons.

Click here to download the music with chords (thanks to Rebecca King).

See more of my English country dance choreographies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.