Jamaica ~ Hume, Old Style Progression

Jamaica ~ Cook Jamaica ~ Sharp Jamaica ~ Hume Jamaica ~ Hume, Old Style Progression

Jamaica ~ Hume, Old Style Progression is an English Country Dance. It was published by John Playford (website) in 1670 in The Dancing Master, 4th ed., London. It was interpreted by Colin Hume (website) in about 2000 and published in Colin Hume's Website. Originally a Duple Minor this version is a proper 5 Couple Longways dance. It is a multipart dance. The minor set lasts 352 bars. Someone thought this dance was Easy / Intermediate.

In modern Country Dances everyone starts dancing at once (except, possibly the bottom couple), but that is not how things were done in Playford's day.

In his day only the top two couples of a duple minor set (three for a triple minor, of course) would start. After they had danced once the top couple would go down to the next couple(s) below and dance with them. No one started until the top couple reached them.

When the original top couple reached the bottom they would start up the set as 2s. When they reached the top they would stop. But the dance would not. Now the top couple would wait, and the dance would end when each couple had reached its original place. (if there are n couples then this takes 3*n-3 repetitions of the dance in a duple minor, and 4*n-4 in a triple minor).

In part this was because the top couple would choose the dance, and would teach it to each couple below by dancing it with them. They did not have walk-throughs beforehand to teach the dance.

There is still a vestige of this style of dancing in Scottish Country's 2 couple dance in a 4 couple set, where only the top two couples dance the first time through.

Things were even more complicated when a dance consisted of two (or more) parts as this one does.

Once the original top couple had completed the dance - that is once they regained the top - they would wait out until they would naturally become an active couple and then they would start the second part, even though most couples below them would still be dancing the first part.

This makes for some difficulty in calling the dance: What can a caller say when two different dances are going on at once? Of course, in Playford's day the dances were not called.

Playford does not say this explicitly, he simply assumes you know it, but if you read his instructions they do seem to be addressed to the top couple alone rather than to all the first couples. "The first Cu. turns single, then lead down thro' the 2d Cu. and cast up again · The 2d Cu. do the same : Then the three first Cu. go the Hey · The first Cu. cast off and turn Hands ··" from "Masquerade Royal", John Young (Playford's son in law), 1718: Now, why say "the three first Cu." when you mean "all the couples" unless those first three were the only ones dancing at the start?

John Essex in For the Further Improvement of Dancing gives a very verbose, but still sadly vague, description of how an improper dance should start and finish:

1st. When a Couple begins to Dance from what ever place they begin they must not discontinue till they are arriv'd not only to y^e last Couples place but also to y^e very place where they have begin.

2d. Every time that a repetition begins again, the same increases always by Couples, so that y^e Dance which before was but of two, comes to be of four, then of 6, of 8. 10 &c till every Body be in motion.

3d. That a Couple out not to begin to Dance till they're come into the first Couples place as in A.

4th. When a Couple is come down to the last Couple and finds there no Body more to Dance with, then that same Couple dances again together (GWW: in other words partners cross over) and afterwards moves up always Dancing till they come to the same place where they have begun & then all the repetitions of that Couple are at an end.

Page 21

And in another place:

The first figure is always that by which one begins, and goes on till you arrive to y^e last which will be the end of y^e part, which is to be repeated not only by them who have begun, but also by all the other Couples. who must follow the same way as the first and shall likewise continue in y^e same order; till every Body be arrive'd to the same place from whence they began and the the whole parter will be intierely finish'd and there every Couple make their Honour as they finish.

But if there be a second part you must instead of making your Houour goe on in the same order: as you have done in the first and putt off making your Honour till you come to y^e end of the last part.

Page 17

This style of starting a dance continued for centuries.

It is described in "The Dancer's Guide", London, Chivers, 1821, and in The scholars' companion and ball-room vade mecum, New York, Hillgrove, 1857.

The last place I have found it described is in Cecil Sharp's description of a minor-set dance in The Country Dance Book, Part 1 (1909):

The top minor-set, headed by the leading couple, opens the dance by performing the complete figure, the rest of the couples being neutral. This results in the exchange of positions between the leading and second couple.

The second round is now danced by the minor-set composed of the second and third couples, of which the second one is the leading couple. The rest of the dancers, including the top one, remain neutral. This brings the leading couple down to third place from the top of the General Set.

In the third round two minor-sets will now participate, namely those consisting, respectively, of the two couples at the top (the second and third of the original set), and of the the third and fourth couples (originally the first and fourth).

However, at the end of the section Sharp adds the comment:

Expert dancers will sometimes constitute themselves into minor-sets for the performance of the first round, and thus avoid the gradual and somewhat tedious opening as above described; that is to say, they will omit the first six rounds in our first illustration and begin with the seventh round.

As far as I can tell, later parts of the The Country Dance Book omit this entirely. So perhaps Sharp changed his mind. And that may mark where this style of starting a dance was lost.

The first place I have found mention of the modern way of starting is The Complete Ball-Room Hand-Book, Elias Howe, Boston, 1858 says In forming for Contra Dances, let there be space enough between the ladies' and gentlemen's lines to pass down and up the centre. It is usual for those at the foot of the set to wait until the first couple has passed down, and they have arrived at the head of the set; but there is no good reason why they should so wait, as every fourth couple should commence with the first couple. In other words he is saying that traditional dancers would only begin with the top couple, but there is no reason why the whole line couldn't start at once.

Playford writes:

The first man take his wo. by the right hand, then by the left, and so holding hands change places, then do the same to the 2. wo. the 1. wo. and 2 man do the same Then fall back from your own, the 1. cu. being in the 2. cu. place, go the Figure of 8 Do this to the last.
The 1. man take hands with the 2. wo. and turn her round, the 1. wo. and 2 man do as much Then the two men take hands, and the two we. take hands, and turn once and an half, then turn your own Do this to the last.

The tune was published with the dance, and the music was synthesized by Colin Hume's software.

The animation plays at 107 counts per minute normally, but the first time through the set the dance will often be slowed down so people can learn the moves more readily (no music plays during this slow set). Men are drawn as rectangles, women as ellipses. Each couple is drawn in its own color, however the border of each dancer indicates what role they currently play so the border color may change each time through the minor set.

An online description of the dance may be found here.

The dance contains the following figures: hand turn (allemande), figure eight (and probably others).

If you find what you believe to be a mistake in this animation, please leave a comment on youtube explaining what you believe to be wrong. If I agree with you I shall do my best to fix it.

If you wish to link to this animation please see my comments on the perils of youtube. You may freely link to this page, of course, and that should have no problems, but use one of my redirects when linking to the youtube video itself:

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The dance itself is out of copyright, and is in the public domain. The interpretation is copyright © ~2000 by Colin Hume. My visualization of this dance is copyright © 2021 by George W. Williams V and is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This website is copyright © 2021,2022,2023,2024 by George W. Williams V
Creative Commons License My work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Most of the dances have more restrictive licensing, see my notes on copyright, the individual dance pages should mention when some rights are waived.