Picking Up Sticks

Picking of Stickes

Picking Up Sticks or Picking of Stickes is an English Country Dance. It was found in the Lovelace Manuscript (written somewhere around the 1640s) and later published in The English Dancing Master. It was interpreted by Cecil Sharp (website) in 1916 and published in The Country Dance Book (Part 4). Found in The Playford Ball. It is a proper 3 Couple Longways dance. There is no progression in this dance. It is a USA dance. The dance lasts 136 bars.

The Picking of Stickesappears in the Lovelace Manuscript with the parts in a different order. The Lovelace version is not a USA dance, each part is preceded by two up a doubles (there is no siding nor arming)

Lovelace writes:

Leade up twice, and downe 2, then the first man shall change places with the second woeman, and, then with the last man, and then leade up againe as they shall stand, and then the first woeman doe the like, change with the 2 man, and last woeman and leade up againe, and soe chainge, till all come to their places, still leading up after any one hath changed;

Leade up againe like before, and then all the men shall dance the hayes about the woemen, and the last man shall still come about the third woman, and having thus done, the first man shall runne about all the woemen and having thus done, they shall all come into their places, then leade up twice, again and then the woemen shall doe the like;

Leade up againe, and then the two first couple shall take hands, and then shuttell, that is to say, that they should slide through one another as first the second couple slide through the first, and then the first through the second, and in the meane time the other couple shall rune round them both, meting att each end, and having done as long as they please, the second, and the third couple shall shuffle; and the remayning couple shall runne roune like before, and so dance on as long as you please;

Playford writes:
Lead up all a D. forwards and back That again First man change places with the 2 wo. then with the last man Lead up as before, then the wo. change as the man did, every cu. doing thus.
Sides all That again First cu. slip down between the 2. they slipping up, then the 2. slip down and the 1. up ·: All this again, the last cu. crossing over below, go up and cross above, fall to your places Then the four last slip, and the first cu. cross about
Sides all That again The we. standing still, men going the Hey between them, the last man going about the middle wo. Do thus three times over, then go quite round all the we. to your places ·:·: We. as much

This dance includes two mirror sheepskin heys, which are too complicated to explain in the animation. The Playford Ball points out that this is not not a true hey, as half the people in it are not moving. The ones moving weave around the stationary ones.

The first "hey" is by the men around the women.

1st man leads the other men above and outside of 1st woman, then inside of the second woman, and outside the third and loops around her.

When the 3rd man (last in the line) reaches the 2nd woman he no longer follows the other two, instead he loops around and then outside her.

At this point the line of men is in a different order with the 3rd man in the lead, followed by 1st man and 2nd man at the end.

The 3rd man, followed by the 1st dances inside 1st woman, then loops above and around her.

When the 2nd man reaches the 2nd woman he does not follow the other two, but loops around her.

Now the line's order is 2nd man, 3rd man with the 1st man last.

The 2nd man, followed by the 3rd loops outside and below the third woman.

The 1st man now loops the 2nd woman.

Now the line's order is 1st man followed by 2nd followed by 3rd.

The first man followed by the others loops around the 1st woman to cast all the way around the set back to places.

Then the women do a mirror image "hey" around the men.

The animation plays at 120 counts per minute. Men are drawn as rectangles, women as ellipses. Each couple is drawn in its own color.

An online description of the dance may be found here.

I.A11-4Up a double and back
5-8Up a Double, back (again)
I.A21-4M1 change with W2 then with M3
5-8Up a double and back
I.A31-4W1 change with M2 then with W3
5-8Up a double and back
I.A41-8W2, now at top, the same: two changes, followed by up a double, fall back
I.A51-8M2 the same
I.A61-8M3 the same
I.A71-8W3 the same, now all home
II.A11-4Right shoulder siding
5-8Left shoulder siding
II.A21-23s cross and skip around set (8bars) as 1s slip down inside and 2s slip up outside
3-42s slip down inside as 1s slip up outside (3s continue)
5-61s slip down inside and 2s slip up outside (3s continue)
7-82s slip down inside as 1s slip up outside (3s continue)
II.A31-21s cross and skip around set (8bars) as 3s slip up inside and 2s slip down outside
3-42s slip up inside as 3s slip down outside (1s continue)
5-63s slip up inside and 2s slip down outside (1s continue)
7-82s slip up inside as 3s slip down outside (1s continue)
III.A11-4Arm right
5-8Arm left
III.A2-41-24Men sheepskin hey around the women
III.A5-71-24Women sheepskin hey around the men

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 out of copyright, and is in the public domain. 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.