Playford (Young, Walsh, Thompson, etc.) did not write for modern readers, he wrote for his contemporaries and he used technical dance terms which made sense to them but whose meanings are lost in the mists of time to us.
What, for instance, does All Sides mean? When Cecil Sharp came across the term he had no idea. So he made a guess. Later he made a different guess. Is either one right? We have no idea. Dances work with either interpretation of the phrase, but what Restoration era dancers actually were dancing will remain a mystery.
Even worse than that Playford seems to have assumed that his readers just needed hints. In the dance Row Well Ye Mariners he describes the dance thusly:
The dance consists of two 16 bar parts. The first is well defined, but for the second we have only that people should "side" (whatever that is) with their neighbors and then (somehow) progress. Now siding is a move which takes 4 bars and leaves one where one started. It does not progress and it leaves 12 bars of music unaccounted for.
Lead up a D. forwards and back · That again : First man two slips cross the Room one way, the woman the other · Back again to your places : Fall back both · Meet again : Clap both your own hands, then clap each other's right-hands against one another's; clap both your own hands again, then clap left-hands, then clap both hands again, then clap your breasts, then meet both your hands against one-another · The same again, only clap left-hands first :
First man sides with the next wo. and his wo. with the next man, doing the like till you come to your own places, the rest following and doing the same.
So anyone attempting to interpret this dance will have to make up 12 bars of filler including some sort of progression.
Playford does not seem to have employed a proof reader. He makes errors. Some of his descriptions simply don't make sense. If you follow his directions you end in the wrong place, or get there too late, or too early. Sometimes someone will look at what seems like nonsense and realize that there is a valid interpretation we just haven't understood it, but frequently Playford is just wrong and the interpreter must figure out what to throw out and what to retain and what to change.
Colin Hume points out that there are thousands of uninterpreted dances from the past and most aren't worth dancing.
I do not claim to be a particularly good interpreter, and it is perhaps presumptuous to try. So feel free to ignore this page and go on to better things.
I have chosen to interpret dances for several reasons:
I should add that, as I write, none of these interpretations has actually been danced by a living person (I am doing this during COVID). The fact that I can animate the dance is no proof that a person could actually dance it, nor that they would want to.
The originals for these dances are out of copyright. My interpretations are under copyright, but I release them under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which means that you are free to use them, but should mention my name if you do so.