Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hull's Victory ~ the Dance

This historic contra dance became one of my favorites shortly after first learning it about three years ago, and found an especially warm place in my heart once I began learning the history behind it! A few of my favorite aspects of this dance are as follows:

1. The opening "wave" step! So far as I know, this step is unique to Hull's Victory. The 1st couple does half a right hand turn, joining left hands with the 2nd couple to form a line of four; the line then does a balance forward and back, making a neat little wave pattern on the dance floor. The wave motion is repeated after a left hand turn on the ends and a right hand turn for the 1s in the center. This opening portion of the dance is a lot of fun to do; the forward motion corresponds perfectly to the energy of the music, propelling the turns around and giving a satisfying emphasis to the balance.

2. The buzz step swing! Just about every contra dance I have done includes at least one of these, so the swing is definitely not a defining characteristic of Hull's Victory. Still, a good steady swing can be a lot of fun, especially when paired with such sprightly music as is used for this dance!

3. Dancing it as a 1st couple! Now, in most English and contra dances the 1s are referred to as the "active couple", due to the slightly longer amount of time and/or the greater level of complexity given to the 1st position. However, I know of no other dance in which the 1st couple is given such a decided preference - in Hull's Victory, the 1s really do have all the fun! They turn, they swing, they go down and up the center, and participate in everything the 2s do as well. The 1s are in constant motion, even though the 2s are forced into idleness for half the dance!
Of course, this advantage is turned on its head whenever the 1st couple reaches the bottom end of the set, at which point the former 1s must turn and make their way back up the set as very inactive 2s - a fitting penance for having dominated the dance previously! The moral? If you're going to be selfish, do it all the way - make sure you get in at the very top of the line, and hope the music ends before you reach the bottom! ;)

The dance instructions for Hull's Victory were included on page 83 of Elias Howe's American Dancing Master, a guidebook to ballroom dancing that was published forty years after the Constitution encountered the Guerriere. The brief paragraph given to this dance does not contain much information, merely a listing of the steps with little to no indication of how much time should be given to each of them. Still, I love this paragraph because it describes the very dance that we still enjoy even a century and a half later! (As a related side note, the entire Dancing Master has been scanned and shared online; the beginning several pages especially make for an entertaining read!)

A useful set of precise dance calls can be found on the Hull's Victory page at Stately Steps. These instructions are presented in a much more orderly format, with the steps given in connection with the length of time allotted for each. Also, this page includes a video compilation of Hull's Victory being danced on several different occasions in various settings. To my mind, if you can not be at a dance, the next best thing is to watch well-recorded dancing videos!

Hope you enjoyed my informal, uninformative rambling... and have a great day!


Anonymous said...

Oh, but this *is* informative, Zoe. To a non dancer your descriptions make perfect sense!... They even make me want to do the dance.. As a "1", of course!

Anonymous said...

Oops, that last comment, and this one, is Mom.

Zoë said...

Oh, why thank you! ;] Now let's hope they make equal sense to the dancers, too...