Cornish Folk Tradition: Songs Music Dance and Associated Customs
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Cornish Dance: Broom Dances

Informants: Mr Hedley Martin, Morval nr Looe (June 1980), Mrs Baker, Rilla Mill (June 1980) and 9th Truro St Georges Guides (Spring 1980) Mrs Watts, Madron, July 1980 (Penzance Broom Dance). Broom dances were clearly widely done in Cornwall as most of our informants made at least some reference to them even if they could not provide us with new steps. As far as when they were done then children seem to carry the tradition on to the present day as witnessed by the Guides at Truro.
Hedley Martin and Mrs Baker saw broom dances as being performed in the same way as three hand reels, at festive occasions on farms across North Cornwall. Miss Helena Charles (see furry dances) noted that the broom dance was performed as part of the Madron Christmas play 'The Turkish Knight'. The music for the broom dances probably varied at whim, Mrs Watts recommended a March such as Trelawney, Hedley Martin gave his own tune Blue Bonnets or Pengughow glas given above. An E Thompson writing in the Old Cornwall Society Magazine 1931 to 36 mentions the Broom dance in relation to the Goldhys at North Hill: "…I must not forget to mention the dance over the Broomstick. This is most interesting especially if someone is present with a concertina. The Dance, I think it is to the tune of So Early In The Morning. It's fine when you hear the heavy boots beating a tattoo on the stone floors, as the dancers first lift one leg then the other, to pass the broomstick from hand to hand, as if they were weaving. What a wonderful time too. As the dance proceeds the musician plays faster and faster and the dancers have to dance faster. It is a marvel how these men, some big and well built, can jump so nimbly as they do in this dance."
Formation: :The dancer begins, 'at rest', standing with broom held perpendicular in right hand, bristles resting on floor, for an eight bar introduction. Steps:The basic travelling step for this dance is the 'step hop' step.
Steps The basic travelling step for this dance is the 'step hop' step Zeak-Waltz
   
Bars
Penzance Broom Dance:
1 - 8
Using the broom as an axis, dancer circles around the broom with a `step hop` step , 16 steps to place
9 12
Dancer lays broom on floor, stands facing along the broom. Takes four steps forward thus: place right foot on the left hand side of broom and hop, cross left foot to right hand side of the broom and hop, step again with right foot and again with left. Dancer takes four steps backwards in the same way, the legs still crossing in front and not behind.
13-6
Kicking alternate legs pass the broom under each in turn using a weaving movement
17-4
Repeat bars 9 - 16
25-2
Repeat bars 1 - 8, hoist broom over right shoulder on final beat
   
   
   
   
The Cornish Broom Dance:
Prngughow-Glas
In order to preserve steps collected elsewhere in Cornwall varying steps have been incorporated into one 'composite dance' (choreographed by Merv and Alison Davey). The dance is performed as per Penzance but a further time through (i.e. 64 bars in total plus the 8 bar introduction) and introducing the following steps across the broom:
From Looe:
17-0
Step with right foot to the right of the broom and kick left leg to the right, Step with left foot to the left of the broom and kick right foot to the left e.t.c. Return along the broom without turning around
From Rilla Mill:
41-4
Take four small `step hop` steps closely along right hand side of the broom, cross and turn around. Return along left side.
From Truro:
49-2
Two small jumps with feet straddling the broom, cross legs and repeat. Dancer moves slightly forward during this process. Jump with feet apart again and then jump turning in the air to land with feet apart across the broom facing back the way the dancer came. Return in the same way.
The suggested tune for the Penzance Broom Dance, as collected from Mrs Watts, is the Zeak Waltz. (Click for midi file)The suggested tune for the Cornish Broom Dance is Pengughow Glas. (Click for midi file)
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