Cornish Folk Tradition: Songs Music Dance and Associated Customs
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Cornish Dance: The Serpent
The snake dance was well known at tea treats and village parties from the latter part of the 19th century through until the 1940s and remains a popular dance to finish off the evening at Cornish Troyls / barn dances. Some Cornish groups do combine the Serpent Dance with traditional steps which enables a single dancer to lead an audience through a range of steps and choreography. This provides for a very free style and accessible form of dance but is easy to develop from the basic formula. It has it’s origin in a medieval dance called the Farandole and whilst it is a very simple dance in form it becomes hypnotic and exciting when large numbers of people are involved and constantly passing each other in convoluted spirals
Formation:Dancers hold hands in a line throughout to form a snake. The snake is “lead” in a series of moves or formations some of which will include:
1 Spiralling into the centre and reversing back out FLight_March
2 Spiralling in and “escaping” under a series of arms to unwind like a ball of wool pulled from the centre.
3 Leading in and out under arches created along the line of dancers ( it is easier to manage every other arch)
4 A showy move! Leader turns the dancer immediately following under his/her arm (all still holding hands in a line) and leads the arch thus formed over the whole line to the end.
The list is probably endless with some formations going in and out of fashion over the years. However the basic “snake” is a constant that appears under many names throughout Europe and dates back to at least medieval times.
Tune - any Tea Treat march. The Example we give here is St Kevern’s Feast / The Flight March which was included in Dunstan’s collection. Midi
   
   
   
   
   
   
     
   
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