Cornish Broom Dances
Broom dances were widely performed in Cornwall, the steps and version given here were provided by:Mrs Baker, Rilla Mill (1980), Mrs Bill Glanville, St Columb (1994), Mr Hedley Martin, Morval Nr Looe (1980), 9th Truro St Georges Guides (1980), Mrs Watts, Madron (1980)
Many people from whom step dances were collected made reference to broom dancing, though not all were able to provide steps or movements. Interestingly, the 9th Truro Guides were still performing the dance regularly at meetings when it was collected. Mrs Baker and Mr Martin both saw broom dances performed in the same way as other scoot dances, at festive occasions and parties throughout North Cornwall.
Mrs Bill Glanville remembers her mother dancing the broom dance to the tune of ‘The Cats Got the Measles’ describing, “...the broom laid on the ground, dancing over the handle and head and returning, picking up the broom and passing it beneath the knees”. Mrs Gwen Masters remembered dancing a broom dance to the tune of ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’. She explained that you would, “...cross your legs and jump over this broom” and that the broom would be held in the air as she jumped over it rather than on the
floor as remembered by others. The Penzance Broom Dance contributed by Mrs Watts is the most intact, where other people could only give individual steps. The dance laid out in the notations is therefore based around the Penzance Broom Dance, with additional steps from other areas of Cornwall. This is by no means a rigid format, and as with many other scoot dances, the individual steps were improvised around the basic chorus.
Formation:The dancer begins standing with the broom held 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.
All the steps are taken from the Penzance Broom dance (contributed by Mrs Watts) unless otherwise stated.
1 — 8 Using the broom as an axis, dancer circles once around the broom with a ‘step hop’
step, 16 steps to place, and then place the broom on the floor on the 8th step, with the
bristles facing away from you, and the broom handle facing towards you.
Step One from Rilla Mill Area (Contributed by Mrs Baker):
9 — 12 (STEP ONE) Take four ‘step hop’ steps around the broom, starting on the right hand side and coming back on the left hand side.
13 — 16 (WEAVING THE BROOM) Pick up the handle of the broom leaving the bristles on the floor, and kick the right leg over the broom handle, followed by the left in a weaving movement. This should be done eight times, passing the broom handle from one hand to the other as you kick your legs.
17 — 20 (STEP TWO) (Contributed by Mr Hedley Martin - Looe):Step with the right foot to the right of the broom, and kick the left leg to the right, step with the left foot to the left of the broom and kick the right foot to the left. You should do this step eight times, four steps up and broom and four back. You should return backwards, without turning around.
21 — 24 Repeat Bars 13 — 16
25 — 28 (STEP THREE) Place the right foot on the left hand side of broom and hop, cross left foot to right hand side of the broom and hop. Dance this eight times, four steps up the broom and four steps back again. As with the step from Rilla Mill, you should return to the broom handle backwards rather than turning around.
29 — 32 Repeat bars 13 — 16 From the Truro Area (Contributed by 9th Truro Guides)
33 — 36 (STEP FOUR) 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.
37 — 40 Repeat bars 13 — 16
41 — 48 Repeat bars 1 — 8 to finish. Generally dancers finish with a bow or curtsey at the end. When collected it was suggested that the broom is hoisted onto the shoulder in the last bar and the dancer shouts ‘Hoy!’. It is, of course, entirely up to you how you would like to finish the dance!
Different tunes are adapted for the Broom Dance but Polka or Hornpipe style works best. Tunes often used are Blue Bonnets or Zeak Waltz (which is a hornpipe and not a Waltz!).
Blue Bonnet as sung by Hedley Martin