The dance was recalled by a Mr R J Noall, in an Old Cornwall Society article (October1927 page 36), as a game that he used to perform as a child where they would “...walk a few paces side by side, with arms interlaced and hands clasped behind their backs, but in such a way that they could each spin about and walk in the opposite direction without unclasping them…”. Mr Noall remembered the words he used to sing with the game:
“Harvey Darvey dressed in black, silver buttons down his back,
Every button cost a crown, Harvey Darvey turn around.”
The article also notes that there are two seemingly related rhymes in Halliwell’s ‘Nursery Rhymes of England’ (p142 & p192 1846 edition). They were noted as follows:
“Parson Darby wore a black gown, and every button cost half a crown
From port to port and toe to toe, turn the ship and away we go.”
“Darby and Joan were dressed in black, sword and buckle behind their back
Foot for foot and knee for knee, turn about Darby’s company.”
It can clearly be seen that the rhymes are related, and Halliwell’s versions help to throw light on other verses there may once have been included in the Cornish rhyme. The individual dance steps in Harvey Darvey had to be reconstructed to some extent, though the basic handhold and format of the dance were very clear from R J Noall’s
notes. Some steps in the dance notations were taken from the rhymes in the song, and you will recognise others from the Broom Dance.
As described it was collected Harvey Darvey was a dance for children, though it is performed by both adults and children in Cornish dance teams today
Formation: (HAND HOLD)
Dance for couples, hands held crossed behind backs facing in the same direction. If dancing men and women, the woman should be on the man's right.
Steps: The basic travelling step for this dance is a running step. Further steps are described below.
1 — 4 Eight small running steps forward
5 — 6 (STEP ONE) Tap outside heels twice and toes twice (i.e. one person’s right foot and the other person’s
7 — 8 Turn away from each other, still holding hands to face opposite direction using small running steps on the spot.
Bars 1 — 4 and 7 — 8 are then repeated another seven times, and bars 5 — 6 are replaced with a different step each time:
STEP TWO: Turn back to back, stamp two feet, tap lady's right with the man's left foot. Stamp and repeat with opposite feet.
STEP THREE Two jumps forward and two jumps back
STEP FOUR Stamp two feet, tap right heel on the floor, stamp again, tap left heel.
STEP FIVE Turn back to back, jump with feet apart, jump with feet crossed. Repeat the second time.
STEP SIX Jump sideways to the right, to the left, again to right and to the left.
STEP SEVEN Heel and toe with right foot, heel and toe with left.
STEP EIGHT Man dancing on the spot, the lady dances right around him still holding hands