My Only Jo and Dearie O!

Patricia Ruggiero

Message 35493 · 9 Jun 2003 04:09:11 · Fixed-width font · Whole thread

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Dear Steve, and other interested Strathspeyers,

I was intrigued by your post but was unsuccessful in finding answers to your
questions. I forwarded your note to a dance historian friend of mine. Our
entire conversation follows.

Charlottesville, Virginia

[my note to my friend, Susan]

>This from Strathspey. I've looked in the 1816 Wilson and in the other
>Wilsons and I can't find this dance either. Any ideas? Are there other
>Wilsons not at the LOC site?

[her answer]

There are significant numbers of Wilsons not on the LOC site. In fact,
the one cited for the dance is not on it - you must have been looking
in "Treasures of Terpsichore", which is a completely different book.
It only has figures. Wilson was incredibly prolific over nearly a
quarter century.

>I got sidetracked reading about Single and Double Figures (in hopes of
>gaining some new perspective on the troublesome Waltz Country Dance
>question) and am now completely cross-eyed.

Single Figure: each strain is placed once, AB or ABC
Double Figure: each strain played twice, AABB or AABBCC

At any rate, I do have the actual Companion to the Ballroom, and
response to query follows below. You may repost it complete to
strathspey if you like.

Nice to get an easy research question again!



Steve Wyrick writes:
>Last week our group ran through the strathspey My Only Jo and Dearie,
>O! from book 21, in preparation for a possible performance this
>Summer. The source given for the dance is Thomas Wilson's Companion
>to the Ballroom, 1816. I was curious how much the Society might have
>changed this dance from the original (for one thing, they have couples
>1 and 3 performing a pousette right round starting from those
>positions, with 2nd couple stepping up, which seems unlikely to me to
>be how it was originally danced) so I tried to look it up in Wilson's
>book, which is online at the US Library of Congress website at
>ecNum=0 but couldn't find it in that publication or its supplements.

That is not the correct book. I think you must have been looking at
"The Treasures of Terpsichore", 1816 edition (which on the LOC site
also incorporates the 1811 edition, I believe; it was a series). That
is a different manual, solely listing lots of possible figures for
different tunes. (Dance figures and tunes being basically
interchangeable during this period.) The book you want is the actual
"A Companion to the Ballroom", which is not on LOC, but which is a
much more useful book, containing both dances and tunes (melody line
only) for over 300 dances, along with the usual dose of etiquette and
typical Wilson lamentation about the state of the modern ballroom.

>I wonder if anyone knows anything about the history of this dance and
>its adoption by the Society; is it possible that it was originally
>known under another name? Book 21 doesn't have any further notes.

I have absolutely no clue about the history of the modern version or
its adoption by the Society; I am a dance historian with little
knowledge of 20th century forms. But I can tell you how the various
versions in Companion would be danced. I think the third figure given
must be the one you want, since it's the only one with a poussette,
but I'll give you all three.

paraphrasing from Companion to the Ballroom:

tune is two parts, A & B, each eight bars
it is labelled "Scotch" and marked "Allegretto" for tempo
title is "My Only Joe & Deary O"

Three possible figures are given; all would be danced in triple minor form
(standard for this period).

1. Single figure (tune played AB)
8b Hey on your own sides
4b Lead down the middle up again [progressive]
4b Allemande

My notes:
- lead down and up is done holding two hands with sideways steps; you
slide down between the third couple then back to second place
- Wilson's allemande is a sort of dos a dos; you go back to back halfway
then turn forward to return to places. This not-really-a-dos-a-dos is
typical for a Regency "dos a dos". This would be active couple only.
- lead down and up and allemande is one of the most common progressive
figures for this era

2. Single figure (AB)
4b Swing with right hands round second couple [progressive]
4b Right and left with third couple
4b Lead through the top couple
4b Turn your partner

My notes:
- swing with right hands means go all the way around with right hands then
cast down your own side to second place.
- Right and left in Wilson is a tricky figure; my current interpretation
is that it is a very fast circular hey done without hands, starting by
passing right shoulders with your partner. Wilson describes it as
both sets of corners changing places and back simultaneously, which
pretty much works out to the same thing when you actually try it. It is
definitely NOT the modern right and left with hands.
- turn your partner means two hands in Wilson; this would be the active
couple only.

3. Double figure (tune played AABB)
8b The three ladies lead round the gents
8b The three gents lead round the ladies
8b Promenade three couples
8b Whole poussette [progressive]

My notes:
- while the ladies or gents are leading round, the other gender moves
forward on the first two bars to get out of their way, then back on
the last two bars to places. Leading round is done holding hands.
- promenade three couples has all three couples taking hands
(right in right, left in left); the top couple leads them round in a
counterclockwise circle back to places
- Wilson's whole poussette is a progressive figure done one and a half
times round. It would be done in this case by the first and second couple;
the third doesn't get involved at all. I have no idea when the
alteration was made, but having the first and third poussette while the
second moves up is not a figure I've ever seen in this period. (Or any
other prior to the 20thc, actually, but the early 19thc is my specialty
and the one I have looked at most thoroughly.)

Random information: "Jo" is an old term for a sweetheart or lover; my
dictionary lists a "Joe" as just a fellow, but I think the meaning here
intended is more boyfriend-like.

You could use any of these figures, or any other figure of suitable
length for the tune. Or, for that matter, any suitable length tune
for these figures. The figure which has become stuck to the name for
Scottish dancing is not "the" figure in the way modern country dancers
think of it.

The one Scottish source I have for this era (1818) gives somewhat
different definitions of some figures, by the way, but this is an
English manual by an English author with extremely definite opinions
and a long list of publications describing and diagramming precisely
how he means his figures to be done, so I am using his versions.
"Analysis of Country Dancing" referenced below as being on the LOC
site is one of his early publications with these descriptions; his
later "Complete System of English Country Dancing" (c1822) further
expands and enlarges it. Those curious/skeptical about the figures as
I've described them can check "Analysis" on line.

>By the way, I think this has been mentioned here previously but the LC
>collection of dance instruction manuals also has several other Wilson
>publications online including his Analysis of Country Dancing (1811) which
>is a great resource for how country dances were composed and performed at
>the time. The index page for these publications is at

Wilson is one of the two early 19th century dancing masters whose
works survive in quantity - he wrote more than a dozen manuals over a
quarter century, including works on waltz, quadrille, country dance,
and ecossoise. Most of them are not on the LOC site but are available
through careful searching in libraries in the US and Britain.


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