How to dance “Toss the duchess” a historically accurate cartoon princess dance with Robin Hood and Maid Marion

How to dance “Toss the duchess” a historically accurate cartoon princess dance with Robin Hood and Maid Marion

Robin Hood and Maid Marion ready to dance

Robin Hood and Maid Marion ready to dance

I love history, and fairy tales, and when the two collide, it is even more interesting. The Disney cartoon Robin Hood was one of my favorite films. However, they seem to be dancing a Lindy hop from the 1940’s. So I was delighted to research the historically accurate princess dance for Maid Marion in Robin Hood. Here is what I discovered.

Robin Hood is believed to be a real person, Robin of Loxley who put in a court appearance in 1245. Ballads and games in his honor have been around since the 13th century. The cartoon version of Robyn Hood seems to have been set before 1199.

I looked into some of the medieval folk dances that Robin Hood and Maid Marion could have done. I came up with country dances. Of the country dances were the Carole dances. The Carole was a Yule-tide festivity, of which the present-day Christmas carols are a remnant.

One of these Carole dances is the official Bransle (Bransle de l’Official, “Toss-a-Wench”, or “Toss the Duchess”). It is danced to the modern day Christmas carol Ding Dong Merrily on High. Which was previously known as Bransle de L’Official. It was recorded in a dance book written by Jehan Tabourot (1519–1593). The modern lyrics are from English composer George Ratcliffe Woodward (1848–1934), first published in 1924.

How to Dance Bransle de l’Official, “Toss-a-Wench”, or “Toss the Duchess”

Bransle de l’Official, “Toss-a-Wench”, or “Toss the Duchess” with Robin Hood

Bransle de l’Official, “Toss-a-Wench”, or “Toss the Duchess” with Robin Hood

  1. Make a circle holding hands, Lord, Lady, Lord, Lady.
  2. Dance a Bransle double to the left ( Left foot side, right foot closes together, left foot side, tap right foot to left foot)
  3. Dance a Bransle double to the right ( right foot side, left foot closes to right, right foot side, tap left foot to right foot)
  4. Repeat a Bransle double to the left ( Left foot side, right foot closes together, left foot side, tap right foot to left foot)
  5. Dance a Bransle double to the right ( right foot side, left foot closes to right, right foot side, tap left foot to right foot)
  6. Six singles to the left ( each single is side left, close right foot to left foot) – or to swish the skirts, a 12 count grapevine to the left ( side left foot, cross behind right foot, side left foot, cross in front with your right foot, repeat until you get to the 12th count)
  7. On the 7th single Lords turn to the lady on your right, place your hands on the ladies’ side, ladies place your hands on the lord’s shoulders.( two counts, 13,14 or 5,6)
  8. On the 8th single toss the duchess to your left side. Ladies you may jump or walk from the man’s right side to the man’s left side according to what you are most comfortable with. (Lords do be cautious of being overly-enthusiastic about tossing; the object is not to toss ladies into the ceiling, but pass from right to left side.)
  9. Repeat the six single (12 count grapevine) and tossing the duchess on 7, 8.
  10. Repeat the whole dance from the doubles to the left until the end of the song.

For more fun historical learning, check out
Experience Medieval History Through the Wedding of Robin Hood and Maid Marion

I used the song “Ding dong merrily on high” by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on their Orchestral Christmas album.

Robin Hood merry dancers

Robin Hood merry dancers

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For adult dance classes and lessons and historically accurate dances in Littleton located South of Denver, North of Highlands Ranch, West of Cherry Hills & Greenwood Village, East of Ken Caryl,
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