My daughter and I loved watching the Disney movie Brave. Celtic folk love to party, and the movie started to show their party after the duel. They did not get as far as showing the traditional Celtic dancing that Merida and her mother Elinor would have done at the ceilidh, (Gaelic for gathering).
To look into what dances they would have done at the clan gathering, I first had to determine what period Brave was set in. Brave seems to be set in a period between the years 1000-1300 A.D. Scotland. Much of the history of Scottish dance is buried in the mists of time. As I dug further I found that the Scottish troupes would use dance to keep in shape for battle. One of the oldest folk dances is Drops of Brandy, known as Strip the Willow today, and was first recorded in a dance manual as a country dance in 1652. Strip the willow is still done at Scottish and Celtic weddings today. This is the dance I am going to explore for the ceilidh in Brave.
How to Dance Strip the Willow, or Drops of Brandy
Strip the Willow
Laddie: Left, Right, Left, Hop (1&2 hop); Right, Left, Right, Hop (3&4 hop).
Lassie: Right, Left, Right, Hop (1&2 hop); Left, Right, Left, Hop (3&4 hop).
It is a longways set dance, and a set is 8-10 people. The set is dances with 4 or 5 couples in two lines with Laddies and Lassies facing each other
With a short arm grip (grabbing forearm or hand to hand) Swing your partner around as you dance your basic step.
Right to Right will be clockwise, Left to left will be anti-clockwise (counter clockwise).
Your right hand is for your partner, your left hand is for moving down the line, or stripping the willow.
1-8 The couple at the head of the lines reels right hand to right hand 1 ½ turns putting the Lassie facing the Laddie line
1-4 The lassie joins Left to left with the next laddie in line and does a reel 1 turn, Her Laddie dances down the line to meet her
5-8 The Lassie catches her partner Right to Right and they dance a reel.
The couple continues in this manner until they reach the end of the line.
1-8 The couple reaches the bottom of the line and reels right hand to right hand 1 ½ turns putting the Laddie facing the Lassies line
Now the Laddie strips the willow back up the Lassie line, offering Left hand to each Lassie for a turn, and Right hand to his partner for a turn until they reach the top of the line.
1-8 The first couple reels right hand to right hand 1 ½ turns putting the Lassie facing the Laddie line, and the Laddie facing the Lassies line
Both partners will strip the willow down the line, Joining Left hand to left hand down the line and Right hand to right hand as they meet in the middle.
1-8 The couple reaches the bottom of the line and reels right hand to right hand 1 ½ turns and ending at the bottom of the line.
The couple at the top of the line will now repeat this sequence, and it will repeat until the song has ended.
Short hand description:
Top couple Reels, Lassie strips the willow down the Laddie’s line, Couple reels at the bottom, Laddie strips the willow up the line, Couple reels at the top, both partners strip the willow down the line, Couple Reels at the bottom and gets back in line as a new couple begins again at the top.
A Special thank you to Cherokee Ranch and Castle for letting us film on location. Thank you to Richie Kotiqua for filming and editing. Thank you to our extra’s Sabrina McFarland, Roger Cunningham, John and Angela Gerlick for filling out our set. Thank you to our core team William Hooker, Robyn Collins, Craig Tomazin and Holly Collins.
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