Christmas and dancing go hand in hand. A traditional Christmas dance Charles Dickens wrote about in A Christmas Carol was Sr Roger De Coverley country dance. It is no wonder he wrote about Fezziwig frolicking to Sir Roger de Coverley at his Christmas ball.
History of Sir Roger de Coverley
The Dance Sir Roger de Coverley was first mentioned in John Playford’s manual “The Dancing Master” in 1685. This dance is thought to portray the antics of a fox being hunted. Some say the dance was named after the grandfather of Sir Roger de Coverley of Worcestershire England. “The first of our society is a gentleman of Worcestershire, of ancient descent, a baronet, his name is Sir Roger de Coverley. His great-grandfather was inventor of that famous country-dance which is called after him.” (The Spectator of March 2, 1711). Sir Roger de Coverley was a model of Christmas benevolence and charity and by association this dance became a typical Christmas dance.
Featured in Books and movies
Both books and movies featured the Dance Sir Roger de Coverley. It was mentioned in popular books like a Christmas Carol, Silas Marner by George Eliot, This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson and The Rescuers by Margery Sharp. Movies like 1939 film version of Wuthering Heights, and in the same year it was danced by Scarlett O’Hara at the Atlanta Bazaar in Gone with the Wind. Last, Sir Roger de Coverley was featured at Fezziwig’s in the 1951 film Scrooge,
The many names of this Christmas Dance
This lively country dance was a favorite to end a ball with. Because it was such an easy dance the guests would leave in good spirits having danced this lively ditty. In Scottish traditions it was called the Haymakers, in England it was referred to as the Finishing Dance, and in America it was re-named the Virginia Reel.
How to Dance Sir Roger De Coverley
Longways sets of couples as many as will, couples facing one another with ladies on one side and gentlemen facing them. As most of the dance occurs between the lines, the lines should be far enough apart for this to happen comfortably.
LA L L LB
The first couple, i.e., the first Lady (at A) and last Gentleman (at B), advance to Center and interact* with each other (in one of the ways listed below), then retreat to home places.
LA L L L
The second couple, i.e., the first Gentleman (at A) and last Lady (at B), advance to C and interact *with each other in the same way as the first couple, then retreat to home places.
L L L LB
- Advance, honor partners (bow & curtsey), retreat to place
- Advance, turn with right hands, retreat to place
- Advance, turn with left hands, retreat to place
- Advance, turn with both hands, retreat to place
- Advance, dos-à-dos, retreat to place
Next, the head couple at A pass each other at C and weave through the set as below, passing each other again at D, E, etc.
LA L L L
C D E
GA G G G
Then, the head couple promenades up the center of the set and casts off around the set, the head Follow pealing off and the head Lead peeling off like a banana. All the Follows follow the head Follow, and all the Leads follow the Head Lead.
On reaching the bottom the head couple takes hands and raise them to form an arch, under which the rest of the lines pass through. In the end, the head couple ends up as the last couple, the second couple ends up as heads, and the last couple ends up as second to last.
You may repeat the set until all couples have had an opportunity to be the lead couple or until the music ends.
“Sir Roger de Coverley” or a lively Jig.
A special thanks to Craig Tomazin for being a special Mr. Fezziwig opposite my Mrs. Fezziwig. I hope to live up to the being the ideal Fezziwig couple full of Christmas joy all year round. We certainly share the Fezziwig’s joy of dancing.
We filmed the dancing at Adventures in Dance in Littleton Colorado. In the background of the instruction is the great hall of the Miramont Castle in Manitou Springs Colorado. This 1895 castle features 9 different architectural styles.
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Library of Dance – Sir Roger De Coverley