WEEK NINETEEN – The Gay Gordons/Strip The Willow

>> The Gay Gordons

Strip The Willow <<

gay gordons                    strip-the-willow-

Two dances form this week’s pairing, both taken from the vibrant repertoire of the Scottish ceilidh. The Gay Gordons is a traditional opening dance at many a ceilidh, offering a relatively simple and sedate ‘old-time’ opening to an evening’s dancing, with couples circling the room to the sound of ‘Scotland the Brave’ or some similarly appropriate piece. Strip the Willow is quite the opposite; a breathless, energetic and occasionally raucous dance (particularly in its ‘Orcadian’ variant), usually danced at the end of a Ceilidh prior to the final ‘Auld Lang Syne’. Though it is essentially a simple pattern of repetition, as most traditional dances are, it sometimes appears chaotic to ‘incomers’, and can be a dizzying challenge of balance, timing, rhythm and strength. Take your partners…


The Gay Gordons
by Harry Giles

There’s too many girls, which means they dance
                together: one leads, one follows,
but Miss still calls the moves to the men
                and the ladies from wheezing tapes,
watches, arms folded. The boys hold their partners,
                some like a pistol, some
like a turd, uncertain and furious
                at the grace of the girls with the girls.

Vince likes rugby, and Darren likes a hand
                on Vince’s back in the scrum.
Darren spins Isla too loose, and Jane
                grips Vince too tight, and the boys
imagine an incomer crowd with a clutch
                of boys, quadruplets, switching
the ratio, making them dance together
                and loudly and clearly complain.

Their eyes never meet in the changing room:
                no stolen glances, no
understanding. They study each other’s calves,
                peek round in the showers when
the other’s not looking, in permanent terror
                of being caught. Being caught
would destroy them. And how
                would it feel to be caught, to be caught?

Orcadian Strip The Willow
by Joan Lennon

down the long lines
bind and loose
leave and return
willow of the witches

peel back the bark
for winding the rod
for tying the broomstick
for easing the fever


birl and pass on
though I always come back to you




harry giles picHarry Giles is from Orkney and lives in Edinburgh. His latest publication is the collection Tonguit from Freight Books. He was the 2009 BBC Scotland slam champion, was shortlisted for the 2014 Edwin Morgan Poetry Award, co-directs the live art platform ANATOMY, and his participatory theatre has toured across Europe and Leith.  www.harrygiles.org



joan lennon picJoan Lennon is a Scottish-Canadian/Canadian-Scottish novelist/poet, who lives and writes within sight of the silvery Tay.  Her poetry pamphlet Her Lines, My Lines was commissioned by Perthshire’s BOOKMARK Book Festival.  Her latest YA novel, Silver Skin, is set in Skara Brae, Orkney.  Joan has been the Jessie Kesson Fellow at Moniack Mhor, and is an RLF Fellow at the University of Dundee.


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