Black Nag, The

Historical sources
Set formation
Difficulty

A classic early Playford dance that's popular with beginners, and sufficiently forgiving that you can often get away with calling it in an English Ceilidh. 

My way of calling it isn't massively novel but there are a few things I do slightly differently.

Part 1
A1 (4) Lead up a double and back
A2 (4) That again
B1 (8) All take both hands with partner:
1st couple gallop up the room (2)
2nd couple gallop up to join 1st couple (2)
3rd couple gallop up to join the others (2)
All let go and turn single right (2)
B2 (8) All take both hands with partner again:
3rd couple gallop back down (2)
2nd couple gallop back down (2)
1st couple gallop back down (2)
All let go and turn single right (2)
Part 2
A1 (4) Side right with partner (4)
A2 (4) Side left with partner (4)
B1 (8) 1st long corners (at the left end of each line) change places (optionally galloping past each other back to back, right shoulder first) (2)
2nd long corners (at the right end of each line) change places as the 1st corners did (2)
Middles change places the same way (2)
All turn single right (2)
B2 (8) Repeat B1 to get back home
Part 3
A1 (4) Arm right with partner (4)
A2 (4) Arm left with partner (4)
B1 (8) Men's line hey, starting with first man casting down
Optionally finish with men turn single right in last 2 bars if they have time
B2 (8) Women's line hey, starting with first woman casting down
Optionally finish with women turn single right in last 2 bars if they have time

Repeat twice more, each time with first couple casting to the bottom in place of the first lead up a double and back, so that a new couple can lead.

X:1
T:Black Nag, The
M:6/8
L:1/8
K:Dm
A| "Dm"d>ed "C"e>de| "Bb"f>ef "A"efg| "Dm"a>gf "A"e>de| "Dm"d3-d2 :|
|:d|"Am"ecA ecA| ecA ecA|"Dm"afd afd| afd afd|
"Am"ecA ecA|ecA e2 f/g/|"Dm"a>gf "A"e>de| "Dm"d3-d2:|
Original from The Dancing Master 4th Edition

The introductions are standard. As there's no sets or turn singles in them, it doesn't really matter which foot you use – for consistency with other dances of the period I'd personally start the lead up with a left foot both times, while I'd use a left foot for the side right and arm right, and a right foot for the side left and arm left.

The first figure is straightforward, and is a reason why this dance works well in a ceilidh – "slips" translate to "gallop". I turn single right, because it's what everyone is expecting, and if you weren't galloping is the foot you'd be on. You could argue for turning up after the first set of gallops (and down after the second set) but only I think if you're being deliberately perverse :-)

The second figure was interpreted by Cecil Sharp as a sideways gallop, and that's how I learned the dance. It's not really what the dance instructions say, but it is a lot of fun, and is thematic – the dance is called "The Black Nag" after all, and if you're being particularly exuberant then horse imitations are quite common. Should you wish to simply change places then feel free to do so – it would need to be danced to cover the ground necessary, probably a skipped double.

There's no mention of a turn single after this, but assuming 2 bars for each pair to change places, there are two bars left over, and the obvious way to fill them is with a turn single as in the first figure – which is what Sharp proposes.

In the third figure, we get to do a hey. As I've said in my article on heys, I've currently settled on doing these by starting with the first couple casting into them. So in the first hey, the first man casts into the hey passing left shoulder with second man; in the second hey, the first women casts into the hey passing right shoulder with second woman.

A hey for 3 naturally takes about 6 bars if danced, so, for symmetry with the rest of the dance, if you want to finish that with a turn single too then that seems very reasonable embellishment – but it's not in the instructions. Sharp suggested it only for the men while the women finish their hey so that everyone is dancing at the end, but left the heys as 8 bar moves in common with other dances.

Having done this all the way through, I almost always do it again twice more with the other couples leading, as described in my article on progressions – start the next time through with the first couple casting to the bottom instead of the first lead up a double and back.

This dance is easy to call gender free:

  • In the second figure, define first and second corners as people on the left and right end of the line respectively.
  • In the third figure, use features of the room to clarify which line is the "first line" to do the hey first, and which line is the "second line" to do the hey second.