Joan Sanderson, or the Cushion Dance

Submitted by Andrew Swaine on Tue, 2018-03-20, 09:27
Historical sources
Set formation
Tags
Difficulty

This is perhaps the most notorious of all entries in the Dancing Master: The Cushion Dance. Yes, it requires a cushion. No, I'm not putting it in a Playford Ball programme, but it is a great one to dispel perceptions about the nature of country dancing in Playford!

Cs Active dancer dances around the room with a cushion until the music stops.
A Active dancer sings: “This Dance it will no further go!”
A Musicians sing: “I pray you good Sir, why say you so?”
A Active dancer sings: “Because Joan(/John) Sanderson will not come too.”
B Musicians sing: “She(/he) must come too, and she(/he) shall come too, and she(/he) must come whether she(/he) will or no.”
Cs Active dancer places the cushion in front of someone not yet in the dance, upon which she(/he) kneels, and is kissed by everyone currently in the dance.
A Active dancer sings: “Welcome Joan(/John) Sanderson, welcome, welcome.”
B New dancer rises, all dancers so far in the dance form a ring.
CC All dancers circle left while singing: “Prinkum-prankum is a fine dance, and shall we go dance it once again, once again, once again, and shall we go dance it once again?”
Cs New joined dancer becomes the active dancer and dances around the room with the cushion, etc.

Continue until everyone is in the ring. If there are lots of people you can use more than one cushion.

If desired, place a chair in the middle of the room and go out again in the same order:

Cs First dancer sits in the chair with the cushion.
A Second dancer sings: “This Dance it will no further go!”
A Musicians sing: “I pray you good Sir, why say you so?”
A Second dancer sings: “Because John(/Joan) Sanderson will not go fro.”
B Musicians sing: “He(/she) must go fro, and he(/she) shall go fro, and he(/she) must go whether he(/she) will or no.”
Cs Second dancer places the cushion in front of first dancer, upon which he(/she) kneels, and is kissed by everyone remaining in the dance.
A Second dancer sings: “Farewell Joan(/John) Sanderson, farewell, farewell.”
B First dancer rises and leaves the dance, all dancers remaining far in the dance form a ring.
CC Remaining dancers circle left while singing: “Prinkum-prankum is a fine dance, and shall we go dance it once again, once again, once again, and shall we go dance it once again?”
Cs Second dancer sits in the chair, etc.

Continue until there's only one person left!

X:1
M:3/4
L:1/4
K:Gm
P:A
Gd>c|=B>cA|GGD|G3||
M:6/4
L:1/4
P:B
G2dd2c|d>edc2A|B2Bc>dB|A2GG2||
P:C
G|A>BA^F2F|G>AGD2D|B2Bc>dB|A2GG3||

Note: The first Strain twice. The second once. And the last as oft as is required.

This Dance is begun by a single Person, (either Man or Woman) who taking a Cushion in their Hand dances about the Room, and at the end of the Tune they stop and sing, This Dance it will no further go! The Musicians answer, I pray you good Sir, why say you so? Man, Because Joan Sanderson will not come too. Music, She must come too, and she shall come too, and she must come whether she will or no. Then he lays down the Cushion before a Woman, on which he kneels, and he Kisses her, singing, Welcome Joan Sanderson, welcome, welcome. Then she rises, takes up the Cushion and both dance singing, Prinkum-prankum is a fine Dance, and shall we go dance it once again, once again, once again, and shall we go dance it once again? Then making a stop, the Woman sings as before, This Dance, &c. Music, I pray you Madam, &c. Woman. Because John Sanderson, &c. Music. He must. &c, And so she lays down the Cushion before a Man, who kneeling upon it Salutes her, she singing, Welcome John Sanderson, &c. Then he taking up the Cushion, they take Hands and dance round, singing as before; and thus they do till the whole Company are taken into the Ring. And if there is Company enough, make a little Ring in the middle, and within that Ring set a Chair, and lay the Cushion in it, and the first Man set in it. Then the Cushion is laid before the first Man, the Woman singing, This Dance, &c. (as before) only, instead of – come too, then sing – go fro; and instead of Welcome John Sanderson, &c, they sing Farewell John Sanderson, Farewell, Farewell; and so they go out one by one as they came in. Note, The Woman is kiss'd by all the Men in the Ring at her coming in and going out, and likewise the Man by all the Women.

Expertise on set formations and the meanings of dance terms isn't much use or need here. It's pretty self explanatory!

The only thing that I think needs some thought is how to fit it to the music. There are three parts:

  • A: 3/4, 4 bars
  • B: 6/8, 4 bars
  • C: 6/8, 4 bars

Here's how I think the parts line up:

Sung by Words Tune part
Active dancer This Dance it will no further go! A
Musicians I pray you good Sir, why say you so? A
Active dancer Because Joan Sanderson will not come too. A
Musicians She must come too, and she shall come too, and she must come whether she will or no. B
Active dancer Welcome Joan Sanderson, welcome, welcome. A
All dancers Prinkum-prankum is a fine dance, and shall we go dance it once again, once again, once again, and shall we go dance it once again? C

That's hardly the AABC* pattern that's specified in the instructions, but it's how the words fit! It's possible that other parts of the music are meant to be played during the laying down of the cushion and kissing, and during the rising from the cushion into the circle. However that doesn't account for the three As at the start. We can get closer to the described pattern as I've described above. Sometimes the musicians are playing, sometimes they're singing.

This dance first appears in 7th edition 1686, the last John Playford published before his son Henry took over. It's described as “An old Round Dance” – no other dances that I've found are described as “old”!

John Selden (1584-1654) comments on this dance as an opportunity for the classes to mix:

The Court of England has much altered. Att a Solemne dancing, first you have the grave measures, then the Corantoes and the Galliards, & all this was kept up with ceremony, att length they fall to Trenchmore, & so to the Cushion Dance, Lord & Groome, Lady and Kitchen Maid, no distinction: So, in our Court. In Queen Eliz: time, Gravitie and state was Kept upp. In King James Time things were pretty well [.] But in K Charles time there has binn nothing but Trenchmore and the Cushion Dance, totty polly, hoyte come Toyte.

I've transcribed this from the Keller database, which doesn't say which edition it was scanned from, but by 10th edition the wording has changed very slightly:

  • They stop and sing early on replaced by He stops and sings. A very early use of singular “they” – it's been a part of our language for a very long time!
  • Musicians plural becomes Musician singular – has practice changed? Other than the picture at the front this is one of very few places whether there's any reference to the plurality or otherwise of musicians.

Finally, what does “prinkum prankum” mean? The OED says [“redup. of SE princome, a prank, ult. SE prank; also prinkum-prankum, ‘a round dance, formerly danced at weddings, in which the women and men alternately knelt on a cushion to be kissed’"]. It's a term that seems to be synonymous with the cushion dance, or simply sex. See A Dictionary of Sexual Language and Imagery in Sharespearean and Stuart Literature by Gordon Williams.