Strip the Willow

Strip the Willow

Hi everyone,
I’ve seen that "Strip the Willow" is a common ceilidh dance in Scotland, and have even seen it referred to in books that have nothing to do with trad.
On the Trasna Ceilidh Band album, they have a set called "Strip the Willow" consisting of jigs Bonnie Dundee, My Winsome Wife and Hamilton House, so I had thought that perhaps these tunes were always used. But then, on a discussion on here, I found people referring to reels.
So, I’m curious: are there multiple tunes that can be used for the "Strip the Willow" dance? Are there some tunes that are considered classics when dancing it?
Thanks.

Re: Strip the Willow

G’day Whimbrel.
I have often played music for "Strip The Willow" and we only play 6/8 tunes (jigs).
Most of these are AABB tunes, with the occasional option of the likes of ‘The Athol Highlanders’ and ‘The Jig Of Slurs’ (which I haven’t used yet, because I’ve just got it crackin’), which are AABBCCDD tunes.
Because it is such a continuous dance (although it is supposed to be a 40 bar job), it isn’t so dependent on tune phrasing, so we can just keep on playing ‘till they’ve had enough (or get to the end - and there is one).
Another point that I keep in mind (I lead the band), is that "Strip The Willow" moves along a tad faster than most of the other dances. I haven’t actually timed it, but I would suggest around 65/66+ bars per minute, as opposed to the more common 60 (for us).
This is in the land of Quokkas and Quolls of course, and quite possibly different to other parts of the universe.
Cheers,
P.

Re: Strip the Willow

our ceilidh band always play slip jigs for Strip the Willow, usually Hardiman the Fiddler/Fig for a Kiss/Foxhunters, we have at various times played Kid on the Mountain, Drops of Brandy, Rocky Rd to Dublin……….. I ‘ve never seen or heard it danced to reels either

Re: Strip the Willow

Any jig will do though we always kept the most well known tunes (Atholl Highlanders, Caliope House, Jig of Slurs etc) for the last dance of the night, an Orcadian Strip The Willow.
I have heard a number of bands move from jigs to reels part way through the dance to add extra lift but as the jigs are already uptempo the reels have to rattle along at quite a pace.

Re: Strip the Willow

Strip the willow is one of those dances that tend to get a bit wild at ceilidhs round here. Sometimes we stick with jigs, but if the caller thinks the dancers are up for it we’ll finish the set with The Clumsy Lover. It then becomes a toss up as to whether the dancers or the band will collapse in a heap on the floor first.

Re: Strip the Willow

When we used to dance Strip the Willow regularly at ceilidhs and barn dances in Durham city, it was always to slip jigs, and generally to Drops of Brandy.

There is a knack to doing the dance properly and slip jigs suit the movements particularly well. Of course many people just dance it hell for leather, without observing pace and rhythm, so for them any fast noise would do, I suppose.

But I’m a dancing purist, I’m afraid!

Re: Strip the Willow

Wow, very fascinating that there are so many ways to dance it!
I had seen some reference to slip jigs with relation to Strip the Willow before posting too. "Drops of Brandy" would seem very fitting for a wild dance!

Re: Strip the Willow

Slip jigs for the RSCDS brigade with their genteel hop-step, double jigs for the great un-washed in their Doc Martens

Re: Strip the Willow

As far as I can recall from reading about earlier practices in Scotland before WWII, at that time Strip the Willow was usually danced to slip jigs and with a running step rather than travelling step. Drops of Brandy was one of the favourites, so much so that it sometimes figured as the name of the dance. In more recent times not many dance bands have slip jigs in their repertoire, and tend to substitute plain jigs. At same time people don’t know the running step and the dance seems to have got a fair bit wilder; for example, it’s often quite variable how long the dancing couple turn with each other. Certainly jigs are now the norm and I’ve never heard the dance done to reels either live or on recordings.

In Northumberland, which has rather different dance traditions, I have heard and danced Strip the Willow to hornpipes (dotted rhythm, with a step-hop step), changing to slip jigs half way through.

Re: Strip the Willow

Our ceilidh band used a variety of jigs and slip jigs.

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Re: Strip the Willow

We only use jigs too, in both of the bands I play in, but have a good array of tunes in a number of different sets, both Scottish and Irish jigs.
The standard Strip the Willow dance is usually a 4-couple dance with 3 sections to it. The Orcadian Strip the Willow, mentioned above, just uses the final section, with any number of couples all down the room, and we always offer it as the last dance of the night before Auld Lang Syne. Even with eight tunes we often have to go back and play them through again or until the caller signals us to stop! Exhausting and wild!

Re: Strip the Willow

"Slip jigs for the RSCDS brigade with their genteel hop-step, double jigs for the great un-washed in their Doc Martens"
Naa, we use slip jigs for any random punters down here in the south midlands (UK)
Often Rocky Road (sung,) Foxhunters, Drops of Brandy, then back again.

Re: Strip the Willow

For those who don’t finish with a reel, here’s Ceilidh Minogue showing you how it’s done.
http://www.ceilidhminogue.co.uk/sounds/Strip_the_Willow_Demo.mp3
But you do need to be able to rip through the reel at the same pace you were playing the jigs.

With the non-Orcadian version of the dance a much bigger issue than 6/8 v 9/8 is the matter of tune lengths. Each repeat of the dance takes 40 bars. If you use normal 32 bar tunes each couple will start off on the change (before the preceding couple has finished) which is fine, but you really need to use a 40 bar tune at the end to give the final couple time to finish.