The Bear Dance (polka)
This particularly lively polka comes up occasionally at one of the sessions I go to. I think it’s worth introducing into a polka set for set dancers.
I like to play the first bar as |eA (3AAA|, to give it more drive into the second bar.
I’ve heard a few variants of this tune, with various numbers of parts. Someone told me it was a Flemish tune.
The Bear Dance (polka)
Aha! That’s interesting. I’ll be in the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium in a few weeks time visiting family, so I’ll make enquiries.
indeed it’s a flemish tune, recorded long time ago by the group Rum, and in a weird version by Ambrozijn. Hey Trevor, if you come over to Flanders, you could pop in for a session. We have weekly sessions in Ghent. Would be nice to have you over
The Bear Dance (polka)
Fre, I’ll be in Leuven for the weekend of 25 Feb and a few days after, but family commitments will probably prevent me from getting to Ghent. However, I hope to be at one or two sessions at the Irish Institute in Leuven (there’s a set dancing workshop that weekend that my wife’s going to).
I wonder how this tune has managed to surface in Bristol?
Trevor & Mountain Goat,
this tune has been wandering around a bit: see the discussion I started recently:
Glaswegians use this as a phrase to mean something is marvellous, wonderful, spot-on, i.e. "Ya dancing bear!", sometimes simply abbreviated to "Ya dancer".
Bit like the Belfast phrase "We’re elected"
“The Bear Dance” - Does anyone know the Flemish for this circle dance?
I looked through my notes but couldn’t find the ‘Flemish’, but will ask around and keep looking unless someone else has more info to offer, and history.
"Encyclopadia Blowzabellica" - & from elsewhere, this dance made the rounds in ‘Euro ceilidhs’ and ‘Circle Dancing’. But, hey, them bears get around. I have some mad recollection of something similar in Eastern Europe too. Anyway, here’s Blowzabella’s basic take on the tune - and I’ll try not to interfere with my old ways with it:
T: Bear Dance, The
|: eA A2 | eA A>B | cc Bc | dd cd |
ee dd | cc B2 | Ac BG | A2 A2 :|
| Ac Ac | BG G2 | Ac Ac | d2 cd |
ee dd | cc B2 | cA BG | A2 A2 ||
For the ‘dance’ the music was played in the following way (A=8bars):
AA-B / AA-BB / AA-BBB / AA-BBBB / AA-BBBBB
As you can see from above, the repetitions of the B-part of the music increase 8 bars with each repeat of the tune, and this is because of the dance itself. Next I’ll give the dance for those interested…
“The Bear Dance”
‘Circle’ of individuals, no partners necessary. This also makes for a great dance for children, for all you teachers out there in ITM land. This can also be danced in a broken circle, or ‘Line’, with leaders on either end taking it where they will for the A-part of the music, the ‘chorus’. The ‘B-part’ we will call the ‘figure’, is cummulative, a bit like those songs, like "The Rattlin’ Bog". Each time through the dance you dance the previous figure(s) plus the new one. Like "Hokey Cokey/Hoakey Pokey" the ‘figures’ can be improvisational, as too can the ‘chorus’ if you choose. So no ‘dogma’ here then.
CHORUS - basic
springy running step, on the ‘balls’ of the feet -
A - 16 steps to the Left
AA - 16 steps to the right
FIGURE(s) - facing out, side-by-side/facing into the circle if a circle - - -
‘tap’ the following parts of the body on the floor (the following is from ‘the book’ mentioned above:
B1 - foot - 8 X hop on Left foot tapping R-foot / then 8 X hop R tapping L
B2 - knees - as before but ‘tapping’ knees
B3 - elbows - kneeling on the floor
B4 - head X 16
B5 - bum
& as ‘the book’ has it - finish with the foot in the air - one I hope… Maybe that would knock some sense into us…
Almost forgot - the ‘HOLD’ - I have seen this danced both with a arms and hands down, or ‘V-hold, and also what is called the ‘W-hold with elbows bent and hands near or at shoulder height.
Many years ago I danced it (I think the flemish version) and remember the A part as being in jig time (6/8). We also adapted it as a Morris progressional dance and danced it at the Rochdale rush-bearing
Flemish? Possibly. The received wisdom is such but I went in search of the tune and fould very similar variants from Germany, Sweden,France, Spain and Italy. The spread and similarity of the tune might because the tune is very simple, and thus easy to remember. It might also point to a spread by traveling musicians.
Some sources talk about the dance including imitations of bears, other suggest that it was the bears themselves which were dancing. If thats the case,then one can see how the tune became sowidespread. I would be interested to see if anyone has an old published version of this tune.
Angels of the North
Any suggestions please for other polkas to go with this one, especially with reference to set dancing?
Some years ago I met a Flemish musician at a festival who claimed he was the one who had brought this tune out of Belgium some time in the seventies. He was surprised at how wide spread it had become, with several different versions.
I’ll post the abc for the version I’ve learnt of this tune when I find it among my piles of loose abc tunes.
BTW, a version of it is on Dervish’s first album "The Boys of Sligo".
do you remember the name of the person who ‘exported" the ‘berendans’ ? seventies?
The Bear Dance
This was recorded in 1991 by the group King’s Galliard in Germany. They play the first part as a jig. Elsewhere it is attributed to Trad(Netherlands).
Bare Dancin’ -
I remember it from the 70s too, and something about the timing, 6/8. We each have our own ways Trevor J, but I would never use this for set dancing, so can’t help you with suggestions of anything to go with it. It might be my bias of having danced something else to it but I also think it just doesn’t fit, melody wise or as far as the feel for it. I did remember something about the ‘Eastern European’ version I had recollections of, I think it was Slovenia, possibly at a wine festival? There was a three string bass in the band if I remember right, and saying that they may have been from a little valley that the fascists took for Italy…
Rag Morris, based at Bristol University, are "twinned" with Leipzig Morris. One of their musicians brought the tune over on an exchange holiday in the 1980’s - that’s how it found its way into the Bristol session scene. I haven’t heard it played for a while, but I don’t tend to go to the "English" session any more.
This song can also be found in the album ‘The Broken Chanter’, by Fred Morrison.
It’s in the set ‘Polkas’, track #7
We usually play this in E minor, and often in a set with Theme Vanitaise.
“Danza’l Osu” ~ a rescued duplication
Submitted on April 29th 2010 by Asturtzale.
T: Danza’l Osu
|:BEE B/A/|BEE G/A/|BBAG|A3 G/A/|
BB A/G/F|GG F/E/D|EG F/E/D|E4:|
|:E/F/G E/F/G|FDD2|E/F/G E/F/G|A3 G/A/|
BB A/G/F|GG F/E/D|EG F/E/D|E4:|
Danza’l osu ~ This is the tittle in Asturian. Spanish tittle is Danza del oso. The original key is C, however I have written it in D key, I guess its more confortable for you.
# Posted on April 29th 2010 by Asturtzale
Blowza’s origin of the bear dance
Jon and I (we formed Blowzabella) heard it from a Flemish bagpiper in 1978 and I still have a copy of the tune we wrote down Bill O’Toole
Awesome, thanks for sharing!
I always saw it danced this way, as a group dance, not as a polka:
it is VERY fun!
I learned the fourth setting, with its unusual chromatic twists, from David Kidron from New Zealand.
Setting #6 (very similar to #4. Sorry, ndlxs - I didn’t realise until I’d posted it) comes from the band, Kings Galliard.
(Posted here as ‘Beard Dance :-) )
I have also heard it played as a three-part tune, with this B-part used as the middle part and the more common B-part as the final part.
The Dancing Bear
My setting comes from the album "Boys of Sligo" by Dervish.
A jig to go with the reel
Sometimes we play ‘Zelda’ (Philippe Plard) with it :-)…
In the Southern Hemisphere
This tune is known as Dick’s Pig. It’s here on the the session https://thesession.org/tunes/10765 - although we play it with a longer second-time section in the A part. Popularised by The Bushwackers from Australia.
Isn’t this a variant on the well known Playford tune, frequent mauled by Morris musicians (and sometimes played rather well)? Or, is the Playford version a variant on this?
Re: The Bear Dance
IIRC, this tune - or something so close as not to matter — is in Praetorius.