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Dancing Oolert

Dancing Oolert

Dancing Oolert (a.k.a. Witchmen’s Thistle a.k.a. Rochester Thistle), originally by the Witchmen – our version is taken from a mixture of the versions of OBJ, The Witchmen and Hunter’s Moon. ‘Oolert’ is a Shropshire word for a little owl.

The music for this dance is to follow shortly.


This is a dance for eight dancers. It can also be danced for six, and any necessary changes required are noted in the notation below. The usual rules of thumb apply - rigbht foot forward, single stepping throughout. Wortks best with short sticks.

Although this write up is based upon a repeated ABB, with a double length chorus, it is possible to remove the repeat from the chorus and dance it with a single length chorus over a repeated AB in the music.

Figure Music
First Figure A
Chorus BB
Crossover and Swing A
Chorus BB
Back to Back A
Chorus BB
Hey on the Side A
Chorus BB
Inside Cast A

First Figure (A)
Before the dance begins, start in a large circle (in the same positions as you would normally be in the set), walk into the centre to form a small ring, facing in, sticks all pointing in and overlapping a little.
This entire figure should be danced as a single flowing move.
Count Moves
1 The squire whacks his stick up to knock all the other sticks upwards.
2-3 Everyone performs a half-turn right to face out and move two steps outwards.
4 Turn a quarter to the right to face clockwise and form circle.
5-16 Go once round in a circle, ending up in two lines of four (as for a normal 4 couple set) place and do a final full spin to the right on the spot.
Chorus (BB)
In this figure, dancers will alternately be either holding their stick still or performing stick strikes. When a dancer is holding their stick still, hold the stick vertically in both hands, balancing the end against the bottom of their stomach. When a dancer is performing stick strikes, they should hold the stick in both hands, hit partner’s stick in an alternating forehand/backhand pattern. The stick strikes always start with a forehand strike and alternate clashing on 1, 2, 3, 3 & a half and 4; think "1, 2, 3 and 4"
Count Moves
1-4 Stick striking is done by the first couple, with the squire's side performing the stick strikes (dancer 1) and their partner (dancer 2) holding their stick still. As explained above, the striking goes forehand on one, backhand on two and then a faster forehand-backhand-forehand on 3-and-4.
5-8 The second couple join the sticking, and the stick striking swaps to the non-squire side. This means that dancers 2 and 4 are performing the strikes, while dancers 1 and 3 are holding their sticks still.
9-12 The third couple join and the striking swaps back to the squire's side. Dancers 1, 3 and 5 are performing stick strikes, while dancers 2, 4 and 6 hold their sticks still.
13-16 The stick strikes swap back to the non-squire's side, and everyone performs the clashes - adding the fourth couple if the dance is being danced for 8.
This is the point that the chorus finishes if the dance is being danced with a single length chorus. If the dance is being danced as a double length chorus, continue on. Essentially, the chorus repeats, but this time starting at the other end.
17-20 Stick striking is done by the bottom couple, with the squire's side performing the stick strikes (dancer 5 or 7 depending upon the number of dancers) and their partner (dancer 6 or 8) holding their stick still.
21-32 Continue alternating which side is performing the strikes and introducing a new couple each time the striking switches sides as the stick striking moves back up the set.
Crossover and Swing (A)
Count Moves
1-4 Resting sticks on right shoulder, dancers pass their partner’s right shoulder and cross over the set.
5-6 Every dancer turns a quarter to the right and then steps on the spot.
7-8 Every dancer turns a quarter right again and steps on the spot again, now facing back across the set. On beat 8, swap the stick to the left shoulder.
9-16 The dancers step in, meeting their partner by the right shoulder. Each couple performs a right hand spin in waist hold, turning 2 and a half times around to get back to place. Swap sticks back to the right hand, ready for the chorus
Chorus (BB)
Back to Back (A)
This is a slight variation on a standard back-to-back, with the dancers changing facing and stepping forwards rather than side-stepping.
Count Moves
1-2 Keeping in a line, each dancer surges forward, passing their partner by the ight shoulder.
3-4 Turn a quarter to the right and step forward a short distance.
5-8 Turn a quarter to the left (to face back out of the set), then step backwards, passing your partner left shoulder in the process, back into place.
9-10 Surge forward again, this time passing partners by the left shoulder.
11-12 Turn a quarter to the left and step forward a short distance.
13-16 Turn a quarter to the right (to face back out of the set), then step backwards, passing your partner right shoulder in the process, back into place.
Chorus (BB)
Hey on the Side (A)
Count Moves
1-16 Perform a hey on the side (this is obviously either a 3 person or 4 person hey, depending on the number of dancers). They are parellel heys, starting by passing right shoulder. Depending on the numbers of dancers and the speed of the hey, it may be required to fill time by performing a full right hand spin in place after getting back to place.
Chorus (BB)
Inside Casts (A)
Count Moves
1-8 The bottom couple do an inside cast and come back up the outside. Everyone else follows to make a small, rotating, circle on each side of the set.
9-16 Bottom couple lead off in the general direction of the band and everyone else follows.
Rules of Thumb
Rules of Thumb

Unless otherwise specified, the following general rules apply:

  1. Always start right foot first.
  2. There are 4 beats to a bar. This works out as two steps.
  3. The top of the set is towards the band. Likewise, the bottom of the set is away from the band.
  4. When resting stick on shoulder, the tip of the stick should be level with the middle of your ear.
  5. Turns on the spot will usually be right-hand turns (clockwise). Common exceptions are when dancers need to turn in or out of a set the shortest way.
  6. When passing shoulders with another dancer, the first pass will be a right-shoulder pass. Many dances will have figures that alternate right and left shoulders.
  7. Where a fast turn on the spot is needed, it will be on the first beat of the bar. E.g. If you need to turn and then move across the set, you can count it as 'turn, two, three, four'.
  8. Swings with a partner will be right-hand (clockwise), with the stick held in the left hand, unless otherwise specified.
  9. Figures are usually in multiples of four beats. If you mentally keep counting 'one, two, three, four', then you'll have a good idea of when to move and change.

It is PRACTICE SEASON and we can be found at our practice hall every week until early June.

We rehearse Thursdays from 7:30 - 9:30pm,
St John's Heatherlands, 378A Ashley Road, Poole, BH14 9DQ

More information on the venue.