Mage on a Cree

(Mage on a Tree, Madge on a Tree)

{1651}


Introduction

Mage on a Cree (also later known as Mage on a Tree, or Madge on a Tree) is round country dance in the first edition of Playford's English Dancing Master (1651).

Given the later iterations of the name, it most likely refers to a type of owl (the madge owl) sitting in a tree. (In 19th century British English, madge also referred to a magpie, but in the 17th century, only the owl usage was known.) But both mage and cree were words in 17th century British English (mage = magician, cree = to soften grain by boiling), so 17th century readers of the first edition of Playford may have been confused as well, until later editions clarified the name.



The Formation

Round for eight, with the Follows to the right of their partners.


The Dance

The original description divides the dance into three parts, but for our purposes, it will be useful to divide the dance into six parts based on its similarity to other six part dances like The Fine Companion. Interestingly, Part 4 is twice as long as the other five parts.


Part 1 (32 counts)

In and Out (8 counts): Take hands eight and go four steps into the center and four steps back out.

Set and Turn Single (8 counts): Facing partner without hands, step side right, close left without weight, side left, close without weight, and turn solo in place by walking around a small clockwise circle with four steps. (The modest step close style of the set is one of the few pieces of footwork explicitly described in the source, although you'll very often see it replaced with a more energetic leaped triple step, or sometimes even a pas de basque, today. You'll also see some communities dance it as single left, single right, and turn counterclockwise, but the majority do right, left, clockwise.)

Repeat In and Out (8 counts)

Repeat Set and Turn Single (8 counts)


Part 2 (32 counts)

Leads Circle Back to Back (8 counts): Leads meet in the middle, turn back to back, and circle around to place. (This is usually interpreted as a clockwise circle, which would be a circle left if you were facing in, but because you're facing out, it's technically a circle right.)

Turn Corners (8 counts): As Leads approach their places, they take two hands with their corner (the Follow to the Lead's left side), and everyone rotates around each other a full turn clockwise into home places.

Follows Circle Back to Back (8 counts): Follows do as the Leads did.

Turn Partners (8 counts): As Follows approach their places, they take two hands with their partner, and everyone rotates around each other a full turn clockwise into home places.


Part 3 (32 counts)

Side Right (8 counts): Approach partner with four steps, ending right shoulder to right shoulder, then back away four steps. (This is the historical style for siding, although you may also see some people do it with the more dynamic "Cecil Sharp" style of siding, in which you trade places and then trade places back home. In a modern context, either is fine, as long as you and your partner/community agree.)

Set and Turn Single (8 counts)

Side Left (8 counts): Approach partner with four steps, ending left shoulder to left shoulder, then back away four steps. (Or do the Cecil Sharp styling, if that's your community's preference.)

Set and Turn Single (8 counts)


Part 4 (64 counts)

Leads Weave (8 counts): Leads weave around the set by traveling in front of the Follow to their left (their corner), and behind the second Follow they meet (their opposite).

Follows Meet and Turn Single (8 counts): The Follows meet in the center with four steps, then spin back to place with four steps.

Leads Weave Back Home (8 counts): Leads weave as they did before, traveling in front of their new corner and behind their partner to return home.

Follows Meet and Turn Single (8 counts)

Follows Weave, Leads Meet and Turn Single (32 counts): Do that all again, but with the roles reversed. Follows go in front of their partner and behind the next Lead the first time, and in front of their opposite and behind their corner the second time. (This is also sometimes interpreted as the Follows weaving counterclockwise. It depends whether on whether you want the Follows repeat the exact motions as the Leads, which would mean a clockwise circle, or with corresponding partners, which would mean a counterclockwise circle. More commonly, this part of the dance is left out entirely, as in the Cecil Sharp reconstruction, to make all of the parts the same length, but given that the music is simply one strain repeated over and over again, it doesn't really matter if the parts are the same length, so it's perfectly fine, and more in line with the original description, to let the Follows have fun weaving, and the Leads have fun meeting and spinning home.)


Part 5 (32 counts)

Arm Right (8 counts): Taking right arm with partner, walk eight steps clockwise around each other to place. (Many different styles are seen for arming including: touching forearms, linking elbows, holding forearms, or holding hands, low or high. The only real requirement is that you and your partner/community agree on how you're going to do it.)

Set and Turn Single (8 counts)

Arm Left (8 counts): Taking left arm with partner, walk eight steps counterclockwise around each other to place.

Set and Turn Single (8 counts)


Part 6 (32 counts)

Turn Corner (8 counts): Leads take two hands with their corner and rotate clockwise with them for right counts, a turn and a half, to take corner Lead's place.

Turn Opposite (8 counts): Same, but turning your opposite, and Leads progressing to the third Follow.

Turn Third (8 counts): Same, but turning the third, and Leads progressing to their partner.

Turn Partner (8 counts): Same, but turning your partner, and ending up home.


The Music

Here is a nice tune for dancing Mage on a Cree, although it's unfortunately too short to dance the whole thing through. At least it will enable you to get a sense of what it sounds like:


Sources


© 2020 Nick Enge


For more, see our two books on dancing:
Waltzing: A Manual for Dancing and Living (2013) by Richard Powers and Nick Enge,
and Cross-Step Waltz: A Dancer's Guide (2019) by Richard Powers and Nick & Melissa Enge.


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