How to Do a Bush Dance

My wife and I learned an authenic bush dance at the Argyle's Jolly Swagman Show one night in Sydney. (I have since learned that it's also known as the "Heel-Toe Polka.") This, however, was not the highlight of the evening. That was when they sheared a live sheep on stage. (I'm not kidding!) First, I'll describe the moves. Then I'll try to show how to put them to music.

Form two lines, men in one and women in the other. Each person should be facing their partner. Men, hold your partner's right hand with your left and put your right arm around her waist. Ladies, put your left arm around his waist or on his shoulder. You know, typical dancing position.

In the next set of steps, men use your left leg, ladies use your right. Push your leg out, heel to the ground, toe up. Bring your leg in, toe to ground, heel up. Repeat (heel, toe). Now slide (or shift) in that direction four times. Now use the other leg (in the other direction, of course) and repeat (heel, toe, heel, toe) and slide four times back to where you started.

In this set of steps, you both use the same hand, so your arms will cross diagonally in front of you. Clap right hands three times. Clap left hands three times. Clap both hands three times. Clap your hands on your lap three times.

Now swing your partner around. If you don't know what that means, here we go. Men move to the left while women move to the right. You should meet in the middle, linking right arms at the elbows. Go around in a circle once or twice, stopping back where you started. At least that's how they taught it to us. I think a proper bush dance would have people swinging around and exchanging partners.

To summarize:
Heel, toe, heel, toe.
Slide, slide, slide, slide.
Heel, toe, heel, toe.
Slide, slide, slide, slide.
Right hand clap, left hand clap,
Both hands clap, clap on lap.
Swing your partner 'round.

That's it! Now, let's put it to music. Get a polka in 4/4 time that repeats a little faster every 8 measures. The row of numbers show the beats, +'s being off beats.

1     +     2     +     3     +     4     +
heel        toe         heel        toe
slide       slide       slide       slide
heel        toe         heel        toe
slide       slide       slide       slide
right hand  clap        left  hand  clap
both  hands clap        clap  on    lap
swing your partner 'round
keep swinging

Now keep repeating it until you don't think you can possibly keep up with the music, which should end about then. 8)


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Author: Lee K. Seitz (WWW, e-mail)
Created: 3 Mar 1995(?); Last Modified: 18 Aug 1997