The New Zealand Academy of Highland and National Dancing

Sailor's Hornpipe

History: The Sailors Hornpipe dates back from the Tudor period but became popular when Captain Cook proclaimed the Hornpipe as the typical recreation for the Sailor when the ship is becalmed.

It was left to an actor of the same name to establish and standardize a "set" Hornpipe. T. P Cook, a leading actor of the day was often called upon to play naval parts and in the old dramas the hero often danced a hornpipe to celebrate his return to his native village.

T.P Cook made a special point of visiting ships when they were in port at any of the naval bases where he happened to be performing and many evenings after the show he would join his Jack Tar friends at the local inn. As they indulged in the light fantastic he made notes of their many steps and descriptive movement and thus found that in all sea ports, the hornpipe steps were very much the same.

Having acquired all these steps, he set them in a sensible routine as near the original as possible and presented this complete hornpipe in the next naval drama in which he appeared. This brought the dance into popularity and it has remained in similar form since that time.

The Hornpipe was danced aboard ship for recreational and entertainment purposes to prevent boredom, to claim the nerves before battle and to improve the general health of the sailors. It is interesting to note that it is still taught in one of the Naval schools in England today.

Interpretation: The Sailors Hornpipe is the national dance of England and it is consistent with the characteristics of a maritime nation that the dance should centre round the life and work of a typical sailor in the British Navy in the days of the Sailing Ships. It should reveal some of the traits of the sailor at work - a serious countenance, steps confined to a small space owing to the inadequacy of the deck space, the movements of the body, arms and feet showing vigour and precision and the whole performance presented in a nautical manner.

Execution: In executing the dance, the demeanour should be calm while the movements must show appreciation and animation.

The dancer must visualize a sailor at work and be able to display vigour and strength in the heavy tasks and ease of movement in the lighter duties.

Beating and shuffles should be firm and distinct and must be performed in the correct ground positions with many of the arm positions depicting the use of the rope with hands opening and closing when pulling and releasing ropes.

In certain movements the roll of the body should be combined with and evolve naturally from the movement of the feet. The roll must never be exaggerated.
The New Zealand Academy of Highland and National Dancing Inc., PO Box 5470, Palmerston North
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