[Callers] What does "hey" describe?

John Sweeney info at contrafusion.co.uk
Fri Sep 20 09:34:06 PDT 2013

Tavi asked, "What the hell does "hey" describe?"

Well, since you asked...

As far as we know it comes from the French "haie" or "haye" meaning "hedge".
There are two theories as to why a hedge should mean a weaving pattern:
1) hedges were made of interwoven branches - the path we follow in a hey is
the same path that a branch follows as it weaves between the other branches.

2) the term was also used to describe a line (or hedge) of soldiers lining
the route for the gentry - if you were to dance in and out of that line of
soldiers you would be following the path of a hey.

One of the earliest references we have of a hey is in Thoinot Arbeau's
Orchesographie from 1589.  The Branle de la Montarde includes: “Le premier
fait une haye, en passant par devant les femmes, & par derrier les hommes, &
se met a la queuhe prenant par la main la derniere femme”. Roughly: “The
leader then dances a hay, passing in front of the ladies and behind the men,
going to the end of the line and taking the last lady’s hand.”

Interestingly the very next dance in the book also has a hey, but this time
it is a hey as we know it:
Branle de la Haye: “La dance de la haye que vous dictes est aultre: Elle se
dance par mesure binaire, comme la Courante Les danceurs seuls, & l'un aprez
l'aultre, premierement dancent l'air en façon de Courante, & sur la fin
s'entrelacent, & font la haye les uns parmy les aultres.”  Roughly: “The
Branle de la Haye discussed here is different. It is danced in double
measures, like la Courante the dancers act individually, first dancing to
the tune in the fashion of la Courante, and then at the end, interlacing
themselves, they dance a hey each one between the others.”

The text then describes a hey for three as we know it:


So, the term is quite descriptive, but only if you know where it came from

Hope that helps!

Happy dancing,

John Sweeney, Dancer, England john at modernjive.com 01233 625 362
http://www.contrafusion.co.uk for Dancing in Kent

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