Kid Music Series: Peel the Orange and Through the Wicket
My Favorite American Contra Dance Moves
What is the difference between square dancing, line dancing and contra line dancing?
Simply put: first one starts in a square, the next is a line or lines facing the same way and doing the same steps. The last is in two opposing, interacting lines. There are variations and some confusion over the styles but this is the general description. Although they are country dances, their roots are in European folk dances.
Most people are acquainted with the square dance. Four sets of couples, one set on each side of a square shape. All the dance moves originate from there. Square dance has its roots from a dance called the Quadrille that was popular in France and Great Britain and based upon ancient folk dances.
Both the Square Dance and the Contra Dance were kept alive in small pockets of the U.S like in Southern Appalachia. These dances moved their way out west with the pioneers and became part of our tradition of Western style dance. They've gone in and out of fashion over the years.
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My Main Teacher Reference
Thi s is my primary reference for this article. A rich resource for music and classroom teachers.
Contra-line dance (heretofore known as contra dance) has primarily English and French roots. It takes it's name from the French term Contredanse Anglais which means 'English Country Dance.' It's made up of two lines, traditionally one ladies line, one gentlemen's line.
Not only are these dances part of our U.S. history, they are fun to do! I have taught many contra dances in my music classes in elementary school for years. I did make some necessary adjustments to equalize the experience and make it more comfortable for a modern music class.
Here are some modern adaptions. I start with a girls line and boys line, then I have every other couple switch places so the two lines each have alternating boys and girls. Also that way if you have an uneven gender number, it will look less obvious that some are partnered boy-boy or girl-girl. If you do have a boy or girl balk, you can switch students around to their satisfaction.
Two of my favorite moves when teaching contra dances are 'peel the orange' and 'through the wicket.' Even the names sound cool and kids like to say the names of the moves and try them out. First, demonstrate the moves with 6-8 students in front of the class so the whole class can see clearly. I have wonderful examples on video later in this article.
Peel the Orange
The diagrams show how peel the orange works. The head couple (red) separate. One turns to the right, one to the left. They lead their lines back until the head couple again meet. The head couple join hands and raise them like an arch.
Through the Wicket
The second couple (green) join hands and lead the line through the arch to reform the line. Some dances they walk, some sashay (side gallop) Now the first couple is in the back and the second couple is ready to take the lead.
I've chosen three dance examples: Paw Paw Patch, Alabama Gal and I Wonder Where Mariah's Gone?
Paw Paw Bush
What are Paw Paws?
The paw paw is an American native fruit growing wild in the Appalachians. On our journeys to the Shendandoah Park in Virginia, we have found paw-paws. The short trees have purple flowers that turn into green-yellow fruit. They taste like a mild mango or cantaloupe. There are many variations of the song, some replace the name Nellie with Suzie or even Mary. Since I alternate letting a boy lead, I use a name like Larry or even the student's own name.
Paw Paw Patch
ONE OF THE LEAD STUDENTS GOES AROUND FULL CIRCLE, IF IT'S THE LEADER ON THE RIGHT THEY GO RIGHT, IF IT'S THE LEADER ON THE LEFT, THEY GO LEFT, STUDENTS CLAP Where or where is sweet little Nellie (or nice little Larry) Where or where is sweet little Nellie Where or where is sweet little Nellie Way down yonder in the paw paw patch!
SAME STUDENT GOES AROUND AGAIN WITH THE *OPPOSITE* LINE FOLLOWING HER/HIM Come on boys (kids) lets go find her Come on boys lets go find her Come on boys lets go find her Way down yonder in the paw paw patch!
PEEL THE ORANGE AND THROUGH THE WICKET Pickin' up paw paws, put 'em in your pocket Pickin' up paw paws, put 'em in your pocket Pickin' up paw paws, put 'em in your pocket Way down yonder in the paw paw patch!
CONTINUING THROUGH THE WICKET, ONCE STUDENTS ARRIVE THEY START CLAPPING(Two by two, come on through...etc) I added this part to sing while getting all the couples through the arch and ready to start over.
Alabama Gal (I took out the ‘reel’ step to make it easier for young students)
LEAD COUPLE HOLD HANDS AND SASHAY DOWN THE LINE, THEN BACK UP THE LINE, STUDENTS CLAP Come through in a hurry Come through in a hurry Come through in a hurryAl-a-ba-ma Gal!
LEAD COUPLE, SWING THEIR PARTNER I don’t know how, how I don’t know how, how I don’t know how, how Al-a-ba-ma Gal!ALL
STUDENTS SWING THEIR PARTNER AND LAND BACK TO THEIR SPOT BY THE WORD GAL I’ll show you how, how I’ll show you how, how I’ll show you how, how Al-a-ba-ma Gal!
PEEL THE ORANGE, STUDENTS POINT TO THEMSELVES WITH A TWO THUMB MOTION. THROUGH THE WICKET, SASHAY THROUGH AND CLAP WHEN THEY REACH THEIR SPOT Ain’t I rock candy (translation aren’t I sweet?) Ain’t I rock candy Ain’t I rock candy Al-a-ba-ma Gal!
Great Dance Demonstrations
I found some great dance demos of Alabama Gal and Paw Paw Patch. Seeing it done makes it so much clearer.
Paw Paw Patch
I Wonder Where Mariah's Gone?
I Wonder Where Mariah's Gone?
This is very similar to Paw Paw Patch except student direction runs the opposite.
ONE OF THE LEAD STUDENTS GOES AROUND FULL CIRCLE, IF IT’S THE LEADER ON THE RIGHT THEY GO *LEFT*, IF IT’S THE LEADER ON THE LEFT, THEY GO *RIGHT*, STUDENTS CLAP I wonder where Mariah’s (Elijah’s) gone I wonder where Mariah’s gone I wonder where Mariah’s gone So early in the morning.
SAME STUDENT GOES AROUND AGAIN WITH *THEIR* LINE FOLLOWING HER OR HIM She (He) has gone and I can’t go She (He) has gone and I can’t go She (He) has gone and I can’t go So early in the morning.
PEEL THE ORANGE Yonder she (he) comes and how do you do Yonder she (he) comes and how do you do Yonder she (he) comes and how do you do So early in the morning.
THROUGH THE WICKET Give her (him) a kiss and wave on through Give her (him) a kiss and wave on through Give her (him) a kiss and wave on through So early in the morning. (Give her a kiss and...etc) Instead of clapping, once students reach their spot in the line, they blow a kiss and wave to others.
I went to one of her workshops in New York City. She has a Doctorate in Music and is a very thorough researcher in traditional Anglo-American and Afro-American music. She sings beautifully and authentically.