How do we dance to this song?
June 19, 2016 8:08 AM   Subscribe

We've chosen Marie's Wedding as a father-daughter/mother-son dance for our wedding next week. It's in 4/4 as far as I can tell. We just realized we have no idea how to dance to it. Difficulty level: we don't know how to dance anyway.

If we'd wanted to actually look good we'd have thought about this earlier, yes. We're completely okay with not being impressive or "technically correct" ballroom dancers, and are strongly encouraging other guests to join in for these songs so it's not just an awkward performance. But we still like the tradition of these "first" dances and would ideally have some sort of plan just so we feel more comfortable.

Assets: I used to dance salsa a fair bit, my fiance does the sprinkler head pretty well, that's it. My parents are coming over this evening to practice (we won't be practicing beyond that).

Can you name the style we should be shooting for? (Here's the level at which I'm lost: it's not a waltz because it's not in 3/4, but... what do people do in 4/4? Does it matter that the music is bouncy and Irish?) Are there Youtube videos you'd recommend that demonstrate this style for beginners?
posted by cogitron to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ok, so that song is originally Scottish, although it's often also played by Irish musicians. It's actually got an established Scottish country dance that goes with it. I don't think you'd be able to learn that in an evening, and it's for four couples anyway, but you could probably cobble together something that looks a little like that!
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:38 AM on June 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

The first thing that comes to mind is a slow polka (which is sort of bouncy and fun like the music).

You could also do a slow four-count East Coast Swing or a medium-tempo six-count swing (triple-step, triple-step, rock-step). With the six-count, you'll get off the main 1-2-3-4 of the song every other time (triple-step, triple-step, rock-step will account for 1-2-3-4, and the second 1-2) but then you'll get back on it the next time (the second triple-step, triple-step, rock-step will account for the second 3-4, and then the next 1-2-3-4). This is pretty common in six-count swing and totally okay as long as it doesn't throw you guys off. I'd opt for six-count over four-count, because it's also bouncy and fun like the music, but four-count is easier if none of you have ever done swing before.

Hustle is possible. It's hard but Mr. bananacabana likes it.

You can waltz to 4/4 if you are okay with not having the first waltz step be on the downbeat every time (much like dancing six-count swing, above). This might be a good option if some or all of you already know how to waltz.

Mostly, though, don't worry about looking perfect or "technically correct" - just have fun. That's the only part that matters, and your guests will love it even if you're making up your own jig-like thing, as long as you have big smiles on your faces. (Mr. bananacabana and I dance social dance, not ballroom, so we are always okay with making things up as long as you're having fun!)
posted by bananacabana at 8:42 AM on June 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

You could try a swing-type dance to this maybe. I think that would be interestingly incongruous.
posted by greta simone at 8:43 AM on June 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hmm, swing, hustle or quickstep? I would suggest swing or hustle if you go with a non-Scottish style because they're looser. Both are pretty improvisatory and you can get by with a few moves.
posted by clarinet at 8:50 AM on June 19, 2016

I would do a pretty slow, pretty simple swing dance (especially if there's any sort of large wedding dress involved -- it'll slow down footwork). My mother called it "the triangle dance" when she was teaching us as kids: Leader steps on their Left foot (for triangle point 1), Right foot (for triangle point 2), takes their Left foot back behind them (for triangle point 3), puts their Left foot back on triangle point 1 for the fourth beat. Follower does Right, Left, Right-back, Right-at-starting point. (The partners' "back triangle point" foot will be mirror images.) It can be as bouncy as you like, and it's easy(ish) to initiate turns on the 1-count.
posted by lazuli at 9:10 AM on June 19, 2016

Country 2-step? It's sort of a weird fox trot that drunks can do and it's easy to learn. Or maybe you could do one of these Breton dances? Essentially the pattern just repeats itself for the entire song so if you did one of the pair dances people could join you.
posted by fiercekitten at 10:16 AM on June 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Here's a (weirdly-titled) video of the Rankin Family performing Marie's Wedding with dancers on a Cape Breton wharf
posted by Flashman at 10:20 AM on June 19, 2016

Yeah my first thoughts were slow polka, a hustle, or swing. But yeah with this kind of music honestly I'd just make sure I'm having fun. Don't worry too much about it being technically perfect. Good luck!
posted by FireFountain at 10:20 AM on June 19, 2016

If you're trying to encourage audience participation, call a ceilidh dance, like the Virginia Reel or Strip The Willow. These are very simple set dances done in Scotland to tunes like Mairi's Wedding, usually at weddings and other occasions when most of the dancers have no idea what they're doing or are too drunk to count to eight. (This is literally how it was described to me once: "Here's a dance we do when everyone's too drunk to count to eight anymore.")

If you want to make it a couples' dance, here's the score as a polka:

One last option is to convert it into waltz time. This can be done mechanically by anyone who's taken Music Theory 101, but the results may or may not sound good. I don't know if Mairi's Wedding would. If it doesn't naturally sound good as a waltz, you'd need some nontrivial edits to fix it. But I suggest this because I vaguely remember someone telling me that Mairi's Wedding has been recorded as a waltz, even though I'm unable to find any mention of this now.
posted by d. z. wang at 10:30 AM on June 19, 2016

There are nicer (less fussy) versions that the one you linked to, eg And this video features dancing.
posted by A189Nut at 3:04 PM on June 19, 2016

For partner dancing, country two-step would work fine. It's intended to be danced traveling in a circle with other couples. If you want to do more free-form you could try swing. With either of these you'll have some syncopation, you are doing 6 counts per pattern, so in a 4/4 song only every other pattern will line up with the beginning of a bar.

If that's too fraught, try a nightclub two-step pattern, or something rumba-like. The simplest rumba ends up a lot like the waltz, but in 4/4 time. Basically you spend 2 counts on the first step instead of 1.

But for maximum participation, something like the Virginia Reel as mentioned above would be cool.
posted by expialidocious at 5:16 PM on June 19, 2016

Thanks so much, everyone! We ended up going with a six-count swing--my dad has learned the basic step! I think with our crowd an actual group dance (even a super-simple one) is a bit optimistic. We may not be on the beat or anything, but we'll be happy, and we have a plan!

(And hey cool the song's Scottish! So are we. With, as you can tell, such a deep connection to our heritage...)
posted by cogitron at 6:16 PM on June 19, 2016

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