Strip the Willow - First Draft


Strip the Willow - Overview

Video of Strip the Willow

Video of Strip the Willow

Strip the Willow, is an old English Country Dance

The DJ usually announces this with "Please take partners and form five or six couple sets to learn and dance Strip the Willow". If you have more couples than that, the last couples don't get to participate fully.

This dance is usually taught by the top couple (nearest the DJ). After the DJ announces the song, couples can start a set by placing themselves in the position of top couple and raising their right hands.

The DJ may help by pointing out which sets need more people, and encouraging people on the sidelines to join. They may also point out multiple sets in need of additional couples, which can be joined together.

For those new to set dances, the lines of dancers are perpendicular to the front of the stage. Once you have filled the horizontal space in front of the stage, you can start more sets further away from the stage. These sets should line up with a set in the first row of sets, and be far enough apart that there is room for couple to turn at the bottom of the set.


                | |     | |     | |
                | |     | |     | |
                | |     | |     | |
                | |     | |     | |

                | |     | |     | |
                | |     | |     | |
                | |     | |     | |
                | |     | |     | |

step one

Strip the Willow - Starting Position

To begin, form a line of five or six couples facing each other.

The couple nearest the band/DJ is the "top couple". They will lead the dance, and teach it, if necessary.

The couple furthest from the band/DJ is the "bottom couple".

Make sure to leave enough space between the lines to accommodate two people in the center turning around each other.

step one

Strip the Willow - Hand Position

When taking hands with another person, we use the hand-to-elbow grip pictured.

Please avoid pressing your thumb into the inside of their elbow!. Your thumb should be next to your fingers.

main section

Strip the Willow - Main

  • The top couple advance towards each other, taking right arms, in hand-to-elbow grip, and turn each other around once.
  • After one full turn, the lady takes left arms with the second man, and does a U-turn around him.
    The second man stays basically in place as he turns, but he may step slightly down as she crosses above him, and slight up as she crosses below. This makes it easier for the lady to pass.
    The top man may proceed slightly down the set to meet her, as she comes around the second man.
  • The lady takes right hands with her partner, again, and does a U-turn around him.
  • The above pattern continues, until they reach the bottom of the set. They turn around once, and the lady then leads the man up the set, just as the man did on the way down, but this time with the man going around each lady on the way up.
  • When they reach the top, the couple once again turns fully around once, they then proceed down the set again.
  • This time, both the man and the lady go around their counterparts, simultaneously (Lady around men, man around ladies), returning to and turning around each other before moving down the set.
    Note that the man's turn takes him *up* the set, so he will need to move down the set, after his turn, to meet the lady.
  • This continues until the top couple reaches the bottom. At that point, they turn around each other once more, then join the set at the bottom. Other dancers move up as the couple passes them.
  • Once the first top-couple has reached the bottom of the set, the new top couple can start this section from beginning.
    In practice, they frequently don't wait until the first couple is at the bottom. They give them a head start, such as "two couples ahead" and then go. Use your judgement, if the couple ahead of you is slow, give them more time.

Copyright © 2001-2024 Scott Gamble