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Turkey Rhubarb



Mrs Bowden, Longrock, Penzance May, 1981 Mrs Bowden (nee Jenkin) was born in Madron and came from a long family line of blacksmiths in the village, She could remember her grandfather, Edwin Jenkin, taking part in the geese dancing for which Turkey Rhubarb formed the finale 45 years earlier. This was associated with a procession and Cornish Droll, St George, which took place on Madron feast days. The plat was handed down from father to son in the Jenkin family, music was provided by the concertina which was referred to as a 'cordial'. In Edwin Bowden's day this dance was performed in heavy shoes fitted with scoots. The BBC apparently recorded and broadcasted extracts from the Geese dancing and Turkey Rhubarb in 1936 but there is no trace of it in the archive of Folk Tradition made available to researchers by the BBC. Miss Helena Charles, who set up a school of Inter Celtic dancing in Cornwall in l949 was able to provide further corroboration of this dance when she was contacted her in August 1981. She was aware of it being used by Paul and Madron W.I. as part of their Christmas Mummers play 'St George and the Turkish Knight'. The name `Turkey Rhubarb' may obviously have some connection with the Turkish Knight. Turkey Rhubarb is, however, also a dialect expression meaning a laxative, and a further dimension is provided in Morton Nance's unified Cornish Dictionary where 'Tavol' Turkey is an alternative Cornish word for rhubarb. The dance a form of Mazurka, a Polish peasant dance which spread westwards across Europe during the late eighteenth century. It seems to be found in most European dancing traditions and recognisable variants have been performed by dancers in Champagne, Holland, Brittany and Ireland. The Dutch version is called Jan Pierewiet but the closest to the Cornish is that done on the West coast of Ireland called Father Murphy's Topcoat or Patsy Heeny. DANCE NOTATIONS Formation

Couples in circle around room Steps

(a) One step with outside foot, close up with other and hop on it whilst making small kick with first foot.

(b) Beginning with outside foot take three steps and point free foot ( the next step commences by stepping onto pointed foot). Hold

Ballroom facing direction of dance Bars (A)

1 4

Three (a) steps then step onto outside foot, change direction and point new outside foot. Feet can be brought down fairly hard in time with the two notes of the fourth bar. 5 8

Repeat in new direction 9 16

Repeat bars 1 8 (B)

17 32

Couples travel around the room/circle, using step (b) whilst revolving on their own axis as in ballroom dancing.

TUNE/SONG The tune originally collected with this dance was 'Turkey Rhubarb'. An important feature of this dance is the accent on the second beat of the bar which clearly differentiates it from a waltz. It is possible to move the bar lines on by one note value in order for it to make better sense to the musicians, but as noted in manuscript it fits exactly to the steps of the dancers. click here to play the midi file