The Washerwoman’s Genes

March 20, 2006

The Irish Washerwoman

Filed under: Archetypes — by WWG @ 9:03 am

More than just a bit of a tune that you can’t get out of your head, The Irish Washerwoman is a dance, too.

Picture this: a British fan of Michael Flatley reports that he practices the Irish Washerwoman’s Jig in the billiards room of his private “banker’s” club:

Starting on the right:
Hop front 1 2 3 4, hop back 1 2 3 4,
hop front 1 2 3 4, hop back 1 2 3 4,
hop front 1 2 3 4, hop back 1 2 3 4
kick (r) and back (r) and back (l) 2 3 4
repeat on the left [I should hope so]

The dance is either Scottish or French.

The Bransle les Lavandieres is a mimed bransle (pronounced brawl), done in couples or a circle of dancers. The dance gets its name from the dancers clapping their hands to “make a noise like the women beating the washing on the banks of the Seine.” There is also “finger shaking” in the dance tabulation: one partner shakes a finger at the other, who stands hands on hips, and later the roles reverse.

But this is the French version.

The Scottish version depicts an Irish washerwoman who is angry with children (Irish brats!) who have just pulled down her wash and flung it in the mud. She stamps her feet and shakes her fist and hops up and down in rage.

She’s a figure of hilarity.


1 Comment »

  1. Reading The English Laundress by Patricia Malcolmson reveals a germane point. As a matter of technique, items too heavy to lift when wet, such as blankets, and truly filthy work clothes would be put in a tub on the ground and agitated with the feet. Though Malcolmson doesn’t make the connection, quite obviously this is the origin of “the washerwoman’s jig.” It probably did seem pretty hilarious to an onlooker.

    Comment by washergenes — June 27, 2006 @ 2:54 pm |Reply

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