These are just some of the many broom dance clips to be found on YouTube.
Sam of Rattlejag: This solo piece has several of the core elements of a traditional English broom dance – sweeping, percussion, under-the-leg, broom-on-the-floor, a throw – and makes an excellent starting point for anyone constructing their own dance. There’s also a nice, controlled demonstration of the technique for tilting a broom up from the floor to the hand…. And a throw to finish, though in this particular film (a snapshot in time), the music and the throw could work together better, especially as it’s the end of the dance. Note the way Sam works with the broom’s special properties from the first beat, percussing first with the tip of the shaft, then with the head, with some dancing round in between (including behind the musician) to make the dance fill more space.
East Anglian broom dance: Young Jasmine, from The Ram pub in Whittlesey, takes on Derek Paice, a real expert, in a broom dance challenge. Derek’s got a dramatic move in which he leans forwards and swings the broom under his flying legs. His under-the-leg move is more impressive because he makes the movements big. Jasmine does well… she imitates one of Derek’s moves, doesn’t get it at first, but then succeeds and gets some cheers for it… then a simple but effective trick to finish, and a handshake to follow. Note the broken rhythm of the tune, and Derek’s percussive sweeping, which works on a wooden floor. Note also: no high throws or swings, so it can be performed in a tight space indoors. Great.
Hambrook broom dance: This very simple dance shows the fun that can be had from two dancers performing side by side, giving the audience plenty of chance to heckle and cheer. Good costume helps and apparently, the long dress isn’t a problem. And they solve the problem of going from the broom on the floor to broom in the hand by… picking it up. A more dramatic way to do this would be to drop down on bent knees, Cossack-style; in fact, you could do the under-the-leg passing while you’re down there. These dancers also have a move that just involves passing the brooms round their backs; it works as a performance, because it’s not over-practised to the point of being easy. If they got really slick at it, it wouldn’t be funny any more. With the right tune – a drone, or some kind of continuous trill – it would be possible to have two dancers trying to race each other in this kind of move, without having to follow the beat of the music. That would be fun.
Canadian clog dance: Three men take turns to dance with a single broom, each doing the same simple routine of “tricks” interspersed with sweeping. It relies on the clogging rather than lots of fancy stuff with the broom, but it works well and shows the value of having breaks for simply dancing around.
La Danse Du Balais: French-Canadian dance for two dancers with a broom each, by World Dance Theatre. The first 1.40 mins is mostly stepping, with one good idea that English dancers can steal: whacking your fellow dancer on the bottom. Note that in the under-the-leg (over-the-broom) step, the feet come together after each kick; also, that having two brooms lying parallel on the floor opens up lots of new scope for footwork. Incidentally, having one dancer with two brooms would open up a lot of potential interest (and challenges).
Irish broom dance: This is essentially a vehicle for fancy stepping around a broom lying on the ground, but has a couple of steps that could slot into an English broom dance, including one that is similar to a closed morris sidestep, performed forwards and backwards. It’s speed that makes it work.
Another Irish dance: the performer builds up to kicking the legs over the broom very fast (as opposed to passing the broom under the legs… there’s a difference in emphasis that’s evident here). You can’t do this with an English-style step-hop; you have to break out into a dotted rhythm, but that is possible to English music.
Pig Dyke Molly: a wonderful broom dance for three dancers that relies for its effect on the way the brooms are used together, and the shapes they make, rather than solo tricks. Having three brooms on the floor, and moving between them, gets round the problem of making the fancy-footwork sequence interesting. They also have bits where they’re just dancing and the brooms are almost – not quite – incidental. It’s a jaunty step in odd costumes; it must be great fun to perform. Note also the changes in speed of the music. Good joke at the start to set it up, too. A dance like this doesn’t need a spoken intro, but it can help prepare the audience for a piece of theatre; a “now for something different” moment.
Stomp: The percussive work in this grab from the dance-theatre show is probably too elaborate for most people learning English-style broom dance – clog dancers and steppers excluded – but the guys at the back have a couple of nice sweep-into-swing moves.
…and 1.40 into this, you see the same swing more effectively … they also clash brooms together, throw them from dancer to dancer… and break them.
Broom Kivai: This contemporary Pacific Island dance doesn’t feature English-style brooms but demonstrates that simply sweeping, swinging and stepping in unison can be very effective. Mainly this is here to illustrate the wide geographical spread of broom dancing.
Samba broom dance: This also shows how effective strong sweeping actions can be; but English dancers could take a take a tip from the spins of the body and swings and thrusts of the broom.
Albanian broom dance: a bit of larking about, rather than a performance, this; but it shows that simply dancing about with the broom and holding it in a certain way can be effective; a confident dancer could make this work.
Seb Griff’s East European broom dance: There’s really only one “trick” in this short sequence in a kitchen, but it adds a dimension that could be used in lots of ways – a light kick of the broom, in this case with a distinctive step involved.
Campsite broom dance: a couple of lads looning about in the woods, but rather well choreographed. This shows the fun that can be had by simply exploring the movements suggested by the shape of the broom. As a solo, it would be pretty pointless; as a double, it’s a good party piece. English broom dancers could take quite a lot from this… including the witty ending, if you have the nerve to carry it off.
Hen party broom dance: First try setting fire to the broom (maybe not), then stick it between your legs like a tail, and wiggle.
Magic broom: just 19 seconds of it (with a bit of fishing line). How’s your robotics?
Same trick, even better