The Salty Dog Rag is a wonderful tradition of Dartmouth Outing Chubbers, dating back to who knows when. It's a really really really fun dance, best done double or triple-time. The song to which this dance is always done is a wonder in and of itself, but wow, put them both together and you have a bunch of smiling, sweating, dancing, happy chubbers!

The Steps

The steps of the Salty Dog Rag are obviously taken from the ragtime dance known as the Castle Schottische, or perhaps the other way around if the Salty Dog Rag came first. I can't find any evidence of a connection, but they're practically the same dance.

Think Schottische. The footwork is (1-2-3-hop 1-2-3-hop step-hop-step-hop-step-hop-step-hop) which I will refer to as a Unit. There are two verses and a chorus, each of which is two units long, and each of which is a one-Unit choreography repeated twice. It starts with the verse.

The first verse starts in skater's position which is to say both people facing forward, right hand in right hand and left in left. Lady on the right, everyone starting on the left foot. This verse is easy as all you do is go forward; perhaps shading a little to the right or left as seems comfortable.

At the end of the verse, turn to face your partner. This should put the man on the inside of the circle looking out, and the lady on the outside looking in. Release hands and both take the 1-2-3-hop to your own left, catching each other by your outstretched right hand at the last moment. Pull by strongly, release hands, and take the next 1-2-3-hop to your own right, past your partner, with a clap at the same time as the hop. Sneaking in an extra spin is always in good taste. Now, take left hands and turn all the way around in four step-hops. Repeat and return to skater's position.

The second verse is tricky, and exchanges the 1-2-3-hop for other footwork. Two 1-2-3-hops gives you eight beats which are broken down as follows

  1. Stick out your right foot, forward and to the right, heel on the ground.
  2. Put your right foot back.
  3. Stick out your left foot, forward and to the left, heel on the ground.
  4. Put your left foot back.
  5. Stick both heels out (toes in) heels in the air (i.e. exaggeratedly pigeontoed)
  6. Put both feet back
  7. Touch your right toe to the floor in front of you, without putting weight on it.
  8. Chug. That is, scootch forward on your left foot, sort of like a hop but without ever getting into the air.
Then take the four step-hops forward, and repeat.

The Words

Away down yonder in the state of Arkansas
Where my great-grandpa met my great-grandma
They drink apple cider and they get on a jag,
And they dance all night to the Salty Dog Rag.
They play an old fiddle like you never heard befo',
They play the only tune that they ever did know-
It's a ragtime ditty and the rhythm don't drag,
Now here's the way you dance to the Salty Dog Rag.

One foot front, drag it back,
Then you start to ball the jack.
You shake and you break and then you sag.
If your partner zigs, you're supposed to zag.
Your heart is light, you tap your feet
In rhythm with that ragtime beat.
(Just) pack up your troubles in your old kit bag
And dance all night to the Salty Dog Rag.

Away down South 'neath the old Southern moon,
The possum's up a tree and the hounds've treed a coon
They'll hitch up the buggy to a broken-down nag
And go out dancing to the Salty Dog Rag.
They tune up the fiddle and they rosin up the bow.
They strike a C chord on the old banjo
Then holler hang on 'cause we ain't gonna drag.
Now here's the way you dance to the Salty Dog Rag.


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