BackCircle Dances



Circle Hornpipe        Click go the Shears: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatWaltzing Matilda: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this dance

Dance: Jim Billson.  Date unknown.

Format: Circle with men on the outside.     Music: 16 bar hornpipes.

A:Give two hands to partner: four chassées to the man's right; four to the left.  Two chasseés to the right, two to the left, clap: own hands together, right with partner, together, left, together, cross on (own) chest, both hands with partner.
B:Right-forearm turn partner twice around (or as many times as you wish) with a step-hop.  Left-forearm turn with the next person to the left, who becomes new partner.

Jim Billson hasn't been involved in Folk Dancing for many years now, but dancers in the Midlands will remember him.  He used to dance with Jockey Morris in Birmingham, and was one of the founders of Giffard Morris and the Giffard Folk Dance Group.  He's written a number of dances, and I've been calling this one for many years, though when I phoned to ask permission to publish it I found that it had been through the Folk Process — I do it with the men on the inside, but this is how he wrote it.  You can call it at a barn dance, but it also goes down well with experienced dancers if they've just done a slow difficult Playford dance.  I've included links to a couple of tunes, particularly for bands in North America who probably won't have a repertoire of hornpipes.

The Yellow Cat's Jig        Print this dance

Dance: Jim Gregory, 1982.

Format: Circle, man on right.     Music: 32 bar jigs.

A1:Circle left 8 steps.  Single file right.
A2:Lady taps man on shoulder, he turns round: do-si-do.  Swing (new partner).
B1:Promenade 8 steps.  Promenade 4 steps into the middle; fall back.
B2:Ladies in 4 steps; fall back.  Men in two steps, turn right, go clockwise round partner to finish again on her left.

The story of the writing of this dance is given in the pamphlet/collection “Live, from the Spanish Ballroom”, and it was also published in CDSS News, March 1980.  I suggest having the man on the right so that you swing your original partner the first time.

The Ely Waltz        Print this dance

Format: Circle.     Dance: Colin Hume, 2006.         Music: 32 bar waltzes

A1:Circle left.  Circle right.
A2:Right-hand turn partner (3 bars), move on passing right shoulder.  Left-hand turn the next, move on passing left shoulder.
B1:Give right to number 3: balance forward and back; box the gnat.  Balance again; do a wide Petronella turn single so men have backs to centre, ladies are on the outside facing this partner, flowing into…
B2:Do-si-do new partner.  Waltz around in ballroom direction, finishing back in the circle.

Lisa Greenleaf was calling a “Contra Holiday in Medieval England” in Ely, Cambridgeshire.  The crowd were Americans, so there was no problem about people being left out because they didn't have a regular partner — except when it came to the final waltz.  George Marshall had got round this the previous year by ending with a circle mixer in waltz time, to share the men around somewhat amongst the spare ladies.  Lisa wanted to do the same, so she contacted me and I sent her all the waltz-time circle mixers in my repertoire.  A couple of days later I decided I ought to write one specifically for the group, which I did.  But Lisa didn't call it — she said they were too tired to think by the end of the week so she stuck with easier dances.  She has since called it in the States however, and noticed that those who dance English are much better at the wide Petronella turn single.  In fact she called it at Chippenham Folk Festival in 2015 and afterwards eight people told me how much they had enjoyed it — then the following weekend she called it at a dance weekend in the States and people said the same to me — I must call it more often myself!

I've deliberately not written a tune for the dance, since whether bands play for Contra or English they all have a good selection of waltzes they enjoy playing.

Good Humour        Good Humour: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this danceRecordings

Format: Circle, men on inside.     Dance and Music: Colin Hume.  Published 1990.

A1:Do-si-do your partner.  Give right hand to your partner, left to the left-hand person: set right and left (smiling at each as you do so); change places with your partner, the man turning the lady under.
A2:All that again, but the lady turns the man under (and you'd be surprised how awkward the men find that).
B1:Figure eight movement: pass your partner right shoulder (men moving out, ladies in), turn right, go right shoulder all the way round the next.  Pass your partner left shoulder, turn left, go left shoulder all the way round the next.
B2:Wave to your partner and pass left shoulder (men on the inside), walk past the next two; swing the fourth.

Written for a session at Eastbourne Folk Festival which had been labelled “Good Humour (or so)” — no doubt meant as an insult.  It's a fun dance — and if you're not enjoying your dancing, what on earth are you doing it for?

There is another tune called “Good Humour”, given in CDM 1 as the suggested tune for “Circassian Circle”.

The Indian Princess        The Indian Princess: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this danceRecordings

Format: Circle.     Dance and Music: Colin Hume, 1982.

A1:Set; turn single.  Pass your partner by, two-hand turn the next, finish in partner's place facing partner.
A2:That again in opposite direction, finishing in original place.
B1:Right-hand turn partner (dance).  Left-hand turn.
B2:Back-to-back partner.  Three changes of a grand chain (dance) and start again with number four.

I'd written the tune several years before, as a second tune to Playford's “Indian Queen”.  In 1982 I decided to write a cut-down version of this as a circle mixer (of which there are very few in the Playford style) — see this section in my Composing Dances notes for the full story.  I prefer a skip-change step for the turns and the three changes, but I don't insist on it!

The music is recorded on the Spring Blossom CD.

Symonds Yat        Symonds Yat: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this danceRecordings

Format: Circle.     Dance and Music: Colin Hume, 2006

A1:Circle left 6 steps; man cast, lady follow, man loop inwards and turn left to pick up partner with inside hand so that you are both facing anti-clockwise.  Lead back 6 steps; two-hand turn ¾ (home).
A2:Circle right; lady cast, man follow, lady loop inwards and turn right to pick up partner with inside hand, facing clockwise.  Lead back; two-hand turn ¾ and face the next (new partner — the one who was beyond your original partner at the start).
B:Pass new partner left shoulder, go right shoulder all the way round the next, go back past new partner left shoulder to face around the circle to original partner (11 steps).  On the anacrusis, step right and honour partner, then left; wide Petronella (turn single right while moving diagonally right) to finish with the man on the inside.
C:On the left diagonal (new partner), left-hand turn.  On the right diagonal (previous partner), right-hand turn.  Current partner back-to-back; men gipsy left ¾ around partner while ladies move forward (towards the centre) and back, to meet new partner, back in the circle.

This won't work with a small circle — you need at least 12 couples.

I lead a House Party Weekend every November, organised by Mike and Gill Swash, and for many years this has been at The Paddocks Hotel in Symonds Yat, near Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire.  The food and service are excellent, and there's a fine ballroom just down the stairs from the dining room.  The hotel is used by all kinds of dance groups.

The Valentine's Day Massacre        The Valentine's Day Massacre: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC formatPrint this danceRecordings

Format: Circle.     Dance and Music: Colin Hume, 1986.

A:All join hands, in to the middle and back.  Two-hand turn corner (gazing adoringly into his/her eyes).
B:In to the middle and back.  Two-hand turn partner (gazing even more adoringly).
C:Clap with partner Right, Left while turning single Right; clap Right, Left, pass on left shoulder to the next.  Clap with this one Left, Right while turning single Left; clap Left, Right, pass on right shoulder to the next.
D:Balance and swing (new partner).

Written on Valentine's Day 1986.  I was booked to call a dance for the Beckenham and Croydon Folk Dance Club that evening, and two people independently challenged me to write a dance with this title.  The first half is slow and Playford-ish; the second half (the massacre) is faster and more violent.  People have great difficulty clapping while turning single, and even more problems in passing by the correct shoulder!