One good approach is to use a set of three related breaks, as I've done in “Texas Star”, possibly giving more complicated variations on the same basic move. This may also persuade callers not to use the same break all three times, though I sometimes use the same one at the beginning and end with something different for the middle break. And one thing I say in both my books is Don't walk the break through. I've danced my own squares called by people who have obviously read the books and say “Colin says don't walk the breaks through… but I'm going to anyway”. I don't get it. Are they lacking confidence in the dancers or in themselves? I've heard David Wright say “Colin says don't walk the break through… so I'll talk it through”. He then taught a break which I would have done at the “Beginners” session at Cecil Sharp House without a walkthrough and they would all have got right.
|A1:||Sides face: Grand Square, just 8 steps. Swing the one you're with (original opposite) and square the set — ladies have moved one place to the right and men one place to the left.|
|A2:||New sides face: Grand Square 8 steps. Swing partner.|
|B1:||Allemande left corner, grand chain home.|
|B2:||Do-si-do partner. Swing.|
Or you could do the same thing four times.
|A1:||Circle left (half-way). Allemande left corner.|
|B1:||Do-si-do partner. Swing corner.|
|B2:||Promenade to the man's place.|
|A1:||Circle left. Circle right.|
|A2:||In to the middle and back. And again.|
|B1:||All four ladies chain. All four ladies chain ¾.|
|B2:||Promenade original partner.|
This is just a break I use when I'm calling a non-progressive dance and I decide they really ought to try it with a different partner. The first break gives you your corner as partner; the second reunites you with your original partner.
|Ladies to the centre and back to the bar; Four gents in with a right-hand star. Now back with a left-hand star. Pick up your (current) partner: star promenade…|
|1||The gents swing out and the ladies in, Turn one and a half, ladies right hands in: star promenade. Ladies swing out and the gents swing in, Turn one and a quarter, all join hands and circle left. Allemande left corner, grand chain. Promenade.|
|2||Ladies roll back, gents keep the star going with this new lady. Ladies roll back again (to original partner). The gents swing out and the ladies in: star promenade. All four ladies chain across (to original opposite). Promenade to the gent's place. Swing.|
|3||Ladies roll back, allemande left corner, allemande right partner, left pull by corner, swing the next (original opposite). Form that Texas Star again. The gents swing out and the ladies in: star promenade. Gents roll back, ladies keep the star going with this new man. Ladies swing out and the gents swing in: star promenade. Ladies roll back, swing your partner. Promenade.|
I put this one together as a result of a posting on the Traditional Dance Callers' List by Erik Hoffman who gave the traditional dance “Texas Star” and one or two variations he uses. The basic dance was published in “Old Square Dances of America” by Neva L. Boyd and Tressie M. Dunlavy, Chicago, 1925. It's a mixer — the men star one more place to “pick up the next one on the sly” (or “on the fly”) and I've called it several times: it goes down well at a Barn Dance. I was inspired to put together a set of breaks on this theme, though without picking up the next one on the sly — I'm doing enough switching around without needing that as well.
|A1:||First couple left-hand turn, the other three ladies chain (pass one, miss one, grab one). Second couple the same.|
|A2:||Third couple the same. Fourth couple the same, and you should have your partner back.|
|B1:||Men left-hand star ¾, right-hand turn corner all the way and a little bit more, face partner.|
|B2:||Pass partner left shoulder, promenade the next (new partner) to the man's place.|
|Each man in turn leads the figure. Ladies have moved left.|
First called Bromyard Festival in 1998, using a swing rather than a left-hand turn in A1 and A2. It was fairly chaotic, which is why I changed it, though it's still a very busy figure. Keep the set small. Men help the ladies in and out of the three ladies chain — just because you're a man doesn't mean that you absolve yourself of all responsibility and just wait to see whether you'll get one this time!
|A1:||Heads right and left through; sides right and left through. Heads right and left through; side ladies chain.|
|A2:||Heads promenade half-way. Face right: do-si-do this person to a diagonal wave of eight.|
|B1:||Balance; swing through (half a right-hand turn, those who can half a left-hand turn — partner is now in your right hand). Same.|
|B2:||Pass through; California twirl. Lines forward and back.|
|C1:||Ladies chain. Star through, dive through, pass through.|
|C2:||Swing the next. Promenade.|
|Ladies have moved Right.|
I was calling at English-American week at Buffalo Gap Camp in West Virginia in 2004, and Kathy Anderson called a square with a movement I particularly liked. The next morning after my first workshop I was marooned in Swisher Hall all on my own by a torrential downpour. Rather than sit around feeling sorry for myself I started to write a dance with the move I liked as A2, and called it that evening. Originally I had the ladies chain before the lines forward and back, but people were disorientated after the pass through and California twirl so they needed something to cling on to! It's still a tricky dance; B1 is very busy.
|A1:||Heads forward and back. Pass through, turn right, lady go round two people, man round one, to side lines with the men in the middle.|
|A2:||Lines forward and back. In fours, flutter-wheel and sweep a quarter more, so the men are on the outside.|
|B1:||Step to a wave, swing through, pass through, swing the next (corner).|
|B2:||New heads right and left through. New heads to the left: right and left through.|
|Ladies have moved Right.|
|B2:||Promenade to the lady's place (all the way).|
|Men have moved Left.|
“Pass through” in B1 just means all take one step forward so in the middle of the set 3M and 2W are facing, 1M and 4W are facing. Those on the outside turn to face the person who has just moved out alongside them, so you're all facing your corner.
|A1:||Head ladies chain across and back.|
|A2:||Sides right-hand star. Back with a left-hand star, so ladies are facing their right-hand couple and their partners are behind them, facing the same way.|
|B1:||Ladies chain with the heads, but instead of the middle men doing a courtesy turn they turn each other half-way and the lady joins the star behind the man they expected to chain to; star left half-way. Same on the other side (ladies falling in behind their partner).|
|B2:||Same (ladies falling in in front of their partner in the final chain) and you all finish home.|
|C1:||Right hand to (original) corner: balance and swing.|
|C2:||Promenade to the man's place.|
The timing is very tight, but it can be done by experienced dancers. After the full left-hand star the middle men basically do a left-hand turn four times round — they must give weight and keep moving.
I picked up the central figure in Denmark in 1996 and made up the rest around it — it was probably originally non-progressive. In 2017 I was given an old copy or Burleson's Encyclopedia of Square Dance Calls, and discovered that the figure is actually called “Chain thru and star”, described thus:
172. CHAIN THRU AND STAR. This movement is similar to flying chain. Example — Heads right and left thru, same two couples star left ¾ round. Where ladies chain out, men continue star alone ½ where lady chaining in will come into star behind this man, all four star ½, two ladies chain, men turn star alone ½ with this lady coming into star behind this man. Repeat with sides going in, or as designated.
As you can see, I'm not starting with a right and left through or a left-hand star, and I'm going through the routine twice, so it's sufficiently different that I'm keeping my title for the dance — and if you're so prejudiced that you won't call a dance because one of the figures came from MWSD, I'm sorry for you!
|A1:||Give right hand to partner: balance forward and back once (2 bars). Swing (6 bars).|
|B1:||Heads forward and back; sides right and left through; head ladies chain across; side ladies chain across;|
|B2:||Heads lead forward; pick up sides, fall back in head lines. Pass through, stay facing out, turn to your right.|
|C1:||Single file clockwise just over half-way till men are home. Men turn round, gipsy right new partner (original corner).|
|C2:||Grand chain all the way round (one bar per change).|
|After four times through:|
|A:||Balance and swing original partner.|
Caulking is making a boat watertight by packing the seams with a waterproof material, such as oakum or pitch. It's easy to mishear the title as “Corking Jig”!
Hilary Vare told me that John New had written a really good tune which needed a dance to go with it. I decided that the crescendo at the end of the tune would fit nicely with a grand chain, provided people moved fast enough, culminating in a balance and swing. But I couldn't end the dance with a grand chain to meet your original partner and then stop the tune and dance dead, so I added an extra A-music to finish everything off. Hilary called the dance at a Folk Camp that year and reported that it was very well received, but it wasn't until 2012 that I had a chance to call it with John and Hilary playing; most of the dancers seemed to know it and they danced it with an appropriate amount of energy. It's a busy dance throughout, as the moves for heads and sides in B1 and the start of B2 are interlocked.
John New is an accordionist currently living in France, so he only gets to play for English Folk dancing a couple of weekends a year. His other tune to which I have written a dance is The Night Crossing.
|A1:||Heads right and left through; sides swing opposite and face the nearest head couple.|
|A2:||Balance the ring; Petronella twirl. Same.|
|B1:||Balance the ring; pass through up and down the set. Swing partner.|
|B2:||Allemande left corner. Promenade home (half-way).|
|Non-progressive, so I would do Break, Figure for Heads, Figure for Sides, all that again, final Break.|
Based on “Petronella Square” by Becky Hill and first called at Chippenham Folk Festival.
|A1:||First couple bow and swing. Lead across, split the opposite couple, round one to the ends of a line of four.|
|A2:||Lines forward and back. First man lead the line around behind the fours and take hands in “coach and horses” formation.|
|B1:||Forward six and back. Front couple (fours) bow and swing.|
|B2:||Lead across, split the lonesome couple, round one to the ends of a line of four. Forward eight, and men roll the left-hand lady away as you fall back.|
|C1:||Ladies chain across. Ladies chain up and down.|
|C2:||Ladies chain across (to partner). Ones face left: right and left through.|
|D1:||Ones face diagonally: right and left through. Ones face right: right and left through.|
|D2:||Allemande left corner, promenade partner home.|
The original was a 48 bar figure, and the second half of C2 was “Promenade home except for the couple who are already home who move into the middle and fall back”. Ed Gilmore has a modified version where couples 3 and 4 do a right and left through to get everyone in sequence for the promenade, but I thought I could do better than that, so I increased the length to 64 bars and added three lots of right and left through followed by an allemande left before the promenade. I think it works well, but it relies on the active couple being really positive when they lead the right and left throughs — the other couples just need to be ready to join in when the actives approach them.
|A1:||Heads balance and swing.|
|A2:||Heads forward and back. Head ladies right-hand turn half-way, left-hand turn opposite man.|
|B1:||Ladies right-hand turn each other 1½ and give left to partner in a wave up & down. Balance the wave; left-hand turn ¾ and give right to corner in a wave across.|
|B2:||Balance; right-hand turn ¾ to waves up and down with the men in the middle. Balance; men turn ¾ to a wave across.|
|C1:||Balance; men step forward. Swing corner.|
|C2:||Promenade to the lady's place.|
|A1:||Heads balance and swing.|
|A2:||Heads forward and back. Head men left-hand turn half-way, right-hand turn opposite lady.|
|B1:||Men left-hand turn each other 1½, give right to partner in a wave up & down. Balance the wave; right-hand turn ¾ and give left to corner in a wave across.|
|B2:||Balance; left-hand turn ¾ to waves up and down with the ladies in the middle. Balance; ladies turn ¾ to a wave across.|
|C1:||Balance; ladies step forward. Swing corner.|
|C2:||Promenade to the man's place.|
I learnt this from Kathy Anderson and originally thought it was by her, but in fact it was published in August 1952 in “Let's Dance”, the magazine of Folk and Square Dancing — you can see the original at folkdance.com/LDMags/1952August.pdf page 15. Kathy made a few changes; I added back the initial balance and swing to make the figure up to 48 bars — Kathy calls unphrased squares so she wouldn't feel the need for that. I believe it was Kathy who added the second figure which is a mirror image of the first. If you've got good enough dancers you can walk through the first figure and then just throw the second figure at them.
I would do: Break, Figure 1 twice for the Heads, Break, Figure 1 twice for the Sides, Break, Figure 2 twice for the Heads, Break, Figure 2 twice for the sides, Break. If you really want to know, that makes 17 x 32 bar reels, but no band is going to want to be told that — just stop them when you've had enough!
|A1:||Heads promenade ¾ and roll away while sides go forward and back then double star through: first using the normal hand (man's right, lady's left) with your opposite, then the other hand with your original partner.|
|A2:||Do-si-do the outside two to a wave. Swing through (half a right-hand turn, ladies half a left-hand turn); pass through.|
|B1:||Centres do-si-do, outsides U-turn back. Centres double star through.|
|B2:||All pass through, balance and swing the next (corner).|
|Ladies have moved Right.|
In 2004 there was some discussion on the Traditional Dance Callers List about the figure “Double Star Through”, and people were wondering how to use it, so I came up with this choreography — with my usual approach of fitting MWSD figures to phrased music. People not used to Modern Western Square Dance will find this dance challenging.
|Ones balance and swing. Circle left with the twos. “Put your right hand up and make a wheel.” (Right hand on the right shoulder of the person in front of you in the circle) “Now turn around and grind that meal.” (Left hand on the left shoulder of the person now in front of you). “Take the hand that's on your shoulder — lift it up and lift it over” (lift it over your head to form a back ring). Ones raise joined arms in an arch, turn back to back with each other (but apart): man right, lady left and pull the other couple through. Circle left. Ladies chain across (to partner). Swing partner.|
|Ones repeat the figure with the threes, then with the fours, and everybody swing partner at home. Then a Break.|
|When each couple has led the figure, do it once for each in the whole circle: Ones, Twos, Break, Threes, Fours, Break. For twos and fours the set is reversed,:so the man needs to turn left and the lady right.- which is not what I'm saying on the video!|
I learnt this from Sandy Bradley many years ago and still love calling it. It's in Al Brundage's “Little Black Book” as “The Old Mill Wheel”.
People usually want to turn back to back with each other and then raise their joined arms, which is physically impossible. Make sure the arching couple keep their elbows bent, and allow them to let go if things get too intense, or you may have an injury on your hands.
This is on my list of “Dances for a mixed crowd” — dances that experienced dancers and newcomers alike will enjoy. When I was booked to call the Friday night dance at Glen Echo in 2015 I was given a long list of things I could and could not do, including the fact that a square in the first half should have a simple repetitive figure. But the hot-shots there couldn't cope with it. I had to go down on the floor and sort several sets out, and I had to walk it through again for the twos — something I've never done before. So I'm pleased to report that in 2016 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at a dance advertised as “English country & contras & squares, no experience required”, all the squares got through it with no more than the usual amount of trouble — as you can see by clicking the image on the right.
Observe your corner!
|A1:||Heads do-si-do. Swing.|
|A2:||Head ladies chain across. Heads promenade half-way.|
|B1:||Heads lead right — in the walkthrough make sure they finish in a column, facing corner. Right-hand star with the sides. Heads to the middle with a left-hand star.|
|B2:||Pick up corner, star promenade. Middles back out, ends move in, to wheel 1½.|
|C1:||The others, right-hand star promenade. Open up, circle left.|
|C2:||Men swing the nearest lady (your corner — the one you've been with). Promenade to the man's place.|
|Ladies have moved Right.|
Adapted by Bob Dalsemer from a singing call. Madeleine Smith added an A1 of Bow and swing. I modified this to do-si-do and swing, and provided a title. The Folk Process in action! Trevor Monson disputes the title because he says there are only four stars; he considers the left-hand star for four people to be the same as the star promenade for eight people. What can I say?!
|A1:||Heads circle left ¾, pass through. Do-si-do to a wave.|
|A2:||Spin chain through. [Right-hand turn half-way, men left-hand turn ¾ to a wave across, middle men (sides) right-hand turn half-way, all the men left-hand turn ¾ to make waves with the ladies who have not moved while the men were strutting their stuff.] (12 steps); balance the wave.|
|[If they're slow, leave the balance to B1.]|
|B1:||Swing through [half a right-hand turn, ladies half a left-hand turn] and swing the next (corner).|
|B2:||Circle left till men get home. In to the middle and back.|
|Ladies have moved Right.|
Another dance put together to use a Modern Western Square Dance figure, Spin Chain Through.
|A1:||Heads circle left ¾, pass through. Do-si-do outside two.|
|A2:||Veer left, wheel and deal to face. Right and left through.|
|B1:||Dive through, middle ladies chain (sides), pass through.|
|B2:||Swing corner. Short promenade.|
|Ladies have moved Right.|
And another. Wheel and Deal from two-faced line: all step forward and wheel in as a couple to face the other couple from your line. There's a more complicated version of Wheel and Deal from a normal line, where the two couples do different things.
|A1:||Heads swing. Lead to the right, circle to a line, then the head men let go and finish in home place.|
|A2:||Lines of three forward and back. Pass through, turn right, single file ¼ to head place while head men pass through.|
|B1:||At the heads, right-hand star not quite once around. Ladies chain across, to partner.|
|B2:||Side lines forward and back. Right and left through.|
|C1:||Cross trail through. Swing corner.|
|C2:||Promenade ¾, to the man's place.|
|Ladies have moved right.|
Each year in November I call a “House Party” weekend organised by Mike and Gill Swash, now held at The Paddocks Hotel in Symonds Yat. It's always a great weekend, and the few not-so-good dancers are swamped (if that's the right word) by the good dancers so I can call lots of tricky stuff.
Possibly the trickiest move in this dance is the ladies chain: make sure it goes across when the heads are leading the figure, and up and down when the sides are leading.
|A1:||Heads basket, sides promenade all the way.|
|A2:||Sides basket, heads promenade all the way.|
|B1:||Heads right and left through. Sides do-si-do opposite, heads fall back from partner to ends of side lines.|
|B2:||Lines forward and back. Cross over.|
|C1:||All four ladies chain. And back.|
|C2:||Promenade to the man's place. Swing — see if you can merge from the swing into the basket.|
|Breaks 1 & 2:|
|A1:||Circle left. Do-si-do corner.|
|A2:||Circle right. Do-si-do partner.|
|B1:||Allemande left corner, grand chain.|
|B2:||Promenade to the man's place. Swing.|
|A1:||Circle right. Do-si-do corner.|
|A2:||Circle left. Do-si-do corner again.|
|B1:||Do-si-do partner. Swing partner.|
|B2:||All eight basket.|
First called on New Year's Eve 1992. For heaven's sake, don't walk through the breaks! The final one is designed to fool them, and it's totally pointless if you've walked it through. Have some faith in your dancers!
|A1:||Heads forward and back. Right-hand star.|
|[Note: All the stars are hands-across rather than pack-saddle.]|
|A2:||With the sides, half a left-hand star; in the middle, half a right-hand star. At the sides half a left-hand star; in the middle half a right-hand star.|
|B1:||Allemande left your corner, give right to your partner, balance forward & back. Box the gnat; pull by.|
|B2:||Swing your corner. Promenade to the man's place.|
Ladies have moved Right.
Second of four written on a train from New York to Boston
|A1:||Head ladies chain across. Heads promenade half-way, then move forward to a wave across.|
|A2:||Balance the wave, swing through, pass through, separate, round one to the middle of side lines.|
|B1:||Lines forward and back. All circle left half-way.|
|B2:||Swing new partner (original corner). Promenade to the man's place.|
Swing through is half a right-hand turn and then the middles (in this case the men) half a left-hand turn, but make sure they form the wave at the end of it or the pass through tends to be in random directions!
Circle left - - (Note - this is sung, not spoken before the line of music starts!)
Yes, the music's fine, like sparkling wine, go and allemande left.
Box the gnat - -
Do a wrong-way grand going hand-over-hand till you meet again.
Then do-si-do, and after that box the gnat and then you promenade.
So darlin', save the last dance for me, mmmm.
Heads you swing - -
While the sides pass through, separate, go round two to a line of four.
Forward eight - -
Come on back, roll away, and the men pass left to a hey for four.
But don't forget who's taking you home, just swing this one then promenade.
So darlin', save the last dance for me, mmmm.
TAG (last eight bars repeated)
(spoken) Swing your partner. (sung) Save the last dance for me.
Ladies have moved Right.
To find out why I wrote this one, see my section on Writing Singing Squares
|A1:||Heads right and left through, then roll away. Sides right and left through.|
|A2:||All circle left till head men are home. Same-sex partner do-si-do. Men are in head place, ladies in side place.|
|B1:||Heads (that's the men) lead to the right and circle left; head men break to side lines. Lines forward and back.|
|B2:||Middles (original sides) pass through, handy-hand turn corner, middles swing partner and again finish in the middle of side lines.|
|C1:||Lines forward, middles roll away as you fall back. Swing the next (original corner, beside you in your line) — again finish in side lines.|
|C2:||Across the set, right and left through. All four ladies chain.|
|D1:||Promenade to the man's place (just over once around).|
|D2:||In to the middle and back. Swing new partner.|
|Ladies have moved Left.|
Written while visiting my cousin Anne in Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire. While I was writing it, Anne was actually in Shipston Square (officially called High Street) handing out leaflets protesting about planned changes to the town. We had been to an excellent Alcester Contra Dance the night before, and for some reason the B2 part of this dance struck me as a good move. I then wrote the other 56 bars to get people into the correct position and then on to progressed position.
Make sure people know who their corner is at the start of each turn of the dance — usually a good idea!
Suggested Break (not involving a grand chain)
|A1:||(Nothing for four bars). Honour partner; honour corner.|
|A2:||Circle left. Circle right.|
|Middle and close:|
|B1:||All four ladies chain. And back.|
|B2:||Promenade (or allemande left corner, swing partner).|
|A1:||All circle left half-way. Heads forward and back.|
|A2:||Heads lead right, circle to a line. Lines forward and back.|
|B1:||Allemande left your corner, give right to your partner; balance forward and back. Grand chain half-way.|
|B2:||Allemande right partner, give left to corner; balance forward and back. Swing corner (in man's home place).|
Written to fit the tune which I had thought was by Jimmy Shand, though I've now found it in an American book published in 1918 when he would only have been ten years old! The allemandes are quick — bend your arms and give plenty of weight — so that you are there to balance on the right bit of music.
|First couple out to the right and circle four hands round.|
|“Three ladies chain”: Ones and twos do a ladies chain — first man doesn't do a courtesy turn but chains second lady with the fours, receives fourth lady, immediately chains her to second man and gets his partner back.|
|On to the next and circle four, and two ladies chain [just across].|
|On to the last and circle four, and three ladies chain once more.|
|A1:||Head ladies chain across; side ladies chain across. Head ladies chain back.|
|A2:||Heads lead right and circle left, head gents break to side lines. Lines forward and back.|
|B1:||Do-si-do opposite. Pass through, wheel and deal.|
|B2:||Double pass through, centres in, cast off three-quarters (with same sex). Lines forward and back.|
|C1:||Star through, Pass through, swing the next (orig. R H L).|
|C2:||Promenade to the man's place.|
|Ladies have moved Left.|
Several Modern Western figures in a row, and they need to be done quickly.
Wheel and Deal: Left-hand couple step forward, all wheel in to about turn so that the couples who were in a line are now one behind the other, the original right-hand couple in front.
Double pass through: All pass two people right shoulder (not weaving right and left).
Centres in: Centres squeeze in between the leading couple and take an elbow hold with their same-sex neighbour.
Cast off three-quarters: Ends gate the centres forward and round ¾ to form lines.
|A1:||Heads take inside hand with partner and set to opposite couple moving forward; turn single. Two-hand turn opposite and open out to face the nearer side couple.|
|A2:||All set moving forward; turn single. Two-hand turn opposite (new partner) and face this person in head columns.|
|B1:||In each column, half a hey. At each end, right-hand star ¾, so that your new partner is now beside you in the other column — ease out of the star to use up the music.|
|B2:||All that again, finishing in original columns.|
|C1:||Gypsy right new partner. Gypsy left previous partner, and the next move starts better if the men finish with their backs to the centre of the set.|
|C2:||Take ballroom hold with new partner and waltz round the set, to the lady's place.|
|Twice for head couples, then twice for side couples.|
Written for Eric Black and Diane Zingale, who bought the dance at the Pinewoods auction during English-American Week 2000. They asked for an English-style waltz, with something of the feeling of “Irish Lamentation” which I had called earlier in the week — extremely flirtatious, smooth and flowing, with eye contact and gypsies, which would be suitable at a public dance for experienced dancers. My interpretation of Irish Lamentation starts with two lots of set, turn single and two-hand turn, so this seemed an obvious starting-point, and I chose a square so that the similarities would not simply become plagiarism. I called it during the final evening dance.
|A:||Circle left one quarter; two-hand turn corner half-way. Circle left exactly one quarter; two-hand turn the next corner half-way and square the set with this person. [Men have moved one place right, ladies left.]|
|B:||New heads lead in while sides set to current partner; heads lead original partner out to side place (right hand in right might be an idea) while sides cast to head place. All give right hand to partner: balance forward and back; change places turning the lady under. [All home.]|
|C:||Facing partner, two chassées forward diagonally right (men out, ladies in); two forward diagonally left, to face the next person (new partner) 45°round the square. Back-to-back.|
|D:||Waltz to the man's original place.|
|Ladies have moved left.|
Repeat the dance for the heads, then twice for the sides.
I wrote this in 2002 for Maggie Hosking, and first called it at her 50th Birthday Dance with Keeping Thyme playing the music. Maggie and her husband Dick are both beautiful dancers, and both very keen on waltzing, so it seemed an obvious idea. When Peter Barnes published the tune in the second volume of his English Country Dance Tunes I thought I had better make the instructions available!
|A1:||(16 bars): First couple right-hand turn moving in to the centre. With the nearer side couple, left-hand stars of three people.|
|Head couples right-hand star. Heads two-hand turn this opposite person and open out to face the nearer side couple.|
|A2:||Heys for four across, starting right shoulder with corner (one bar per change).|
|Middles full figure eight through this side couple, finishing home.|
|B1:||(16 bars): Ones cross right shoulder, go round outside one person, cross left shoulder in the middle of the set, go round the next person, and finish on the end of a line with the threes facing up.|
|Lead up two waltz steps; fall back one waltz step and then bring the ends in to form a circle in the centre of the set. Circle left all the way, then turn left to face corner.|
|B2:||Gipsy left corner. Gipsy right partner in home place.|
|Take ballroom hold with partner and waltz ¾ round the square, finishing one place to the left of original place.|
Repeat the dance three more times, with a new first couple leading each time.
This needs an English waltz step, with the first step bigger than the second and third, rather than an American waltz step which has three equal length steps, or you'll think there's too much music for some of the moves.
I called this at Eastbourne Folk Festival in 2013 with a group of very experienced dancers and they made a real mess of it! Two warnings from them:
It's easy to go too far with the very first move and turn 1½ instead of just once.
The figures of eight are no problem in the walk-through, where I tell people to make sure they finish the heys where they started them and then the middles are facing the couple they're about to do the figure eight through. But in the dance itself the outsides aren't standing there like posts; they're just finishing the hey. The result was that several middle couples got disorientated, didn't quite finish the hey, then turned back to do the figure eight through the couple behind them. And I work so hard to make my dances flow!
The tune and dance are dedicated to the lovely Susan St Germain (formerly Susan Murrow), who is now officially American but was English for her formative years and knows how to make a proper cup of tea! We have given each other plenty of Tea and Sympathy over the last few years. Susan has also served as the “tea lady” at several Pinewoods English weeks. The three-handed stars in A1 are known to Scottish dancers as “tea-pots”.
|A:||All lead partner forward a double and back. Head men half a reel of three with partner and corner (so that the ladies end in each other's places and the men are home).|
|All lead new corner (who may or may not be your original partner) forward and back. Side men half a reel of three left shoulder with current corner and partner.|
|All two-hand turn current partner (this is your shadow — your original opposite — you meet the same person at this point in all three figures). Ladies circle left half-way (home), acknowledge partner.|
|B1:||Heads lead in (2 steps), two-hand turn opposite half-way (4 steps), pass partner by (2). Circle with the sides, all the way.|
|Half reels of four across set. Sides make a single-handed arch, heads lead through and separate to meet partner (all opposite home position and improper).|
|B2:||Sides lead in, two-hand turn opposite half-way, face partner and pass by. Circle with the heads, all the way.|
|Half reels of four up and down. Heads arch, sides lead through and separate to meet partner (home).|
|A:||All side right shoulder with partner. Head ladies half a reel of three with partner and corner (so that the men end in each other's places and the ladies are home).|
|Side left with new corner. Side ladies half a reel of three left shoulder with current corner and partner.|
|All two-hand turn shadow. Ladies circle left half-way, acknowledge partner (all opposite home position).|
|B1:||Men move in four steps and turn right to face partner; all cross right with partner to finish in a cross formation. Ladies poussette the men out 4 steps; back again.|
|Ladies give right hands: star promenade half-way (men on the outside). Men left-hand star half-way, to finish back in opposite position (with shadow) while the ladies stay in home position.|
|B2:||Ladies in four steps and turn left to face shadow; all cross left with shadow to finish in a cross formation. Men poussette the ladies out 4 steps; back again.|
|Men give left hands: star promenade half-way. Ladies right-hand star half-way (all home).|
|A:||Arm right. Three changes of a circular hey without hands, and face number four (on the diagonal).|
|Arm left. Three changes starting left shoulder with this person.|
|All two-hand turn shadow. Ladies circle left half-way, acknowledge partner (all one place to the left of home position).|
|B1:||Men cast left shoulder one place, ladies right-hand star half-way; left-hand turn corner half-way. Men right-hand star half-way, ladies move one place anti-clockwise; left-hand turn partner (not very far) into a square (opposite home position).|
|Back-to-back corner. Circle left half-way (home).|
|B2:||Ladies cast right shoulder one place, men left-hand star half-way; right-hand turn corner half-way. Ladies left-hand star half-way, men move one place clockwise; right-hand turn partner (not very far) into a square (one place to the right of home position).|
|Back-to-back partner. Circle left home (4 steps); step right and honour partner.|
My first dance sparked off by the attempted closure of Cecil Sharp House was Save the House. This one was a later work — a complex dance in the style of those published by John Playford in the 17th century. Many Playford dances are named after famous houses of the period: “Hunsdon House”, “Cottey House”, “Well-Hall”, “Buckingham House” (better known as “Chelsea Reach”), “Apley House” and so on. I decided to write a dance dedicated to my favourite House. It was first danced at a Playford Ball at Cecil Sharp House in November 1987, as a result of which the interval was delayed twenty minutes — it turned out harder than I expected!
I've put in bold text the words which I find I need to emphasise when calling the dance. The first two introductions seem to cause major problems. There are plenty of dances in square formation, and plenty of dances with half a reel of three, but putting the two together is highly unusual. The main problem is getting the two people not involved in the reels to stand still!
A record called “Cecil Sharp House” was published by the Friends in 1988. As well as the two dances mentioned it contained the wind quintet version of one of my best-known dances, “Unrequited Love”, though this version was not designed for dancing to.
|Pawns (who move forwards but capture diagonally) — danced in canon with a 4-bar interval.|
|A1:||Heads lead forward a double to meet; ladies pass left shoulder (2 steps), men pass right shoulder — stay facing in original direction. Lead out to opposite place improper while sides start the sequence; turn left and go single file to that corner position.|
|A2:||Heads move in on the diagonal, still single file with lady in the lead, hey with the other couples to get past them (ladies passing right shoulder to start). Loop right to finish in partner's place; two-hand turn half-way (home). Meanwhile sides are continuing in canon, so they get home after four bars of the next phrase of music.|
|Knights (who move two squares in one direction and then one at right angles to this) — danced in canon with an 8-bar interval.|
|B1:||Head men move forward a double until just past each other; two chassées right to pass each other back-to-back. Forward a double and two chassées left (to opposite lady's original place but facing out) while head ladies move forward a double until just past each other and then two chassées left to pass each other back-to-back.|
|B2:||Head men cast left shoulder to finish just behind their home place while head ladies move forward a double and two chassées right (to opposite man's original place but facing out) while side men start the sequence. Head ladies cast right shoulder to finish home while side ladies start the sequence — side ladies get home at the end of the next musical phrase, in time to start the next sequence. (Men move forward to their place once the lady has vacated it.)|
|Rooks (Castles) (who move rapidly up-and-down or across)|
|A1:||Heads set to partner; ones give two hands and slip across to threes' place while threes slip outside ones to ones' place. Heads set; slip back, threes between ones.|
|A2:||Sides repeat, twos (on left of ones) going through first.|
|Bishops (who move rapidly on a diagonal)|
|B1:||Head men point right shoulders at each other and slip across into each other's place passing back-to-back; head ladies same. Side men; side ladies.|
|B2:||All that again, but left shoulder this time.|
|Queens (who move rapidly in all directions)|
|A1:||Half a grand square: sides fall back from partner and then move in to meet opposite while heads lead in with partner and fall back to side place. At top and bottom, half a straight (or rather semicircular) hey for four (skip or skip-change step) started by current heads passing right shoulder with current partner.|
|A2:||All that again from these positions, finishing home.|
|Kings (who move one square in any direction)|
|B1:||First man move forward a single, second; third, fourth. First man fall back as his corner (fourth lady) moves forward, second; third, fourth, then ladies turn a quarter left, men right.|
|B2:||Two singles forward (one into line left shoulder, one to pass); two chassées left. Two singles backward; two chassées right and honour partner.|
David Woolf, the sound man at Buffalo Gap in 2004, was a mass of talents. He would dance when needed, and he also had a chess board permanently available for people to play with him. Then at the Show and Tell he produced a hammered dulcimer and played a stunning piece of music which defies description. At the end it had a part for five sopranos and it was just an amazing sound. It comes from a CD called Hymnody Of Earth by Malcolm Dalglish and you can hear extracts and order the CD or score from oooliticmusic.com. One of the men told me afterwards that he'd stood up after hearing it and suddenly collapsed in floods of tears. And then in the evening I discovered that David is an excellent contra caller.
I put “a dance and tune to your specification” into the auction, and Carol MacAdam bid the most for it — I wrote her a contra dance called Princeton's Silver Lining. Then David asked if I was willing to do a second commission. He paid CDSS the same amount, and he wanted an English Dance based on the moves of chess! I'm glad I didn't have to come up with that in time for the Show and Tell. He was talking about people as castles moving horizontally, people as bishops moving diagonally, pawns getting to the far row and being promoted to queens — the mind boggled!! Eventually I sent him this, but I don't know whether he's ever danced it — it's not something your average dancers or caller would cope with.
|A1:||Lead partner in three steps and back; set to partner. Back-to-back; two-hand turn half-way and face the next.|
|A2:||The same with this person, and face the next (original opposite) one quarter round the square.|
|B:||Give right hand: grand chain half-way round. Right-hand turn the same person. (B and C are all danced with a skip-change step.)|
|C:||Head men pass left shoulder: heads reel of four half-way. Head men look right and pass this side man left shoulder: diagonal reels of four half-way so the ladies are home and the men are opposite their home place.|
|A1:||Side right shoulder to right; set to this partner. Back-to-back; two-hand turn half-way and face the next.|
|A2:||The same left with this person, to face original partner.|
|B:||Grand chain half-way. Right hand turn.|
|C:||Side men pass left shoulder: sides reel of four half-way. Side men look right and pass this head man left shoulder: diagonal reels of four half-way so all are home.|
|A1:||Arm right; set to partner. Back-to-back; two-hand turn all the way and stay facing partner.|
|A2:||The same left.|
|B:||Grand chain half-way. Right hand turn partner.|
|C:||(Interlocking reels): All four men left-hand star half-way (but without hands), pass opposite right shoulder, ladies left-hand star half-way, two-hand turn partner 1¼ into home place.|
First danced at John Felton's Retirement Dance in June 2012, with music from Contradition.
I've known John and Liz Felton since before they were married, and having three children never stopped them dancing; I remember carrying each of the kids in turn down a longways set at Cecil Sharp House so that John and Liz could dance with each other and the child was still close to Mum and Dad. I wrote Mrs Felton's Maggot for Liz's 50th birthday dance, and in 2012 she commissioned me to write a dance to celebrate John's retirement.
The symbolism is that John starts off at home with Liz but his work takes him all over the place; he dances with strange women, takes up Scottish dancing, and at the end of the first figure Liz is left at home while John is at the other end of Britain! In the second figure he decides that now the kids have all left home it's safe to take early retirement, and comes back. In the third figure he stays with Liz and doesn't dance with any other women.
The dance is deliberately a mixture of Playford and Scottish styles; the three Playford introductions are walked to a triple-time Strathspey (not many of those around!) and the second half is all danced to a skip-change step. When you're setting in three-time there's no bounce; it's simply a smooth right-left-right, left-right-left. I found that many dancers (particularly in The States) do right-left-pause, left-right-pause and that's not what I want; I want a change of weight on each beat.