BackSicilian Circle Dances

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Behind You!        Print this danceTop of page

Format: Sicilian Circle.     Dance: Colin Hume, 1990.     Music: 40 bar American reels

A1:Ladies right-hand turn.  Do-si-do the man behind you.
A2:In these new fours, men right-hand turn.  Do-si-do the lady behind you (original opposite — all now in original places).
B1:In original four, ladies chain across.  Promenade ¾.
B2:Face this person (now in progressed position): grand chain 3 hands around the two big circles.  Swing number 4.
C:Promenade ¾.  Flutter wheel.

It's a reverse triple progression.  But dancers (in England at any rate) probably wouldn't want to know that and wouldn't worry about it; they'd just accept that they finished facing in their original direction with their original partner.  Just don't ask them to go back after two walkthroughs!

The Birthday Waltz        The Birthday Waltz: Music in PDF/MIDI/MP3/ABC formatPrint this danceTop of page   Added 12-Oct-23

Format: Sicilian Circle.     Dance: Colin Hume, 1996: Dances with a Difference, Volume 4.
Music: Own tune: 40 bar waltz

A:Back-to-back opposite.  Circle left half-way; pass through to meet another couple.
B:The same in this direction, to end facing original opposite.
C:Right-hand turn opposite three quarters; men left-hand turn half-way.  Give right hand to partner (men let go of each other), balance forward and back; box the gnat (change places turning the lady under) to finish in a column with the men on the outside.
D:Reel of four (start passing opposite right shoulder, and I suggest you start with your left foot).
E:Waltz around this couple (1¼) and on to the next.

I was going to use “Happy Birthday to You” for the waltz-on in the last eight bars, but discovered it was still in copyright!  However, the two tunes will fit together so you can certainly sing one while the band plays the other.

Christmas WaltzesBarrie Bullimore suggests using 32-bar Christmas tunes, with an extra eight bars of “We wish you a Merry Christmas” and retitling it “The Christmas Waltz”.  He got the idea from a recording by the Greensleeves Band in exactly this format.  My suggestions are: “The Holly and the Ivy”, “Silent Night”, “We Three Kings of Orient are”, “Away in a Manger” and “The First Nowell” — some work better than others!

If I had Maggie in the Wood        If I had Maggie in the Wood: Music in PDF/MIDI/MP3/ABC formatPrint this danceTop of page   Recordings

Format: Sicilian Circle.     Dance: Colin Hume, 1981.  Music: Traditional Irish polka.
A1:Ladies chain across.  Circle left half-way; the couple with the man on the inside make a single-handed arch with (new) partner and all move on to the next couple.
A2:Same.  [Original men are back together, but with two new ladies.]
B1:Right-hand star.  Do-si-do opposite, and stay facing that way.
B2:Pass through; balance once to current partner.  Swing.

There are very few mixers in Sicilian Circle formation, so I decided to write one.  This was inspired by Peter Jenkins of Kafoozalum Country Dance Band who picked up the tune from a Chieftains album and started playing it all over the place.  It's a traditional Irish polka, but any up-tempo reel will work.

The words of the song start:

If I had Maggie in the wood
I'd do her all the good I could
If I had Maggie in the wood
I'd keep her there till morning.

Fortunately Kafoozalum only knew the first four lines.

For the dancers to end with their original partner (if no-one has gone wrong), start as normal, but after the first arch continue to dip and dive round the set; you should all meet your partners at the same time.  Or instead of the first arch, go forward and back, then grand chain in 2 concentric circles.

Knitting Pattern        Print this danceTop of page

Format: Sicilian Circle.
Dance: Audrey Laver, 1986.     Music: 40 bar jigs (e.g. The Waggle o' the Kilt)

A1:All gipsy right with opposite.  Ladies do-si-do right shoulder while men dance around them clockwise to change places.
A2:Men do-si-do right shoulder while ladies dance around them clockwise to change places.  Two changes of a circular hey with hands, men finish facing in the opposite direction to their original one (looking at the man from the set behind), while ladies face each other across own set.
B1:Interlocking reels of four: All go right shoulder round the one you are facing (same sex), pass partner by the left shoulder, go right shoulder round the next (same sex — ladies with the lady from the set behind, men with the man in your own set), meet your partner.
A3:Left-hand turn partner [twice if preferred].  Ladies chain across, with an extra half turn to face in your original direction and meet a new couple.
 If you prefer a more leisurely version, leave out the courtesy turn at the end of the ladies' chain and face the new couple immediately.

Malarkey        Print this danceTop of page

Format: Sicilian Circle.     Dance: Colin Hume, 2000.     Music: 32 bar hornpipes

A1:Right-forearm turn opposite (step-hop) twice and a bit more, and move on to the next.  Left-forearm turn twice and a bit more, and move on to the next.
A2:Right-hand star (1-2-3-hop).  Left-hand star.
B1:Single file to the right in two big circles (men in the lead, ladies following opposite).  And back.
B2:Do-si-do partner.  Cross-hand swing (or better, give a right-forearm hold and then join left hands above or below to keep in closer and allow you to control the swing better).

Dedicated to the band Malarkey, led by Chris Jewell.  I know Chris gets fed up with playing a whole evening of set tunes chosen by the caller (even though he does an excellent job of this).  Most bands have their own tunes which they would like to play, and the caller should take notice of the fact.  Chris Jewell plays melodeon, fiddle, keyboard and accordion, and plays them well — he had a reputation at Folk Camps for playing Levi Jackson Rag on melodeon.  When I ring him before a dance to give him my programme, and then ask him what he wants to play, he always suggests a set of hornpipes.  So here's a dance to hornpipe rhythm, and I'm not going to write a tune for it or he won't be able to play his own favourite set.  You need a bit of oomph to get the arm turns twice around and on to the next in four bars of music.  Make sure you use up all the music for the right-hand star, and then you can go straight from the left-hand star into the single file without having time to face in and get confused.

Nottingham Swing Sicilian        Paddy McGinty's Goat: Music in PDF/MIDI/MP3/ABC formatPrint this danceTop of page

Format: Sicilian Circle.     Dance: Jovial Beggars.     Music: 16 bar hornpipes

A:Right-forearm turn opposite (step-hop) once and a bit more, and move on to the next.  Left-forearm turn once and a bit more, and move on to the next.  All that again.
B:Ones (the couple with the man on the outside) give two hands and do two chassées through the twos as they Chassé outside the ones, and back; ones cast round the twos who lead through them.  All cross-hand swing.

Created by the Jovial Beggars display team as an adaptation of the traditional Nottingham Swing for display purposes.  You've really got to move to fit the A part to the music, and why not — it's a display dance!  For another of their display dances, see Dorset Twelve-Hand Reel.  Now you can see where I got the first move in Malarkey from!  See also the page on Display Dance.

A Ruby Celebration        A Ruby Celebration: Music in PDF/MIDI/MP3/ABC formatPrint this danceTop of page   Added 12-Jul-23

Format: Sicilian Circle.     Dance and Music: Ellen Taylor, 1982

A:Right-hand star.  Left-hand star.
B:Give right hand to opposite: balance forward and back; change places turning the lady under.  Repeat with partner.
C:Men cross left and turn left; ladies cross right and turn right.  Repeat all this (interlocking ellipses).
D:Couples (alread progressed) waltz once around each other.

Music and dance composed for Eileen and Philip Bloy on the occasion of their Ruby wedding.

Sicilian Figures        Print this danceTop of page

Compiled by: Colin Hume, around 1984

Format: Sicilian circle.  Music: 32 bar jigs/reels

First sequence
A1:Circle left.  Circle right.
A2:Ladies chain over and back.
B1:Balance and swing partner.
B2:Forward and back.  The couple with the inside man arch: move on to the next couple.
Second sequence
A1:Do-si-do partner.  Do-si-do opposite.
A2:Right and left through, and back.
B1:Balance and swing partner.
B2:Forward and back.  Inside man arch: move on.
Third sequence
A1:Do-si-do opposite.  Swing opposite — finish in each other's place.
A2:Do-si-do partner.  Swing partner — finish in each other's place.
B1:Right-hand star.  Left-hand star.
B2:Promenade all the way round this couple, and on to the next.  Forward and back.

Nothing particularly original in all this, but useful for teaching figures.  I got the idea from Brenda Godrich when we were running the “Beginners” sessions at Cecil Sharp House.  You teach the first sequence and dance that say five times.  Then the second.  Then the third, and at that point you keep the music going and bring back the first two sequences, first as learnt, then with variations.  It teaches the basic figures, it's fun, and people rise to the challenge of coping with the same figures in a different order.

When I started dancing the standard was “Put the lady back where you found her” after a swing, and this was how the old contras worked.  But in modern contra dancing you always finish a swing with the lady on the right, so I put together the third sequence to reflect this — you also get to swing people other than your partner, which is useful.

Sicilian Switchback        Print this danceTop of page

Dance: John Wood of Chingford, London.  Music: 3 x 40-bar reels or jigs.
From the book Dance Search.
Format: Sicilian circle.

A1:With the couple in front, right-hand star.  With the couple behind, left-hand star.
A2:With the original couple, ladies chain over and back.
B1:Back-to-back with contrary.  Back-to-back with partner.
A3:Face diagonally left and change places left shoulder with the person of the same sex; face straight across and change places right shoulder with the person of the opposite sex (new partner).  [You should still be facing the same contrary.]  Balance once to contrary; pass through right shoulder.
B2:Two-hand turn the one you meet.  Balance once to this one; pass through.

Third Prize in the Dance Search '86 Competition.

John Wood is the only person who managed to get two dances into the “top twelve” which were tried out (anonymously) on the night of the Dance Search competition.  The other one is My Lady Dark Eyes

Spanish Dance  

Teesside Chase        Print this danceTop of page

Dance: Rev. John B.  Wilcox.  Music: 32-bar reels
From the book Dance Search.
Format: Becket Sicilian Circle.  [One couple on inside, one on outside]

A1:Ladies chain over and back.
A2:All pass through, turn right, men chase partner single file round the big circle (skip-change).  All turn right-about, chase back till level with the original couple, men do a quick left-hand turn half-way into the opposite circle to finish behind a new partner who beckons him to follow.
B1:Ladies keep going in the same direction, men chase your new partner single file round the circle.  All turn right-about and chase back past your original partner to the next couple (all to a skip-change step).  [Men go past the man you were with and give right hands to the next, and ladies join the star of the man in front of you.]
B2:Make a right-hand star, balance in and out twice.  Star once around, then ladies keep hold and men cast out to begin again with the ladies chain.

Progression: Men progress one place to the left, starting the dance each time from the same circle (either inner or outer).  Ladies progress to the right and into the opposite circle, so next time this brings them back to their original place (opposite the original lady) but with a new partner.

John suggests reels where the notes chase closely after each other both in the scale and in quick succession, such as “Aly Crocker” and “Lord Saltoun” or “Up Jumped the Devil”, “Fred Roden's Reel” and “Flop-Eared Mule”.

Under New Management        Under New Management: Music in PDF/MIDI/MP3/ABC formatPrint this danceTop of page   Recordings

Dance and Music: Colin Hume.  Published 1990.
Format: Sicilian circle.

A1:Do-si-do opposite.  Right-hand turn opposite three-quarters, men left-hand turn half-way, right-hand turn partner half-way to finish in a column (like spokes of a wheel) with the ladies back to back.
A2:Keeping right hands joined, balance forward and back; long swing (6 bars).
B1:Lead forward to the other couple; fall back.  Circle left.
B2:Ladies chain across.  Ladies cross left shoulder; men cross right shoulder, and turn your back on this couple to start again with the next.

I was thinking what a good dance Brian Jones's “Escort to Leicester” is, although you hardly see your partner, and this dance suddenly appeared.  It has a similar start, but you dance with your partner more of the time.