Figures and Steps
The tricky part in a hey (of any number) is what to do at the end. People say that you alternate right and left shoulders, but that's not entirely true: if you pass left shoulder going out, the other dancers are sneakily passing right shoulder while you're not looking, so you need to come in with the same left shoulder you went out with. Some people feel insecure as soon as there's no-one in view so they immediately spin round. This presents two problems: they try to get back in too soon, and they have a choice of shoulders! Both of these are solved by doing a big loop at the end. If you've come out passing left shoulder you do a big loop to your left, and automatically you will come in left shoulder again.
A hey for four may be easier than a hey for three, because you loop the same way at both ends. If you're in a column of four with the insides facing the outsides, you always pass right shoulder on the ends and left in the middle, and you always loop to your right when you reach the end. Stress the principle: make a big loop when you reach the end. And if all else fails make sure you finish it where you started it. There are plenty of American contras involving half a hey for four — usually across the set though sometimes on the diagonal — but make sure people are confident with a complete hey before introducing them to a partial one.
Remind them that they're dancing with people, not chess pieces, so “look at them as you pass them by” — this is social interaction, not a mathematical puzzle! In American contras you'll find some people spin the “wrong” way when they reach the end, and that's fine so long as they know what they're doing and come back in on time with the correct shoulder.
In Scottish it's called a reel. In American contra (and American English) it's called a hey. In England we use the terms interchangeably. Playford said “hey”, but you get traditional dances like the Dorset Four-Hand Reel.
I find it best to take someone's place and demonstrate the hey slowly, talking it through as I do it. Point out that people are walking a large figure of eight; they're all walking the same track but they're at different points on it.
One thing to stress is all starting the hey at the same time. If the other two people start, it doesn't mean you stand still until you can guess which way to go: there shouldn't be an element of chance in this! If the other two start by passing right shoulder (which is normal) you start at the same time by moving out to your right, confident that you will then pass left shoulder with the person coming towards you.
If people are confused and looking worried, point out again that the most important thing is to finish the figure where you started it. In some dances (for instance the Playford dance “Chestnut”) you do half a hey for three, but that's rare.
For another way of teaching a hey for three, see: www.kickery.com/ 2016/05/teaching-the-hey-for-three.html
Scottish dances have lots of reels for three or four, sometimes on the diagonal, but the above rules still apply.
I remember once asking the dancers at a workshop why they weren't fitting it to the music, and getting the reply “no-one's ever told us how”. Of course, before they can think about fitting it to the music they need to be able to follow the track. Don't be afraid to spend the time necessary to teach a movement properly; it wastes more time in the long run if you don't. Start with the ones facing down and the threes facing up, both with inside hands joined, and the twos facing up slightly apart. Emphasise that you take your partner's hand at the ends and let go in the middle: “bulge in the middle” may get a laugh and therefore be remembered better. You may need to tell the threes not to let the ones get through them. Now set them going, and keep saying “Take your partner's hand at the end; let go in the middle”.
Once they're confident of the track you can look at the timing — though if they've struggled with the track it's probably best to do an easier dance next, and teach another dance involving a Grimstock hey later in the session. You can walk the track on your own, either singing the tune, or to the music, or maybe just counting. The dancers need to be aware that after four bars of music (eight walking steps) they should be in half-way positions. Now get them to try it to the music, and tell them each time: “You should be half-way now”; “You should be home now”. Many dancers seem to think it's good policy to keep a few steps ahead of the music; you need to let them know that being ahead is just as bad as being behind.
It's the same as a Grimstock hey except that instead of the ones leading down between the twos and then separating they cross down between the twos and then separate. You need to emphasise that the ones aren't crossing straight over, they're crossing down through the twos and then going outside the threes to finish at the bottom. They then continue as in a normal Grimstock hey, staying on the improper side — don't let them cross back as they come up even though they'll want to. Now they repeat the movement, so this time when they cross down they're on their own side, just as in a Grimstock hey. For the twos and threes it's two Grimstock heys without stopping.
See “Once a Night” with my suggestions for how to teach it.
I'm not covering Ricochet, Tandem or Dolphin heys, or Shetland Reel, or any others that I haven't thought of. If you want to use one of those just teach it in context; once people have got the hang of heys for three or four they shouldn't have too much trouble with these variations.
Occasionally a figure eight is not with the person beside or opposite you but with the person on the diagonal — the first corners or second corners of a longways set. In this case the rule to decide which shoulder to pass each time is “hug the post” — in other words get close to the stationary person you're about to go round.
|Right-hand turn neighbour 1¾, till men face in middle. Men left-hand turn 1½ to face partner.
|Hey for four.
|Balance and swing with partner.
|Right and left through. Circle left ¾, pass through.
Another contra which flows naturally into the hey. You need to bend your elbows and give some weight for the two turns (or allemandes as Americans would say) in A1. The Balance in B1 is optional — some people prefer a full 8-bar swing. Equally some people prefer a shorter swing, and since it's with your partner every time you can agree to do-si-do and swing or gipsy right and swing.
|Reel of four, passing partner right shoulder, all the way and another 5 changes, finishing the other side of the set with men facing in the middle, ladies behind their partner.
|Men step to each other, and turn round at the end.
|All step to partner.
Second time: reel with hands, and the ladies finish in the middle and step to each other first. Third time: dance, no hands. Fourth time: dance, with hands. Extra B: Swing partner.
A traditional English dance, though it could be traditional Scottish if Dorset weren't at the other end of the British Isles! On the other hand, dances travel around a lot, and this one was certainly very popular in the North-East (and probably the rest of the country) for most of the second half of the 20th century if not earlier. Is it really a Dorset dance? You can't trust the name — it may have travelled from the North-East to Dorset as just “The Four-Hand Reel”, been collected there and given a distinguishing name when this version was codified by EFDSS. Most people use the rant step for the stepping part, which may or may not be what they did in Dorset. I don't usually walk the whole 13 changes of the reel; I say “Imagine you've done a complete reel of four. Now do another five changes: pass your partner right, men pass left, opposite right, ladies left, partner right and stop — the men are facing each other, the ladies are behind your partner and you're on the opposite side of the set from where you started.” (And then wait until either they've agreed that's where they are or they've got there.) I'm not sure whether the stepping is supposed to impress or intimidate the other man — probably a bit of both. It really is eight bars of stepping; don't let the men turn round too soon. I don't usually walk through the rest of the dance; I just explain that at the end of the second turn they'll be back where they started but with the ladies facing each other in the centre. While the ladies are stepping to each other the men often “clap-clap-clap-pause” eight times. The music gradually speeds up, and goes up a key into the second tune as the whole dance is repeated but with a skip-change step. Encourage people to use the whole width of the room or they'll get there too soon — particularly the second and fourth times where they're giving hands. And it ends with everyone taking a ballroom hold and swinging their partner.
If anyone disputes this being originally a Scottish dance, here's a quote from “Traditional Dancing in Scotland” by the Fletts:
We note finally two variants of the foursome reel… Here the dancers began in line. facing their partners, with the ladies in the centre. The firs part of the dance was performed to strathspey tunes, and consisted of alternate reeling and setting, the dancers returning to their own places at the end of each reel of four. [In other versions you danced alternately with partner and contrary.] The second part was performed to reel tunes, and here the dancers performed the reel of four as before, but instead of setting to their partners, they swung each other with ordinary ballroom hold (in the clockwise direction only) using the pivot step.
Some people like to join two sets together so that the reels are done in a star formation. Some people may finish with a basket — that's the Folk Process in action. If you really want to get complicated, see Dorset Twelve-Hand Reel, though that's a display dance and not for the faint-hearted.dancevideos.childgrove.org/ contra/contra-modern/437-butter-by-gene-hubert-becket
An easy contra by Gene Hubert from 1990, but this time the hey starts from the side lines (as it does in most contras). In some dances the hey is started by the men passing left shoulder, which flows much better out of the swing, but ladies passing right shoulders is the standard. When you walk it through I suggest you miss out the slide at the start, otherwise two couples will be immediately out of the walkthrough. Don't explain what you're doing — it will just confuse people and they don't need to know! At the end of the walkthrough explain that they haven't progressed, but from the second time onwards you start by sliding left to meet the next couple. But make sure the slide is at the start of each turn of the dance; you don't want people cutting the swing short so that they can slide left at the end of the turn.
Source: Community Dance Manuals
Formation: 3 couples longways
Music: Own tune (rant)
|Hey on the sides (walked) — start right shoulder at the top.
|Hey on the sides (danced to a rant step).
|Shake right hands with partner 3 times, clap 3 times; same left. Same right; give right hands, change places.
|Step to partner.
Start the dance again on this side. Four times through is probably enough!
|First man go between the two ladies and pass the second lady right shoulder to start a reel of three on their side, all finishing where you started.
|First lady go between the two men: reel of three on their side.
|Right-hand star. Left-hand star.
|First corners cross; second corners cross. Circle left half-way; ones cast, twos lead up.
Here's a reel of three which doesn't start or finish in a line of three. The reels can be rather crowded, so if you're feeling brave you can suggest that as the first man crosses over to start the reel the first lady crosses over to his place and turns left so that the reel is on the diagonal. Similarly for the second reel the first man crosses over to his partner's place and turns right. B2 is a very standard finishing sequence to get the progression; make sure that the second corners cross right and turn right as this flows better into the circle. It's a good general principle that as you cross over with someone you look at them, which should automatically mean that when people cross right they turn right — but you'd be surprised! It actually flows better out of the left-hand star if the first corners cross left and turn left, but that may be too much for people who've been dancing Jack's Maggot for years.
Here's another dance with the same reels.
|First man hey with the two ladies.
|First lady hey with the two men.
|Ones cross, go below the twos; twos lead up. Ones half figure eight up through the twos, to progressed place.
|Four changes of a circular hey (with hands).
Cecil Sharp for some reason compresses B1 and B2 into a single B. This is my interpretation, though Mike Barraclough says he arrived at the same version and so did Pat Shaw in 1959. If you're using this version, make sure the music is played with two B's.
If the music is played with guts, encourage people to dance the reels — indeed some will dance the whole figure, as they would have done in Playford's day. Make sure they don't rush the four changes; they should be fitted to the music. It's not a race to get past one person and on to the next.
Some dancers (not those at The Round) are very dogmatic that the twos should not move up until the end of B1. This doesn't make sense to me. There are two separate moves. The ones cross and cast — where to? Surely to second place, so the twos had better not be there. If it were a triple minor and the twos didn't move up, the ones would bump into the stationary threes. And the purpose of a half figure eight is to change places with the other person, but if the twos are moving up at that point you're aiming at a moving target: you would start it in third place but finish in second place. I say more about this in my section on Dancing in a Set.
If you'd like to try a triple minor with heys, I recommend Key to the Cellar.barndances.org.uk/detail.php?Title=Cornish_Six-Hand_Reel
Author: John Searle, 1965
Formation: 3 Couples in a line of 6 across the hall, all facing down
Music: 3 x 64 bar marches — the suggested tune is “Cornish Quickstep”.
|Ones cast to middle place (8 steps); twos lead up. Circle left with the threes.
|Ones cast back; twos lead down. Circle left with the twos.
|Hey contrary sides.
|Hey own sides.
|Ones lead down (others stay still); cast up to middle. Lead up; cast to bottom, others lead up on last 4 steps.
In A1 the ones have eight steps for the ones to cast — so use all of them by moving up as you meet and then moving up and out to curve down the outside; the twos move up (or I always prefer lead up) in the last four beats. And then the dance springs into life with a slipped circle at the bottom. And the same in A2. I've explained the cross hey above, and as with a Grimstock hey you need to get people to fit it to the music. Finally, A3 is very busy, so get the ones to dance it rather than walk. They need to lead swiftly to the bottom, cast up one place (the twos only moving if they have to), lead to the top, and then in the last four beats the ones cast to the bottom as the others lead up one place. I sometimes sing it so that people know how little time they have: “Dubber-dy dubber-dy dum — boom”. (It sounds better when I sing it!)
The silly thing is, the cross hey doesn't actually appear in the original dance at all! The Apted Book editors say,
The original movement in B1 and B2 is a figure-eight by the first couple, the others standing still. The Editors consider that the hey is more interesting.
|Hey contrary sides.
|Hey own side.
|Right-hand star half-way at the top while the bottom couple left-hand turn half-way; left-hand star half-way at the bottom while the top couple right-hand turn half-way. All that again.
|And again. And a fourth time, to give a standard progression.
The only time you change hands is when you go from one star to another. Otherwise, just keep turning the way you're going. You have to stress this — people don't believe it! They expect to go from a right-hand star into a left-hand turn.
King's Parade is one of the main streets in Cambridge, where Hugh lives.
|Hey contrary sides.
|Hey own sides.
|Ones cross and cast; twos lead up. Ones 2-hand turn 1½.
|Twos the same.
|Ones, with the man crossing first, right-hand turn first corner (first man with third lady, first lady with second man), left-hand turn partner (twos move up).
|Right-hand turn second corner, left-hand turn partner (once) and the man flip round to the left to face the ladies.
|Ones lead through the ladies, separate, cast round one person. Two-hand turn 1½.
|Ones lead through the men, separate, cast round one person. Two-hand turn 1¼ to the bottom, as the threes cast up.
This one is much more popular in the States than in England. It may seem odd that the man goes first in A3 but he's got further to go. Note that one turn of the dance is twice through the tune (like Fandango), so it's risky to say “one more time” to the band.
|Hey contrary sides.
|Hey own side.
|Ones cross right hand; cast to second place (twos move up). Ones half figure eight up.
|Ones lead down, cast up to second place. All right-hand turn.
The heys are known in RSCDS circles as “Gates of Edinburgh Reels”, from the dance “The Gates of Edinburgh” published by David Rutherford in London in 1750
A Scottish “3 couples in a 4 couple set” is a very short triple minor — each couple leads the dance twice and then casts to the bottom. To convert it to a three couple set, just have the ones cast to the bottom while the others do the final right-hand turn. If any Scottish dancers tell you that's wrong, point out that it was originally a longways triple minor, in the days before “3 couples in a 4 couple set” had been invented. They probably won't know what you're talking about though!
Here's the only simple dance I know involving a Morris hey — with thanks to Sharon Green for letting me publish it here.
|Ones set; cast, twos lead up. Twos set; cast, ones lead up.
|Morris hey and one more change to bring the ones to middle place (dance it).
|Gates down (6 steps); gates up (6 steps); threes cast up as ones lead to the bottom (4 steps).
The tune was published by Arbeau in his book “Orchesography” in 1589 to go with the dance “The Official Brawl”, but now it's much better known as the tune to the Christmas carol “Ding Dong Merrily on High” though the words weren't added until the 20th century.
If you really want to go over the top, Pat Shaw wrote a dance in his book “New Wine in Old Bottles” called “Planting the May” (A study in heys) where he throws almost everything in. And the best of luck!
|Up a double and back. That again.
|“Zigzags”: Top man cross with middle man, bottom man. All lead up a double and back.
|Top lady same.
|Same (All home at the end of B6).
|Side right shoulder to right. Side left.
|“Matchboxes”: Ones give two hands and slip down between twos who slip up the outside; twos slip down between the ones who slip up the outside, and all that again while threes cross and dance all the way round the outside back to place.
|Threes up the middle, twos down the outside etc., ones cross and dance all the way round.
|Arm right. Arm left, middles arming 1½ to finish proper.
|“Sheepskin hey”: Men come up single file and weave around the ladies, and as the last man reaches the middle lady he goes all the way round her and becomes the new leader — do this three times, till the first man is again in the lead.
|Men dance single file down behind ladies and up on their own side to place.
|B4-6: Ladies the same.
For some reason Sharp changed the name to “Picking up sticks”, but it isn't; it's “Picking of sticks”. I imagine they were drawing lots to see who would do the washing up or something. Playford and Sharp have the twos proper, but I like them improper for two reasons. It means that each time you lead up a double in the first figure it's with someone of the opposite sex, and it means that in the zigzags it's always the men first and then the ladies. If people ask me which shoulder to cross, the logical answer is “cross by the nearer shoulder”. When people face their partners they should see that the top two men would therefore cross by the right shoulder and then the bottom two men by the left shoulder. For the ladies it's the opposite way round. This means that there are no awkward spins around — when the bottom two men cross left shoulder it flows naturally into leading up a double. That's logical, but it's too much for some people who have been trained for years to cross by the right shoulder, in which case just go with what they expect.
In the second figure it's difficult to hold people back while you explain what each couple is doing. It may work better to tell the threes their part first. And I often find that although I say “all the way round” they cross, get to the top and stand there looking puzzled.
Make sure the twos realise that in the arm left they have to turn 1½ times to get to their proper sides — and the man then has to face up to go into the sheepskin hey. Don't rush the walkthrough — though I often find that all the sets are doing it at different speeds which makes it impossible for me to help them. If necessary get into a set as the first man and make them walk it slowly enough that you can explain to everyone what's going on. Point out that if you're not currently the leader you must be following someone (always the same someone) rather than standing still looking confused. But this is a fun figure, so don't panic if people are doing strange things so long as they're enjoying themselves! When you're calling the sheepskin hey to the music, it's important to give the call at exactly the right time — not too early and not too late. Here's the timing — the numbers are the steps and the rest is what you say.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Last one turn back, 5, 6, 7, 8. Last one turn back, 5, 6, 7, 8. Last one turn back, 5, and dance in front of your partner. Down the back and up your own side, 5, 6, 7, 8.
Neither Playford nor Sharp use the term “Sheepskin Hey”. I don't know who introduced it.
Mainly danced to the tune Lavena — some bands use the original tune for the second figure. Lavena is 8 bars. The music link above has a version of the original tune from the 7th Edition which is 8 bars and is therefore more interesting than that in the first Edition which is only 4 bars — just imagine having to play the same 4-bar phrase 34 times! Some bands switch to a third tune for the third figure but I don't see any advantage to that; I prefer to go back to Lavena.
|Join hands, go in to the middle and back. Do-si-do partner.
|All that again.
|Ones cross over with partner, weave outside one person, in front of the next, behind the next, lead home through the threes and wheel around to original place.
|Circle left: seven slip steps and kick. Same to the right.
|Ones full figure eight through threes, finishing home.
A modern Welsh dance. Each couple in turn leads the figure — the twos are on the right of the ones, etc. The active couple need to dance the weaving in B1 or they won't have time to wheel around at the end and they'll be late for the circle.
Other dances with a full figure eight include “Barn Elms” from Fallibroome 1, “Camberwell” from Fallibroome 6, Bulock's Hornpipe, Damme, Draw Cupid Draw, Irish Lamentation, “Hombey House” in Pat Shaw's “Another look at Playford”, “The Scotch Morris” in Tom Cook's “Come Let's Be Merry”, “Volpony” in the “Hunter's Moon” collection, “The Night Cap” in Maggot Pie and (if you want a great but challenging Scottish dance) “Ian Powrie's Farewell to Auchterarder” (though I prefer it the way he wrote it — not finishing with a circle left destroys the perfect symmetry which is there in the dance because Ian Powrie emigrated to “down under”).
|All set to the centre of your foursome; turn single. Circle left.
|All set to the centre; turn single. Left-hand star.
|(20 bars): Ones cross and cast, twos lead up. Ones half figure eight up and keep going to finish proper between the twos in a line of four.
|Up a double and back: stay in the line. Twos gate the ones round to progressed place. All two-hand turn.
A straightforward dance involving a half figure eight along with several other figures listed above. The tune is “Cherry Ripe”, an old English song, unusual in being 36 bars rather than the standard 32, and the dance is different enough without being complicated. It was written for retiring Watford Folk Dance Group leader Lena Stone.
There are hundreds of dances involving a half figure eight, including the Scottish Postie's Jig, “Shropshire Lass” from Fallibroome 4, “Bouzer Castle” from Fallibroome 6, A Trip to Orpington, “Hamburger Special” and “Chigwell Row” by Pat Shaw, “Whirligig” from first edition Playford, “The Cuckoo” from Henry Playford's 12th Edition of 1703, “Mad Moll” from 1695, “Country Courtship” from c. 1727, “The Wickering Wench” from “Maggot Pie”, “Helena”, “Star of Kintra”, “Joy”, and “Maxwell's Rant”.
A nice dance with a double figure eight (and a Grimstock hey) is “Kelsterne Gardens” form Tom Cook's “Come, let's be Merry” — just make sure you tell people that the B-music is only six bars so the casts are quicker that they might think. It can also be easily adapted as a 4-couple dance — think about it.
Other suggestions are “Barbara Walton's Delight” by Irene Crew, “Gladys's Galop”, “Miss Anderson's Allemande” and “Four Winds” by Pat Shaw (though the last is a workshop dance), “Spring Blossom” by Colin Hume and “Tim on the March” by Carol Hewson.