Figures and Steps
The first thing to say about three-time is that it's not a waltz, which I cover further down the page. Yes, a waltz is in three-time, but it has quite a different feel to it — it's faster, and there's more emphasis on the first beat. In a waltz you push forward on the first beat, and the second and third steps are smaller. In musical terms a waltz is always written in 3:4 time; a three-time dance is normally written in 3:2 time, and the band would (to put it far too crudely) play each bar as “oom-cha oom-cha oom-cha” rather than “oom-cha-cha”.
So, when you're moving to three-time you have three almost equal steps. I still tend to emphasise the first step more, but not as much as a waltz. I sometimes use down-up-up with my feet — it depends on the dance and the music — but I don't believe your head should be bobbing up and down. The movement needs to be smooth and flowing.
The second thing about three-time is that you have a different number of steps for the movements. If it's a turn or a circle left to a jig or reel, it's a fair bet that it will take eight steps. But in three-time it will probably take either six or twelve steps, and I believe that you as the caller should tell the dancers which. So either it's fewer steps than they're used to, or it's more — and both can present problems. There are people who are so conditioned to think in eights that they're always late if there are only six beats. And there are people who do a turn in eight steps and then wait for the band to catch up. Neither of these counts as good dance style! The trick is to get where you're going as the music does — neither ahead nor behind.
When you set right and left in three-time, as you do in “Draper's Gardens”, “Easter Thursday”, “Elizabeth”, “The Severn Bore”, “Wa is Me”, “Woolly and Georgey” and many others, some people are so committed to “bouncy” setting that they can't come to terms with it. It's a smooth move, no bounce. You simply step right, left, right in the first bar and left, right left in the second. Make sure people do the third of each — some dancers (more so in The States) do right, left, pause; left, right, pause which isn't what I want.
Some people think that setting in 9/8 time involves “right — and right — and right; left — and left — and left” but I've not seen any evidence for this and I don't believe it — to me it looks and feels stupid! I would do it the same way as I've described setting in triple-time — no bounce.
The 1. Man cross over with the 2. Wo. and the 1. Wo. with the 2. Manor by Douglas and Helen Kennedy who say
First man changes places with the second woman. First woman changes places with the second man.- nevertheless it is now an established figure! And you need to demonstrate it — don't hide behind the microphone and talk about it! Two people have 6 steps in which to change places. I recommend that you start on your right foot. Two steps to cross right shoulder and turn right to face each other, one beat to hover, then three small steps to fall back into each other's places. You need to move positively on the first two steps, particularly if you're doing it with your corner rather than your partner in which case you're further apart. I demonstrate starting with a tentative step and how difficult it then is to do the move well.
It's the hover which scares some men who don't like being nose to nose with a woman, so they do the first two steps and then scuttle back on the third — I also demonstrate this and it usually gets a laugh, probably from people who have experienced exactly that. So get people to practise it, and try to make them do it with conviction! Use all six steps, and don't forget the hover.
There's an open ladies' chain in my dances Elizabeth and Julia, and in several other dances. The move presents two problems. First of all, particularly when it's in triple time, people rush it and get there too soon. Explain to the ladies that the idea is not to pull past the other lady as quickly as you can — it's a 6-step turn, about half-way. As the ladies start their turn, the men move to their right and back a little to expand the width of the set. This allows the ladies to do a turn with long arms rather than a cramped shuffle. The lady is actually turning to the place where the opposite man used to be, so you're all more or less on the side-lines. Then it's half a left-hand turn with that man, again 6 steps with long arms — that's the “open” part of the chain. Admittedly this may not always be possible, but at least it's worth a try, and maybe once you've shown the dancers how satisfying it is, they'll remember it when you're not there to chastise them!
The second problem is that the men want to walk backwards — and often after years of doing it that way they don't even realise they're doing it. I explain that “there's no arm round the waist — it's just a turn”, but you can see that although the men don't put the arm round the lady's waist most of them really want to, so they shuffle backwards with their right shoulder as close to the lady as they can get it. I sometimes demonstrate what they're doing, and then what I would like them to be doing. I sometimes say “It's an honest-to-God left-hand turn — is there anyone in the room who can't do a left-hand turn?” — but I still have to keep saying “Men, walk forwards all the time”. And you have to accept that some men are never going to get it, and probably resent you banging on about some minor detail when they know perfectly well how to do a ladies' chain.
But make sure you actually do all three steps, even if 2 and 3 are just a transfer of weight. I've seen people (men actually) who instead of 1-2-3, 1-2-3 do right-left-pause, right-left-pause — that's not a waltz, it's a limp. And other men who are obviously thinking: “I hate waltz dances — I hate everything about them — I will not walk in time with the music — I'll pretend it's a reel instead.”
I go down onto a flat foot for beat 1, and up on the toes for beats 2 and 3, but I don't know whether a real expert would agree with that or would be on the toes the whole time.
A lot of waltz dances, such as “Nan's Waltz”, Circle Waltz, Farewell Marian and Waltz Country Dance, have various figures and then finish with waltzing round the other couple. And at the end of an evening the band may play for a free waltz. This is where the men really panic, because they're supposed to be dancing with someone. So here are four bits of advice, chaps:
Be aware of a “home” position — which may not be your original position in the set. In a lot of triple minors (and 3-couple dances such as “Fandango” and “Green Sleeves and Yellow Lace” which have been converted from triple minor) the ones get to second place and do most of the dance from there — it means they have a couple above them and a couple below them to dance figures with. If you get lost, make for your home place and wait for the next figure. At the very least, get back to your own side of the set. Some people are incapable of doing even that — I don't understand their mental state but I've never been so confused that I didn't know which side the men were supposed to be on. If it's a longways progressive dance, you know where you need to be to start the next turn of the dance — so get there, preferably with your partner.
The trick to helping other people (which I have yet to master) is to indicate where they should go without touching them. Of course, if touching them is or can be part of the dance that's fine. When the ones cast and the twos move up, I prefer to lead up — I take my partner's hand and we move up together. In a Grimstock hey I take my partner's hand at the end of the set, which gives her confidence and maybe slows her down to fit the figure to the music. If we're ones in a cross hey I will take right hand in right so that as we cross down through the twos I can hand her across in front of me to send her out between the other men, and similarly left hand in left when we cross down onto our own sides. If we're doing a star and my partner has forgotten, I might take her hand and put it in the right place. But you can do a lot with your eyes or the way you move. If the dance starts “First corners cast behind your neighbour” and I can see that my corner lady isn't sure about it, I look at her and do a very pronounced pull back of my left shoulder, slightly ahead of the music, which is usually enough to get her moving in the right direction. If we're supposed to pass left shoulder, looking at her and touching my own left shoulder usually works.
The trick is to give help when needed but without anyone else noticing, and not giving help when it's not needed — that can seem patronising!
Don't join a set at the top, or in the middle — join it at the bottom. I know the temptation, when you're sitting at the top of a long hall and you see the longways sets rapidly forming in front of you — but try not to do it. In a set for a specific number of couples it can cause real confusion and indeed annoyance — you thought you were at the bottom of a 4-couple set, and then another couple joined at the top and suddenly you're unwanted and all the other sets are made up. You wouldn't like that, so please don't do that to other people.
Don't force people to do things they don't want to (or can't) do. Some people won't do a slipped circle, so try and accept that — I know it's difficult! Equally point out to people that if they're the one who can't do a slipped circle they shouldn't join a young lively set!
Another example is a man forcing a lady to do a twirl (for instance at the end of a ladies' chain, instead of a courtesy turn). The lady should raise her arm to indicate that she is happy to be twirled. If she keeps her arm down the man should respect this.
That's when you're not using them. But often you do want to use them: turns, stars, circles and so on. The golden rule is: Give weight. And look at the person you're turning — even if it's another fellow! You're not strangers on the tube in the rush hour trying to pretend the crowd around you doesn't exist; you're doing social dancing. If you were having a conversation with someone you'd look at them, wouldn't you? Even if you weren't holding hands with them! A dance is a kind of conversation, like the dialogue of a play. The lines have been written, but it's up to you how you deliver them, and different actors will give very different interpretations.
I'll just mention a few points for you to think about: you've probably heard them all before but you may not have thought about them recently.
It's no good moving your feet without your body. Your body must lean in the direction you want to go — this is simple mechanics, not high-powered dance philosophy. Conversely, if you're not travelling, your body should be above your feet.
If you want to slip to the left, you need to push with your right foot. If you're doing a slipped circle, make a nice open ring, with hands a bit below shoulder height — and the way to get the ring moving well is to give a slight pull on the person behind you — so if you're circling left, you pull the person on your right. It's no use pushing the person in front.
It's also no use waiting until the circle is moving before deciding that you want to be part of it. You all need to start moving at the same time… that's what the music's for!
Henry Playford — Dancing Master 9th Edition, 1695
|A1:||(4 bars): Ones cast below twos (who stay still), meet and lead up to place.|
|A2:||Twos cast up above ones and lead down to place.|
|B:||First corners cross right, face and back away (6 steps); second corners the same. Circle left half-way; ones cast, twos lead up.|
The “New Series” was presumably intended to be a series, like Sharp's original “Country Dance Book”, but it only ever got to Volume 1. This seems such a simple dance, but we dance it slowly (probably a lot slower than in Henry Playford's time) so it requires more control or it's just nothing. You have 12 steps to cast and lead home, but in my opinion that doesn't mean 6 steps to cast and 6 steps to lead, because the casting covers a much greater distance than the lead. I would say about 8 steps for the cast and 4 for the lead home, though of course one move flows into the next. I get great satisfaction from arriving home with feet together on the 12th beat, but some people seem to have no conception of what I'm talking about.
The “Hole in the Wall” cross is covered above. The circle is only half-way and takes 6 steps, so get them to open the circle wide and take small steps to fit it to the music. Don't let the ones do what some Americans love, which is to deform the circle by pulling it in part-way through so that they can face their partner very close, give a cute little tilt of the head towards their partner and then cast. Ugh! That's not English and it's not good dancing — it's saying “Never mind the twos or the circle: look at us, aren't we wonderful”!
It's worth stressing that the figure ends with the ones casting and the twos leading up, and then begins again with the ones casting and the twos standing still.
|A1:||Ones cross and cast, twos wait two beats and then lead up (6 steps); twos cross and cast, ones lead up.|
|A2||First corner positions (second man first lady) “Hole in the Wall” cross (6 steps). First man second lady cross.|
|B:||Ones cast up, twos wait two beats and then lead down (6 steps). All back-to-back partner (6 steps).|
|Two changes of a circular hey with hands (3 steps per hand). Two-hand turn partner half-way and fall back slightly (6 steps).|
|A1:||Ones right-hand turn 1½ and face up. Cast as twos lead up; “Hole in the Wall” cross.|
|A2:||Twos the same.|
|B1:||First corners “Hole in the Wall” cross; second corners cross. Circle left half-way; cloverleaf (turn single away from neighbour).|
|B2:||Second corners cross; first corners cross. Circle left half-way; ones cast, twos lead up.|
“Hole in the Wall” crosses in abundance! With the right partner this is a stunning dance. But I find most men can't fit the first move to the music. The ones have 12 steps to do a right-hand turn 1½ and face up ready for the cast, but most men seem to do it in 9 steps and then wait for the band to catch up. I usually demonstrate the way I want it and then the way most men do it. In a workshop I might get the ones to do just those 12 steps and stop, and then ask the twos whether the ones really did put their feet together on the 12th beat and not before. And of course the ones can then do the same service for the twos. I know some people find this sort of thing unbearably pedantic, but to me it's the essence of good dancing.
As in “Hole in the Wall”, stress a big circle with small steps to go round half-way and yet fill up the music. The hardest move is for the second corners to do the turn single in 6 steps and flow into their second crossing. And for the final move, see my comments for “Hole in the Wall” above.
|A:||(4 bars): Ones cast down one place (6 steps). Ones and threes half poussette (6).|
|B:||(4 bars): Ones cast up one place. Ones and twos half poussette.|
|C:||(4 bars): At the top: first corners cross (3 steps), second corners cross. Face same neighbour: three quick changes without hands (only 2 steps each).|
A triple minor which may leave the dancers baffled too. First of all, people are unsure who's in which poussette and which way they go. Both poussettes are clockwise, or the other way to think about it is that the man going down pushes, the man going up pulls. Make sure people realise that at the end of B they're back where they started. The C part is very quick. First point out that only the ones and twos are involved. I stress (before I've told them where they're going, so they can't start moving) that it's cross right shoulder and turn right. The first corners have three steps to cross right and three steps to turn right to face back into the foursome, so don't let anyone turn left — it's awkward and they might try to get into the three changes too soon. The second corners cross right and turn right just enough to face their neighbour up and down the set. And the three changes are only two steps each, so no time to give hands. I call (in time with the music), “Right — and — left — and — right — and ones cast”.
See my notes on Triple minor — this is a case where it's easy to do the figure with a ghost couple at the bottom.
There are many wonderful dances in triple time, some very challenging for both caller and dancers, including “Michael and All Angels” by Fried de Metz Herman, “Mary K” by Gary Roodman, The Punch-Bowl from Henry Playford, “Noisette” by Philippe Callens, “Cupid's Garden” from “Maggot Pie”, “Another Nancy's Fancy”, “Quite Carr-ied Away” and “The Koepoort Galliard” by Pat Shaw.
|A1:||Top man bottom lady (first corners) forward and back (6 skip steps). Second corners (top lady, bottom man) same.|
|A2:||First corners right-hand turn. Second corners same.|
|B1:||First corners left-hand turn. Second corners same.|
|B2:||First corners two-hand turn. Second corners same.|
|C1:||First corners back-to-back. Second corners same.|
|C2:||Cast from the top, ones arch at the bottom, the others lead through them to progressed place.|
There are many, many versions of this dance. I was once at a conference where someone gave a (not too exciting) talk about versions of this dance which had been found all over Europe. But (talk about over-specialisation) he didn't know the tune — the audience had to sing it to him!
This needs to be danced, with a single skip, and the moves overlap: as the first corners are falling back the second corners are dancing forward and so on. Some people call this dance unphrased and just stop the band when everyone has had enough, but I like to fit it to the music — though often the forward and back at the start of each turn is supposed to happen while people are still coming up through the arch.
|A1:||Ones right-hand turn (6 steps); cast to middle place. Ones left-hand turn; man down outside, lady up, round one person to lines across the hall.|
|A2:||Take hands, step R, L across, back on R, then L, R, L; R, L, R, ones move to own side, others step L, R, L. Step as before 3 times, ones pass L to face first corner.|
|B1:||Step to first corner; two-hand turn. Second corner same, and finish facing the men with the man on the left and the lady on the right.|
|B2:||Ones lead between the men, cast back to the middle, lead between the ladies. Cast back to the middle, two-hand turn 1¼ to the bottom.|
Click here if you want more detail, and to see how I arrived at this interpretation.
|A1:||Ladies' line join hands and dance round the men (single-skip).|
|A2:||Men's line dance round the ladies.|
|B1/2:||Poussette: First man push, second and third men pull, etc., so ones progress to the bottom and back again.|
|C1:||Ones cross (skip), go below the twos, cross again, to the bottom.|
|C2:||Ones lead to the top, acknowledge, cast to the bottom.|
My version is different from Bentley's in the B section where I like all three couples moving all the time. The twos and threes do not change places with each other but move as a unit with the ones slotting in and around them. It fits the music and you can call it: “Out 2 3; In 2 3. Out 2 3; In 2 3” to get the ones to the bottom and the same to get them back to the top. Is it right? Probably not, but the “Unidentified source” is no longer available so you can't prove it!
|A:||Step right and honour partner; the same left. Two changes of a circular hey (with hands). All that again.|
|B:||Right-hand star (12 steps). Left-hand star.|
|C:||Ones cross and cast, twos wait then lead up; ones half figure eight up. Four changes of a circular hey.|
The C section is busy for the ones — just 6 steps to cross and cast, 6 steps for the half figure eight — so the twos must accommodate them by moving in and up as soon as they have crossed and then falling back from partner just enough to let the ones through for their half figure eight. Many people have the attitude that “The ones are the active couple; we're not doing much”, but there are many cases where the “inactive” couples do a vital job in enabling the ones to perform their part.barndances.org.uk/detail.php?Title=Circle_Waltz
An easy dance for teaching the waltz step, and people get to waltz with a different partner each time. However you only get 4 bars of waltzing as a couple, so not long to practise!
The tune suggested in the Community Dance Manuals is “The Star of the County Down”, but most 32-bar waltzes will work.
|A1:||Give two hands to partner: 4 chassées to the man's left, lady's right. Man let go with the right hand (so you're facing back the way you came): balance away, together; turn single away.|
|A2:||All that again in the same direction.|
|B1:||Give right hand to partner: balance forward and back; change places turning the lady under. Give left to the person on the left diagonal (new partner): same.|
|B2:||Take ballroom hold and waltz on in ballroom direction, remembering to finish with the men on the inside.|
Gwyn Williams says:
… a leaflet [Four Welsh Barn Dances] published sometime by the Welsh Folk Dance Society containing 4 dances : one composed by Pat Shaw [Waterfall Waltz], one by Roy Hurman [Welsh Council], and another two, which were composed by me, namely “Ffarwel Marian” and “Clawdd Offa” [Oswestry Square]. It appears also that there seems to be quite a bit of uncertainty regarding this leaflet which is quoted. In those halcyon days when one would be out in rural communities three or four nights a week calling at public folk dances, one would often find the growing need for particular types of dances, such as a nice slow “mixer” community dance, for example. In another field of activity, I was always charmed by the traditional harp-melody of “Farwel i'r Marian” (“Farewell to the Shore”). And that is how the dance Ffarwel Marian evolved. But as “Marian” is also a girl's name, it suited a progressive community dance where the man says farewell to his present partner and acquires a new partner at each stage of the dance.
OK, I admit that the chassées are 1-2-pause and you may say this is the “limp” I was complaining that some men do. It's actually a single (remember singles and doubles from the Playford session?) followed by a pause, and in this position it works much better than crossing the feet over as you would do in a circle left — you're too close to your partner for this. You occasionally get singles in waltz time which aren't sliding sideways. Near the end of Gary Roodman's beautiful dance “Turning by Threes” (for three couples in a circle) the men move in with two singles (I would do right, left, pause, right, left, pause) and as they fall back with two singles the ladies do the same. It looks and feels great, provided you do it as though you believe in it, but it's the exception. Normally if you're travelling, whether it's a circle left, a two-hand turn or whatever, you want to keep the momentum going, so you do all three steps.
The tune was later used by Daniel; Seppeler for his dance Farewell to the Shore (which has four singles in B1).
|A1:||Right hand to partner: balance forward and back; box the gnat. Same left.|
|B1:||All three ladies chain (to number 3: original corner). That again (to new partner) — keep the courtesy turn hold.|
|B2:||Two chassées out (with a definite movement anticlockwise); two chassées in, and keeping left hands joined the man turns the lady under (clockwise) into a ballroom hold. Waltz round the set to the man's home position.|
I'm giving two versions of the tune here; Charles uses just the first one.
This one gives you 8 bars of waltzing with your partner in a ballroom hold.
There are many other dances in waltz time, including “Leah's Waltz” by Fried de Metz Herman, “Turning by Threes” by Gary Roodman (with a wonderful tune by Paul Machlis), “The Bath Waltz”, “The Bonny Cuckoo” by Gail Ticknor (though if the instructions still finish “once or once and a half” that's wrong — it should be “once or a half”) Die Woaf (traditional Austrian with additions), “Candles in the Dark” by Loretta Holz, “The Duchess of York Street” by Sue Dupre, “An Early Frost” by Philippe Callens, “Farewell to the Shore” by Daniel Seppeler, “Emma's Waltz” by Colin Hume (written for an ex-chairman of The Round), “Turn of the Tide” by Ron Coxall, “The Duke of Kent's Waltz” published by Cahusac with a very popular (and very inaccurate) interpretation by A. Simons, “Miss de Jersey's Memorial”, “Margaret's Waltz”, “Nan's Waltz”, “Waterfall Waltz” and “Heidenröslein” by Pat Shaw — surely that's enough for you!
|A1:||Pass neighbour right shoulder and turn right: hey for four (men pass left), ¾, till men meet partner on the man's original side (12 steps).|
|B1:||Men pass left shoulder: ¾ hey for four.|
|B2:||Swing neighbour (men are in same place again) — finish facing down.|
|C1:||Down in a line of four, turn alone (6 steps). Lead back, bend the line.|
|C2:||Circle left (9 steps); pass through to next couple (3).|
There are very few contras to slip-jigs — the others I know are “The Joy of Six” by Rick Mohr and “Another Jig Will Do” by Mike Richardson. They all works brilliantly. Make sure people turn right after passing neighbour at the start; the women may want to turn left but they need to turn right and loop to their right while the men pass left shoulder so that they can then pass right shoulder with the next man. If necessary get people to move forward into line right shoulder to right, turn ¼ right to face this person and stop. Now it should be obvious how to enter the hey, so get them to go back and do it again without stopping. They'll like it once they've got the hang of it; the whole dance flows beautifully. Try and get the men to time the first swing so that they move straight from it into the hey, rather than stopping the swing, waiting and then starting the hey.
There are plenty of other dances to slip-jigs, for instance Colin Hume's Foxhunter's Jig, Henry Playford's “Mad Moll”, John Young's “A Trip o'er Tweed”, John Essex's “The Trip to the Jubilee”, Pat Shaw's “The Pride of Newcastle” (a terrific dance, very energetic, and the calling needs to be spot on), and as I said, several by Gary Roodman.