SPIRE FOLK DANCE CLUB CLUB
What does that mean?
Once you know the moves, and what they are called, you can dance practically anything that is called but the language of calling may seem like a foreign language at first, so here are some hints as to what to do in response to what the caller says.
Rule Number 1, before you move, is to think of yourself as having a ‘place’. Many
moves involve your returning to your place but all the dancers have places and in
some dances, where the set is limited as to number (three-
Rule Number 2, gentlemen nearly always have their ladies on their right, when facing the music, so that in any longways dance (two rows of dancers facing each other) there is what is known as ‘the men’s side’ (the left if all dancers were to face the music) and the ‘ladies’ side’ (the right, if all dancers were to face the music). Sometimes, however, men dance on the ladies’ side and vice versa (see Proper and Improper below).
For ease of finding a term, they are in alphabetical order below; this is not necessarily (probably won’t be) the order in which you first meet these terms.
Allemande is a variation of a right or left-
Arm right almost always followed by arm left. Exactly what it sounds like, linking
arms at the elbow and turning once around clockwise (right arm) or anti-
Balance does not mean stand on one leg with your arms out! It used to mean a small
jump, feet together, and kick with your right foot to the left, diagonally across
in front of you, feet-
Cast is ALWAYS outwards so begin by turning AWAY from your partner. The length will
vary, from casting round one person to the whole set, though that will generally
happen with five-
Chevrons may vary slightly but basically start by moving forward on the diagonal
and then falling back into place (DON’T TURN ROUND!) either straight across or on
the other diagonal, so when you have finished you will be either one or two places
further down (or up) the set, depending on whether both moves were diagonal or one
of them was straight. The best thing is to make absolutely sure you know where you
should be at the end of the manoeuvre during the walk-
Circle left (or right): Take hands with both your neighbours and walk round in a circle back to place. If there is any doubt the caller will specify ‘circle four’ (i.e. four People) or ‘circle eight’ or whatever. If it’s a circle dance it is usually everyone in one big circle.
Double figure of eight is just a two couples walking a figure of eight simultaneously, so that instead of walking round two other people, you are walking round where they would have been if they weren’t also moving. First couple walk an 8 as usual, crossing over to begin. Second couple begins with the second half of the 8 i.e. cast to begin and cross to do the other circle. It’s much easier to do than describe!
Draw poussette: same hold as for an ordinary poussette, partners facing, holding both hands
Figure of eight is just what it sounds like. Visualise an eight on the floor and walk its course, beginning by crossing over (ladies first) and going between the couple with whom you are dancing, going round two other people, who effectively mark the centre of the top and bottom circles. (See also half and double fig 8)
First and second corners take their numbering from the men’s places, so first corners are first man and second lady and second corners are second man and first lady.
Flutterwheel a new-
Forward and back in a longways dance means the whole line on each side taking four steps towards the other line and returning to place backwards. Most people don’t make the mistake of trying to turn round, as it would be difficult, with both your hands firmly held by other people.
Gates Couples take inside hands and one rotates backwards on the spot, like a hinge,
while the other walks a circle forwards round them, like a gate. The instruction
will tell you who is the hinge and who the gate -
Get a grip (not a recognised instruction!) If you are holding hands with some one of the same sex you can work out how to do it each time on the spot, except that in certain cases, such as a dance like The Guid Man of Balanguich, the person being walked round will wait, expecting the walker to pick their hand up from below as they pass (that will make sense when you dance The Guid Man). Otherwise a gentleman always supports the lady. So he will put his hand out, palm up and the lady will place her hand upon it, or the lady will hold her hand out palm down and the gentleman will provide support from below. No grabbing the lady from above as if she were a child and he a parent, please!
Grand chain Start by taking handshake hold with the person next to you (sometimes opposite – the caller will specify which) and pass by, left hand to the next, then right and left alternately until you reach your destination – usually either back to place or half way round the set.
Grimstock Hey is a figure of eight but the two lines of three are co-
Gypsy One of the most embarrassing moves there is, according to the official description, which is to walk a small circle round your partner, both moving, gazing into each other’s’ eyes the while. Best done with your eyes fixed on your partner’s ear lobe. Much less embarrassing with someone you don’t know particularly well and less likely to cause the urge to giggle when doing it with someone you do know.
Gypsy meltdown: Walk a gypsy and as you complete your circle, take ballroom hold, or something like it, and move into a swing.
Half figure eight is exactly what it says: walk half a figure of eight, imagined on the floor, round one other person. You will end up on the other side of the dance, effectively having changed places with your partner, but having gone a long way round to use up the music.
Hands four (actually ‘take hands four’ but often the ‘take’ is omitted. In a longways dance, the dancers take hands in rings of four, starting from the top. The couples in these groups then number off as ones and twos, and will keep those numbers, the ones working their way down the set, dancing with a new second couple at each turn of the dance, the twos working their way up with a succession of new first couples, until they reach the ends, where they take a turn out before coming back in as the other couple (second if they were first, first if they were second). Often first couples are improper (see Ones improper below)
Hey is actually just a figure of eight with everybody moving, usually walked in threes. Visualise an eight on the ground and walk along it. If the others in your trio are experienced dancers they will weave round you without your having to think about avoiding them until you have got the hang of it and have time to think.
Honour your partner means bow or curtsey. To some extent, it’s up to you how you do this.
The easiest way to curtsey is to put your right foot behind your left, both feet turned out, and bend the knees, keeping your back straight and more or less upright. If you want something to do with your hands, you can hold your skirt out, if wearing a suitable skirt. Trickier if you’re in trousers. To bow, again, right foot behind left, at right angles to each other, both turned out and bend from the waist. What you do with your arms is up to you, but it looks better if you don’t just allow them swing forward as you bend, as if they have been nailed on loosely enough to allow them to move under the influence of gravity. In some dances you may be asked to Honour the Presence which means take inside hands with your partner, face up and honour, in practice, the band and caller,
Ladies chain Start with couple facing couple, ladies give right hands as they pass
each other and give left to the left hand of the man opposite, right hand on hip,
palm outwards, so that the man can take it as he puts his right arm round her waist
and swings her round anti-
Ones improper. This instruction often follows ‘Hands four’ (see above) and means that the men dance on the ladies’ side and vice versa. (For which side is which see intro or Proper and improper below.) It is vital to remember, when you reach the end and come back after a turn out, to change sides because if you have come down as a first couple improper, you will be going back up as a second couple proper and vice versa.
Poussette as its name suggests, involves pushing, starting with the men. Face your partner and take both hands, then go where the caller tells you to, the man walking forwards, the lady walking backwards ot start, then changing direction to reach the place you are heading for. DO NOT TURN ROUND except for a draw poussette (see above)
Promenade: The hold will depend on what you have just done. If the lady has her hand on
the man’s shoulder and he has his arm round her waist after a swing or if you have
just done a ladies’ chain (as in Devil’s Dream) there is no need to change it, otherwise
Proper and improper: Dancing ‘proper’ means that the man will have his partner on his right when they are facing the music. For some dances some couples are required to be ‘improper’ i.e. the man has his lady on his left (see Ones improper above)
Reel an alternative name for a hey (see above)
Right and left through is done in fours. Take right hands with the first person, handshake hold, right to right, and pass on, taking left hand with the next person, then right, then left. As you go, walk round a square, so that you are facing a different direction with each ‘handshake’. The caller will tell you which direction to start in (can be across the set or on the side).
Set is what a group of people dancing together is called and can be a specific number of couples, longways (for as many as will), square, circle etc.
Set as a move consists of going righty-
Siding comes in various guises.
Cecil Sharp siding consists of walking four steps forward past your partner, passing
left shoulder. Start on the right foot, to turn and come back four steps, turning
towards your partner (if you have started on the wrong foot you will find yourself
twisting your legs together as you try to turn or having to change feet). As an
added refinement you can walk 1,2,3 and change (R,L,Righty-
Curly siding means walking past your partner, still passing left shoulder, then walking a loop to the right back to opposite place, taking eight steps in all.
Into line siding consists of walking forward four steps until you are level with your partner and side by side, left shoulder to left shoulder, in the centre of the set, then back four steps to return to place; NO TURNING ROUND.
Slip step is a sideways step, such as children use for ring o’ ring o’ roses. Generally favoured for ‘circle left (or right)’ at barn dances and the like when all dancers are in one big circle and given the instruction ‘circle left’ but more often walked sedately by experienced dancers (their age not infrequently being a factor!) Also occurs in Nonesuch, where it is de rigueur for all.
Star will be either a right-
Swing Mostly, with mixed couples, something approximating to ballroom hold, put your
right foot in the centre of the circle you are about to describe with your partner
and pivot round it, using your left foot to propel you. Sometimes dancers take a
Take hands four often abbreviated to ‘hands four’ – see above.
Two changes (or Three changes) of a right and left through (see above), though the caller will not always bother to finish the sentence.
Up is always towards the music. Down is therefore away from the music!
Up a double and back is actually four steps, usually holding inside hands with your partner,
take four steps towards the music, which is usually where the caller is, and four steps backwards to place. DON’T turn round! The fourth step is actually just a bringing together of the feet, not a pace. A single is just two steps (again with the second step being just a bringing together of the feet)
Which foot should I use? In general start off on your outside foot, so that will be left for men, right for ladies.
Whirligig casts: Done in groups of four. Two will cast (see above) and the other two follow, so that all end up in original places, having described a small circle.