Your questions about Scottish Country Dances answered
Our Technique Advisory Panel is here to answer your questions about individual dances found in Scottish Country Dance repertoire. These include any dance published by the RSCDS.
Previous questions the panel has answered are shown below. Please click on the topic to expand for the questions and their answers.
Please note: the Technique Advisory Panel have looked through the dances appearing under Technique Advisory as many of the questions were answered in the newest A5 compilation books. We think it would be wrong to lose the original answers, but it should be made clear that they no longer apply. When you see an answer under "Previous answer', it is only there for reference.
Q. I should be grateful if you could ask the Technique Advisory Panel how they would prefer teachers to deal with bars 15 and 16 of this dance. Book 42, and also The Bankhead Book, say the 2nd couple dance up to first place on own sides. Some teachers like to follow this strictly, and they have the 2nd couple simply dance up and straight out to the side on bar 16. However, Book 42 Teaching Notes, issued to staff at St. Andrews 2002, indicates the 2nd couple should cast into place on bar 16.
A. Both versions work well and teachers worldwide have their preferred version. The instructions would seem to indicate dancing into place without a casting movement. However members of Summer School staff in 2002 were instructed to teach bar 16 of this dance with 2nd couple casting. Both versions are out there. Casting calls for a longer step, so is more challenging, but it is also more sociable and flows well for the entry to the next formation.
Q. We were at a teachers' workshop last weekend and one of the dances that the teacher had chosen to work on was the above-mentioned Argyll's Bowling Green. Great lesson with everything going wonderfully until we reached bars 21-24! The class was instructed to "Set to second corners but turn partner with both hands to own sides one place down." Great -- until two of the newer teachers with brand-new copies of Book 15 pointed out that the instructions in their books stated that "1st couple set to second corners and turn partner with the right hand to own sides". As you can imagine a fairly extensive discussion ensued. Two questions, therefore, to which I volunteered to try to find answers: 1. When was the change in instructions effected? Most of us thought that we had up-to-date copies of the books and were unaware that the latest printing of the book in question had this change. 2. Where does 1st couple finish after setting to second corners: a) on the opposite sideline between their corners (as in set to corners prior to turning); b) facing up and down the dance; or c) in some intermediate position?
A. The instructions in the latest A5 Book (Books 13-18) say:
"1st couple set to second corners and, giving both hands to partner, turn to second place on own sides."
A. The simple answer is that the change from two hands to right hand was made when Book 15 was revised in 1999. The not so simple answer is that we have no idea why! We know who was responsible for the revision (no names, no pack drill) but there is no documented discussion of why any changes were considered necessary. Up until that version, there is no question that it was with two hands and the original version of the Manual had a lengthy paragraph setting out exactly how it was to be done.
After the change was made, the reference in the Manual (which always refers to the latest version of the publication) was removed as unnecessary.
Jim Healy, former RSCDS Chairman, answered with his comments:
So to try to answer your questions:
- When was the change in instructions effected?
Most of us thought that we had up-to-date copies of the books and were unaware that the latest printing of the book in question had this change.
The revision of the book was announced in the 1999 Bulletin and p.11 of that Bulletin set out a full list of all the latest versions of the books. The most recent editions of all the books are also listed in Appendix 1 of the updated Manual. Not ideal and I am certainly not suggesting that everybody should be conversant with every word of deathless prose produced by the Society, but the information is available.
2. Where does 1st couple finish after setting to second corners: a) on the opposite sideline between their corners (as in set to corners prior to turning); b) facing up and down the dance; or c) in some intermediate position?
My own personal answer would be 'just do it' but my view is less than relevant. This is really a question for the reconstituted technique group, assuming it is agreed by the Management Board. However, If I were a member of that group, my view on the position to start the turn would be coloured by the description in the previous version of the Manual '... pull their right shoulders back to face each other across the set' which I interpret as: at second place but not necessarily in the sidelines.
Q. Bars 9-12: 1st and 2nd couples, 3rd and 4th couples set and dance right hands across halfway. Bars 13-16: All set and, giving right hands, cross over to finish on own sides in the order 2, 1, 4, 3. Do all four couples join hands on the sidelines on bars 9-10 and bars 13-14?
A. The instructions in the latest (2017) A5 book are:
9-12: 1st and 2nd couples, also 3rd and 4th couples, joining hands on the sides, set and dance right hands across
13-16: All set and ..........
So the answer given previously remains the same, 2nd and 3rd couples do not join hands, but 1st and 4th couples do. However it is the majority view of the TAP that all couples taking hands in the sidelines during bars 9-10 is both acceptable, and frequently danced.
A. Bars 9-10:
1st and 2nd couples join hands and 3rd and 4th couples join hands. 2nd and 3rd couples DO NOT join hands as there is a comma separating them...2nd couples, 3rd...'
All the four couples join hands down the sidelines as the instructions say "All set..."
Q. I have recently taught The Banks of Clyde to my class and there seems to be some confusion about bars 4-8: “Cross right hand below third place and up to sides” - Is the cross right hand and dance up on opposite sides on the inside of the line of dance or on the outside? I have the MM1 and it does not say “inside” or “outside”. I have taught it as “dance up on the outside of the line of dance”, but in hindsight, it seems to work better crossing and dancing up on the inside (similar to Butterscotch and Honey).
A. Bars 5-8:
Each couple giving right hand to partner crosses over and then the men dance up the inside of the line of women, who are dancing down passing right shoulders. The women dance up the outside of the line of men, who are dancing down passing them right shoulder.
Q. Could you please clarify the two-handed turns in The Birks of Abergeldie – are they done with pas de basque or skip change?
A. As the instructions state "giving both hands" in both the turns, the usual step would be pas de basque. In order to maintain the character of the dance, in bars 45-48 commencing from the opposite side of the set, it would be acceptable to turn halfway to second place own side, again giving both hands and using pas de basque step.
Q. Bars 9-16 I presume the lady returns to place slipping into place or does she turn the long way around?
A. Bars 9-16: The TAP are of the opinion that the entry into bars 17-20 is improved if the lady loops round into place, pulling back right shoulder – both ways are acceptable.
A. Bars 9-16:
1st woman dances into place pulling left shoulder back, i.e. no loop
Q. Bars 17-20 Is that a nearer hand lead and if so does that make bars 21-24 also a nearer hand lead?
A. The instructions in the A5 book say:
Bars 17-24: 1st couple, with nearer hands joined, dance up and cast off one place. They dance down between 3rd couple and cast up to second place.
A. Bars 17-20:
The most recent instructions say “nearer hands joined, dance up and cast off one place".
The most recent instructions say "They dance down between 3rd couple and cast up to second place”. This implies nearer hand.
Q. Bars 27-28 Is that really just a half turn?
A. The instructions in the A5 book say:
Bars 25-28: 1st couple dance round first corners, passing by the left and, giving right hands, turn to face second corners
A. Bars 25-28:
1st couple dance round first corners, passing (first corners) by the left and, giving right hands (to partner), turn to face second corners.
Bars 33-38 Are they left shoulder reels with first corners to begin?
A. The instructions in the A5 booklet say:
Bars 33-38: 2nd, 1st and 3rd couples dance reels of three on the sides. 1st couple pass first corners by the left to begin.
A. Bars 33-38:
1st couple pass first corners by the left to begin.
Q. Bars 39-40 Is that a cross right hand or pass right shoulder to finish?
A. The instructions in the A5 booklet say:
Bars 39-40: 1st couple, giving right hands, cross over to second place on own sides.
A. Bars 39-40:
1st couple, giving right hands, cross over to second place on own sides.
Clarification of Instructions:
The Spring Fling Reel
2nd couple and 3rd couple face partner across the set
2nd woman and 3rd man do not curve round at end of half reel of four - dance easy way into left hands across
Les Remparts de Seville
English Subtitle: The City Walls of Seville
Mathilde is a Delight
1st woman pulls back right shoulder
1st man pulls back right shoulder
The Wandering Wallaby
3rd woman and 3rd men pull back left shoulder at end of reel of four to face up
Double Trouble Triangles
Advance and retire using skip change of step
1st couple and 4th couple retain right hands with partner from bar 5 into right hands across
Dancing couples dance easy way in to finish back to back
The clap comes at the end of bar 22
No loops at end of reels 10
La Baratte Your Way Home
1st woman sets pulling back right shoulder on second pas de basque
Pass partner on the diagonal; dance La Baratte on the sides of the square facing in on bars 29-30
Orientation similar to bars 25-32
Q. In the dance The Braes of Balluder, the instructions for bars 17-24 say ‘1st couple set and turn corners’. I am not sure whether this would be a two-handed turn with a setting step, or a right-handed turn with a travelling step.
A. Where the instructions say “set and turn corners”, the ‘turn’ should be interpreted as a two-handed turn using pas de basque. (Note that there is a tradition in Edinburgh that two-handed turns are danced with skip change of step.)
Q. At the end of bar 24 the instructions say after leading up the 1st woman finishes between the 2nd couple and the 1st man between the 3rd couple, facing their first corner ready for a right shoulder reel of three. Could you please advise how this is best achieved?
A. 1st couple, when dancing up the middle, finish in the middle of the dance, midway between the 2nd and 3rd couples, still facing the top. On Bar 24, the 1st man guides 1st woman above him, with his right hand, to face the men’s side, while he faces the women’s side. 1st couple are still in the middle of the dance, ready to give right shoulder to enter the reels of three across the dance that follow.
Q. Re: Book 7, #9 Could you please advise how we should dance bars 17-24: 1st and 2nd couples dance four hands across and back again, finish facing corners. 2nd couple move up.
A. The instructions in the compilation booklet say:
17-24: 1st and 2nd couples dance right hands across for three steps, and left hands back. 1st couple cast off one place on own sides to face first corners, and 2nd couple dance up to first place.
A. The 1931 and the 1950 versions of Book 7 may have led to confusion here. Both editions say:
"17-20 1st and 2nd couples four hands across.
21-24 And back again, 1st couple finishing facing corners; while 2nd couple dance up"
This has usually been interpreted as right hands across for three bars, left hands across for three bars and cast off to corners, or dance up, for two bars:
1st and 2nd couples dance right hands across.
1st and 2nd couples change to left hands across.
1st and 2nd couples dance left hands across.
1st couple casts off on own side and dances across to finish facing first corners, while 2nd couple dances up to finish in top place.
The new edition of Books 7-12 will clarify this.
Q. In bars 3-4 and 11-12, does the 3rd couple set back to the 1st and 2nd couples respectively?
Q. Is there an 'approved' way to dance the transition between slip step and pas de basque, specifically in bars 2-3 and 10-12? The Manual (1992 version), page 5.6, states: "There are occasions when it is helpful to blend the last two slip steps of a movement into one step, in order to facilitate entry into the different step which follows (e.g. Book 29, The Charmer, bars 1-16, where four slip steps are followed by pas de basque or skip change of step)." What exactly is meant by the term "blending"?
A. There is no one correct or 'approved' way to dance any transition, but no transition should “draw the eye” of the observer. It should be accomplished as elegantly as possible.
In Bars 6-7 of The Charmer, the 1st woman’s transition from slip step with right foot leading to skip change of step may be done by “blending”. This means that effectively, instead of the woman dancing four slip steps in Bars 5-6, she dances six slip steps in Bars 5-7, then hops on the right foot to start skip change of step on the left foot for Bar 8. This avoids the discontinuity created if three slips steps and a “close” are done (Bars 5-6), then a hop on left foot to start skip change of step for Bars 7-8. Of course the difficulty here is compounded by having to cast off one place in Bars 7-8. The 1st man, who has been dancing slip step with the left foot leading, does not have the same problem of a transition of the feet, but has the left foot free ready to hop for the start of skip change of step.
In The Charmer, the transition from slip step to pas de basque, after Bars 1-2, and the transition from pas de basque to slip step at the end of Bar 4 should not be problematic as the appropriate feet should be free on both occasions if the 1st couple have started the setting in Bars 3-4 on the foot nearest the top.
The more recent version of the Manual (2005), page 32, says,” There are occasions when it is helpful to blend the last two slip steps of a movement into one step, in order to facilitate entry into the different step which follows (e.g. Book 34 C’est L’Amour, Bars 21-26, where slip step is followed by pas de basque)." In this case, instead of doing, “7 and close together” to finish the slipping to the right and then preparing for pas de basque on the right foot, “blending” would involve dancing eight complete slip steps to the right and then directly into pas de basque on the right foot.
Q. In bars 15-16, does the 1st couple dance a quarter turn or a one and a quarter turn into place after balancing in line?
A. It is recommended that in Bars 15-16, 1st couple dance a quarter turn with the 1st man dancing a polite turn.
Historical note: When Clutha was first taught at St. Andrews Summer School in 1983, the 1st couple danced a turn and a quarter with the man dancing a polite turn. This requires cooperation between partners and agility. Gradually over time it has evolved, that the turn has reduced to a quarter turn, which is more achievable by the majority of our dancers.
Q. Bars 17-24: Does the 1st couple complete the first reel, dancing all eight bars, using only the last bar to turn approximately three quarters round to enter the second reel?
Apart from the degree of the left hand turn, that is correct. The first reel is completed turning on Bar 16 to enter the second reel. The notes in the new Third Edition of the Manual state that on Bar 16 1st couple dance a half turn.
Q. Regarding the wording of bars 25-26 in the compilation booklet of Leaflet Dances 1964-1998, there was an error in printing. Bars 25-26 should read as below.
A. Bars 25-26:
1st couple set advancing and pass by the right to face first corners.
Q. Bars 1-8 Is there any particular phrasing for the 1st couple eg. 1st man taking two bars to cast to the bottom, two bars to cross over, leaving him four bars to cast up and in to face 2nd man and 1st lady taking two bars to cross, two bars to cast to the bottom, leaving four bars to cross and cast up and in to face 3rd man?
A. Bars 1-8:
The suggest phrasing may well work, but these bars are described as an eight-bar sequence and is difficult to break it down into exact phrases. The general advice is for the woman to be about one place behind the man and most importantly ‘cover’ as they dance through the side couples and into the middle on Bar 8.
Q. Bar 24 As 1st lady has quite a long way to go in the last eight bars, is it permissible for her to finish her second reel quite far down the dance, ready to cast up?
A. Bar 24:
The instructions for the following section of the dance states “1st woman, followed by her partner, dances down the middle.” This implies that she finishes the reel where she starts it i.e. slightly above 4th man. The consensus of opinion seems to be that as long as she is not outside the confines of the set and does not begin to cast up until the beginning of the next phrase this would be acceptable.
Q. Bar 32 As 1st lady has been dancing to her left in the last eight bars, does she continue on that track coming into fourth place or pulls back left shoulder or does she cross over and pull back right shoulder into place?
A. Bar 32:
1st woman would pull back the left shoulder as this is the way she is moving.
Q. Bars 15-16. The wording in 101 SCD and the 1994 edition of Book 10 differs from the recent compilation Books 7-12 (2009) which says "1st couple finish facing first corners, 1st woman turning under her own right arm". Does this mean 1st woman turns left about under their joined right hands using skip change of step rather than the pas de basque mentioned in an earlier publication?
A. Miss J. Milligan was very definite about pas de basque in 101 SCD but this can be considered a ‘private’ publication. Since then no RSCDS publications mention pas de basque which would have been done if that had been the Society’s intention. In these circumstances both skip change or pas de basque could be considered acceptable. However, if teaching the dance today, the appropriate step to use would be skip change. Although previously agreed that the lady turned left about, the key phrase in the compilation Books 7-12, “1st woman turning under her own right arm” means that she should turn clockwise or right about using skip change of step.
Q. Bars 31-32: This dance ends with a three-couple knot and at the beginning of the third, fifth and seventh times through the 4th couple is needed immediately to begin the half turns and reels of three on the sidelines. I have seen a suggestion on the Strathspey archive that on the last two bars of the knot the dancing couple (in the middle) and the bottom couple dance left hands across half way so the dancing couple finish at the foot of the set. Is this the method you would recommend?
A. The note at the bottom of the instructions contained in the A5 Compilation book says:
At the end of each alternate repetition the original 1st couple finish in third place. At the start of the next time through, 1st couple step down to fourth place while the new 2nd couple (in second place) give the appropriate hand to the new 3rd couple (in 4th place).
A. The devisor Roy Goldring would not have countenanced changing or modifying the knot at the end of the dance to ease the transition into third, fifth and seventh time through.
His preference was for the 1s to finish the dance facing in (second time through) and step down quickly as the 4th couple extend into the change of place on the sides. For less experienced or less energetic dancers, he considered it acceptable for the 1s to finish the knot facing out and cast to the bottom as the 4s step up.
Q. Should the 1st couple dance out to the sidelines at the end of bars 17-20 after dancing right hands across?
A. In The Cuillins of Skye the 1st couple end on their own sides in second place at the end of Bar 20, before entering the left hands across to dance Bars 21-24.
Please note that, unless specified by the devisor, the default is to pass by the right at the end of the right hands across before entering the left hands across. See Standard Terminology ~ Hands Across (6.13)
Q. During bars 9-16, on bar 12 do the 1st and 3rd couples finish with their backs to 2nd and 4th couple, or with their backs to 3rd and 1st positions? Is the “left hands across” all the way round or just three quarters?
A. Bars 9-10:
1st and 3rd couples dance a complete turn right hand, finishing in allemande hold, facing into the set.
1st and 3rd couples dance half way round each other, men passing left shoulder, to finish in the middle of the set, facing towards their original places (1st couple facing 1st couple's place); during Bar 12 all release right hand and join up left hand in the middle.
1st and 3rd couples dance left hand across, nearly once round (more than three quarters).
1st and 3rd couples release left hand and all pull back left shoulder to turn completely round, moving slightly forward, (a "pirouette" movement), to finish ready for the reels of four across, 1st and 3rd couples are back to back with partner, 1st man facing 4th woman, 1st woman facing 2nd man.
In practice the left hands across is virtually all the way round, and the pirouette is then almost on the spot.
Note: Although we have referred to it as a "pirouette", a small travelling step is used to turn round.
Q. On bar 12, when 1st couple turn to right into second place opposite sides, do they slide in or dance a three quarter turn? How do they do this in one bar?
A. Bars 11-12:
1st couple dance a three quarter turn by the right into second place on the opposite side (as in a petronella turn). 1st couple anticipate the turn by moving slightly in towards their right on Bar 11 before turning on Bar 12.
Three pas de basque steps are danced on the sidelines
1st couple turn by the left using one pas de basque step to face first corner
Q. How are bars 17-20 danced so that 1st and 2nd couples do not bump into each other? Is this the same as a one-couple allemande?
A. The latest edition in the compilation Book 7-12 makes it quite clear that this is a one-couple allemande as described in the Manual (with the modification that they pass left shoulders on the last bar to face first corners, instead of retiring to the sidelines).
The formation is danced within the set – at the end of Bar 18 1st couple are in front of 2nd man, facing the women’s side; on Bars 19 and 20 they dance into the middle (turning the lady under her arm), advancing to face first corner, while 2nd couple step up.
Q. A query concerning bars 25-30 and 31-32 of Euan’s Jig; how is the progression effected ?
A. The instructions in the latest edition of the A5 Booklet are:
1s and 2nd couples dance a double figure of eight. To begin, 1st couple cross down as 2nd couple dance up to first place.
1s couple dance in and down to second place as 2nd couple dance up the sidelines to first place.
A. The description of Bars 25-32 in Book 28 is misleading - there is a note about this in both the old A5 and new A4 Manuals.
The way it is intended to be danced is for both couples to complete an eight-bar double figure of eight in only six bars of music, then to use the last two bars for the 2nd couple to continue to dance up into first place, as if starting a second double figure of eight, while the 1st couple continue in and down, as for a second double figure of eight, but change their minds after half a bar and curve, 1st man by the right, 1st woman by the left, into second place own sides.
Q. In the dance Festival Interceltique (Four Dances 2008) - chorus: is this an orderly promenade with each couple following the other around in a circle or so that they dance all over the room as in The Dunedin Festival Dance?
From the deviser, Ian Brockbank:
"When I first wrote Festival Interceltique, I had it with dancers in square sets, so the promenade has the dancers changing set. Unfortunately, on the original dance-through with the Lorient team there were only five couples, so we had to dance it as a single five-couple set. They then taught it at the festival as a single circular set for as many as will, and this is the version that was published. Do try it with square sets - it gives a bit more meaning to the promenade. Of course, you will probably find that when the dancers re-form at the end of the promenade, you will have sets of three couples, five couples, two couples, six couples, ...just as happens with The Dunedin Festival Dance/Borrowdale Exchange. This is fine and the dance allows for it."
Q. At the end of bar 8 the instructions say after leading up the 1st woman finishes between the 2nd couple and the 1st man between the 3rd couple, facing their first corner ready for a right shoulder reel of three.
A. 1st couple, when dancing up the middle, finish in the middle of the dance, midway between the 2nd and 3rd couples, still facing the top. On Bar 24, the 1st man guides 1st woman above him, with his right hand, to face the men’s side, while he faces the women’s side. 1st couple are still in the middle of the dance ready to give right shoulder to enter the reels of three across the dance that follow.
Q. During bars 9-16, for how many bars do the corners dance?
A. Bars 9–16:
1st couple, passing by the left, turn first corner with the right hand, pass partner by the right, turn second corner with the right hand and, passing by the right, cross over to face out in second place on own sides. Corners dance for four bars.
Q. Bars 5-8: Does the dancing couple turn towards each other as in Miss Milligan's Strathspey (i.e. on the second setting step bar 6) prior to casting, or do they complete the setting steps and attempt to complete the turning inward and casting all on bars 7 and 8? The instructions specify that 2nd couple dance up to first place. I read this to mean they dance straight in. However I have seen some dancers dance up and then cast into first place.
A. Both couples completed the setting on Bar 6. 1st couple then turned towards each other on the way to casting to where 2nd couple had been standing, but facing down. The 2nd couple staying close together to aid this, danced up only a small step on Bar 7, then danced a big step straight out to top place on Bar 8. Note that the 1st couple do not have to regain the sidelines at any time during these four bars, so have less to do than might be expected.
NB: The devisor, who was at Summer School (2010), raised no objections as to how Bars 5-8 were taught.
Q. Bars 17-24: Do we set and turn both first and second corners, or is it just first corners?
A. This is an eight-bar phrase so you would set and turn both corners. Further details can be found in The Manual page 44, section 6.7.2
Q. Bars 21-24 - How do 1st couple turn to finish on their own side of the dance?
A. The instructions in the A5 booklet say “… 1st couple, giving both hands, turn one and a quarter times to finish in second place on own sides."
A. It is a turn of one- and a quarter for 1st couple. Advance (one bar), turn three quarters round both hands (one bar), turn half round both hands (one bar), and retire to own side (one bar).
Q. For how many bars do the corners dance when turning the dancing couple during bars 9-16?
A. The instructions in the A5 Booklet say:
Bars 9-10: 1st couple turn first corners with the right hand
Bars 11-12: 1st couple pass each other by the right to face second corners
Bars 13-14: 1st couple turn second corners with the left hand
Bars 15-16: 1st couple pass each other by the right to finish back to back facing first corners
However, the turn with second corners is sometimes taught as a four-bar turn, and this is acceptable. (It is recognised that performing the turn in this manner has the benefit of ensuring that the dancing couple pass each other right shoulder.)
A. The Manual is quite explicit on this point; both corners dance for two steps. However, the turn with second corners is sometimes taught as a four-bar turn, and this is acceptable. (It is recognised that performing the turn in this manner has the benefit of ensuring that the dancing couple pass each other right shoulder).
Q. How should the dancing couples finish the last turn of the dance? Should everybody progress down/up the sides as though ready to start another turn of the dance, or should the dancing couples finish with the men on the men's side and the women on the women's side?
A. Glasgow Highlanders ends exactly as most 8x dances do, i.e. the finishing order is actually 1, 2, 4, 3, with everyone on their own side.
Only the 2nd and 4th couples contest the last 32 bars. 1st couple are already back home, own side, at the top, after seven repetitions, 1st woman curving left into top place, own side, on the last two bars, 1st man pulling left shoulder sharply back after passing 4th man left shoulder for the second time, at the end of Bar 22. 3rd couple, likewise, are already finished, in fourth place own side.
At the end of Bar 24, 2nd and 4th couples are in a line across the centre of the set, facing partners, men back to back, 2nd couple occupying the "women's side" end of the line, 4th couple the "men's". After a six-bar reel of four, 2nd woman curves left up to 2nd woman's place, 4th woman curves left across the dance to 3rd woman's place, 4th man follows her to 3rd man's place, and 2nd man pulls his left shoulder sharply back immediately after passing 4th man left shoulder for the second time, and curves left about into 2nd man's place.
The key to everything is that it MUST be a six-bar reel of four every time. For the men that is out (one bar), right about (one bar), in and pass other man left shoulder (one bar), out (one bar), right about (one bar), in and pass other man left shoulder (one bar). Nothing less will do. Unfortunately, a six-bar reel of four is very rare, and most are taken by surprise by the speed necessary. Particularly the "Working Up" woman! For her, it does not have to be a six-bar reel. A standard eight-bar reel will suffice for her, as she is more or less in the right place after 24 bars. A majority of "Working Up" women thus tend to dance a standard eight-bar reel of four, oblivious of the pile up behind them as everyone else scrambles desperately to cover far more ground.
Q. I am wondering if you could clear up a discrepancy in The Glens of Angus Book 23. In the book it states that in the last four bars "all cross to own sides and set." I was informed last night that this has been changed to set and cross. If this is the case then surely it should be in the Manual and all teachers informed of any changes. Hope you can confirm this for me.
A. The instructions given in the A5 Booklet for bars 17-32 say:
1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th couples dance the Spurtle
There is a note underneath:
When originally published, bars 29-32 were given as “cross over and set” but this was very quickly changed to the standard version of the Spurtle in the Manual.
A. The original edition of Book 23 (1967) does indeed describe Bars 29-32 of The Glens of Angus as "Giving right hands to partners, all cross to own sides and set". However, in the later (1968) Pocket Edition, the same four bars are given as "Set and cross over". It is usual for the most recently published instructions to be taken as the current version. There was a note in the original Manual (1992), but this was not carried forward into the 2005 Manual.
Q. Between the various editions there are different words and different diagrams, as well as the way the dance is performed in the video "How Do You Do It?". Bars 1-8 reels of three on the side; which shoulder do 1st couple give to 2nd couple?
A. Bars 1-8:
1st couple pass right shoulder with 2nd couple to start the reel.
Q. Bars 27-28 1st couple lead up to the top; is this right hands or nearer hands?
A. Bars 27-28:
1st couple dance up to the top (taking nearer hands)
Q. Bars 31-32 1st couple turn each other; is this right hands or both hands?
A. Bars 31-32:
1st couple, giving right hands, turn once round to finish in second place on own sides. This last instruction is in line with the most recently published compilation of Books 7-12; however, some dancers will have been advised to follow an older rule that when turning, unless specifically stated, in quick time skip change use one hand, in strathspey travelling step use two.
Q. Does the dancing couple dance forward to finish in the sidelines, or do they retire, with two steps, as in a poussette?
A. Originally the dance was performed with the dancing couple retiring into place, in a movement similar to that used in a poussette, (but only using the last step), which is the method preferred by the committee.
However, in recent years it has also become common practice and equally acceptable for the dancing couple to release hands early, as in Set to and turn corners, and dance out "forwards", (but finishing facing into the set).
Q. Following a question to the Technique Advisory Panel about Hamilton House, it has come to our attention that there is an error on page 11 of the Combined A5 volume of Books 7-12. It states: Bars 9-12 1st, 2nd and 3rd couples set to partners twice.
A. Correct wording is:
1st, 2nd and 3rd couple set twice. The dancers are not all facing their own partners at this point and the panel have agreed that "to partner" should be deleted from the text. There is no need for further explanation as the positions of all dancers is stated in Bars 5-8.
Q. Bars 9-12: At the end of the first half right and left, does 1st woman need a polite turn?
A. Bars 9-12:
Yes. The term "half right and left" invariably implies a polite turn, unless specifically stated.
Q. Bars 25-40: Are these simple three quarter turns, then letting go both hands to dance towards next person? Or do you complete the turn and having pulled back the right shoulder to face next person? (on bar 28, 32, 36, and 40)
A. Bars 25-40:
In different decades this dance has been taught in slightly different ways. Previously experienced dancers were encouraged to dance a complete turn pulling back right shoulders. However, today the accepted format is to use simple turns for the dancing couple to face their partner on 28 and 36. When it comes to the dancing couple turning each other on Bars 32 and 40 they are normally done like Sugar Candie with the man retaining his partner's left hand in his right hand to assist her to face corners.
Q. In the new compilation containing Book 24, for The Hollin Buss the instructions are:
A. Bars 17-24:
1st couple, giving both hands, slip down the middle and up
1st couple set and cast off one place. 2nd couple step up on the Bars 27-28.
Q. Where does the 1st couple finish on bar 24? In the middle of the set at the top or in their original places?
A. In original places, although it is acceptable to finish in the middle at the top.
A. On Bar 24 it is common practice to finish in the middle of the set at the top.
Q. A discussion started on "Strathspey" about Holyrood House, that led me to look for detailed information. The question is: what shoulder are the half reels of three on 41-44? Both right shoulder, or mirror (men left shoulder, women right shoulder)? The 2005 Manual added a new note: "Bars 38-39. 4th couple cast into first place; 3rd and 2nd couples pass left shoulders before crossing to own sides, 3rd couple dancing straight to second place on their own sides of the dance facing up, and 2nd couple into third place facing out ready to cast up into the half reels of three; 1s couple divide and cast off into fourth place on their own side of the dance." The explicit statement for 2nd couple " ... facing out ready to cast up into the half reels of three" and for 3rd couple" ... facing up" (but "out" is not mentioned) gives a strong indication for mirror half reels of three: 4th couple out, 3rd couple in and up, 2nd couple out and up. But that is not said explicitly. This wording clearly does NOT fit with two covering right shoulder reels. Then it should have said that 2nd woman and 3rd man face out (as in figure 3).
A. The dance was written at a time when right shoulders were the norm unless otherwise stated. The diagram showing a right shoulder entry into the half reel of three is correct and is clearly demonstrated in the video "How do you do it?"
The 2nd couple finish the half reel of four by crossing to their own sides in third place to finish with 2nd woman facing out ready to cast into the reel of three whilst 2nd man dances out to the side and pulls his right shoulder back (described in the Manual somewhat ambiguously as "cast") to enter the next reel.
Q. In the dance Hooper's Jig, bar 17-24, the instructions say that while 1st lady and 3rd man are changing places, 1st man and 3rd lady "dance round ready to cross over again" - What exactly does "dance round" mean.
A. To maintain the flow of the dance, rather than have a dancer cross for two, then stand for two, they dance round an imaginary dancer standing in the destination corner, giving right shoulder, and using two small skip changes of step.
Q. Bars 9-16: In the reel second corners have right of way in the first half of the reel. If they also take right of way in the second half of the reel, after dancing couple cross to opposite sides, the reels seem to degenerate into three people dancing in a circle. Is this how it should be danced, or should first corners take right of way in the second half of the reel, that is, dance two half reels?
A. Accurate phrasing of all the dancers involved is the absolute key to the success of these reels. Although they can be taught as two half reels to emphasise the phrasing at the half way point these bars are definitely danced as 'normal' reels of three, with the wee bit of give and take common to all such reels; second corners fractionally ahead of the music, first corners fractionally behind. There is no change of priority. It can sometimes appear as if first corners give up on the reel after four bars, and take the shortest route back home via a clockwise chase round the outside of the set.
This could be a result of the use of the phrase "curve into place" without qualification. The devisor’s ultimate intention was for first corners to end the reel by putting on a loop to face in, pulling left shoulders back. In other words on Bars 13-14 the 2s and 3s continue on their same track, ie as for any normal reel, whilst the 1s cross diagonally. Roy Goldring’s own footnote on the original draft instructions went on to say: "Note: At the end of Bar 14, 2nd and 3rd women (also 2nd and 3rd men) should be just passing. (Bars 15-16) 3rd woman and 2nd man curve into place whilst the others turn (right hand) into a (diagonal) line of four.”
Q. Where are the dancing couple at the end of bar 16 - clarification of what is meant by "middle of the set".
A. The 1st man finishes his reel in the middle above his partner, taking right hands; the turn then becomes a 3/4 turn.
A. Branches: The fourth half reel is danced on the diagonal between 2nd woman's place and 3rd man's place to 1st man should finish in 3rd man's place and 1st woman in the middle of the set. However, these positions have to be modified slightly to prepare for the turn on Bars 17-18. To do this, 1st woman dances down slightly to the middle of the set in third place and her partner balances the figure by continuing his loop through third place to meet 1st woman in the middle but also in third place. 1st couple should finish in third place i.e. across the set, slightly in from the sidelines i.e. in the middle.
Q. Quoting from Book 32 (1984): "...2nd couple step up on bars 21-22" I would like to know your take on the stepping up bit.
A. The 1st couple both dance Bars 19-20 starting from the men's side, and 1st man, starting one place higher up, sort of hangs back while 1st woman catches up, and they arrive at the top, nearer hands often joined, level with first place. That means that 21-24 can be danced exactly as written. The wording of the dance is quite clear, and, I think, quite danceable. It was certainly taught, and danced, exactly as written, at Summer School in '84. 1st couple danced in and up on 21-22, leaving the way clear for the 2nd couple to step up. This had the advantage that the 1st couple arrived for the spoke exactly on time, and not the half a bar, or so, early that we see today socially.
Q. Bars 7-8 - when the 1s cross diagonally right hand with first corners, do the dancing couple turn by the right into the line to face their partner's first corner on the side, or do they dance into the line turning by the left, as in rights and lefts? Similarly in bars 19-20, for the second corners. Both versions of this movement can be seen on the dance floor and it would be helpful to know which is considered correct.
A. The Manual (2013) says that “After crossing or changing on the sidelines, polite turns are danced”.
A. Without explicit instructions in the publication, this is a movement which can be interpreted in either way. In the publication year, the dance was taught at St. Andrews in line with the devisor’s preference. That is, at the end of the diagonal crossings, the dancing couple make a long turn while the corners do not; thus, on bars 7-8 the dancing couple turn by the right to face up and down while the corners, who have less than a quarter turn to do, go the short way. Similarly on Bars 19-20. However the devisor has also stated that people are welcome to dance it in other ways if they find it more convenient.
Q. Bars 17-24: In the previous MMM II these bars contain no reference to the 2nd couple stepping up and my understanding of this open-ended phrase would be to use a four-bar cast with the 2nd couple stepping up on 19-20. However, in the new combined Miscellany dated 2007, the instructions read '1st couple cast off one place, dance down between 3rd couple and cast up to second place. 2nd couple step up on bars 17-18. Could you please clarify the phrasing of these bars from the new book.
A. The combined Miscellany used the standardised practise of having the 2nd couple step up immediately as the 1st couple cast. However in this dance the panel feel that a long cast with the 2nd couple stepping up on Bars 19-20 is an acceptable way to complete this eight-bar phrase.
Q. I would like clarification about which dancer’s hand to take and when during bars 1-8 of La Flora Book 27.
A. The instructions in the A5 booklet say:
Bars 1-4: 1st and 2nd couples dance right hands across halfway and, retaining partner’s right hand, cross to own sides.
Bars 5-8: 2nd and 2st couples dance left hands across halfway and, retaining partner’s left hand, cross to original places.
A. Bars 1-2:
1st and 2nd couples join hands briefly with the dancer diagonally opposite them as in a standard 'four hands across half-way round'. They remain in the middle where they now join right hands with their own partner.
1st and 2nd couples cross right hands to own sides. The couple have now changed places.
1st and 2nd couples dance as for bars 1-4 but giving left hands to finish in original places.
Q. At the end of bar 16, should the 1st and 2nd couples be on their own sidelines before starting the four hands across or are they within the set?
A. The Manual Notes for Ladies’ Fancy:
1st man hands his partner across in front of him towards her own side of the dance. On Bar 16, 2nd man dances in behind 1st man ready for four hands across.
Thus, if the dancers phrase Bars 9-14 correctly, the 1st and 2nd couples will be within the set ready to begin the four hands across on Bar 17.
Q. Ladies of Dunse Book 26. This is a dance I have enjoyed for many years, including dancing it at the Duns May weekend most years since the mid-eighties. Throughout this time I have understood that the rights and lefts (bars 25-32), whilst in a slightly modified form in the last two bars, does include a polite turn for the 1st man and 3rd lady. As I understand it, on bars 31-32, the 1st man moves from 3rd man's place towards 3rd lady's place then into the middle back to back with his partner, pulling back his left shoulder as he does so, to be ready to set to the 3rd lady. A variation (I'm tempted to say "aberration") seems to have developed, eliminating the polite turn. I have checked my copies of Book 26 and the Manual but can find nothing in either that appears to support this - the only special note I can find in the Manual refers to the need to release hands early - to enable the 1st man to correctly position himself for setting to his first corner - there is not even a note to encourage 1st lady to dance strongly to give her partner space in which to position himself. It appears to me that trying to dance these bars without the polite turn keeps the 1st man on the men's side of the dance with the result that there is a conflict between the paths of the 1st couple as each tries to get across the middle of the set into place to set to first corner. Please can you advise what is the current official RSCDS thinking on this matter?
A. The instructions in the A5 booklet say:
Bars 25-32: 1st and 3rd couples dance rights and lefts. On bars 31-32, 1st woman, giving left hand to 3rd woman, dances over to face her first corner as 1st man briefly giving left hand to 3rd man, omits the polite turn and dances over to face his first corner.
A. The notes in the Manual for this dance state:
As 1st man is giving a left hand to 3rd man he must quickly release hands and dance over
to face his first corner. Similarly, 1st woman must dance over to face her first corner on the last two steps, briefly touching left hands with 3rd woman.”
The way this is usually interpreted is that, while 3rd woman does include a polite turn, 1st man does not do a polite turn, but releases 3rd man’s left hand and dances into the centre of the set, pulling back by the right, to face 3rd woman.
Q. How do you phrase bars 1-8 and also bars 9-16?
A. Bars 1-4:
1st man casts off below 2nd man, and 2nd woman casts above 1st woman.
1st man and 2nd woman, giving both hands, turn one and three quarter times to finish in each other's original places.
1st woman casts off below 1st man who is in 2nd woman's place and 2nd man casts above 2nd woman who is in 1st man's place.
1st woman and 2nd woman, giving both hands, turn each other one and a quarter times to finish in each other's original places.
Q. Should it still be danced as set out in “Won’t you Join the Dance?” - i.e. with the second couple stepping down on bars 19 and 20, and up again on bars 23 and 24? This is also recorded in TAC notes, but curiously not in the Manual.
A. The instructions in the A5 booklet give full instructions about when to step up and down.
A. The pocket edition of 1996 says, “2nd and 3rd couples step down on Bars 19-20. 2nd couple step up on Bars 23-24”. As this was the latest version of the instructions at the time of the publication of the Manual, it was no longer necessary to include a note about it.
Q. Bars 17-20: If the second couple step up on bars 19-20, as described in the new compilation book, there will be a collision with 1st couple who are crossing and casting at this time.
A. The editors of the new composite volume consulted senior dance instructors and it was agreed to leave the instructions as written by Hugh Thurston unaltered. These are in line with previously published editions of this dance. However it is recognized that socially it may be more helpful to step up on Bars 21-22 or on Bars 27-28 which helps to reduce the path which 1st couple have to travel.
Q. In what appears to be a four-couple dance, (with everyone dancing the first 24 bars), how and when does the dancing couple progress to the bottom?
A. At the end of Bar 32 the original 1st couple should finish in 2nd place. All four couples then dance Bars 1-24, finishing with the original 1st couple in 2nd place facing down and the original 3rd couple facing up, ready to dance the last eight bars. 1st couple finish by dancing under an arch made by the 3rd couple and dancing down to fourth place, while the 3rd couple dance up to 2nd place, and the 4th couple step up.
It is recognised that this would make it a very tiring dance, and it would not be unreasonable for the dancing couple to dance down to fourth place under an arch made by the 2nd couple (or even all three couples) at the end of the first repetition.
Q. At the end of bars 17-24, does the 2nd couple cast into top place or just dance in to place, turning the nearer way?
A. The 2nd couple just dance in the nearer way, without turning their back on their partner.
Note: This differs from the movement in Broadford Bay, where the wording is different, i.e. "2nd couple cast off into first place to face each other across the dance"
General Point: Dancers should not add loops to movements, unless specified in the instructions.
Q. Bars 9-12: In 101 Scottish Country Dances and in later Society publications, bars 9-12 read "1st, 2nd and 3rd couples, giving partners right hands, cross over to change places" but the new compilation of Books 7-12 reads "1st, 2nd and 3rd couples, passing by the right, cross to the opposite sides". Have the dance instructions been changed (and if so, why) or is this later version an error?
A. The exact instruction for these bars has varied slightly over the years. The earliest editions of Book 9, which predate the 101 Scottish Country Dances, and also the pocket edition of Book 9 printed in the 1960s, say ‘passing right shoulders’. The editors who produced the combined edition of Books 7-12 sought expert opinion and decided to revert from the 1986 instructions (similar to 101 SCD) to the earlier instruction. The current official version is now “passing by the right cross to opposite sides”.
Q. Bars 17-20: the 1st couple turn both hands to finish facing first corners. Is this similar to the opening out in Sugar Candie Book 26 bars 15-16, when the 1st couple set to each other and then turn both hands to finish facing first corner? Do they dance a complete turn and then open out or is it a very slow partial turn?
A. 1st couple dance a complete turn and then 1st man releases his left hand, while using his right hand to guide his partner in order that 1st couple finish facing their first corners. This is similar to the movement in Sugar Candie Bars 15-16.
Q. Bars 17-20: when 2nd couple turn both hands, does the 2nd woman flow out of the turn to dance up to first place or do 2nd couple turn once, opening out to face up and then dance up the sidelines?
A. 2nd couple turn both hands then flow out through second place and dances up the sidelines to top place.
A. 2nd couple turn both hands then 2nd woman flows out through second place and dances up the sideline to top place.
Q. Bars 9-16 of The Mairrit Man's Favourite (Book 24, number 12). In the current copy of Book 24 the instructions clearly state that 1st couple lead down, turn on the fourth step, lead up, cross and cast. However, the current edition of the Manual section 6.17.2 says to turn on bar 3. Since the Manual is newer than the Book 24 edition, should it take precedence or should we follow the instructions in the dance?
A. Use the description in the Manual. Turning on Bar 3 allows sufficient time to lead up to the top, cross over and cast off, which turning on Bar 4 does not.
Q. I wonder if you can help with the interpretation of bars 65-72 of The McCulloch Strathspey from the RSCDS leaflets. The dance is a square strathspey and at the end of bar 64, everyone is back in their original places. My 1981 copy of the leaflet and also my 1987 edition of the pocket book for the leaflets has the following description of bars 65-72: "1st and 4th men dance a figure of eight round 1st and 4th women while 2nd and 3rd men dance a figure of eight round 2nd and 3rd women. Men pass left shoulders in the middle and dance round the women passing right shoulders." The 2005 edition of the Manual has no guidance on these bars. The 2008 TAC notes contains the following note: "1st and 3rd men (passing in front of partners) begin by passing 4th and 2nd men left shoulder and round women by right shoulder. Men finish by dancing round partners by right shoulder to finish facing c/clockwise, with partners on their right, ready for allemande." It seems to me that if 4th man is going to pass 1st man by the left and then dance round 1st lady by the right, that will be a very twisting route for him to take. Also, the pattern the men take is more a reel of four than a figure of eight and will be quite a stretch in eight bars.
A. It is like a reel of four with only two dancers, starting with 1st and 4th men, and 2nd and 3rd men, passing by the left. It is quite a tight pass by the left for the men and then by the right round a lady, and also a long way to travel, but providing the men are ready (prompt them in plenty time) there should be no problem.
Q. Book 26 Bars 1-4, instructions say that 1st couple finish below 2nd couple which would suggest that 2nd couple don't step up or down, yet the diagram shows the 2nd couple in top place at the start of bar 5, so do they step up on bars 1 and 2 and back down on 5 and 6 or stand still?
A. The instructions in the A5 booklet do not mentions stepping up or down so 2nd couple should not move
A. The republished edition of the book, in 1994, does not include the diagram and there is no instruction to step up or down, so 2nd couple should not move.
Q. Bars 25-28. Do the 1st couple dance towards each other on bar 25 to then lead up, cross and cast, or can they advance towards each other on bar 24 on the last setting step?
A. The instructions in the A5 booklet say:
Bars 23-24: 1st couple set to each other.
Bars 25-28: 1s couple dance towards each other, 1st man pulling back by the right to face up, lead up, cross over and cast off to second place on own sides (Confirmed Jan 2019).
A. 1st couple dance towards each other on Bar 25, 1st man pulling back by the right at the end of Bar 25 to face up.
Q. In this dance bars 9-16 say “1st couple dance up for two steps, set to each other, dance down for two steps and, giving both hands, turn to finish facing first corners.” As 1st couple have only two steps to turn on bars 15-16, how much of a turn is it (half or one and a half) and how do they actually dance to finish facing corners?
A. Bar 15:
1st couple dance a half turn
1st man, using his right hand, guides his partner to face her first corner as he dances to face his first corner. This is similar to the turn danced by 1st couple in the dance Sugar Candie Bars 15-16 Book 26.
Q. Bars 9-16: Could you please clarify the instructions for these eight bars?
A. The instructions in the A5 booklet say:
Bars 9-16: 2nd and 3rd women join nearer hands with 1st man. 1st man sets, turning on the spot as 2nd and 3rd women dance round clockwise to change places. At the same time, 2nd and 3rd men join nearer hands with 1st woman. 1st woman sets, turning on the spot, as 2nd and 3rd men dance round anticlockwise to change places (Fig 1). On bar 12, 2nd and 3rd couples change direction and hands to dance back to starting positions (Fig 2). 3rd woman dances in front of her partner each time.
There are two diagrams illustrating bars 9-12, and bars 13-16.
A. On Bar 9, 2nd and 3rd women join right hands with 1st man. At the same time 2nd and 3rd men join left hands with 1st woman. 2nd couple face out in the direction of travel, clockwise for 2nd and 3rd women, anti-clockwise for 2nd and 3rd men. Using eight pas de basque, 1st couple turn on the spot as the supporting couples, using small change of step, change places, then, changing hands and changing direction on Bar 12, dance back to their starting positions.
Q. The first four bars of Miss Flora's Favourite (Graded Book, dance 24) are described for 1st couple. But for 2nd couple the instructions simply say step up with no indication of when? Bars 3 and 4 would be the "traditional" timing despite the problems this sometimes creates for 1st man - "by habit" he finds he has transferred weight onto his right foot at the end, and thus can't start the skip change on bar 5!
A. The 1992 edition of the Graded book says “2nd couple step up on 3-4”
A. Stepping up should be on Bars 3 and 4.
Q. I've been looking at the dances in Book 11 and have a query about the first four bars of Miss Murray of Ochtertyre. What is a "cross jump"?
A. Bar 1:
Two slip steps to left.
Two cross jumps on the spot. (Jump with both feet off ground and land with right foot in front. Jump again and land with left foot in front).
Repeat Bars 1 and 2.
Q. The book states "1st couple cast off two places, meet, dance up to top...". When they "meet" do they take hands or not? And if they were to take hands is it right hands or inside hands?
A. The phrasing will be meet and the end of bar 3, dance up to the top taking three steps, and cast off on the last 2 bars. As the instructions say “dance up” it will be nearer hands.
A. The Manual at 3.2.5 is very clear about the use of hands: "The term ‘lead’ now indicates that the right hands are joined, either for leading down the middle or for crossing or placing of the man’s partner. By contrast, the term ‘dance’ indicates that nearer hands are joined."
Therefore, the dance description 'dance up to the top' means with nearer hands joined.
Q. Bars 5-8 also bar 16: how does the 1st couple turn to their first corners? At the end of bar 16 does 1st couple stay in the middle?
A. Bars 5-8: The Manual specifies the end of the turn as “1st man retaining his partner’s left hand …”
The instructions in the A5 booklet say:
Bars 9-16: ……..and, giving left hand to partner , finish in the middle of the set, facing down
A. Given that plenty of time i.e. four bars are allocated for this turn it may be danced like Sugar Candie with the man retaining his partner’s left hand in his right hand to assist her to face first corners.
The specific mention of “finish facing down the dance", indicates that 1st couple should stay in the middle on Bar 16 - there would be no need for those five words if 1st couple finished in the side lines.
Q. A candidate for Unit 2 wished to know which version he should dance and teach. Having produced a Society Video to show it in 'How do you do it', then the Prescribed Dances for the Teacher's Certificate Examination (June 2003) has changed bar 15 back to the original. I thought we have been dancing the way described in the 1993 pocket edition and the video, which is also explained in the TAC Notes. Bar 15 Pocket Edition (1993) – “1st couple, giving right hands, dance up turning halfway round to finish facing 2nd couple ready for the rondel” Book 23 (original version) – “1st couple, giving right hands, cross to own sides, dance up to the top and turn to face 2nd couple who have danced in ready for the rondel” Prescribed Dances for the Teacher's Certificate Examination (2003) – “1st couple, giving right hands, cross to own sides and dance into first place, and turn to face 2nd couple who dance in ready for the rondel.”
A. The instructions in the current leaflet of Prescribed Dances (2018 edition) and the latest A5 Booklet (October 2017) are identical. i.e.
On Bars 15-16: 1st couple, giving right hands, dance a half turn as they lead up to finish in the middle of the set in first place facing down with 1st woman on 1st man’s left.
A. When we reviewed the Manual we looked at the latest publication (the Pocket edition in this case) and any ambiguity was referred back to the video as the final word. In this case the two are in agreement for 1st couple although the handing for 2nd couple is not clear. It was felt therefore there was no need for a Manual note in chapter 7. The earlier A4 book instructions certainly imply a different way of finishing the reel in today's terminology and I doubt if there is a record of why the wording was changed - the intention may have been to change the way the reel was being danced or simply trying to "clarify" the instructions. In a further attempt at clarification, the Prescribed Dances for the Teacher's Certificate Examination (2008) now read: "1st couple, giving right hands, dance a half turn as they lead up to finish at first place on own sides in the middle of the set facing down. 2nd couple finish in the middle of the set, facing up and 3rd couple dance to places." This description now brings the movement into line with the formation shown in the video.
Q. Bars 1-4: Do the 1st couple give hands to dance down and cross over and if so, is it right hand or nearer hands? I've just been watching a video of the dance where they give right hand, but my instructions say "dance down" as opposed to "lead down".
A. Bars 1-4:
Although the original Book 21 did say to dance down, the current version of Book 21 says 'lead' i.e. right hands joined, which facilitates the cross over into third place ready to cast up to second place.
Q. Bars 5-8: Should the setting stay on the sidelines or can they advance slightly before turning.
A. Bars 5-8:
The first two bars of this phrase is often danced as a set on the sidelines, however it is also taught and danced (all in pas de basque) as follows.
Bar 5 set on the spot, Bar 6 advancing slightly, Bar 7 half turn, Bar 8 retire. As with many dance queries of this nature, both methods could be described as correct.
Q. Could you please advise me on the phrasing of bars 17-24 of The Munro Rant, from MMM Vol.1? I cannot find anything about it anywhere in the RSCDS Manual. Do 1st and 2nd couples lead down for four bars before turning, or three bars? Presumably 1st lady dances down slightly to meet her partner. Does 2nd man actually cast off and on which two bars, or does he take the easy option and dance down behind the 1st man to meet his partner?
A. The instructions in the A5 Booklet say:
Bars 17-24: 1st man with 2nd woman followed by 2nd man with 1st woman lead down the middle. They turn to face up and, as the 1st and 2nd women dance up, the 2nd man casts off to join 2nd woman and 1st man dances up to join 1st woman. Both couples dance up to original places.
They turn to face up at then of bar 4 of the phrase.
A. Both couples lead down and turn to face up on bar 4 of the phrase i.e. Bar 20 of the dance. The men change back to their own partners as everyone dances up i.e. 2nd man casts as 1st man dances up (bars 5 and 6). Perhaps the revised instructions in the combined Miscellany volume would help.
Q. Bar 41-48: In this “poussette round”, should each man begin with the left foot?
A. All the men start the poussette on their left foot.
Q. Table in “Scottish Country Dancer” Magazine No 18 April 2014. Why is the description in the table not the same as the dance instructions for the first 32 bars as in Book 47?
A. Ian Brockbank’s table in the 'Scottish Country Dancer' magazine is describing the 32 bars as danced by the original 2nd, 3rd and 4th couples when dancing from first place, while at the same time the original 1st, 2nd and 3rd couples are dancing their second 32 bars starting from third place. Ian is the dance devisor.
Q. Is there a misprint in bars 63-64?
A. Unfortunately there was a misprint in the first run of Book 47. It has been corrected in the subsequent print runs. On Bars 63-64 the couple in fourth place dance up to second place, except on the last repetition of the dance where the original 3rd couple, who are in fourth place at this point, dance up to third place. This means that all couples finish the dance in their original places.
Q. Where does the top couple cross over on bars 5-6?
A. The original 1st couple crosses right hand and casts off two places ~ thus they will be crossing between the 3rd and 4th couples who are standing in place.
When the subsequent new top couples cross and cast off two places, they would also be crossing between the third and fourth places. However instead of the couples standing still in these places, these couples will be dancing rights and lefts.
Good phrasing is required by all three couples so that there is space for the top couple to cross over right hand to cover with the couples in third and fourth places.
Good spacing down the sidelines of the set, should mean that there is space for the top couple to cross between the other two couples. However at a social dance the couples dancing up in the rights and lefts may have to go very slightly above third place, if the sidelines are cramped.
Q. Peggy’s Love: Book 8. I am looking to dance Peggy’s Love at an upcoming dance competition and have a query about it. I have an acquaintance who danced this dance as part of their full certificate in the 1970’s under at the RSCDS Summer School. The certificate class chose how best to dance bars 9-12 and they decided that it would be best to dance up to corners without giving hands. When the class danced it that way in the examination where Miss Milligan was one of the examiners, no comment was made. I am aware that the most recent edition of the published dance says that the 1st couple lead up to face first corner. My question is therefore, for a competition, should the 1st couple lead up, right hand in right, or would the variation danced in the 1970’s certificate class be acceptable.
A. Bars 9-12 are a serious stretch for even the best dancer. The current instructions do say “lead”, which an adjudicator may expect to see. Another practical compromise would be to 'dance' - implying 'nearer hands' - which retains the spirit of giving hands (rather than just doing nothing) while offering a worthwhile helping hand to one's partner.
Q. Two questions about the dance Perthshire Highlanders. On bars 1-8 would 1st man lead his partner right hand in right?
A. The instructions in the A5 booklet say:
Bars 1-8: 1st couple dance in and, joining right hands, lead down behind 2nd man, across the set, down behind 3rd woman and up the middle to original places.
A. The leading in Bars 1-8 is done right hand in right hand.
Q. On bars 17-24, how many bars do the corners dance for in each turn?
A. The instructions in the A5 booklet say:
Bars 17-24: 1st couple, giving right hands, turn first corners, pass partner by the right and, giving left hands, turn second corners and cross diagonally to second place on own sides.
A. During Bars 17-24, the corners dance for two bars in each turn.
Q. Bars 17-28: When the 1s and 3s are doing a series of three half diagonal reels do they pass by the right shoulder or the left in the middle in order to position themselves for the next half reel?
A. The RSCDS Magazine Dances Publication states that the 1st and 3rd couples pass by the left to face the following corner position. The diagrams from the "Old Glendarroch Scottish Country Dance Sheet No. 18" - implies that the dancing couples pass by the left shoulder.
Q. The pocket book containing Book 2, Princess Royal, only describes 28 bars: is something missing?
A. The dance is 28 bars long, and has its own tune, musically arranged as 8+8+12 bars to fit the dance.
The instructions in the A5 Booklet say that the 2nd couple step up on Bars 3 and 4
A. The dance is 28 bars long, and has its own tune, musically arranged as 8+8+12 bars to fit the dance. The instructions in the Pocket Book 1961 are correct, except that it states that the 2nd couple move up on Bars 3 and 4, while the latest editions say they move up on Bars 5 and 6.
The Society has produced a CD for Book 2, which contains a recording of this dance.
Q. How many steps should the corners dance during the right hand turns in bars 17-24?
A. The instructions in the A5 Booklet say:
Bars 17-24: ………… Corners dance for four bars.
A. Both corners should dance for four steps, (as intended by the deviser).
Q. “Bar 25-32 All dance crown triangles, 1st couple finishing in second place on own sides.” In the Manual Third Edition, steps of Crown triangles are two steps to enter followed by six setting steps and 1st couple finish back to back in the middle of the set, 1st man facing up, 1st woman facing down. In this particular dance, at the beginning of bar 25, 1st couple are back to back in the middle, 1st man facing up, 1st woman facing down. How should they dance to finish in second place on own side?
A. Bars 25-26:
1st man gives right hand to 2nd woman and left hand to 2nd man, 1st woman gives right hand to 3rd man and left hand to 3rd woman in triangle formation. All set.
Moving to their right, 1st man gives right hand to 3rd woman and left hand to 2nd woman. 1st woman gives right hand to 2nd man and left hand to 3rd man in triangle formation. All set.
Moving to their right, 1st man gives right hand to 3rd man and left hand to 3rd woman. 1st woman gives right hand to 2nd woman and left hand to 2nd man in triangle formation. All set.
1st couple dance a petronella turn to second place, own sides.
2nd and 3rd couples do not dance during bars 31-32.
Q. At the end of bar 8, 3rd woman is on the man’s left in promenade hold. Should we follow a rule so that their left hands are above their right hands?
A. (Revised Jan 2019) The Manual currently says that when the woman is on the left of the man, the right hands are joined below left hands and the man leads with his left hand. In practice this does not happen, and insisting on it is only likely to result in confusion.
A. Yes. If the woman is on the man's left then they join right hands below left hands and the man leads with his left hand.
Q. How far should the dancers turn during bars 1-16?
A. The instructions in the A5 Book say:
Bars 1-4: 1st woman and 2nd man, giving right hands, turn halfway and set
Bars 5-8: 1st woman and 2nd man, giving left hands. Turn back to original places and set
Bars 9-16: 1st man and 2nd woman repeat bars 1-8
A. It has been agreed that the dancers turn half way round during Bars 1-16, as described in 101 Scottish Country Dances, (and not three quarters as specified in the latest edition of the Miscellany).
Q. Which hand should they use to return to place?
A. See above
A. They should return to place using the left hand.
Q. Bars 28-29: On bar 28 (4th bar of a half reel of four starting by the left) 1st couple would usually pass by the right in the middle of the set, then on bar 29 they are to start a left hand turn. This seems an awkward transition, how should it be achieved?
A. Do not complete the full half reel of four, but loop round and omit the pass by the right in the middle, then dance into the left hand turn.
Q. Bars 17-20, instructions says 1st and 2nd women, giving right hands, cross over and, giving left hands, turn halfway round on the sides. Is this movement half a ladies’ chain? Then do two men dance towards the women’s places? Some teachers teach the men don’t move on bars 17-18, so 1st and 2nd couples turn right hands with partners to 1st woman and 2nd man facing up and 1st man and 2nd woman facing down on the sides.
A. Bars 17-20
Is not a half ladies’ chain.
Splitting it into two-bar phrases.
1st and 2nd women, giving right hands, cross over.
1st and 2nd couples, giving left hand to partner, turn halfway round on the sidelines. Finishing facing partner with 1st woman and 2nd man facing up while 1st man and 2nd woman finish facing down on the sidelines.
Q. Bar 8: How does the 3rd couple finish bar 8? The normal method would be 'straight into place' but that would mean an awkward entry into the half figure of eight. It would flow more easily if the 3rd couple continued to face down then cast into the half figure of eight.
A. The instructions in the A5 Book say:
Bars 5-8: 3rd and 1st couples dance four hands round to the left. On bar 8, 1st couple cast up one place and 3rd couple dance down to original places and face out.
A. 3rd couple just dance down to face out.
Q. Bars 29-32: The Manual has the 1st couple lead down into fourth place and dance the short way into place. However, TAC Notes has the 1st couple lead down and cast up into fourth place. (a) Is it nearer hand lead or a right hand in right hand lead; (b) does the 1st couple dance into place or cast up into place?
A. Leading down, right hand in right hand and dancing straight into place is the correct current practice. Some teachers and examiners, however, express a preference for casting up into place which can help with the flow of the dance the second time through.
Q. Bar 21-24: At the end of three hands round, does 1st woman almost finish it in three steps, with 2nd woman's help pulling back right shoulder to dance in to finish ready for half poussette, or release hands earlier pulling back left shoulder?
A. The instructions in the A5 Book say:
Bars 21-24: 1st, 2nd and 3rd women and 1st, 2nd and 3rd men dance three hands once round to the left in 3 steps, releasing hands on bar 23. On bar 24, 1st and 2nd couples dance in and join both hands with partner.
A. An entry related to these bars first appeared in the RSCDS Manual of Scottish Country Dancing 1992 and is repeated in the 2004 edition. It clearly states that the circle must break on Bar 23 to allow the 1st and 2nd couple to be ready (dance in) for the half poussette. If the circle is danced robustly and all three couple are almost back where they started then they should be able to dance into position in the normal manner.
Q. Bars 15-16 1st couple turn to face corners. My preference for this movement is a simple three quarter turn, then letting go both hands to dance towards first corners. However, it is common practice to complete the turn by finishing back to back having "twirled", the lady/man pulling back the right/left shoulder. Furthermore, 1st couple often retain nearer hands as they do so. Personally, I find that this detracts from the elegance of the dance. I had always assumed that my interpretation is correct, but have noticed via comments on the Strathspey Server that it was danced with the "twirl" when demonstrated at the Younger Hall on publication. So, as it is about to be taught to some relative beginners at our class, I would really like to know the official interpretation of the instructions in Book 26. How would you expect this movement to be taught?
A. The instructions in the A5 Book say;
Bars 13-16: 1st couple set and, giving both hands, turn to face first corners. On bar 16, 1s couple open out as 1st man releases his partner’s right hand.
This particular dance has been danced in this way since it was published in 1972. Earlier dances, like The Stoorie Miller (Book 21) are usually danced without the assisted turn. (Unchanged Jan 2019)
A. The RSCDS Manual says:
“Bars 15–16 1st couple open out on Bar 16, 1st man retaining his partner’s left hand in his right to assist her to face her first corner.”
This particular dance has been danced in this way since it was published in 1972. Earlier dances, like The Stoorie Miller (Book 21) are usually danced without the assisted turn.
Q. What is the actual pathway for 1st and 2nd couples on bars 5-8?
A. While 1st woman dances diagonally down in front of her partner, 2nd man dances up; they join both hands and start to turn on the side, then they release hands and 1s woman dances straight across to place, again crossing in front of her partner, while 1st man dances across to turn 2nd woman on the women’s side of the dance, releasing hands early enough so that he can dance up diagonally from 2nd woman’s place.
Q. Bars 1-8: Can you please confirm the phrasing of the first reel (1-8) as defined in the Manual? As I work it out using the Manual phrasing, 1st man would be passing through 2nd lady's position on bar 6, leaving him two bars to cross diagonally back to top man's place and pull back his right shoulder ready for the second reel (the Manual suggests one bar to cross back from 2nd lady's position). This also means 1st man never completes the reel on the ladies' side of the dance - is this also correct?
A. The instructions in the recent compilation edition of Books 7-12 and the current Manual notes make it fairly clear that the 1st couple use Bar 8 to cross back to their own side of the dance. This means that 1st man does not complete the reel on the ladies’ side of the dance.
Q. Bars 25-28: There appears to be a discrepancy between the original publication and differing descriptions appearing in local dance cribs which seem to require clarification.
A. The original instructions for The Valentine appeared in the leaflet Homecoming Scotland – 5 Dances 2009 and contained a printing error, i.e. the last phrase in bars 25-26 was incorrect and an omission occurred in bars 27-28. On page 6 of the October 2009 “Scottish Country Dancer” magazine a correction was printed as follows:
“Bar 25-26: 3rd, 1st and 2nd couples, giving right hands, turn half way round and remain in the middle facing partners.
Bar 27-28: 3rd, 1st and 2nd couples set to finish facing up with nearer hands joined.”
Q. Bars 9-16: In the Prescribed Dances for Unit 2 booklet, it says: “1st couple dance a promenade, round 2nd couple. To begin 1st couple pass 2nd woman by the right and finish in first place in the middle of the set facing down.” Some candidates interpret this as a promenade rather than a figure of eight: which is correct?
A. In the new compilation book the instructions say "1st couple, taking promenade hold, dance a figure of eight round 2nd couple, passing 2nd woman by the right to begin, and finish in the middle of the set facing down." This should clarify the issue for candidates and dancers.
Q. According to the instructions in Book 47 for Vintage Simon, on bars 7 and 8 the “1st couple, giving right hands, turn to face first corners”. Then on bars 9 and 10 “1st couple and first corners, giving right hands, change places”. This would mean that the 1st couple are giving right hands to turn each other and then immediately right hands to their corner. 5th couple are dancing similarly. This seemed awkward giving right hand followed by right hand again, when we danced it in class. We are wondering if it is a misprint?
A. It is not a misprint. When dancing Bars 7 and 8, 1st couple should give hands, thinking of it as a change right hands to finish facing first corners. 1st couple should release hands during Bar 8 to prepare to give right hand to first corner. 5th couple dance similarly.
Q. We have been asked whether the dancing couple should take hands during bars 25-26, while setting to the 2nd couple, as the current wording suggests that they only take hands as they dance down to the bottom of the set.
A. The Manual states:
Bars 25-28: 1st couple take nearer hands while setting to 2nd couple and retain them as they dance to the bottom of the set.
A. We can confirm that the dancing couple should take nearer hands as they turn to face 2nd couple, and that they retain them while setting and dancing down the middle.
Q. Can't find an answer to your question?
A. We are constantly updating this page to reflect questions sent in by dancers. If you have a question that we have not answered above then please get in touch with the RSCDS office and we will be happy to advise.