Scottish Country Dances are made up of a series of “dance formations” or patterns. Many of these formations occur frequently in Scottish Country Dances.  

In many formations the dancers start and finish the formation in the same place; however, for some formations the top couple have changed places or progressed down the set. As country dances are progressive with the top couple moving down the set after each turn through the dance, at least one formation that includes progression is needed in each dance.

Join hands in a circle and dance round to the left and back again to the right. Sometimes called Hands Round, where the number of hands indicates the number of dancers in the circle. Four hands round is for four dancers, six hands round is for six dances etc. A circle, round and back, usually takes eight bars of music. In Jigs and Reels slip step is used, and in Strathspey time Strathspey travelling step is used.

 

Circle or Hands Round - Formal Style 

                  

 

Circle or Hands Round - Informal Style 

 

Casting may be a form of progression. To cast off one place the dancers turn to face the top of the set, face out and dance down behind the next couple to finish one place down, facing each other across the set. To cast up one place the dancers turn to face the bottom of the set, face out and dance up behind the next couple to finish one place up, facing each other across the set. This usually takes two bars of music and travelling steps are used.

A Turn involves two dancers and can be danced using right, left or both hands. A turn can also be a Pivot or a Birl. A turn usually takes either two or four bars of music and travelling step are used in Jigs, Reels and Strathspeys, unless otherwise stated. 

 

Pivot Turn With Shake-Hand Hold 

                  

 

Tulloch Turn With Elbow Grip  

 

Birling 

 

Dancers join right hands, dance down the middle of the set, usually for three travelling steps, they turn towards each other on the fourth step and dance back to places, usually for four travelling steps. In Reels and Jigs dancers may join both hands with partner and use slip step to dance down the middle and back.

A figure of eight is a formation danced around standing dancers. It may be danced on the sidelines or across the dance. A figure of eight takes eight bars of music and travelling steps are used.

 

Figure of Eight 

                  

 

Figure of Eight, Strathspey Time 

 

This formation may be danced from the sidelines, up and down the set or round the room. Dancers, joining nearer hands, take two travelling steps forwards and two travelling steps backwards. This formation takes four bars of music. Sometimes, in Strathspey time, dancers take one step forwards and one step backwards and repeat.

 

Advance and Retire 

                  

 

Advance and Retire, Strathspey Time

 

This formation for four dancers is often called a wheel, the hands joined in the middle forming the hub.  Join right hands with the diagonally opposite dancer and all dance round. On the fourth step, release hands and turn inwards to face the opposite direction. Join left hands with the diagonally opposite dancer and all dance round to original places. Hands across may also be danced with three dancers.  This formation takes eight bars of music and travelling steps are used.

 

Hands Across - Formal Style 

                  

 

Hands Across - Informal Style  

 

Hands Across, Strathspey Time - Formal Style 

 

A reel of three is danced by three dancers. It can be danced across the set, on the side of the set or on a diagonal. The pattern, if drawn on the floor, forms a figure of eight. This formation may take either six or eight bars of music and travelling steps are used.

 

Reel of Three - Right Shoulder 

                  

 

Reel of Three - Mirror Reels  

 

Reel of Three - Side View  

 

A reel of four is danced by four dancers. It can be danced across the set, on the side of the set or on a diagonal. To begin the dancers are in a line with two dancers in the middle, back to back. This formation takes eight bars of music and travelling steps are used.

 

Reel of Four, Side View 

                 

 

Reel of Four, Strathspey Time 

 

Additional formations

Many formations are straightforward and with the concept being easily understood from its title. The important thing to remember is that unless the instructions explicitly say otherwise, all dancers start and finish the formation in the same position.

Please expand each section to learn more.

There are many formations that involve corners. To identify corners:

In a Longwise Set:

1st couple begin, back to back, in the middle the set in second place, facing the opposite sides. First corners are diagonally on the right of 1st couple and second corners diagonally on the left.

In a Square Set:

Couples are side by side, the man with his partner on his right. His corner is the woman on his left. Similarly, the woman’s corner is the man on her right.

 

Corner Partner, Reel Time 

                  

 

Corner Partner with Tulloch Turn, Reel Time  

 

Rights and Lefts is a formation for two couples, in a square, with partners facing each other across the set to begin. Sometimes dancers begin by facing a dancer who is not their partner; the pattern of the formation is the same.

Bars

1 - 2: Both couples, giving right hands to partners, cross over.

3 - 4: Both men (on the women’s side) and both women (on the men’s side), giving left hands, change places.

5 - 6: Both couples, give right hands to partners, cross over.

7 - 8: Both men and both women, giving left hand on the sidelines, change places. Finish in original places.

This formation takes eight bars of music and travelling steps are used.

 

Rights and Lefts 

                 

 

Rights and Lefts, Strathspey Time 

 

Promenade is a formation that can be danced by two, three or four couples. Couples stand beside partner in the middle of the set facing the top, men with their partners on their right and join both hands, left in left, right in right with right hands above left hands.

Bars

1 - 2: Moving together, dance one step forward and slightly to the right, curve round to the left to face the men’s side.

3 - 4: Dance across the top of the set, face down on the men’s side and start dancing down the men’s side.

5 - 6: Dance into the middle of the set and start moving up.

7 - 8: Dance up the middle and, releasing hands, dance out to the sidelines back to place.

This formation takes eight bars of music and travelling steps are used.

 

Promenade, Jig Time 

                 

 

Promenade, Reel Time  

 

Promenade, Strathspey Time  

 

This is a form of progression that is the couples change places. It is usually danced with two couples but can be adapted for three or four couples.

Couples stand beside partner in the middle of the set facing the top, men with their partners on their right and join both hands, left in left, right in right with right hands above left hands. The right hands are lifted over the woman’s head and held just above her shoulder.

This is called Allemande hold and is the same as for The Gay Gordons.

Bars

1 - 4: In Allemande hold, 1st couple, followed by the other couples, dance a small step to the right, dance across the top of the set and down the men’s side. All finish facing down

5: Each man brings his partner round into a line, all facing across to the woman’s side.

6: All dance into the middle, each man bringing his partner round, under her right arm, to face him.

7 - 8: Both couples, releasing hands, dance backwards to own side.

This formation takes eight bars of music and travelling step is used.

 

Allemande, Strathspey Time 

 

This is a form of progression that is the couples change places. It is danced by two couples who begin by standing side by side in the middle of the set facing their partners with both hands joined. 

Bars

1 - 2: 1st couple dance towards the men’s side and make a quarter turn clockwise, while the 2nd couple dance towards the women’s side and make a quarter turn clockwise.

3 - 4: 1st couple move down the men’s side while 2nd couple move up the women’s side to pass each other and both couples make a quarter turn clockwise.

5 - 6: Both couples dance into the middle of the set and make a half turn, clockwise, to finish with both couples side by side having changed places.

7 - 8: Both couples, releasing hands, dance backwards to new places.

This formation takes eight bars of music and setting steps are used throughout.

Note: this description is for a Poussette in Reel or Jig time.

 

Poussette 

                 

 

Poussette Strathspey  

 

Petronella Turn

This is the name given to a two bar turning movement on the diagonal. The name is taken from the dance Petronella where the movement was first described. The formation can be danced from the sidelines into the middle of the set, or from the middle of the set into the sidelines. It may be preceded by or followed by setting. It is danced turning to the right.

The dancing couple, each dance diagonally to the right, dances a three quarter turn, rotating clockwise, to finish facing their partner, either up and down the set or across the set depending on the starting position. For example, when the turn is started from the sidelines the dancers end up facing each other up and down the set.

One Petronella turn takes two bars of music.

 

Petronella Turn, Reel Time - Formal Style 

                 

 

Petronella Turn, Reel Time - Informal Style  

 

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