Friends’ Dances

Below are some dances created by various of my friends and neighbors. The notes that follow each dance were created by the author (not by me).

-David Smukler

 

Keith Hunt

Photo by Ted Crane (tedcrane.com)

Keith has been a valued members of the Syracuse dance community for many years, both as a contra dancer and as an international dancer. He and his wife Judy play with the bands, Crooked Stovepipe and the Syracuse Country Orchestra. Keith is a caller whose roots go back to rural New York dances. His programs often include a variety of styles of dance, both old and new, and help us stay connected with tradition.

Dances by Keith Hunt

Peter Jorgensen

Photo by Corinne Jorgensen

Peter was a fixture in the Syracuse dance community “back in the day.” He is one of the founders the Syracuse Country Dancers, and was its first caller. Peter was also a founding member of the Bassett Street Hounds, a Syracuse Morris dance team.

DANCES BY Peter Jorgensen

Amy Kahn

Photo by Ted Crane (tedcrane.com)

Amy lived for many years in Syracuse. She was very active in the contra dance community here, as a dancer and a caller. She also served on the board of our local dance organization. Because of the great simularity of names, Amy is often confused with Amy Cann (another caller as well as a wonderful fiddler and composer of such tunes as Catharsis). Well, even if CDSS can’t always keep them straight, we can!

DANCES BY AMY KAHN

Bob Nicholson

Photo by David Martin

Bob is from Syracuse and has been the president of the Syracuse Country Dancers for a number of years. He is a popular caller throughout upstate New York who is especially well known for his thoughtful approach to beginning dancers.

Dances By Bob Nicholson

Micah Smukler

Photo by Doug Plummer

I also recommend you check out these dances by Micah Smukler. Micah is my son, and the two of us enjoy talking about choreography together. Micah’s dances are influenced by his passion for mathematics and penchant for experimentation.

 

 

 


Jealous Sally

By Keith Hunt
a duple proper contra dance

A1
Gent 1 goes diagaonally down across the set below lady 2, then up the outside behind both ladies; now with his partner following gent 1 crosses back going below gent 2, then up the outside through his place and straight across to his partner’s place; the 1’s ending improper
A2
All gypsy neighbor and swing, end facing down
B1
Down the hall 4-in-line, turn as couples
Return, hand cast
B2
Actives 1/2 figure 8 above
All forward and back

The fun is in the chase!

 


Mix’nella
By Keith Hunt
a duple improper contra dance

A1
Couple 1 balance to partner across the set, then turn over own right shoulder to move into the center of the set, gent facing down and lady up; as the ones spin the twos move up slightly, then all take hands in a “diamond”
Balance this ring, all spin one place to the right and re-form the ring
A2
Balance again, spin right, and…
Swing your neighbor
B1
Down the hall 4-in-line, turn as couples
Return and cast off
B2
Right and left through across the set
Long lines forward and back

Mix’nella preserves several features of the classic version of the dance Petronella. The first couple has the opportunity to show off as many balance step variations as they would like. The spin to the right, down the hall and back, and right and left, are all reflections of the earlier dance. But Mix’nella also mixes it up by having everyone active most of the time in keeping with current preferences, and including the figure in a ring that most dancers today associate with Petronella. The name of the dance is a nod to Pat’nella, the name given to the original dance by the rural folk of Ralph Page’s area.

 


Northern Quadrille
By Keith Hunt
a square dance figure

A1
Head couples forward and back
Forward again and do si do opposite
A2
Swing the same, end facing nearest side couple
Circle left, 4 hands
B1
Left-hand star, gents turn back (over right shoulder)
And swing the one you meet (your corner)
B2
Promenade to the gent’s home

This New England style square dance figure is suitable for dancers of all abilities. It works well with a clearly phrased jig.

 


Snowflake Chain
By Keith Hunt
a triple minor improper contra dance

A1
Actives do-si-do below 1-1/2 (actives are now progressed)
Circle 6 hands round to the left
A2
Complete the circle left and then each gent courtesy turn the lady on his right
Three ladies start a triple grand chain
B1
. . . and chain twice more until you are back to progressed place
B2
Couples 1 and 2, half promenade
And half right and left through

The “three ladies triple grand chain” figure was originated by Rod Linnell and used in his Long Pond Chain square dance. To do the figure, three ladies make a 3 handed right-hand star. They pass in front of their current gent and one gent more to do a courtesy turn with the third gent they meet. (Note that for couples 1 and 2 the “current gent” is not their partner, but the neighbor with whom they did the do si do.) Two more chains done the same way will bring you back where you started.

The figures of this dance fit to a standard 64-count tune. The do-si-do takes 8 counts. The circle 6 goes all the way round and takes a full 16 counts, so it begins partway through the first A-part of the tune and ends partway through the second A-part. The triple grand chain uses 24 counts, ending after the first B-part. The half promenade (8) and the half right and left through (8) fit into the second B-part.

This dance goes well with the tune Snowflake Breakdown or similar distinctively phrased reels.

 


Three Sashay
By Keith Hunt
a triple minor proper contra dance

A1
Actives do si do and cast below one (unassisted)
Forward 6 and back
A2
Circle left 3/4 until the gents face up and the ladies down
Sashay to the right and back to the left
B1
Actives turn contra corners, ending back in your lines-of-3
B2
Sashay to the right and back to the left
Circle right 3/4

This dance is a modification of Sackett’s Harbor.

 


Scollay’s Reel
By Peter Jorgensen
a duple improper contra dance

 A1 Actives down the center, 2 by 2, turn alone
Return and cast off
 A2 “Wave the ocean” (actives under the arch first)
Repeat
 B1 Balance and swing neighbor
 B2 Actives balance and swing

A vigorous dance. As in the traditional dance, Haymaker’s, active dancers spend approximately 50% of their time swinging. To “wave the ocean” in this dance, all join inside hands with your partner (note that it is not the usual hand: gent’s LH with lady’s RH) and face the neighbor with whom you just cast off. The second couple makes an arch and goes over the first couple. The first couple then makes an arch and backs over the second couple. Repeat the whole business again before the balance and swing with neighbors. Both the couple making the arch and the couple ducking under should move forward or backward as necessary (i.e., both couples move throughout). The wave movement is also in and out as well as up and down; that is, the figure is smoothest if dancers think about getting close to their partner when going under and separating when going over.

 


Keith’s Banjo
By Peter Jorgensen
a duple proper contra dance

 A1 Actives cast down the outside 1 place and cross the set, passing partner by
the right shoulder
Allemande left opposite 3/4 and balance in a wavy line
 A2 Hey-for-4 (starts with actives passing right shoulders)
 B1 Actives balance and swing (end facing up)
 B2 Same 4, circle L
And back to the R

In A1 the active dancers cast (unassisted) below one place. They cross the set to allemande left with an opposite sex neighbor. Then they hang onto that LH and join RH’s with each other to form a wavy line and balance. Actives can assist each other into the hey with a gentle “pull-by” of the right hand. The “Keith” of the title is Keith Hunt, a regular dancer and caller at the Syracuse contra dance and at international dancing. Keith used to bring a banjo to dances which had an electric light bulb installed behind the head.

 


CJ’s Delight (or the “Birthing Day”)
By Amy Kahn
a duple improper contra dance

 A1 Balance and swing neighbor
 A2 Long lines forward and back
Two ladies do-si-do 1-1/2
 B1 Gypsy partner
And swing
 B2 Promenade 3/4
Say “goodbye” to neighbors, California twirl to face next

The 3/4 promenade in B2 leaves you facing up and down the set with your partner. You are in progressed place at that point, but need to turn as a couple to face the next (and so you do in the final 4 counts). The “goodbye” can be a balance. I borrowed this figure from Dan Pearl’s Punxsutawney Promenade. The combination of the romantic gypsy/swing with your favorite partner, and the opportunity to say farewell to all the lovely people you have danced with all evening make CJ’s Delight a very effective last-dance-before-the-waltz. It was composed to celebrate the birth of my sister’s first child.

 


Sweet Music
By Amy Kahn
a duple improper contra dance

 A1 Gents allemande left 1-1/2
Scoop up your partner, continue back to gent’s home, turn out with a butterfly whirl
 A2 Hey-for-4 (start with ladies passing right shoulders)
 B1 Balance and swing partner
 B2 1/2 right and left through
Roll away with a half sashay and right-hand star 3/4

Gents are in charge of finding the next gent on their diagonal left in the transition from B2 to A1. The beginning of this dance is borrowed from Bob Dalsemer’s Pedal Pusher, and the ending is another nod to Dan Pearl’s Punxsutawney Promenade. The roll-away and butterfly whirl come from square dance tradition. The ever popular hey-for-4 has been so thoroughly incorporated into contra dance that it no longer feels like an English country dance figure to us, and so this dance may not strike contra dancers as quite the hybrid that it is. I love the way these figures click together.

 


Bob’s J&L
By Bob Nicholson
a duple improper contra dance

 A1 Circle left
And back to the right
 A2 Right-hand star
And left-hand back
 B1 Actives sashay down the center
And sashay back
 B2 Down the hall 4-in-line (actives in the center)
Active couple arch and back up, second couple through the arch

I always figured Jefferson and Liberty was a foolproof dance that could not break down. After it broke down anyway one night I created this variation for one night stands. It replaces “Actives down the outside and back” with a sashay down the center and back, to keep people connected and less likely
to wander off somewhere.

 


Fancy Passings #1
By Bob Nicholson
a duple improper contra dance

 A1 Ladies swap places, circle left 1/2
Gents swap places, circle left 1/2
 A2 Two ladies gypsy 1-1/2
Swing partner
 B1 Half right and left through
Half ladies chain
 B2 Hey-for-4 (starts with ladies passing right shoulders)

The version above is a dance that David Smukler and I came up with collaboratively. David now calls a version that starts with a circle left all the way, and then the ladies swap and the gents swap. Yet another alternative is to have gents swap first. Then in A2 it is the gents who gypsy in the center. This requires you to replace the half right and left with lines forward and back in B1.

This is the first of a series of three dances named for our friends the “Passing Fancies,” a delightful band from Rochester, NY. It was born on a car ride to Rochester. The band is now long defunct, but we still remember their trademark: the passing around of vintage hats during their gigs.

 


Fancy Passings #2
By Bob Nicholson
a duple improper contra dance

 A1 Gents swap places, circle left 1/2
Ladies swap places, circle left 1/2
 A2 Pass thru across the set, balance neighbor
And swing
 B1 Ladies allemande right 1-1/2
Swing partner
 B2 Balance in a ring of 4, pass thru across, and turn individually to the right
Promenade single file 3/4 around the circle of 4

This is my second dance dedicated to the all women’s band, “Passing Fancies.” The B2 part is borrowed from Mary Devlin’s Three Sisters. When I first did her dance, I noticed and enjoyed that you can make eye contact with your former neighbor and then your present neighbor on the way to your future neighbor. Mary has since noted that the figure comes from Bob Dalsemer’s Pedal Pushers. For this dance to work nicely, dancers need to be prompted to get out of their 8-count swing and into the circle balance on time.

 


Fancy Passings #3
By Bob Nicholson
a duple improper contra dance

 A1 Allemande left neighbor 1-1/2
Half hey-for-4 (starts ladies passing right shoulders)
 A2 Balance and swing neighbor
 B1 Gents allemande left 1-1/2
Swing partner
 B2 Balance in a ring of 4, pass thru across, and turn individually to the right
Promenade single file 3/4 around the circle of 4

This dance is a slightly closer variation on Mary Devlin’s Three Sisters. I wanted my favorite figure to appear in a slightly simpler context. As in Fancy Passings #2, it is helpful if dancers are prompted to get out of their 8-count swing and into the circle balance on time.

 


Hearts Delight
By Bob Nicholson
a duple improper contra dance

 A1 Neighbors allemande left 1-1/2, and ladies take right hands to form a
wave-of-4 across the set
Balance the wave, ladies allemande right once as the gents orbit halfway
counterclockwise
 A2 Partners balance and swing
 B1 Right and left through across the set
Ladies chain back
 B2 Left-hand star
Right-hand star

I wanted to create a dance in honor of the band, “Hearts Delight,” a great band that my daughter Eileen plays in. So I combined pieces of two of my favorite dances: Hearts and Flowers by Ted Sannella and Shadrack’s Delight by Tony Parkes. The above is the result. Composed earlier the same month, it was first danced on October 28, 2005 with Hearts Delight playing. All the dances I chose that evening had titles related to the band’s name. As with many of my dance compositions, David Smukler contributed to the final form.

 


Oak Hill Quickstep
By Bob Nicholson
a duple improper contra dance

 A1 Down the hall, 4-in-line (actives in the center), turn alone
Return, face neighbor
 A2 Balance and swing neighbor
 B1 Ladies chain
Over and back
 B2 Long lines forward and back
Actives swing

This dance is an adaptation of Beaux of Oak Hill. It teaches some basic figures and phrasing, and almost never breaks down, even when dancers are very new.

 


October’s Hornpipe
By Bob Nicholson
a triple improper contra dance

 A1 Allemande left below, 1-1/2
Do-si-do the next below
 A2 Circle left, 6 hands round
 B1 Left-hand star below
Swing above
 B2 Long lines forward and back
Actives swing

This is a slight variation on April’s Hornpipe, by Ralph Page. It was born during an October car ride to a dance, when David Smukler and I were discussing ways to adapt triple minor dances to modern tastes. The only change to Ralph Page’s dance is replacing the right and left four in the B2 part with something which includes a swing. The title is just silly, since the April
of April’s Hornpipe refers to a person and not a month of the year.

 


Outnumbered
By Bob Nicholson
a longways dance or Sicilian Circle: 3-facing-3, one gent between two ladies

If gents are in really short supply, this dance can be a useful
way for the ladies to share them.

 A1 Forward and back toward opposites
Two ladies chain
 A2 Four ladies do-si-do
Gents allemande left partner on left
 B1 Gents gypsy right neighbor on right
Back to your partner and swing
 B2 Circle 6, just two places to the left, balance
Balance again, RH’s high and LH’s low to change direction

In A1 the ladies at the right ends of the lines chain diagonally left. In A2 all four ladies do-si-do straight across with the opposite lady. If the dancers are more accomplished the allemande turn can be done in 4 beats. Then gypsy the neighbor in 4 and start the B2 with a balance and swing. Each gent has two partners. On alternate times through the dance they take turns being the one
he swings. When you end the swing the gent has two ladies on his right. Circling left puts him back in the middle of his two partners, but in the other threesome’s place. Changing directions completes the progression.

 


Syracuse Hey
By Bob Nicholson
a duple improper contra dance

 A1 Down the hall, 4-in-line (actives in the center), turn alone
Return, face across (or cast off)
 A2 Ladies chain
Over and back
 B1 Hey-for-4 (starts with ladies passing right shoulders)
 B2 Do-si-do next neighbor
Actives swing

This dance was created to introduce the hey-for-4 to dancers who had not yet been exposed to it. I started with Ralph Sweet’s Washington Hey and tried to simplify elements that seemed troublesome to newcomers. David Smukler suggested a small change which resulted in the current form of the dance.