Contras, etc. (Tried and True)

Untested Contras
Beta Contras
Master List of All Dances

Duple improper

Becket formation

Duple proper

Circle mixer

Sicilian circle



“Tempest” formation

About the Tempest formation

Bingham’s Pie ***
December 2012
Duple improper

 A1 Long lines forward and back
Circle left once around
 A2 Neighbors gate clockwise (left-hand neighbor forward) 1-1/4
Those in the center, allemande left 1-1/2
 B1 Half hey-for-4 (partners pass right shoulders to begin)
Partner swing
 B2 Those who now have left hand free allemande left 1-1/2
Neighbors swing

Which way to turn the gate in A2 should be obvious because you follow the momentum of the preceding circle (both move clockwise). In B2, I specify “those who now have left hand free” because they are not the same people who did the left-hand turn in A2.

The asymmetrical gate is borrowed from Susan Kevra’s dance, Circle of Love. Note that this gate figure is not mirrored on the opposite side; both pairs are turning clockwise.

Bingham’s Pie was originally composed on my birthday, September 16, 2012, which I was celebrating with a delicious slice of apple caramel pie purchased from a favorite roadside eatery on my way home from a fun weekend of dance and visiting. It was revised to its current form on December 1, 2012.

(top of page)

The Copenhagen Interpretation ***
February 2023
By Micah and David Smukler
Duple improper

 A1 Neighbors balance and swing
 A2 Long lines forward and back
Left-hand chain across
 B1 Half hey-for-4 (those who chained pass left shoulder to begin)
Partners swing
 B2 Circle left 3/4, pass through up or down
New neighbors do-si-do (balance this neighbor to begin next round)

This is my variation on a dance by my son, Micah Smukler. Historically, there have been different ways to style a left-hand chain, but the intention here is to do an exact mirror of the more common right-hand chain. Those with left hands free pull by the left to their partner who scoops them up into a (clockwise) courtesy turn. In my experience, dancers appreciate getting a litte extra practice of this move during the walk through.

(top of page)

Country Dance Romance ****
Duple improper

 A1 All Mad Robin chase clockwise
Taking 2 hands with partner, poussette clockwise 3/4 (end in a line-of-4 across with centers facing out and ends facing in)
 A2 Hey-for-4 (partners pass right shoulder to begin)
 B1 Right shoulder around partner, and swing
 B2 Allemande left 1-1/2
Pick up neighbor for a star promenade ALL the way around (no time for a “butterfly whirl”), releasing at the end to flow into next round of the dance

In this dance the Mad Robin figure takes the same path as a neighbor do-si-do (partners facing across the set throughout). If the action confuses the dancers, it can be replaced with an ordinary neighbor do-si-do with little damage to the choreography.

Country Dance Romance is my variation on Don Armstrong’s dance, Calvin Crest. The gentle and sweet English poussette into the hey is entirely Don’s idea, and the heart of this dance.

The title is meant to include an obscure reference to my friends in Rochester, NY, whose dance organization is named CDR, for Country Dancers of Rochester. Have you heard the term TLA, for three-letter acronym? I learned about a silly TLA: TFZ, which stands for TLA-free zone…

(top of page)

David’s Good Man ***
Duple improper

 A1 Down the hall, 4-in-line (1s in the center), ones turn as a couple
Return proper, hand cast
 A2 Left-file dancers split those on the right file, separate and return to place
Twos split ones below, separate and return to place
 B1 Right-file dancers split those on the left file, separate and return to place
Ones split the twos above, separate and return to place
 B2 Ones balance and swing, end facing down

My variation of Goodman’s Fancy, a dance by Richer Castner, which was in turn based on an English country dance called The Geud Man of Ballangigh.

(top of page)

A Delicate Balance ***
May 2004
Duple improper

A1 Ones acting as a unit, hey-for-3 across the set (ones split the twos, turn right and pass collective right shoulders with a #2 dancer to begin)
A2 Down the hall, 4-in-line (1s in the center), turn alone
Return, face your neighbor
B1 Neighbors balance and swing
B2 Long lines forward and back
Ones swing

Alternatively, the hey in A1 can be a “dolphin hey.”

(top of page)

Fishing for Compliments ***
Spring 2015
Duple improper

 A1 Long lines forward and back
Allemande left 1-1/2
 A2 Partners right shoulder around and swing
 B1 Balance in a ring, spin to the right (as in Petronella)
Balance, spin to the right again
 B2 Balance and spin to the right once more, into…
a neighbor swing, end facing across

This is my adaptation of Steve Zakon-Anderson’s dance, Salmonella Evening, which combines his Salmon Chanted Evening and Petronella. I inserted a neighbor swing and adjusted some transitions accordingly. I recommend that you clap if you wish in B1, but not in B2.

(top of page)

Frog in the Well ***
June 2000
Duple improper

 A1 Taking hands-4, balance the ring (4)
Circle left (8)
California twirl to face previous neighbor (4)
 A2 With this neighbor balance and swing, and face across
 B1 Left hand free? Allemande left 1-1/2
Partners swing
 B2 Balance the ring and spin to the right one place (as in Petronella)
Immediately, dip and dive 2 places (1s start by going under)

At either end of the set, if the California twirl leaves you facing no one, turn again as a couple to face into the set up or down. You come back in with the second half of the dip and dive (make an arch at the top or duck at the bottom). Then, you are only a neutral couple for A1 only. Come back in for A2, B1, and most of B2.

(top of page)

Hello Rose **
Duple improper

 A1 With neighbor, balance, box the gnat
And swing
 A2 Circle left 3/4
Partners do-si-do
 B1 With partner, balance, box the gnat
And swing
 B2 Chain across
Left-hand star

This dance is really just the same as The Baby Rose by David Kaynor. The only change is the addition of the “box the gnat” figure, which is borrowed in this context from Tony Parkes’ dance Ashokan Hello. I made the change because I think of The Baby Rose as an excellent dance for newcomers, except for the fact that many newcomers fatigue easily in a dance with two 12-count swings. My variation makes it feel fancier without adding any real difficulty, meanwhile shortening the swings to 8 counts each.

(top of page)

Hot Modern Moves ***
February 2018
Duple improper

 A1 Circle left halfway (4), balance (4)
Couple two swing, end facing down (8)
 A2 Down the hall 4-in-line (4), neighbors balance (4)
Neighbors swing, end facing up (8)
 B1 Return (4)
Hand cast to form a ring (4)
Balance the ring (4)
As in Petronella: spin one place to the right (4)
 B2 Repeat: balance the ring and spin to the right (8), into…
Couple one swing, end facing down (8)

Written in honor of David Millstone, to celebrate his completion of two terms as President of the CDSS Board. First danced on April 19, 2018 at an event in David’s honor. The story of the title can be found on p. 55 of Cracking Chestnuts.

Note that every swing ends where it begins.

(top of page)

In the Pines (or Pining for You) ***
Duple improper

 A1 Neighbors balance and swing
 A2 Long lines forward and back
Allemande left 1-1/2
 B1 Right shoulder round partner, and swing
 B2 Circle left 3/4; with neighbors roll away with a 1/2 sashay; cross trail through across the set (pass partner right and neighbor left)

This is my adaptation of Pinewoods Crossing, a dance written by a large committee of all-star choreographers. I find the sequence at the end of that dance very pleasing. I wanted a dance that preserved that feature, but was a bit simpler in other regards. I’ve seen both titles used, and do not have a strong preference for one over the other.

Originally, A1 began with right shoulder round, and B1 with a balance. Eventually, though, I decided I liked the dance better as written above.

(top of page)

Just Born, More Later ****
October 2015
Duple improper

 A1 Circle left halfway and neighbors swing
 A2 Neighbors change places as follows:
Long lines go forward to meet (4)
Ones cast (unassisted) to second place while twos move up one place and back out (4)
Then ones allemande left 1-1/2 and give right hands to the next to form a long wavy line of ones in the center (8)
 B1 Balance; spin to the right one place (as in Rory O’More) — but spin just 3/4 to face up or down — and take hands four in a diamond with the nearest twos
All four balance in this diamond; spin to the right one place (as in Petronella) and take hands four again
 B2 Balance; spin to right, the ones keep spinning (a total of 1-1/4) into…
Ones swing in the center, end facing down

The title of this dance is an exact transcription of a text message that I received shortly after the birth of my first grandson, Isaac Benedick Smukler Barton. (See also Master Barton’s Arrival.) The dance combines elements of Ted Sannella’s Fiddleheads and a dance called Goody Two Shoes that was created by Isaac’s father, Micah Smukler.

There are end effects in this dance similar to those in Fiddleheads. The first time through, in B1, the dancer at the top end of the wave will not have someone in their right hand for the Rory O’More spin. Instead of a spin, face down to form the diamond with neighbors and a ghost (a 3-person “diamond”). When a couple waits out at the top, if you do not cross over, you can start your active role in A2: allemande left and join the wavy line. One of you will have no one to form a diamond with; simply wait at the top for your partner to return for the swing. (Similar things will happen to your partner at the bottom.)

(top of page)

Kathy’s Smile ***
December 2005
Duple improper and double progression

A1 Circle left
As couples, weave the set, zig-zagging first left and right past neighbor couple #1, and then right and left past neighbor couple #2
 A2 Circle left with neighbor couple #3
Same four left-hand star
 B1 With neighbor #2, balance and swing
 B2 Long lines forward and back
Ones swing, end facing down

Kathy’s Smile is named for Kathy Anderson, and borrows heavily from her wonderful dance, Weave the Line.

(top of page)

Nova Nova Scotian ***
Duple improper

 A1 Do-si-do neighbor
Actives do-si-do
 A2 Down the hall 3-in-line (ones with #2R) (6)
“Right hands high and left hands low” to reverse direction (4)
Return (6)
 B1 Partners balance and swing
 B2 Chain across
Left-hand star

One of my first dance compositions. I used the 3-in-line idea from the Nova Scotian by Maurice Hennigar, but varied the dance out of all recognition. Avoid starting the RH’s high too soon in A2. Otherwise dancers get home early, before the balance in B1.

Here’s another variant, the “Supernova Scotian.” I sometimes medley these two dances. This version is in print in the ninth edition of Dance a While.

Supernova Scotian ***
Duple improper

 A1 (same as above)
 A2 Down the hall 3-in-line (ones with #2L)
“Right hands high and left hands low” to reverse direction; return
 B1 (same as above)
 B2 Right and left through
Circle left 3/4, pass through along the set

(top of page)

Phylla Mae Promenade ***
June 2020
Duple improper

 A1 Circle left 1x and neighbors swing
 A2 Neighbors promenade 3/4 to face partner up or down
Partners see-saw (left-shoulder do-si-do)
 B1 Partners balance and swing
 B2 Balance the ring; spin one place to the right (as in Petronella)
Balance the ring; California twirl

My variation of Punxsutawney Promenade by Dan Pearl.

(top of page)

Ringtones ***
December 2007
Duple improper

 A1 Circle left all the way round
Neighbors swing
 A2 Chain across, form a ring-of-4
Balance the ring, neighbors rollaway across the set and re-form the ring
 B1 Balance the ring, partners swing on the side
 B2 Circle left 3/4
Balance the ring, California twirl

The rollaway across is clockwise, that is, the left-hand person rolls to the right while the right-hand person slides to the left.

Ringtones is based on a dance by David Kaynor with no name. I like David’s dance a lot, and once asked him what he called it. He said that he had not decided. As this was after I’d heard him call the dance several times, I started referring to it (his dance) as “Not Ready to Commit.” David’s dance is a Becket formation contra. The part I liked and injected into Ringtones is the sequence starting with the chain and ending with the partner swing, half the dance!

I have seen a folk-processed version of the dance that omits the balance at the top of B1. It’s fun to rollaway directly into the swing, but I’m not usually a fan of 16-count swings, and my preferred version maintains all three opportunities to “balance the ring” (hence the title).

(top of page)

Road to Fayetteville ***
September 2014
Duple improper

 A1 Left-hand star
Ones down the center, pass two standing couples, cross trail
 A2 Up the outside to place
Actives swing in the middle
 B1 Hands-4 and circle left once around
Neighbors swing
 B2 Long lines forward and back
Right-hand star

Discovered in my notes, with no date. I do not remember creating this or why I called it Road to Fayetteville, except, of course, that Fayetteville, NY is the home of my local dance. My best guess is that I wrote the dance in spring of 2013, during a period when I was so busy at work that I might easily have forgotten composing a dance. September 2014 is when I revised it slightly from those notes.

The dance is fairly easy. The reason for rating it *** instead of ** is that the ones need to MOVE when going down the center and back up the outside if they want to be in time for their swing. The “cross trail” (actives trade places with their partner, passing each other by left shoulder, before separating and coming up the outside) can be omitted to simplify slightly. But I like the feel and timing of the cross trail.

(top of page)

Role Away ***
January 2002
Duple improper

 A1 Down the hall 4-in-line (ones in the center), turn alone
Return and form a ring
 A2 Balance the ring, neighbors rollaway with a half sashay, rolling right to left
Chain across to partner
 B1 Those who chained do-si-do 1-1/2
Neighbors swing
 B2 Long lines forward and back
Ones swing in the center

Composed with helpful advice from my son, Micah during a dance trip we took together. In A2, the person who slides behind on the rollaway does the right-hand chain. This might feel unexpected.

It was not for at least a year after I first used Role Away that I noticed its marked similarity to Ted Sannella’s classic Scout House Reel. The two make a nice medley, the message being that turnabout is fair play. (Thanks to Judy Greenhill for pointing this out.)

(top of page)

Rutabaga **
December 2022
Duple improper

 A1 Neighbors balance and swing
 A2 Circle left 3/4 and partners swing
 B1 Long lines forward and back; as you back out, roll away with a half sashay (rolling right to left)
Right-hand chain across, and take hands-4
 B2 Balance the ring, California twirl
Next neighbors do-si-do (balance same to begin next round)

As in “Role Away” above, the people doing the right-hand chain might not expect it. Otherwise, this is more or less a modern glossary dance.

(top of page)

Sam’s March **
November 2007
Duple improper

 A1 Right-hand star
Promenade neighbor along own line (the entire set moving in a clockwise oval)
 A2 Turn as a couple and promenade back
Chain across (to partner)
 B1 Pass through across and swing partner
 B2 Allemande left 1-1/2
Other two join in (following partner) for a left hands-across star; look for the next

In A1, if you are behind your neighbor in the star, accelerate slightly (moving a bit to the left) to step into promenade position. In B2, using an English-style left-hand turn makes the transition to the hands across star very smooth.

Named for my son Sam and written on his 4th birthday: November 6, 1994. The B-parts were revised November 6, 2007, Sam’s 17th birthday.

(top of page)

Scrubbies ***
Duple improper

 A1 (4) Neighbors balance
(4) 2-person Petronella spin to end facing across (see note)
(4) Right hand to neighbor and balance again
(4) Box the gnat
 A2 Half hey-for-4, neighbors tug by right to begin
Neighbors swing 
 B1 Circle left 3/4 and partners swing
 B2 (4) Balance the ring
(4) 4-person Petronella spin one place to the right
(4) Balance the ring
(4) Partners California twirl

The 2-person Petronella spin creates a line-of-4 across with all facing neighbor. If neighbors were to take 2-hands and turn to the right 1/4, they would form the same line.

Written for Gaye Fifer.

(top of page)

Syracuse Special **
Duple improper

 A1 Long lines forward and back
Ones swing
 A2 Down the hall, 4-in-line (ones in the center)
Swing your neighbor before you return, face up
 B1 Return, (ones are still in the center), bend the line
Circle left once around
 B2 Full chain, over and back

An alternative version uses rights and lefts for B2 instead of the chain. Another alternative is to begin on A2 and end with the partner swing.

This dance is based on Whynot’s Special, by Roger Whynot. The neighbor swing is a bit unexpected but dancers seem to find it pleasing. Callers, be careful not to go on autopilot and say, “Turn alone and come on back,” instead of prompting the neighbor swing. I have both made this mistake myself and seen others do it.

(top of page)

Theory Of Mind ***
June 2004
Duple improper

Begin in a wavy line-of-4 across the hall, neighbor in right hand.

 A1 Balance the wave, slide to the right (as in Rory O’More)
Balance again (starting to the left), slide to the left
 A2 Balance and swing neighbor
 B1 Circle left 3/4 and swing partner
 B2 Chain across
Left hand star into a wavy line-of-4 with next neighbors

The rather opaque title refers to research I do when I’m not contra dancing. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with a title….

It turns out that Theory of Mind is almost identical to a dance called United We Dance that Bob Isaacs wrote as a response to the World Trade Center Bombing in September of 2001. A few months later (May 19, 2002), Gary Shapiro came up with the same sequence as Bob. He called it Amy’s Parallel Universe. Sometime after I first posted Theory of Mind, Gary wrote to tell me about his dance:

“[Amy’s Parallel Universe] is Bill Olson’s dance, ‘Dancing With Amy,’ but from a parallel universe. I took Bill’s dance, changed the starting point to halfway through the dance, changed every occurrence of Partner to Neighbor and vice versa, and changed the diagonal chain to straight across. That was it, and to my amazement, it works.”

The only difference between my dance and the others is that in Bob (or Gary’s) dance A1 begins with long wavy lines, with the current neighbor in your right hand and the former neighbor in your left. I’m pretty sure that all three of us came up with the idea independently and starting from different places. As usual mine came in last, on June 2, 2004.

(top of page)

There There ****
June 2014
Duple improper

 A1 Circle left just halfway and couple two swing, end facing up
 A2 Full double figure eight
(twos cast down and ones cross up the center to begin)
 B1 Ones turn contra corners
 B2 Ones balance and swing, end facing down

Based on a dance called Fair Share by Katy Heine. There There was created while planning for a dance with the Hands Four Dancers of Ithaca and was debuted at that event.

(top of page)

Year of the Monarchs ***
September 2018
Duple improper

 A1 First corners allemande right 1-1/2, without releasing right hands, put left arm around partner’s waist
Star promenade across the set and (clockwise) butterfly whirl
 A2 Those moving forward pass left shoulder into a half hey-for-4 (3 changes)
Partners swing
 B1 Circle left 3/4 and neighbors swing
 B2 Right and left through across the set
Those moving forward pass right shoulder into a half hey-for-4 (3 changes)
(After the half hey, first corners look for their new corner for a right-hand turn)

Composed for a double birthday celebration for Don Hughes and Zeke Smukler. The title refers to monarch butterflies. “Three changes of a hey” is technically correct, but the term “half a hey” will give dancers what they need.

(top of page)

Yearning for Peace ***
April 2007
Duple improper

 A1 Neighbors take right hands and balance, box the gnat
Right-hand star halfway, turn out of the star over left shoulder and partners reach across the set to take left hands
 A2 Left-hand balance your partner, “swat the flea” (left-handed box the gnat) 
Left-hand star just halfway, turn out over right shoulder, into…
 B1 Single file clockwise within your group of 4, 3/4 around
(If you are following your neighbor, turn back and…) partners swing on the side
 B2 Long lines forward and back
Circle left 3/4, pass through up and down the set, and give right hand to next

(Yearning for Peace: Alternate A-parts)

 A1 Allemande right your neighbor 1-1/2
All four right-hand star just halfway, loop left and reach across the set to your partner with your left hand
 A2 Allemande left your partner 1-1/2
Left-hand star just halfway and loop right

“Swat the flea” might feel less intuitive for some dancers, but since it happens with partner there are many opportunities to work it out. I like using jigs for this dance when A1 begins balance and box the gnat, and reels when it begins with the allemande right.

The day I composed this I was deeply discouraged by what seemed like a relentless stream of tragic stories on the daily news. I was calling at a festival that night and wanted with all my heart to call a dance that somehow suggested the theme of peace. First, I considered Erik Hoffman’s wonderful dance, “There is No Way to Peace; Peace is the Way,” but Erik’s dance needs more space up and down the set than I was likely to have that night. Then I looked at a dance popular with English country dancers called Peace Be With You, written by Fried de Metz Herman. I started tinkering with it to try make it into a sequence that contra dancers would understand and enjoy, and this was the result. I did not call it that evening, but did on the next day.

Sadly, since that time, the news cycle has often been even more horrific.

(top of page)

Beck and Call **
Becket, clockwise

 A1 Long lines forward and back
Circle left 3/4, pass through along the set and form a wavy line-of-4 with new neighbors
 A2 Balance that wave, slide or spin to the right as in Rory O’More
Balance to the left, slide or spin to the left
 B1 Neighbors balance and swing
 B2 Circle left 3/4 and partners swing

Revised June 2020. Changes (albeit minor ones) have not yet been road-tested.

Written originally to fit into a medley of Becket dances that never happened. My goal was to write a Becket dance that used Rory O’More spins, similar to Becky Hill’s More of a Becket, but that progressed to the left instead of to the right.

(top of page)

Maid Marian’s Fancy ***
Becket, clockwise

 A1 Circle left 3/4 and neighbors swing
 A2 Long lines forward and back
Allemande right 3/4 to a long wave in the center, then allemande left 3/4 with the one you meet (meanwhile, others shift a step or two to the left)
 B1 Hey-for-4 (partners pass right to begin)
 B2 Partners balance and swing

The figure in A2 comes from David Kaynor’s wonderful dance, Mary Cay’s Reel. After the neighbor swing, identify those who end on the right; they will do the two allemande turns in A2. The long wavy line in the center never actually forms, dancers move directly from the allemande right with someone from the original hands-4 to an allemande left with someone from the next hands-4 (progressing).

Maid Marian’s Fancy was composed for the fortieth birthday of Michael Miller, a morris dancer from Syracuse who always plays the female lead in the mummers play on May Day morning (hence the title).

(top of page)

Never Ending Love ***
May 2004
Becket, clockwise

 A1 Partners swing
Long lines forward and back
 A2 Circle left 3/4, pass through along the set
New neighbors do-si-do
 B1 Allemande left the neighbor you left behind and swing the one you do-si-do’d
 B2 Same four, balance in a ring and spin to the right one place as in Petronella
Balance again, begin a partner swing (continue to swing as the dance starts over)

For my partner Laurel. I’ve had a version of this dance in my notes since the early 1980s with a partner swing that ties the end to the beginning. (Ted Sannella used a similar device in a dance called Ted’s Whim.)

Ending the dance takes some creativity on the caller’s part. Here are three possible ways:

  • B2- Circle left 3/4 and partners swing
  • B2- Balance the ring (4), spin to the right (4); partners swing
  • Ask the band to add four bars (“Keep on swinging!”)

(top of page)

Robinhood ***
Early 1990s
Becket, clockwise

 A1 Couples slice left (go 3 steps forward on the left diagonal, then back straight up into lines facing that new couple)
Those 4, come back together and circle L 3/4 (end on side of set with neighbor)
 A2 Neighbors allemande right 1-1/2
Half hey-for-4 (those facing in pass left shoulders to begin)
 B1 Right shoulder around neighbor, and swing
 B2 Give-and-take (those who began the hey cross to partner’s side to swing)

This dance is a variation on Larry Jennings’s dance Give-and-Take I. Larry invented the “give-and-take” figure, and that was the first dance to use it. Since then many other dance composers have borrowed it as I have.

Larry’s preferred timing for give-and-take was to go forward for two beats and return in two more, moving directly into a twelve-count swing. It is often reinterpreted to be four counts forward and four to return, with an eight-count swing. For me, shifts in connection from neighbor to partner (or vice versa) are the most potentially rewarding aspect of the figure.

This dance used to have a gendered name, and became Robinhood in 2020.

(top of page)

We’ll Dance Again ****
May 2020
Duple proper
Starts with ones in the center of a line-of-4 facing up

 A1 Up the hall 4-in-line, ones turn as a couple in the center
Return improper and hand cast to form a ring
 A2 (4) Balance the ring
(4) Neighbors roll away with a half sashay, rolling counterclockwise (right to left) 
(8) Chain across
 B1 Same two do-si-do, and partners swing
 B2 Taking hands in a ring, balance and spin to the right as in Petronella
Ones: cross down between current neighbors (who move up), then ones continue down outside the next, arriving between these neighbors to form a new line-of-4 facing up

While waiting out at the top, do not cross over to the other line. At the end of B2, begin your new role by going down the outside below your first neighbors, and then up the middle to form a line-of-4 facing up with them.

If twos move up as the ones begin the final figure, it prevents the set from drifting down and bunching up at the bottom of the hall.

(top of page)

The Great Birdseed Mystery ***
February 2022
Circle mixer

 A1 Partners balance and swing
 A2 Promenade the ring, outsides turn back (insides keep going)
With next, right shoulder 1-1/4 and take right hands (this is #1); give left to next in an Alamo ring
 B1 As in Rory O’More, balance right and left, then slide (or spin) to the right past #1 and re-form Alamo ring with #1 in left hand
Balance left and right, and slide left
 B2 Grand chain: Starting with right hand to #1, pull by three (#2 is original partner)
With #4, allemande left to face back the way you came, then pull by right and left with #3 and #2; next round of the dance begins with #1

People used to square dancing might feel like they are going backwards at first in the grand chain.

This mixer combines highlights from two of my favorite mixers by two of my favorite choreographers: Old Bob’s Mixer by Bob Dalsemer, and Love and Kisses by Ted Sannella.

(top of page)

Spin the Wheel ***
Sicilian Circle

 A1 All go forward and back
With your opposite do-si-do
 A2 With these neighbors (N1), star right halfway; then let go and with the next neighbors (N2), star left halfway
Repeat: With N3, star right halfway; with N4, star left halfway
 B1 With the next neighbors (N5), circle left 3/4 and swing this neighbor
 B2 With the same neighbors, circle left 3/4 and swing partner

Ted Sannella includes a dance called Star Circle by Rod Linnell in one of his books. This is my variation, adding swings to the mix. The figure in A2 will feel more like grand right and left than stars.

(top of page)

Corner Triplet by Linda Leslie (David’s Triplet #1.5) **

 A1 Ones down the center, turn alone
Return, cast off with twos
 A2 Ones turn contra corners
 B1 Ones balance and swing, end facing up
 B2 Ones up the center to the top, separate and go down the outside to the bottom (twos and threes moving up)
Forward six and back

Ends in 2-3-1 order.

David’s Triplet #1 was based in part on Ted Sannella’s wonderful Ted’s Triplet #7. It was composed at a time when I was interested in calling lots of contra corner dances. I wanted a triplet to create an easy context to teach the figure in. I liked the result, but didn’t find it easy enough for my purposes.

So I created another even easier one and called it “David’s Triplet #1.5.” (Consequently, my next triplet became “David’s Triplet #3”; there was never a #2.) Later I discovered that Linda Leslie wrote the same dance much earlier than I did:

Having created David’s Triplet #1.5, I decided there was no need for a Triplet #2 and skipped right to Triplet #3.

(top of page)

David’s Triplet #4 ***
March 2007
Triplet, couple one improper

 A1 Ones down the center to the bottom and cast back to middle place
Lines-of-3 forward and back
 A2 Partners allemande right once around, fall back to line
Partners allemande left 1-1/2
 B1 Single file counterclockwise, halfway around
Partners left shoulder do-si-do (“see-saw”)
 B2 Partners balance and swing
(end with top couple facing down and others facing up)

Ends in 3-1-2 order.

Written at Pinewoods in the summer of 2002 and revised a bit on March 10, 2007.

A1 Variations****:

  • Julian Blechner created this variation: Instead of lines-of-3 going forward and back, ones take inner hands with the dancer on their left, and then–with those pairs acting as a unit (as if they were one dancer)–Mad Robin clockwise.
  • Similarly, create the “two-against-one” pairs, but then do-si-do instead of Mad Robin.

I would suggest choosing a variation based on dancers’ comfort with complexity. Forward and back is simplest, the do-si-do a bit harder, and Mad Robin should be reserved for dancers already familiar with that figure.

In A2 I specify turning once by the right, and once and a half by the left. I enjoy the contrast of dancers doing two allemande turns in a row that go different distances in the same amount of time (a feature of one of my favorite traditional dances, Queen Victoria, as well as dances like Gene Hubert’s Dancing Raindrops). That said, these hand turns do not really have to go as specified, and partners can end on either side. The allemande left still leaves one line facing up and the other down to flow into the counterclockwise single file, and partners still balance and swing in the same places.

Ted Sannella always began his triplets with everyone “proper,” by which I mean that if all were to swing partner they would end facing up. He made a point of starting that way even for triplets that end (as several of his do) with one or more couples improper/crossed over. This dance could start Ted Sannella style with all proper, but it is helpful if it ends with the new top couple facing down, because timing is tight in the first 8 counts of A1. To avoid confusion, I typically begin the walkthrough with a partner swing, and then tell top couples to face down and the others up.

(top of page)

David’s Triplet #5 ***
May 2006

 A1 Ones down the outside to the bottom
Up the center and cast off with couple two
 A2 Partners do-si-do 1-1/4 into a wavy line-of-6 (right hands with partner)
Balance, allemande right partner just halfway into a new wave
 B1 Balance (4)
Half hey-for-6 (partners pass right to begin)
 B2 When you meet your partner, right shoulder round and swing

Ends in 3-1-2 order.

Start the half hey with a little right-hand tug to pass partner.

This was composed on a Mother’s Day: May 14, 2006.

(top of page)

David’s Triplet #7 ****
April 2007

 A1 Ones chase clockwise around twos: First around two and and your partner cut through
Circle left four hands, once around
 A2 Balance the ring and neighbors swing
 B1 Ones chase clockwise around threes: First around two and your partner cut through
Circle left six hands, halfway around
 B2 Partners do-si-do
Partners swing

Ends in 3-1-2 order.

The chase figure (sometimes called “old side door” in square dancing) works like this. Ones begin facing the right wall, the “first” (dancer in the lead as you face that wall) dances down the outside one place, across the set, and back up the outside to end in partner’s place. Their partner follows, but takes a shortcut up the center, and both partners have changed places. Note that since they have crossed over, the leader becomes follower in the second chase.

(top of page)

Cortland Fancy ***
December 2009

 A1 Forward eight and back
Grand chain (right-hand star halfway and courtesy turn with diagonal opposite)
 A2 Chain along your line-of-four (that is, across the hall),
And chain back to your partner (i.e., up and down the hall)
 B1 Same four, left-hand star
Come back with a right-hand star
 B2 All eight circle left halfway
Partners swing, and face the next line-of-four (original direction up or down the hall)

This dance is in a double (duple improper) contra formation: four face four up and down the hall. Instead of a normal duple improper contra set, which is comprised of couples facing neighbor couples, two couples in a line-of-four face a similar line-of-four, and this repeats for as many foursomes as will. The dance can also be done as a double Sicilian Circle. It is still four facing four, but the groups of eight dancers emanate from the center of the hall like spokes of a wheel.

The original four-face-four dance was the traditional dance Portland Fancy. Several versions exist, and it seems to me that it was the formation that made a dance a “Portland Fancy,” and not the particular figures. Ted Sannella wrote a four-face-four dance, based on the most common version of the traditional dance, which added a partner swing and incorporated elements of a traditional square, The Route. He called it Ted’s Portland Fancy. Sometime later, Jacob Bloom came up with a four-face-four that swapped the position of couples in their lines-of-four back and forth. Now many dances exist in this formation that swap the couples like this.

Cortland Fancy simply inserts some of the interesting pieces of Ted’s Portland Fancy into Fred Breunig’s lovely four-face-four dance, Etna Star. I’ve always loved the way that the stars move into the large circle in Fred’s dance, reminiscent of another old dance, British Sorrow. I used to work in Cortland, NY, home of those wonderful apples, so Cortland Fancy seemed like an obvious title.

(top of page)

Dances in Tempest Formation:

“Tempest” formation, is named for a wonderful chestnut, The Tempest, and is an old form of double contra. The “minor set” (the people you dance with before progressing) is composed of four couples rather than two, as in a duple minor contra, or three, as in a triple minor contra. It is similar in this regard to a 4-face-4, or double contra (a formation that is also based on a chestnut, Portland Fancy). As in a 4-face-4, the ones are in a line-of-4 facing down, both couples standing side by side. However, what distinguishes Tempest formation from a Portland Fancy is that the twos are not in another line-of-4 facing up. Rather, they are out at the sides, facing in, as if in a very widely spaced Becket formation dance (wide enough that the line-of-4 fits between). I’ve heard this described as having the shape of a staple.

Progression in a Tempest formation dance is easy. The ones typically start by going down the center and back. Upon returning they face the nearest side (or number 2) couple. Each subsequent time through the dance, the twos must slide sideways up the hall as the ones are going down. This provides new neighbors for the ones to return to each time through. The twos should move up quite a bit each time, more than they might expect (think 2 places instead of 1). When the twos reach the top, they wait out once, moving into the center of the set. The next time through they are ones: a line-of-4 going down the center. When ones reach the bottom and have no new couples to dance with, they separate out to the sides and become twos.

Here are three good methods callers have used to get dancers into Tempest formation:

  1. The “contra” method. Start by placing the dancers in Becket formation. Then have them take hands eight. In each group of eight, two couples are closer to the top of the hall. Those two couples (the ones) turn to face down. They are standing side by side in a line-of-four. The other two couples (the twos) stay where they are, one at each end of the line-of-four, but move out to create space for the ones.
  2. The “square” method. To set up the Tempest from squares, align the squares up and down the hall. Then have each couple three come up and stand next to their couple one.
  3. The “four-face-four” method. Begin with a double contra (two couples in a line-of-four facing down at two more facing up, and so forth down the hall). The ones, who are facing down the hall, are all set. The twos, who are facing up, separate out to the sides and face in.

(top of page)

Tempus Fugit ****
February 2006
Tempest formation (see note above for explanation of formation)

 A1 Ones down the hall 4-in-line, turn as couples
Return, face the nearest side couple, and take hands four with them
 A2 (4) Circle halfway; circle left or circle right, whichever way the dance carries you
(2) Twos arch and ones dive through
(2) Ones immediately pass through while twos California twirl
(8) With the one you meet, do-si-do
 B1 Same neighbors balance and swing
End facing (partner) up or down the hall
 B2 Same four circle left halfway and partners swing
End with twos facing in and ones facing down

Note that in A2 the couple on the left of the line (as they face the music) turns left and circles to the right with their neighbor couple, while the couple on the right turns right and circles to the left. Following momentum carries the circle the correct way. (This change to the original dance was suggested by Nils Fredland, and I love it.)

Many 4-face-4 dances progress such that the left-hand couple in the line-of-4 becomes the right-hand couple the next time through the dance, and vice versa. I had not encountered a Tempest formation dance with this feature, so I created this one. 

(top of page)

Another Part of the Island ****
June 2008
Tempest formation (see note above for explanation of formation)

 A1 Ones down the hall 4-in-line, turn as couples
Return, face the nearest side couple
 A2 Circle left halfway (4); weave the line across (12):
a 1/2 hey-for-4 with each couple acting as a unit (pass right shoulders on outsides and left shoulders in the center)
 B1 Same four circle left once around and swing neighbor
 B2 Balance and swing partner, end with twos facing in and ones facing down

Tempus Fugit, my first Tempest formation dance, progresses such that the left-hand couple in the line-of-4 becomes the right-hand couple the next time through the dance, and vice versa. This, my second dance in Tempest formation, has the same feature and also swaps the side couples back and forth. Another Part of the Island was composed on March 12, 2006, and revised June 13, 2008. The title is drawn from the most common scene direction in Shakespeare’s play, and refers, in part, to the way the couples migrate.

(top of page)

Toronto Tempest ***

November 2008
Tempest formation (see note above for explanation of formation)

 A1 Ones down the hall 4-in-line, turn as couples
Return, face the nearest side couple
 A2 Circle left halfway and pass through, passing this neighbor right
Ones allemande left a shadow (from the other first couple) 1-1/2 while the twos turn as a couple to face in
 B1 Ones meet a neighbor on the opposite side: balance and swing, end facing up or down the hall
 B2 These four circle left halfway, and all swing partner, end with twos facing in and ones facing down

Composed one day after I called Tempus Fugit at the Toronto Dance. It had gone well overall, but I felt I had to work awfully hard as a caller to keep everyone together and happy. My goal was to come up with a slightly easier sequence. This was first tested with dancers on March 12, 2009 in Rochester, NY.

I love these Tempest dances, and hope that others will try them.

(top of page)