The Caller
The person who gives the instruction (i.e. calling) the dance.
The Set
The collective term for the dancers.
The Formation
The position from which the dance is started. There are many different formations, the most common being:
Circle - A circle around the room with the lady on the right of her partner. Normally facing the middle but sometimes facing around the room with partners beside each other or even a circle of men facing their partners in or out of the centre.
Longways - Where everyone faces their partner to make 2 long lines with the men on the callers right and the ladies on the callers left. The set may have any number of couples, but for some dances may have a fixed number such as 3, 4 or 5 couples.
Sicilian Circle - Couple facing couple and each group of 4 making a larger circle around the room. Sometimes two couples face two couples (Double Sicilian Circle).
Square - A 4 couple set with each couple on the side of a square with the lady on the right of her partner. There can be variations with more couples. Couples are normally numbered 1, 2, 3 & 4 anticlockwise with couples 1 & 3 often called heads and 2 & 4 called sides. If the dance is in Playford style the numbering is clockwise.
Beckett Formation - In a longways set but lady on the right of partner facing another couple across the set. Can also occur in a Sicilian circle or other groupings.
Hands Four
This is a term used by callers when a set is being made up. The purpose is to identify the nearest couple to the top of the set in each four (who become the 1st couples) and the couples farthest from the top (who become the 2nd couples). Sometimes hands 6 or 8 may be used for special dances – see also Triple minor below. It is also used to ensure groups are correctly positioned for many shapes of dances.
Many longways sets will have started off with “Hands Four”. The progression will be for each 1st couple to move down the set to a new 2nd couple and each 2nd couple to move up the set to a new 1st Couple. When a couple reach either end of the set they normally stand out for one turn of the dance. If it is “Improper” couples should change sides with their partner whilst standing out.
Proper and Improper
A proper dance is one as described in “Longways” above where all the men are on one side of the set and all the ladies on the other. An improper dance is where alternate couples (or as instructed) have crossed over with their partners in a “Longways” set (often called a CONTRA dance).
Triple minor
Some longways sets work with 3 couples dancing together rather than 2 couples. In this case the caller will have started with “Hands Six” rather than “Hands Four”. With this type of dance the progression will be different, don’t worry just listen to the caller.
Movements and the Most Common Figures
(But not all)
A double
Three steps then feet together - either forward or back.
Allemande Left or Allemande Right
Another form of left or right hand turn. More commonly used with Square dances.
Back to Back (or often called a Do Si Do)
Take 2 steps forward (to just pass partner’s right shoulder), take one side step to the right and 2 in reverse passing left shoulder to finish back in place. Sometimes starting left shoulder.
See SET.
Box the Gnat
Two dancers face, give right hands to each other and change places with the lady turning anticlockwise under the man’s arm.
California Twirl
Two dancers standing side by side facing the same direction with nearest hands joined, they change places lady turning anticlockwise under man’s arm so that both dancers finish facing opposite direction to which they originally faced.
Turn away from partner and move to the position instructed.
Changes of 2, 3 or 4 (of a hey, or of a circular hey, or of a square through).
Similar to right and left through but without the courtesy turns. It may also be done without hands and just passing shoulders. The changes should keep to a square, or part square pattern, and be rectangular to the set.
Circle Left (or right)
3 or more dancers join hands and circle to their left (or right) holding the hands just above waist height.
Dixie Twirl
In a line of dancers, all keeping hands joined, the middle two make an arch, the end lady leads under the arch, while the end man leads across to all end facing the other direction.
Double Figure of 8
See figure of 8, but done by two couples at the same time around each other both couples starting as instructed.
The direction along the set - ‘Down’ away from the top of the set / ‘Up’ towards the top.
Draw Pousette
As a normal pousette, but as a couple with two hands joined move around a half circle to change places with the other couple and arrive on the opposite side of the set.
Fall Back
Either singly or as a couple (or more) move backwards, usually a double.
Figure of 8
One couple stand still whilst the other couple with the lady normally in the lead go between them, around the person on the opposite side of the set, between them again and around the other stationary person to finish back in place.
Flutter wheel
Couples Facing, ladies change places with right hand (as in ladies’ chain), pick up the opposite man (usually her partner) with ladies left hand in his right hand taking him back to ladies starting position.
One person turns on the spot whilst helping their neighbour all the way around them.
Grand Chain
Give alternate hands around a circle or along a line for the number of times (hands) instructed or until back to place. Normally started with right hand.
Grand Square
While side couples face partner and fall back, heads take inside hands and lead into the centre. Each dancer then continues around a small square in their nearest corner to get back home.
Grimstock Hey
See also Reel or Hey. Usually danced in three couple sets. Starting with both end couples leading in with hands held forcing the couple advancing in the middle to separate. Continue until all back where you started.
Gypsy Right or Left
Facing partner (or whoever instructed to gypsy with) and circle around each other without hands until back to where started, all the time looking at that person.
Face partner (or whoever instructed) and step to right, stay there and acknowledge that person. Often followed by step left and acknowledge.
Ladies Chain
With 2 couples facing and a lady on the man’s right. The ladies give right hands to each other to pull by and give left hand to the opposite man’s left. The man puts his right arm around the ladies’ waist to turn her around so that the 2 couples are again facing and the lady is on the right. Often repeated the movement from the opposite side so that the ladies get back to place.
Ladies Chain (ALL 4)
Similar to ladies’ chain but often done from a “Square” formation. The ladies give 4 right hands to make a star and go half way around and the diagonally opposite man carries out the chaining movement described in the Ladies Chain. Often repeated the movement from the opposite side so that the ladies get back to place. Sometimes star three quarters.
Take nearest hand with partner and move as instructed.
Left Hand Star (or hands across)
Usually danced by two couples giving left hand to the diagonally opposite person to form a cross and dancing around to finish back in place (travelling in an anti-clockwise direction).
Left Hand Turn
Give left hand to (either your partner or whoever instructed in the command) and walk a complete turn back to place (anticlockwise).
Give two hands to partner and with one pushing (as instructed) forward 4 steps moving slightly to the side and reverse back into the other couples’ place. Repeat by continuing movement back home, if whole pousette called.
With lady on man’s right hold right hands and left hands and move forward or in the direction instructed.
Reel or Hey
Usually done with 3 or 4 people who weave in and out along a straight line until they all get back to Place. Sometimes done as couples or in two lines at same time as partner (e.g. Grimstock Hey).
Right and Left Through
Give right hand to opposite person and pull by, face the next person in the same group of 4 and give left hand and courtesy turn each other to end facing the same opposite person again. NOTE: This movement is not the same as 2, 3 or 4 changes. Also that right and left through and back means continue the same move until you are back to place.
Right Hand Star (or hands across)
Usually danced by two couples giving right hand to the diagonally opposite person to form a cross and dancing around to finish back in place (travelling in a clockwise direction).
Right Hand Turn
Give right hand to (either your partner or whoever instructed in the command) and walk a
complete turn back to place (Clockwise).
Set (or Balance)
Take a step to the right and bring left foot to it introducing a slight bounce by putting more weight on the leading foot and move left foot back followed by the right with a similar bounce.
NOTE: In some dances the balance may he more vigorous with the trailing foot swung across the other leg.
Siding (Cecil Sharp)
Facing partner throughout. Walk 4 steps forward passing partner by left shoulder and 4 steps back passing right shoulder, whilst looking at each other all the time.
Siding (Pat Shaw)
Walk 4 small steps forward to be right shoulder to right shoulder with partner, reverse to place. It may be repeated with left shoulders.
Star Through
Starts with couple facing each other. Ladies left hand palm to palm with man’s right hand, push to change places ladies going under the raised arms. Results in a quarter turn, men to right, ladies to left.
Swat the Flea
As Box the Gnat but giving left hands.
Using the ballroom hold, men stand slightly to the left of partner and walk around each other (this is the American Walk Swing).
With the same hold, each put the right foot into the centre and use the left foot to push off as if riding a child’s scooter in a circle (this is the Pivot Swing).
Cross hands (joined right to right/left to left) with partner and pivot swing.
Swing and change dancing around another couple as instructed.
Turn Single
Turn on the spot (normally to the right) in 4 small steps.
Two Hand Turn
Give two hands to (either your partner or whoever instructed in the command) and walk a complete turn back to place. Normally clockwise.

Dance Etiquette and Enhancements

The following is provided as guidance to get the most from your dancing experience. By following these notes, you will find our dances will become easier to follow, a more pleasant experience for all participants, and will both look and feel absolutely wonderful.
  • Turn off mobile phones. Of course, if you are expecting an important message, dancers will accept the odd interruption but it is to be avoided if at all possible please.
  • Have fun by all means but when the Caller is giving instruction, please be quiet and listen to what is being said.
  • If sitting out a dance, please refrain from talking when the Caller is explaining dances; but quiet conversation can resume when the music has started.
  • Keep lines straight - Crooked lines, particularly in longways sets, look unsightly and make for ‘untidy’ dances.
  • Likewise, when forming ‘Squares’, return to the square shape after each movement.
  • When joining a set, take up the position below those already there.
  • When holding hands, the gentleman’s hands should face forwards, or be beneath the lady’s facing upwards depending on the hold. Unfortunately, there is no guidance when holding hands with the same sex and tangles will inevitably occur!
  • Dance to the music, it will tell you when to execute the next move and keep the dance ‘tight’.
  • ‘Stars’ should be formed by holding hands with your opposite across the set, adding slight ‘weight’ to assist the walk-round, please do not bunch hands in the middle: hands should be offered across the Star as if to shake hands, not vertically showing the palms. If 5 in a star obviously not possible.
  • When ‘Gating’, the ‘Post’ should remain on the spot, turning with the ‘Gate’ as they progress around.
  • Recognise or ‘Honour’ your partner at the start of each dance where appropriate, thereafter as directed should the dance require it, and then again at the end of each dance.
  • When at the end of a ‘Reel’, turn in a loop, not simply turn on the spot - this provides room for the person following to complete their movement unobstructed and in a flowing manner.
  • When ‘Turning Alone’, turn into your partner or, if in lines of four, end pairs should turn towards each other.
  • When ‘Casting’, turn outwards away from partner, in a backward loop.
  • We all go wrong on occasions and need a little guidance. It is important however that we don’t ‘push and shove’. It is a difficult balance deciding who needs what help and when. Avoid ‘over assisting’ others as it becomes overbearing and impinges on their development and enjoyment. Remember, it is better to under-guide others than to over-guide!
  • If (when!) mistakes are made, try to pick the dance up again if possible. If this cannot be achieved, go to the ‘start’ positions and wait for the next time through. Remember, we all get it wrong on occasions; treat mistakes as a normal occurrence and part of the fun, the other dancers will be sympathetic and assist where they can.
  • Be careful when ‘swinging’ (I know, I know!!), some people like a vigorous swing and others don’t!
  • On completion of each dance, applaud the Caller and thank your partner and other Set members. Escort your dancing partner back to the lady’s seat if appropriate.

Above all, be safe but enjoy yourself and smile!

Lastly, remember, if you are not happy with any aspect of the Club, mention it to any Committee Member. We would rather be aware of any issues, even if we are unable to resolve them immediately, than to lose you. Your continued friendship, support and attendance at the Club is greatly valued - it is only with the support of such friends as yourself that the Club can remain vibrant and prosper - thank you for joining us at Melksham Country Dancers.

A short guide to: