My dances

[Apologies for the formatting, I need to do a CMS refresh at some point to fix the stylesheets.]

Updated 2014-08-21.

I've not written that many dances over the years, but a few have turned out well. They reflect the mix of styles of dance I call for, generally written when the dance I want doesn't exist yet.

Dance descriptions assume familiarity with the relevant genre.

Numbers in brackets count bars, which are generally 2 steps/beats. Contra writers tend to count steps, but that gets confusing when you have waltzes, slip-jigs etc – so if you're looking at a contra and are used to reading other contras you might need to double the numbers.

Title Genre Formation Music Difficulty
The Dragonfly ECD Couple dance 32W Easy
The Filing Anomaly Contra "Squontra" (line of squares) 32J/R Med
Indian Summer ECD Longways proper 32R Easy
The Linton Rocket ECD 4 couple longways 32H Easy
The Standing Water Hornpipe ECD Sicilian circle 32H Easy
Titchmarsh Assembly ECD Sicilian circle 32R/March Med
Total Equality Contra Beckett 32J/R Med

The Dragonfly

ECD, Couple dance, 32W, Easy

A reaction to every couple waltz called in celidhs being Rosza – this has no chance of replacing it but was intended as a nice change.

A1 Arm round partner, side by side with man on the left, facing ballroom direction (acw):
Chassée forwards and right twice, forwards and left twice (4)
Balance towards partner, taking the free hand (1)
Balance back holding both hands (or just the man's left and woman's right) (1)
Change places, holding man's left and woman's right hand, woman going under, and then put your arm round your partner as at the beginning but facing the other way (2)
A2 Repeat in the other direction and finish facing each other in "open" ballroom hold (no pointy end) (8)
B1 2 chassées to the man's left, woman's right (2)
Put the other arm around your partner instead and chassée back (2)
Put both arms around your partner and waltz around (4)
B2 Repeat B1 (8)

The Filing Anomaly

Contra, "Squontra" (line of squares), 32J/R, Med, 2014-04-13

This dance was written after Lisa Heywood and Grace Jackson asked me if any dances had been done in a line of squares where the heads and sides progress from one set to the next (which they coined "squontra"), and then challenged me to write one.

This dance is called "The Filing Anomaly" because I'm still not sure whether it should be with my contra cards or my square cards!

Each couple has a shadow couple that they progress with, and I decided I wanted them to swap roles each turn. Progression-wise it's related to a Mescolanza (4 facing 4) set, although that formation is never actually reached.

A1 Men left hand star halfway (3)
Swing opposite (5)
A2 Star promenade halfway (i.e. keep arm round partner and men form left hand star) (4)
Men break: all 4 ladies' chain across to partner (4)
B1 Do-si-do corner (4)
Heads pass through up and down to meet a new couple coming in the other direction; if they reach the end of the set they turn around with a California twirl (2)
Sides meet, facing across (2)
B2 Unless you've just reached the end, balance the ring and petronella roll to the right one place, finishing facing partner (2)
Partner swing and finish facing the middle of a new square set (or end couple if your shadow couple has just reached the end) (4)

The appearance of a new square set is quite magical, but requires some thinking to work out what's going on! When a pair of couples reach the end, they face each other as opposing head couples for the next turn, with no side couples. The dance works for 2 couples, and then a new square is formed during the next progression.

If anyone else wants to try writing a squontra, note:

  • If you're going to swap heads and sides each time (which I think works best), you don't want the head and side roles to be too dissimilar, because you want to be able to stop the calling at some point.
  • This is primarily a contra – people should be kept moving, unlike many square dances!
  • You ideally want to get interactions with your partner, opposite and corner each time through, which can be challenging to fit in 32 bars. This formation is probably a good candidate for 48 or 64 bar dances.

Indian Summer

ECD, Longways proper formation, 32R, Easy

This is an English Country Dance / ceilidh dance. Contrary to popular expectation, not written when I was in India, but rather before I knew anything about going out there, when we were having a balmy "Indian Summer" in the UK lasting into October.

A1 1st corners (1st man, 2nd woman) kick balance twice (4) and swing (4)
A2 2nd corners repeat (8)
B1 Right hand star (4)
Do-si-do neighbour (4)
B2 Take hands in a ring of four: balance the ring (2)
1st couple arch and 2nd couple under to progress (2)
Partner swing (4)

The Linton Rocket

ECD, 4-couple longways, 32H, Easy

A ceilidh hornpipe. The A part was inspired by "Billie's Hornpipe", which I wanted to make flow a bit better.

A1 In 4s: 1st corners arm right about twice (4)
All arm left partner to change places (e.g. 1½) (4)
A2 2nd corners in 1st corner position arm right about twice (4)
All arm left partner to change places back to starting positions and face men down, women up (4)
B1 Men lead to bottom women to top, winding up a same-sex left hand start at each end of the set (4)
Reverse with a right hand star and unwind back to starting positions (4)
B2 1st couple swing to the bottom (4)
All swing (4)

The Standing Water Hornpipe

ECD, Sicilian circle, 32H, Easy, 2014-02-10

An easy ceilidh hornpipe. The A part is from the Waterfall Waltz by Pat Shaw.

A1 Men arm right twice (4)
Do-si-do opposite (4)
A2 Women arm right twice (4)
Do-si-do opposite (4)
B1 Circle left and right (8)
B2 Half pousette with partner to progress, men pushing to start (4)
Swing partner (4)

Titchmarsh Assembly

ECD, Sicilian circle formation, 32R/March, Med, 2011-06-18

Derived from "Midsummer Assembly" by Cyril Papworth.

1st couples have men on insides.

A1 Hands 4 left halfway (2)
2nd couple arch and 1st couple go under to new couple (2)
Hands 4 left halfway (2)
1st couple arch and return to original couple (2)
A2 Right hand star, men finish facing away from opposite to form two concentric circles around the room (insides cw, outsides acw) (4)
Single file lead in this direction (4)
B1 Come back (4)
Left hand star and face partner (4)
B2 Half pousette, men pushing (4)
Swing partner and face new couple (4)

The A1 is quite tight, so make sure the set isn't too spread out.

Total Equality

Contra, Beckett formation, 32J/R, Med, 2014-03-29, v2 updated 2015-06-23

This dance was written for a dance I was calling in Sheffield on the first day full gay marriage was introduced in England. It's very gender-neutral (the point being not to promote same-sex or opposite sex interactions over one another). I've had good feedback about this one.

A's on left (in men's position) and B's on right (in women's position).

A1 B's chain across (as ladies' chain) (6)
B's meet palms to palms and push off backwards and slightly to the left (as in a ricochet hey) as A's step right behind B's (4)
A's chain across (as ladies' chain), finishing meeting in the middle (6)
A2 A's balance and swing (16)
B1 Partner balance and swing and finish a random way around (16)
B2 Take hands in a ring of 4: balance the ring (4)
Pass through across, turning right to face back in (4)
Lines forward and back, sliding left one couple (8)

If you don't swap places with your partner during the partner swing, you'll end up the other way around at the beginning of the next time through. But that would only leave you able to dance with half the room; by randomly changing place with your partner during the partner swing, you can end up dancing with anyone. I'd call it without swapping places in the partner swing the first time (you'll need to call it twice because of the different roles and you want them the other way around for the second walkthrough) but during the second walkthrough you can introduce the option of changing places during the partner swing.

The A1 is quite tight but experienced dancers should be able to execute it and it's satisfying to do in the time allowed. However, done to this timing, there isn't really enough time for twirls, and some men like the opportunity to be twirled for a change! If the figure runs late though it's not a disaster – it just means that the balance and swing will start a bit later. Or alternatively you can simply call with more relaxed timing, potentially forgoing the balance before the swing when you meet in the middle. Up to you as a caller, based upon the people in the room – I'm still working out which I prefer.

There are various ways to handle a same-sex swing: either you quickly negotiate which side of the ballroom hold each person will take, or you can use a symmetric hold, such as right hand on the other person's right shoulder with left hand joined below. If you recommend a symmetric hold then it'll flow better with less negotiation time, although sometimes the ballroom hold can be fun too.

The first version of this dance didn't automatically cause you to switch places with your partner each time but I changed it to increase the amount of mixing!