[Callers] dances for 3 or 4 people

Alan Winston - SSRL Central Computing winston at slac.stanford.edu
Tue Aug 12 14:36:47 PDT 2008

> Greetings

> This weekend past, I made my annual pilgramage to Gorham NH
> to call the dance at Chapel Arts Center...
> We had a great time for the first hr. We actually danced some easier
> contras! As the evening progressed we lost some dancers, who had other
> plans and still others who wanted to sit in with the band...
> LSS by 9:30 there were 3-4 people dancing (myself included)
> I made up some dances "on the fly" but soon the dances seemed to
> resemble the previous "dance" We did some couple dances but the band
> wanted to play Jigs and Reels. We danced LaBastrange with 6 people (wich
> was interesting!and fast!)
> My Q is: are there dances, created for just such situations (3-4 dancers)?
> Once again, Gorham was a learning experiance!

Three people is pretty challenging.

I sometimes use this (which you can also certainly do with bigger crowds at ONS
kinds of things):

(From "Step Lively 2"; Marion Rose calls it the Canadian National Dance).
3 dancers, arms linked.  No progression.
Music: Slow waltz alternating with fast something else.

Waltz part: Walk leisurely in time with the music, using step-swing or 

Other part:  Middle and one end right elbow swing, with other end left elbow
             swing, back and forth  until the music changes or your arms 
             fall off.


This works really well with, eg, solo accordion, so the player can switch it up
(not necessarily on a phrase boundary) and mess with the dancers with tempo
changes, etc. That's harder for multiple pieces until they're used to it,
although with a little confab they could have some of them play the slow part
and others posed ready to go for the fast part.

(I'm hesitant in general to post other people's dances without their express
position, but Marion is all about the sharing, and she didn't write the dance

Throughout the British Isles, reels of three (and four) are traditional. 
Three people in line, ends face in, middle person faces one end.  
A1: WHole hey for three
A2: Whole hey for three minus 1 change, leaving a new person in the middle.
B1: Middle person and the one they're facing to do setting steps (clogging,
Scottish or Irish setting, rant steps, make something up); at the end, middle
person flips to face the other end.
B2: Middle person and the other end set or balance.

Trad approach is to repeat indefinitely, possibly swapping new people in off
the sidelines.  (If you're dancing in the kitchen and this is all there's room
for, people take turns dancing while the musicians keep going.)

If you want to give it more shape, you could adopt the hey progression from
"Dorset Four Hand Reel":

  First time walking
  Second time walking with hands
  Third time skipping (or flying rant step)
  Fourth time " with hands, where you can really fly.
  4-Hand reel typically finishes with a swing; you could finish off with a 

basket swing for three.

You can do that to jigs or reels.

On the four-person front, there's a flock of two-couple English dances;
I like "Rufty-Tufty" for ONS kinds of gigs, but "Hit and Miss" is fine too.
These are "own tune" dances, so not much help if your band doesn't know the
tunes and isn't comfortable playing for dots, this won't help.]

Two couple set, Playford, 1651

A: 1-8 Standard Figures  (U - S - A)
B: 1-8 Partners set and turn single
   9-16 That again
C1:1-4 Partners lead away from set, change hands and lead back
   5-6 Turn single
C2:1-4 Opposites lead away from set, change hands and lead back
   5-6 Turn single


HIT AND MISS (PB, Playford, Sharp)
2 couple facing, AA BB C

AA: Forward a double and back; repeat.
B1: 1-2 Couples come in to meet;
    3-4 lead opposite away.
B2: 1-2 Changing hands, lead back
    3-4 Opposites face, take right hands with partner and fall back a double.
C:  1-6 Partners face, four changes of a circular hey, skipping.

AA: Siding

AA: Arming

And I also developed this variation on the old English dance "Sellenger's
Round" for 3 or more, no partners needed. 

Alan Winston, 11/16/2003
cut-down version of Sellenger's Round for 3-7 people, no partners needed.
Formation: circle of people facing in 
Tune in Barnes, 5x.

A:  Slipping circle (*really* slipping)  left and back to the right.

B:  Chorus (same each time).
    Set forward right and left
    fall back straight
    still facing in, set right and left
    turn single


A:  Lead into the center and back

B: As above


A: right hand star (contra style wrist grip keeps you from having a mess)
   left hands back

B: As above


A: Basket left and _keep going_, not back to the right.

B: As above

(Finish with slipping circle again, but if you're repeating don't do slipping
circle twice in a row - it's lame).

As for four-person contra-like objects, Antony Heywood's "X Marks the Spot" is
the only one I know.  I'm not going to post it here without permission; if
there's interest I'll write Antony and ask for permission.

-- Alan
 Disclaimer: I speak only for myself, not SLAC or SSRL   Phone:  650/926-3056
 Paper mail to: SSRL -- SLAC BIN 99, 2575 Sand Hill Rd, Menlo Park CA   94025

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