[Callers] Heys for new dancers

James Saxe jim.saxe at gmail.com
Mon Feb 20 15:50:51 PST 2012

On Feb 20, 2012, at 8:23 AM, Greg McKenzie wrote:

> "Standard" and "Non-Standard" Heys
> - Ladies start, right shoulder, Hey
> - Ladies start, left shoulder, Hey
> - Gents start, right shoulder, Hey
> - Gents start, left shoulder, Hey
> - Ones start, right shoulder, Hey

> I'm not sure which one is "standard." ... I don't teach
> any of them.

I believe I agree with Greg's point, at least to the extent
that I understand it correctly.

For those of us who think of a hey in terms of weaving
across the set, passing alternating shoulders with whomever
we meet, differences in who starts by which shoulder and
where (in the middle or at the ends) have little effect
on the perceived difficulty of a hey.  Such differences
may be more significant for people who (whether by prior
inclination or by teaching) think in terms like

     right in the middle; left on the outside


     right with same sex; left with opposite sex

etc., and some hey variations that seem innocuous to us
may produce a feeling that something isn't quite right,
perhaps leading a dancer either to attempt to "fix"
what isn't broken or simply to stop moving.

So I think we callers should try to help dancers--or help
them to help each other--to think about heys in terms that
apply to heys generally ("pass alternating shoulders";
"when you run out of people to pass, and turn around, pass
by whichever shoulder the person coming toward tries to
offer"; "if approaching dancers looks more confident than
you feel,  trust them") rather than in terms of passing a
particular person in a particular place by a particular
shoulder (e.g., "neighbors pass on the outside by the left").

However, if a dancer asks a specific question such as "Do
we pass by right or left shoulders in the middle?" during
a walk-through, I don't think the caller should refuse
to answer in the dancer's terms.  This, I believe, would
create the impression that the caller either didn't actually
know the answer or was disrespecting the dancer or both,
thereby raising the dancer's affective filter and making it
harder, rather than easier, for the caller then to help the
dancer learn a different way to think about things.

     *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

Regarding which specific forms of hey are, in fact, the most
common, I think that both my personal experience and examination
of published dance collections support the following claims
about straight heys for four in contemporary contradancing:

    * The single most common way to start is by women
      passing right shoulders in the middle.

    * The second most common way to start is by men
      passing left shoulders in the middle.

    * Heys that start with dancers passing in the middle
      are significantly more common than heys that start
      with dancers passing at the ends (largely, perhaps
      entirely, as a consequence of the preceding two

    * Heys where same-sex (or same-gender-role) dancers
      pass in the middle are *far* more common than heys
      where partners or neighbors pass in the middle.

By these measures, the hey in "Flirtation Reel" is indeed
atypical.  Nonetheless, I believe Beth when she say she's
used "Flirtation Reel" successfully to introduce the hey.

Other notable dances with heys where partners meet in the
center include "Bonny Jean" (the dance generally credited
with kicking off the adaptation of heys for four into
American contras) and "Dancing Sailors".

     *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

For more details of evidence in support of the statistical
claims listed above, read on.  If such stuff bores you,
stop now.

Back in 1995, the question came up on the rec.folk-dancing
usenet newsgroup (then a thriving discussion forum, now a
wasteland of event announcements and spam) as to whether
most heys for four have dancers passing by right or left
shoulders in the middle.  I skimmmed through fifteen books of
dances that I had handy looking for all the heys and tallied
some statistics, which I posted in a message on November 28,
1995.  I append the complete message below, but here's a
quick summary.

Out of 144 heys, I counted:

     94 with dancers passing right shoulders in the middle vs.
     50 with dancers passing left shoulders in the middle

    113 starting with dancers passing in the middle (of which
        65 started with W passing R shoulders in the middle) vs.
     31 starting with dancers passing at the ends

In my 1995 tally, I didn't record full statistics about which
pairs of dancers pass in the middle.  However, I've just skimmed
through a one-page snapshot of the dances from the American
Country Dances On-Line database formerly maintained by Russell
Owen.  Out of 78 straight heys for four, I counted:

     53 with dancers passing right shoulders in the middle vs.
     25 with dancers passing left shoulders in the middle

     62 starting with dancers passing in the middle (including
        35 starting with W passing R shoulders in the middle,
        11 starting with M passing L shoulders in the middle, and
        16 others: WL(6), MR(6), #1R(4)
     ) vs.
     16 starting with dancers passing at the ends

     71 with same-sex dancers passing in the middle vs.
      7 with partners passing in the middle and
      0 with neighbors passing in the middle

Looking at various other sources, including several RPDLW
syllabi (which show dances actually called at the weekends),
I find similar trends.  Of course, sources that feature
dances written by a single choreographer may have particular
kinds of heys (or other particular figures and transitions)
substantially under- or over-represented compared to their
general rate of use.


Below is my Nov. 1995 posting to rec.folk-dancing regarding
frequency of heys with left-shoulder vs. right-shoulder passes
in the middle.  It includes a tabulation that will look best
in a fixed-pitch font.

> From: ... at ... (Jim Saxe)
> Subject: Re: "Hey" vs. "Reel"
> Date: 1995/11/28
> ...
> In article <...>
> Deborah Shaw <... at ...> writes:
> >On 25 Nov 1995, Michael R. Bissell wrote:
> >> Deborah Shaw  <... at ...> wrote:
> >> >In contra, a hey generally begins passing right shoulder in the
> >> >center ...
> >> >In Scottish country dancing, a reel of four begins with each
> >> >center person facing the nearest end, and you pass left  
> shoulders in the
> >> >center and right on the ends.
> >> Although heys USUALLY start with a right shoulder in the middle,  
> keep in
> >> mind that they can start an ol' way, rights on the outside, lefts  
> on the
> >> outside, rights on the inside, lefts on the outside...
> >I stand by my original statement - note the use of the qualifier,
> >"generally" in the contra hey description.  In seven years of contra
> >dancing, I've only danced a hey the SCD way once (although someone  
> on this
> >list recently shared a description of a very nice contra that's
> >left-in-the-middle, right on the end - thank you!).  Perhaps this is
> >local?
> To gather some objective data, I quickly paged through a stack of
> books of dances, looking for duple-minor contras with heys in
> them and tabulating them according to whether the dancers pass by
> left or right shoulders in the center.  I included fractional
> heys and diagonal heys, but not heys for three, circular heys, or
> pseudo-"heys" along the sides of the set (pass neighbor by right,
> gypsy next neighbor by left, ...).  In the few cases where a
> dance included two heys or fractional heys separated by other
> figures, I tabulated both heys separately (sometimes they went in
> the same column, sometimes in opposite columns).  When a variant
> form of a dance was printed in full, I counted it as a separate
> dance.  Since I was skimming quickly, I almost surely missed or
> misclassified a few heys, but I doubt that I made significant
> systematic errors in favor of one or the other kind of hey.  Here
> are the results:
>    Book title, choreographer(s),                   Left in   Right in
>    and year of publication                         center    center
>                                                    heys      heys
>    ------------------------------------------------------------------
>    Balance And Swing (Ted Sannella, 1982)             0         1
>    Dizzy Dances: Volume II (Gene Hubert, 1986)        1         3
>    Shadrack's Delight (Tony Parkes, 1988)             2         1
>    Dance All Night (Tom Hinds, 1989)                  2         5
>    Cleveland Dances (various Cleveland area           1         5
>      choreographers, 1990) [count excludes dances
>      also published in Twirling Dervish]
>    More Dizzy Dances: Volume III (Gene Hubert, 1990)  6         0
>    Contra Dancing in the Northwest (Penn Fix, 1991)   1         8
>    Dance All Night 2 (Tom Hinds, 1991)                3         3
>    Contra*Butions (various upper midwest              7        17
>      choreographers, 1992)
>    Dance All Night III (Tom Hinds, 1992)              4         3
>    Twirling Dervish and Other Contra Dances           0        10
>      Becky Hill, 1992)
>    Son of Shadrack (Tony Parkes, 1993)                1         0
>    Another Contra*Bution (Ted Hodapp, Carol Ormond,   4        14
>      Peter Stix, 1995)
>    Midwest Folklore and Other Dances (various         9        20
>      midwest choreographers, 1995)
>    To Live Is To Dance (Jim Kitch, 1995)              9         4
>                                                    -----     -----
>    (Total)                                           50        94
> While heys where dancers pass by right shoulders in the center
> and left shoulders at the sides are indeed in the majority, the
> opposite form still constitutes slightly over one third of the
> above sample.  If the sample is even remotely representative of
> the current American contra dance scene, the "left in center"
> pattern can hardly be considered a great rarity.
> Most of the heys in the sample begin with two dancers passing by some
> shoulder in the center.  Women passing by the right is the most common
> entry to the hey with 65 occurrences, many of them (I didn't count how
> many) following a ladies' chain or right and left through.  I counted
> 31 heys in my sample that began with dancers passing at the sides ends
> of the set, as well as a couple ambiguous cases where dancers are in a
> wavy line of four and begin a phrase of music with the inside dancers
> pulling or turning the outside dancers into the center to begin the
> hey.  Of the 31 heys that begin with dancers passing on the outside,
> 20 (drawn from 11 of the 15 books listed above) begin with a right
> shoulder pass, thus following the pattern Deborah describes a
> prevalent in SCD.  While this is evidently not the most common form of
> hey in contradancing, I still find it mildly surprising that she
> should have encountered it only once in seven years.
> So far as I've noticed, none of the books listed above ever use the
> term "reel" to refer to any form of hey.  That usage of "reel" occurs
> occasionally in English country dancing, as in the dance title "Dorset
> Four-Hand Reel" (Community Dances Manual, Book 5), but the term "hey"
> is far more common in my experience of ECD.  I don't know whether the
> term "hey" was common around, say, the turn of the or whether it only
> came back into common use in the 20th century through the influence of
> Cecil Sharp (who had seen it used by Playford) and the EFD(S)S.  I
> have no information to offer concerning the frequency of different hey
> (or "reel") variants in any form of Scottish or Irish dancing.
> --Jim Saxe

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