I think Tom has correctly identified a significant potential
trouble spot in the dance you asked about, but I think it's
not the only potential source of trouble. Here are some
others, roughly order of decreasing severity, which also
happens to be from near the end of the dance sequence to
near the beginning.
Pull By (2)
Allemande Left (4)
New Partner Swg (4)
uses the idea of identifying someone you do a left allemande
with as your new corner, which thereby makes the next
person of opposite gender (to yourself) in forward grand
right and left direction be your new partner. I'm not sure
how common that idea is in MWSD these days, but there are
certainly many "traditional" square and/or contra dancers
to whom it isn't familiar. I could easily imagine some
people allemanding all the way around and a little more, so
that they end up trying to swing the wrong person.
In my area dancers who can do a right and left through in a contra
with no trouble will mess it up doing from the box. The issue is the those facing in
sometimes try to courtesy turn their opposite instead of their partner. ...
Note that in the sequence
Pull By (2)
Allemande Left (4)
The dancers who were on the outside at the start of the "pull by"
actually *do* engage someone coming at them from the other half
of the square for the allemande. I think there's much potential
for confusion between this part of the dance and the "right and
left through." For dancers who have a 100% clear understanding
of "right and left through" vs. "pass through" or "pull
there's no problem. But for those who don't focus on exact
terminology and instead rely on sort of remembering how the
pattern felt, it could be quite confusing, particularly as the
lead switches between heads and sides and as women progress
around the square.
Another figure that some dancers don't precisely understand is
"Box the Gnat". You and I know that it's done by facing dancers
(who must be of opposite gender roles), that both dancers are
supposed to use their right hands, that it results in the dancers
exchanging places (with the "lady" backing under the joined hands),
and that the dancers end up facing each other (thus facing their
own original positions) and with right hands still joined. Dancers
who lack that precise understanding might, for example, release
hands and face in some direction other than back toward where they
When dancers fall behind the calls, they might miss hearing a
call because they're too focused on completing the previous call.
Or, what often amounts to about the same thing, they might hear
a call and start reacting to it without having completed the
previous call. If some of the dancers are slow to figure out
(perhaps with the help of other nearby dancers) that the "right
and left through" needs to include a courtesy turn, they might
then leave out the "roll away", or the "box the gnat", or the
When a contra dance includes a star with one set of neighbors
followed by some figure (another star, an allemande, a swing,
...) with different neighbors, there are always two dancers
(typically either the two gents or the two ladies, depending
on whether it's a right-hand or left-hand star, on whether the
transition is to new neighbors or to previous neighbors, etc.)
who need to look away from the star a little early, lest they
turn too far and end up turning their backs on the neighbors
they're supposed to meet. Anybody who has paid careful
attention to new contra dancers will have noticed this. The
Star R with the sides (8)
Hds to Center Star L (8)
With same outside two R&L Thru (6)
has a similar issue, both for the transition into the star in
the center and for the transition out of it (and in each case, it
happens to be the gents who are more likely to overshoot their
next appointment). Dancers who are quite able to cope with this
issue in contras may not automatically transfer the same skill
to squares. Also, in a contra, dancers who need five tries to
get the transition right can then enjoy it for another ten or so
repeats, but a square will usually be over before dancers get
five chances at something that the didn't get right during the
Finally, lets look at the opening actions of the sequence:
Hds DSD and face sides (8)
Star R with the sides (8)
I presume the heads are supposed to do the do-si-do with
their opposites, not with their partners. In MWSD, the call
"dosado" (as they spell it) is defined to be done by facing
dancers, so the call "Heads dosado" would be sufficient.
For traditional dancers, you need to be more explicit.
The choreography calls for the dancers to stay close together
at the end of the do-si-do (switching to the spelling more
among current contra callers) and to face the nearest side
couple for the star. For dancers who understand what to do,
it's dead simple. But dancers unused to this transition might
finish the do-si-do by falling all the way back to home places.
Then when the caller tells them, during the walk-through, to do
something with "the nearest side couple", they might lead out,
together with their *partners* to face whichever side couple
they imagine the caller means by "nearest." From this point on,
the dancers could complete the walk-through as directed, but
find at the end of it that something fishy has happened with
the progression--either that the gents are promenading out of
order (if heads led to the side couple on the right) or that
two of the ladies have progressed in reverse of the usual
direction (if heads led to the left).
Or suppose two dancers, say M1 and W3, stay close together at
the end of the do-si-do and correctly face the nearest side
couple (couple 4 in this case) but the other two (W1 and M3)
fall back to home places. The dancers who fell back to place
may be unsure what to do next, and might take a while to
figure it out. Or one of them might start a three-person star
with the side couple (couple 2) and the other might join in
at the wrong spot.
I consider this issue to be fairly minor, because if you can
can get dancers to do the right thing during the walk-through,
I think they're unlikely to have problems with this part once
the music gets going.
If you look carefully at the walk-through of "Chime Bells"
you can see at least a couple dancers who do-si-do with their
opposites and then fall back to home. Since most of the
surrounding dancers know the correct action, the errors are
quickly corrected and the action goes quite smoothly once the
You (Rich) wrote:
I was thinking a Fwd & Back to start the dance, and a longer
partner swing, will take this from 32 bars to 40 bars. The Fwd and back and the swing
both provide some recovery time for those who may need it.
I like this suggestion. I presume you mean a Fwd & Back just
for the active couples:
Hds Fwd & Back (8)
Hds DSD opposite and face sides (8)
I think the preliminary Fwd & Back (also found in "Chime Bells"
cited above and in Ted Sannella's "Do-si-do and Face the Sides")
might make the opening sequence more comfortable for some dancers.
Also, it provides some catch-up time for any dancers who are slow
to finish the promenade. By the way, I reckon the promenade to
be once and an eighth around. This is very common in corner
progression dances and should not be difficult to complete in
sixteen beats if dancers keep the formation small.
The lengthened swing would indeed be more satisfying for contra
dancers. It probably wouldn't be so long that that many would
stop swinging prematurely, but if necessary you might say "keep
swinging" partway through before prompting the promenade.
The change does little to address the more serious challenges
of the dance. While lengthening the swing could let dancers
catch up if they get a beat or two behind the intended pace, it
won't really help if they get seriously out of position, as in
the situation Tom warned about:
... And of course if they mess up on the right and left through,
they'll never recover with the rest of the routine. ...
Overall, I think the sequence would be risky to attempt
unless the dancers have shown ability to cope comfortably with
similar but slightly less difficult material. (Can they
handle star-to-star transitions in a square without the other
challenges? Can they do "right and left through" from a "box"
formation correctly and without hesitation in a dance that
doesn't also include "pull by and allemande left" from box