Glossary of contra dance figures

Index:

Shorthands

People

Formations

Figures


Shorthands


Abbreviations

Context matters, but here's some common ones:
	R	Right (right shoulder pass, pull by right, holding right hands)
	L	Left
	N	Neighbor
		N2, N3, etc. 	Future neighbors
		N0, N-1, etc.	Previous neighbors
	P	Partner
		P2, P3		Future partner (in a mixer)
		P0, P-1		Previous partner (n a mixer)
	S	Shadow
		S-1	 Another shadow, on the other side of your partner from S1.
		S2	 Two shadows away, in the direction of the first shadow.
	M	Men's role
		M1	Man one
		M2	Man two
		M3	Man three (triplets/triple minors)
	W	Women's role
	F	Forward
	B	Back
	H	Hand (used to describe some balances)
	SRN	Same-(gender) Role Neighbor
	1CC	First Contra Corners
	2CC	Second Contra Corners
	1C	First Corners (Man one and woman two)
	2C	Second Corners (Woman one and man two)
	C1	Corner (in a square/circle)
		C2	Opposite (in a square)
		C3	Right hand left/left -hand gent (in a square)
			*** these also can apply to four-face-fours
	O	Opposite (neighbor you begin facing in a 3-face-3/4-face-4)
		ON	Opposite neighbor
	1	Ones (unless overruled by other punctuation, like 1CC)
	2	Twos (unless overruled by other punctuation, like 2C)
		2SR	Twos, with their shadow, pass right
		2H	Two-hand clap (only used for clapping notation)
	cw	clockwise
	ccw	counterclockwise

Punctuation

	()	Details on the figure, but not full definition.
	:	Full definition of the figure follows. If multiple lines, description's indented.
	[]	Who does the figure. (Prefix: Naming individual people. Postfix: Relationships.)
	;	Then. Separates two consecutive figures.
	,	While. Separates two simultaneous figures.
	?	Variable/not defined.
	//	One of two possible figures, depending on choice of caller/dancers.
	||	While. One of two possible figures, happening simultaneously.
	-	Negative sign. Used to represent previous neighbors.
	-	Used to space out a line of people, when defining a line of four.
	~	A partial hey pass, where you finish shoulder to shoulder with that person.
	"  "	Shows spoken text.
	'  ‘	Literal text from original source material.
	+	And. Used with people.
	&	And. Used with numbers.
	/	Fractions. Used with numbers.
	.	Used as normal punctuation.


People


Contra corners (people)

The first contra corners are the people on the right diagonal. (At the start of the contra corners figure, when everyone's facing across.) The second contra corners are the people on the left diagonal. This is similar to first corners and second corners in English Country Dance, where it’s the people on the right/left diagonal within the minor set.


Corners (square)

A convention for naming people in a square, normally used as a relative position rather than a specific person. ("Places, not faces".) In this database, however, it's used as a specific person. Your partner is your partner. All corners are of the opposite gender role. The non-partner next to you is your corner C1. (This is the standard corner position.) The person across from you ("opposite") is your corner C2. The remaining person is your corner C3.

This notation is also used in a four-face-four. If at the start of the dance, you took hands in a circle of eight, you'd be next to C1. Other corners are determined by imagining the circle to be a square. (Rotated 45 degrees, but yes, a square.)

A standard grand right and left is notated (PR;C3L;C2R;C1L)

A slight variation of this notation is used to describe progressions in circle mixers. C1 progression means your future partner is standing next to you, when all are facing in as couples, with men on their current partner’s right. C-1 progression means your future partner is on the far side of your current partner.


First/second corners

A convention from proper English Country Dance. First corners are man one and woman two. Second corners are woman one and man two. In this database, these refer to people, rather than positions. First/second corner notation is mostly used to describe unusual hey passes.


Neighbors

People who change after each repetition of the dance. (Exception: Circle mixers, where they're labelled "partners", because that's the term everyone uses.) This can refer to either a couple ("Circle left with neighbors") or a single person. If a single person ("Neighbor swing"), the default assumption is that it's with the opposite role person. Same-role neighbors are typically labelled.

If you have multiple neighbors, they're numbered. Your current neighbor is N1. Your next neighbor in the direction of progression is N2. This is followed by N3, N4, and so forth. Your previous neighbor is N0. The neighbor before that is N-1, and so forth.

If you're dealing with multiple neighbors and your shadow is in your hands-four, things get a little hairy. The numbering for neighbor refers to your opposite-role neighbor. Your same-role neighbor has a different neighbor number. This is typically omitted, especially if notating it is more confusing than not notating it.

You'll see both "neighbor N2" and "N2 neighbor" used. The two varieties are to keep the "N2" as far away as possible from the other search terms. So there’s “N2 neighbor allemande left" or “Right and left through with neighbor N2."


Ones/Twos

Within a minor set, the couple closest to the music is the ones. (The exception is reverse progression dances.) The second couple is the twos. In a triple minor, the third couple is the threes.

Ones are the couple progressing down the set. Twos progress up the set. Be careful of the following:


Opposite

At the beginning of a four-face-four (or a three-face-three), this is the neighbor you're facing. In a four-face four, the neighbor on your diagonal is your C2 corner.


Partners (mixers)

Your current partner is P1. The next partner in your direction of progression is P2, then P3, and so forth. Your previous partner is P0, the one before that P-1, and so forth.


Same-role

i.e. Same-sex. Men with men, and women with women. If just men or just women are involved (as in "Men allemande left"), then just that will be used.


Shadows

Someone who is always in your hands-four at that point of the dance, who is not your partner. They take the role of your partner within your hands-four.

If there are multiple shadows, they'll be numbered. Shadow S1 is the first shadow you encounter. S2 is one hands-four beyond that, and so forth. The S-1 shadow is the first shadow in the other direction -- if the S1 shadow is in the hands four above you, then the S-1 shadow is in the hands four below you.

Currently S1 versus S-1 does not indicate the direction the shadow is found.

There is no shadow S0. That'd be your partner.

"Trail buddy" is often used as a synonym for shadow. In this database I use it in four-face-fours -- it's the opposite-role person in the couple traveling with you.


Formations: Orientations


Across/along

Along: Facing the direction of progression. For instance, when facing your neighbor at the start of an improper dance. Or the starting direction of "lines of four forward and back" in a four-face-four.

Across: Facing perpendicular to the direction of progression. During "Long lines, go forward and back", you're facing across the set. Most ladies chains are done across the set.


Arky

Gender-swapped. An arky right-and-left through would start with the man on the right, woman on the left, and all performing the other dancer's role.

History

Comes from 1950's square dancing, where there was a caller from Arkansas whose schtick was often doing normal calls from unfamiliar gender-role positions.


Center

The middle of the set, or the people in the middle of the set. For instance, the center two people in a line of four. Or the places where ones swing during Chorus Jig.


Diagonal

In contras, right/left diagonal first assumes you're first facing across the set. Then you look on the appropriate diagonal.

In other formations it gets a little more context-dependent. In four-face-fours, or three-face threes, it depends on the previous figure(s), but most likely it first assumes you're facing along the set.


Down/up

“Up" is towards the top of the hall, where the band traditionally is placed. "Down" is away from the top of the hall.


Form

A verb meaning to create a specific formation (line of four, long waves, ring, etc.) in the most obvious way possible.


Sicilian circle

A contra line bent into a circle, so that its two ends are connected. Ones progress ccunterclockwise, twos progress clockwise. Since couples are never out, there are no end effects.

Other formations can be made into a Sicilian circle. The most common are four facing fours and three facing threes


Formations: Duple minor


Becket

Starting the dance on the side of the set with your partner.

An "indecent Becket" starts with you next to your partner, except when facing across, the man is on the right, the woman is on the left.

A "proper Becket" starts with you next to your partner, except all the men are above the women, or vice versa. See the dance notes for who's on first.


Column

A line of four across the set, but not holding hands. Typically everyone is facing across.

Very similar to starting in a wave of four.


Cross formation

A very unusual hands-four formation where people are diagonal from their partner. One example would be to take proper formation, then have the women trade. See the notes in the relevant dances for details.

Further reading


Diamond

A ring of four rotated 45 degrees. See "Fiddleheads" or the modern interpretation of "Petronella" for examples. This has nothing to do with the MWSD definition of diamond formation.

This can sometimes be a starting formation.


Duple minor

A fancy way of describing a contra dance.

"Duple" refers to the number of couples in a minor set -- two couples.

The minor set is the group you do one round of the dance with (ignoring leaving the minor set with diagonal chains and such). So, it's the hands-four dancers take before starting the dance.

The major set one the entire long line of a contra dance, composed of many minor sets/hands fours.


Improper

The most common duple minor contra formation. From proper formation, ones trade places with their partner.

"Progressed improper" takes improper formation, has everyone trade places with their neighbor (for instance, after a neighbor swing), and stay within the same hands-four.

"All improper" means both the ones and twos are crossed over.

In a big circle (circle mixer), it means the man’s role is on the left and the woman’s role on the right.


Indecent

The mirror image of improper. From a proper formation, twos trade places with their partner.

"Progressed indecent" takes indecent formation, has everyone trade places with their neighbor, and stay within the same hands-four. (It's equivalent to reverse progression improper.)

In a big circle (circle mixer), it means the woman’s role is on the left, the man’s role on the right.


Line of four

A line of four people, all facing the same way. (Waves of four are not classified as lines of four in this database.) Typically used in "in a line of four, go down the hall," and followed by parentheses that list the order of people in the line (M1-W2-M2-W1). This ordering is from the perspective of the caller at the top of the hall. This matters for the "up the hall in a line of four", where these are two different perspectives.


Long wave

Either one long wave in the center, or (default) two long waves on each side. Parentheses often show who has which hands with whom (NR), and who is facing in to the center of the set.


Proper

The original contra dance formation, with all the men on one side and all the women on the other.

If all cross over to begin, you get the "All improper" formation.


Progressed improper

From improper formation, trade places with your neighbor, but stay with the same hands-four. (This is equivalent to reverse progression indecent.

There is also "progressed indecent," which is equivalent to reverse progression improper. There's probably even "progressed proper" lurking out there somewhere.


Reverse progression improper

Improper, but the couple closer to the music progresses up the set, and the couple further from the music progresses down the set.

Ones are still the couples progressing down the set, so any notation that refers to ones or twos assumes the ones start below the twos.

This formation is the same as progressed indecent.


Ring

A non-moving circle of four, aligned the same way as the original hands-four. If you rotate it 45 degrees, you get a diamond.


Two-faced line

An unusual formation of four people in a generalized line of four. It's one pair facing the same way, and another pair facing the other way. The most common usage is in a star promenade.

The name is taken from MWSD, where it's featured a lot more.


Wave of four

This is almost always followed by parentheses describing the wave, like (NR,WL).

The first element describes the pairing at the ends of the wave of four -- what their relationship is and which hand they connect with. The second element describes the pairing in the center -- who and with which hand.

None of this defines the balance direction. The balance direction is usually omitted, though there might be a second parenthetical comment using a semi-colon, like (L;R) or (R;back).


Formations: Other Formations


Circle mixer

There's a couple of different starting positions for circle mixers.

The standard one is where all are facing in. Within partnerships, men are on the left and women are on the right.

Another is two concentric circles, all facing their partner. The men are in the inner circle, facing out, while the women are in the outer circle facing in. (Interestingly enough, there’s only one dance that has those roles swapped.)

A C1 progression means men single progress clockwise, women single progress counterclockwise. (In the direction of your corner.)

A C-2 progression means women double progress clockwise, men double progress counterclockwise. (In the opposite direction of your corner.)


Circle of Threesomes

Not a three facing three in a sicilian circle.

This is actually a circle mixer, where instead of couples, you have threeomes.

At some point during the dance, one or more people progress on to another threesome. In some dances, people can change roles/positions within the threesome.

Video link


Double quadrille

A square with two couples on each side, rather than one.

Needs a total of eight couples.

Video link


Doublet

A dance for only two couples.

Typically, with each round of the dance, the previous round's neighbor becomes this round's partner, and verse vica. The "top of the hall" direction also rotates 90 degrees each time.

While there are a few dances that were deliberately written as doublets, many improper contras can also be done as a doublet.


Five couple square

A square with a fifth couple in the center. Couples are numbered normally, except the cneter couple is couple number five. (Couple one is the top couple, and then couples are numbered counterclockwise around the square.) At some point during the dance sequence, everyone progresses to a new position.


Four facing four

A contra where instead of couples facing couples, there are lines of four facing other lines of four. Minor sets are in groups of eight.

The other couple in your line of four is your trail buddy, and travel with you as you progress. In many four-face-fours, you swap sides with this trail buddy every time through the dance sequence.

The neighbor you begin facing is your opposite neighbor. See also corner notation for describing people. Ones still progress down. Twos still progress up.

There's several variations of the four facing four:

"Four facing four" is also sometimes called "mescolanza" or "double contra."


Grid contra

A contra where you progress between up/down and across the hall. The original contra lines should be aligned so the hands-fours are equally spaced. Minor sets consist of two couples.

Progression happens either within the major longways set, or between major longways sets. Or both.


Grid square

A square where you progress between squares.

Squares are arranged in a rectangular grid. At some point during the dance sequence, some or all couples progress to another square. Often there's an intermediate step where they dance with a hands-four progressing out of another square.

A single progression in a grid square is going from the location of one square to the location of an adjacent square, either vertically or diagonally.

Video link

Further reading


Hexagon

A square for six couples.

There are two kinds of hexagons. One has two couples in each head position, for a total of four head couples. There are also a total of two side couples.

The other kind is where there are three head couples, and three side couples. The roles alternate around the hexagon. Many figures get done differently.

Further reading


Horseshoe

The formation for "Levi Jackson Rag."

A longways set where the top couple is improper, and other couples are becket. Typically there are hands-four figures, whole-set figures, and some sort of progression.

Video link


Longways set

In this database, "longways set" as an informal formation name means a straight line of couples without minor sets. So, "Virginia Reel" and "Galopede" are examples of longways sets, where couples dance as a whole set. A contra is not considered a "longways set" because the line is divided up into minor sets of hands-fours.

Some longways sets have a specified number of couples, others are for as many as will.


Other

This glossary is not an exhaustive list of formations. There's others in the database -- read the Dance Notes or the original source material for more information on the more exotic formations.


Quadruplet

A four-couple longways set. This can also be thought of as an extension of a triplet.

Couples are numbered 1, 2, 3, and 4. A proper triplet means all the men are on one side, and all the women are on the other. If some couples are crossed over (improper), it's listed which couples are crossed over.

The progression shows the location of each couple at the end of one time through the dance. The left-most digit represents the top of the hall.


Scatter mixer

Minor sets scattered around the room, without any overall organization or grouping into major sets. At some point in the dance, the sets dissolve, and people progress randomly to create new minor sets.


Six facing six

A four facing four variant where the minor set is a line of three couples facing another line of three couples.


Square

Not included in this database. Sorry.

Though some unusual square variants are included, like double quadrilles, five couple squares, and hexagons.


Tempest

A sub-class of four facing fours. From a standard four-face-four formation, the twos separate away from each other, and face across at each other. The line of four of the ones steps forward until they're between the twos.

Twos still progress up, ones progress down. The common progression is to have the ones go down the hall, then return, but only as far as new neighbors. Meanwhile, twos shift up the hall to prevent set drift.

Video

Further reading


Three facing three

A contra where the partnership is three people, rather than two.

Threesomes face threesomes, all facing in the direction of progression. You begin facing your opposite neighbor.

The order of the people in your threesome (who is on the left, center, and right) can stay constant through repetitions of the dance, or can vary. Check the dance instructions for details.


Tri-contra

A becket mixer variant of a three facing three, where the center people of the threesomes never progress.

Most of these were written for a man in the center of a partnership of three, with a woman on either side of him. The dance is done facing another threesome. After once through the dance, the women progress, typically to the next women's position around the major set. So the left-hand woman would become the right-hand woman in the same threesome, and the right-hand woman would become the left-hand woman in the adjacent threesome on the side.

Further Reading: See the August 1985 issue once the links are fixed.


Triple minor

A contra with a hands-six minor set rather than a hands-four minor set. Couples within the minor set are labelled ones, twos, and threes.

Ones progress down; twos and threes progress up. The number of progressions refers to the ones -- how many couples they pass. In a single progression dance, ones will progress down past the twos, and take new hands six. The twos in the new hands-six were threes in their previous hands-six.

If improper, it's listed which couples are crossed over.

When dancing a triple minor, when a couple reaches the top of the set, they have to wait out twice until there's a full hands-six for them to dance with. At the bottom of the set, if there's only a hands-four, the ones need to progress to the bottom, or else the bottom couple will never get back in the dance.


Triplet

A three-couple longways set, introduced to contra dance by Ted Sannella.

Couples are numbered 1, 2, and 3. A proper triplet means all the men are on one side, and all the women are on the other. If some couples are crossed over (improper), it's listed which couples are crossed over.

Progression is usually "312" or "231." The progression shows the location of each couple at the end of one time through the dance. The left-most digit represents the top of the hall.


Zia

A square/contra hybrid. Two or more (typically improper) contra lines intersect at right angles. Their intersections form squares.

Couples move down a contra line, then reach a square, progress to a different location in a square, and then enter another contra line radiating from that square.

Most zias are double progression. After the first progression, the squares disappear, as all the dancers in the square face away to form hands-fours with people in the contra lines. After the second progression, the squares re-form.

Ideally the same figures are done in the contra hands-fours and the squares, but just in different context, so a ladies chain turns into a ladies grand chain. Or, circle left four steps is circle left 1/2 in a hands-four, but circle left 1/4 in the squares.

In an individual line of text, the contra move appears first, followed by the punctuation || followed by the square move.

If there is only one move, then either the move is the same (petronella turn), or because dancers are only singly progressed, and there are no squares.

Further reading


Figures


Allemande

Description

A hand turn, done in a particular style. (Arm-wresting grip).

Notation

On the sides, I've tried to be precise about how far it is done.

In the center, I've used multiples of 1/2. If the fractional part is 1/2, then someone crosses the set. If there’s no fraction, people return to the original side. If the fraction is 3/4, someone either started or finished in the center of the set. The reason for this is that the non-allemanding people often shift or adjust while the others are allemanding in the center, defeating any chance to measure the exact eighths.

Sample text:


Arch

Description

A pair of people join hands (usually only one pair) and raises them. Someone else is about to go under them.

Sample text:


Arch, dive

Description

One couple makes an arch. The other ducks under it. All move forward (typically) to trade places. One or more couples can be going backwards, as in "Nantucket Sleigh Ride." The figure "dip and dive" is just a series of alternating arches and dives.

Sample text:


Arch down/up over

Description

Typically done in longways sets. The ones (for example) form an arch and go down one line (Example: men's line), with one of the ones going down the center, the other down the outside.

Sample text:


Arm

Description

Link right (left) arms with the other person, with the inside of the elbows touching. This is very similar to an allemande.

History

This is known as "arming" in English Country Dance, and "elbow swing" in square dance.

Sample text:


Around two and the other cut through

Description

This is a chase figure. One couple trades places with their partner by going around another standing couple. The lead person goes around the other couple completely, while their partner follows, only going around one person, each finishing in their partner's place.

Example

From standard improper formation, gent around two and lady cut through:

Man one casts down, crosses the set below the twos, and casts up to woman one's original place. Woman one follows him, crossing the set, and casting down below woman two, but then takes a shortcut, coming up the center between the twos to finish in man one's original place.

Notation

The prefix [who] tells who's doing it. Typically, it's done around the other couple in your hands four. Otherwise the stationary couple is also specified.

History

This comes from southern square dancing, then was introduced to contra dancing by Ted Sannella in "New Friendship Reel".

Sample text:


Balance

Description

Do some footwork for four beats. Often done towards and away from someone.

Notation

If there’s parentheses with things separated by commas, it describes the relationship of the people involved. If there’s parentheses with things separated by semicolons, it’s the direction of the balances. Currently, this data base almost never includes balance directions -- use your own best judgement. It’s typically done either right; left or towards the direction of the next action; away from the direction of the next action.

Sample text:


Balance line

Description

Balance in a line of four (or long lines), all facing the same direction. Fairly rare.

Sample text:


Balance ring

Description

Take hands in a circle (typically of four people) and balance in and out.

Defaults: The entire minor set.

Sample text:


Balance wave

Description

Take hands in a wave (short wave of four, or long wave at the sides/in the center) and balance one direction, then the other.

Notation

The notation in parentheses indicates hand holds and facing. See earlier for details on “wave of four" and “long waves."

Sample text:


Basket swing

Description

More than two people swing with each other. The most common way to do this is to put arms on each other’s nearest backs in a circle, and everyone buzz step clockwise.

Another way (in an improper circle of four) is to have men take two hands with each other, then women take two hands with each other above that. Women raise their arms; men duck under the arches; women bring down their arms. Then men raise their arms and women duck under the arches. Now you’re ready to buzz step.

Defaults

Finishes where it starts.

Sample text:


Bend the line

Description

As couples, face another direction 90 degrees different from original direction. This most often appears at the end of a down the hall in a line of four; turn alone; up the hall in a line of four; bend the line sequence.

Sample text:


Birdie in the cage

Description

A lot of people circle around someone(s) in the middle.

History

From Southern square dancing. Almost never appears in a contra.

Sample text:


Box the gnat

Description

A two-person figure. The two people take right hands, make an arch, and trade places, typically with the woman going underneath the arch. Usually it finishes with people facing each other, but some dances require adjustment.

Sample text:


Bouquet waltz

Description

Two circles (typically of four people each) circle clockwise while orbiting counterclockwise around each other. It has the feel of a Tilt-a-Whirl carnival ride.

History

Comes from Southern square dancing. Almost never used in contra-type dances.

Sample text:


Broken circle

Description

A circle left/right where not all the hands are joined. You hold on to one person (partner or neighbor), but two of the handholds in the circle are broken as you follow the path of a circle. This is very similar to draw pousette or sweep a quarter.

Sample text:


Broken hey

Description

A (usually partial) hey, followed by a quick allemande/gypsy by the people in the center. They typically allemande once around, returning from the direction they came.

Notation

Passes are listed as in a regular hey. The last instruction in the parentheses is the final allemande/gypsy.

The difference between a broken hey and a regular hey followed by an allemande is rather arbitrary. Though in a broken hey the allemande/gypsy is part of the same 8-beat phrase as the hey.

Sample text:


Butterfly whirl

Description

Two people face the same direction, with nearest arms on each other’s back, and rotate clockwise or counterclockwise about a common center. One person is going backwards. This typically follows a star promenade, but sometimes star promenades finish without a butterfly whirl. It rarely appears independent of a star promenade.

Sample text:


California twirl

Description

Starts with two people standing side-by-side, with nearest hands joined. They make an arch, trading places, with the woman going underneath the arch. They finish facing the opposite direction from where they started.

Default

Starts with man on left, woman on right, man’s right hand joined to woman’s left.

Sample text:


Cast

Description

A rather fuzzy term, with many of the usages coming from ECD. It usually means to individually go somewhere, on the outside of the set, in a different direction from the initial facing, finishing somewhere different from where you started.

Sample text:


Cast off

Description

Often the final move of the traditional “ones lead down; turn alone; return; cast off." This is unassisted (ones peel down into second place, twos lead up to progress), or assisted (when ones step between the twos, all face up, put arms on your nearest neighbor’s back, and with ones moving forward, twos backing up, turn as couples until all are facing across.) Which one you use depends on your community. The assisted cast is very similar to a mirror gate.

Sample text:


Cast down

Description

The named people move down the outside (potentially first facing up and curving down the outside).

Notation

In the case of “ones cast down, twos move up", the ones cast down just one place. Otherwise in parentheses it lists how many couples (and who) the ones pass as they go down the outside.

Sample text:


Catch all eight

Description

Allemande right half-way, then with the same person allemande left all the way around. As seen in “Dancing Bear" by Becky Hill.

History

This is a traditional square dance break figure.

Sample text:


Celtic knot

Description

A hey on two perpendicular axes, or two spin the tops without hands.

It starts in wave of four positions. People at the ends allemande right 1/2 or gypsy right 1/2. Then the centers gypsy left 3/4 while the others orbit clockwise 1/4. All meet the same person, in wave of four positions -- though this wave is perpendicular to the original wave. Now gypsy right 1/2 the same person, and then new centers gypsy left 3/4 while new ends orbit clockwise 1/4.

There’s also a mirror left-handed version of this.

History

First appears in “The Tropical Gentleman" by Kathy Anderson.

Sample text:


Chevron

Description

A v-shaped do-si-do variant done by two people on a diagonal within your minor set, where you finish in a different spot from where you started.

It begins by two people facing each other on a diagonal, and trading places. They then rotate 45 degrees and fall straight back to another spot. During the second half of that figure, the inactive people in those spots cast out of the way, to an empty spot.

Example

First corners chevron, from improper formation: Women trade, passing right shoulders, face out, and fall back into their neighbor’s place. Meanwhile men cast on the side (M1 down, M2 up) to their neighbor’s place.

History

Created by Fried de Metz Hermann for her ECD compositions. This figure has rarely crossed over into contra.

Sample text:


Circle left/right

Description

Take hands in a circle and as a group rotate clockwise (left) or counterclockwise (right) the specified fraction.

Dancers finish the circle facing in whatever direction is needed for the next move.

Defaults

The entire minor set is involved. If an amount is omitted, it’s because it doesn’t matter (it’s a circle mixer, or it’s a circle left followed by a circle right).

Notation

If the people involved are other than those from the original minor set (for instance, shadow or new neighbors), then hopefully they’re specified in trailing brackets.

Sample text:


Circle to line

Description

A way to get into a line of four, usually facing down/up the hall. Once you circle the designated amount, the named person lets go of one hand (left hand if a circle left, right hand if a circle right), faces down/up, and leads their circle into a line while the others finish the circle.

Sample text:


Circle to wave

Description

Circle the designated amount, then face the person on the side of the set. Step forward to a wave of four. Check the next figure to find out what wave that is, but typically it’s circle left to a right-handed wave, or circle right to a left-handed wave.

Sample text:

Circle, curl in

Description

A way to transition from a circle to a hey, as developed in “Mood Swings" by Sue Rosen. After circling the correct amount (typically 7/8, though you’d never want to name that fraction during a walkthrough), you’ve got a diamond. The middle people step in front of one of the end people (using existing hand connection and momentum) to form a column of four. Typically followed by a hey.

Sample text:


Circle (out-facing)

Description

A circle where everyone is facing out. Usually defined as clockwise/counterclockwise.

History

In MWSD, this can be called a “sunny-side-out circle".

Sample text:


Circular hey

Description

Does not appear in the database. Instead, this figure is described as "Square through without hands." Stays within the minor set.

Notation

Parentheses give the shoulder passes.

Sample text:


Circulate

Description

Individually advance to the next person’s position in your defined group. Practically, this is done in long waves. In your group of four, the people facing in walk straight across the set, and stay facing out to form long waves. The people facing out loop right (or possibly left) into their neighbor/partner/shadow’s place, and face in to from long waves.

This is occasionally done in other formations. See the details of those dances for how.

Notation

It should define who crosses, who loops, and in which direction.

History

This is an MWSD move created in the early 1960’s when wave choreography took over. Introduced into contras with “The 24th of June" by Steve Schnur.

Sample text:


Clap

Description

Clap hands with yourself, or someone else, or a mix.

Notation

Usually listed as a string. Some abbreviations:

		2H 	Two-hand clap (with someone else)
		R  	Right-hand to right-hand clap
		L  	Left-hand to left-hand clap
		Self	Clap your own hands together.
		Knees	Clap your hands on your/someone else’s knees.
		Stomp	Not clapping, but usually appears with clapping.
			   Stomp a foot on the ground

Clapping syncopation (clapping on some half/quarter beats) is not currently notated in the database. Check the original source if you’re unsure.

If the source doesn’t mention which hands are used, it’s omitted. Make it up yourself.

Sample text:


Cloverleaf

Description

Stand in a circle of four. Cross your arms, reaching out with your left hand to the person on your right, and your right hand to the person on your left. This forms something that looks like a cloverleaf, when viewed from above. This is usually entered into by various pretzely moves of ducking under various people's arms, while holding hands throughout. The most common entry is from a cozy line of four, where the ends raise their connected arms in an arch, the centers duck backwards under the arch, and then the ends lower their raised arms.

Sample text:

Video link


Cloverleaf turn single

Description

The people on one diagonal within a hands-four (for instance, in an improper dance, the men) turn single one direction. The people on the other diagonal turn single in the other direction.

Notation

Some people turn single left, and others turn single right. Shoulders and people are specified in parentheses.

Sample text:


Contra corners

Description

A series of four allemandes done by the named couple. When facing across, you have someone straight across from you. (Typically this is your partner. If it’s someone else, like neighbor, the contra corners will be defined as “with" that person.) Your “first contra corner" in the person on your right diagonal. Your “second contra corner" is the person on your left diagonal.

Contra corners is then a series of allemandes led by the active people:

Notation

Contra corners ends in an unusual configuration. Typically, it’s followed by a swing in the center, or a “return to place", which means return to sidelines you started from. (Original active people pass left shoulders as they cross the set.) But if not, be careful.

History

This was originally a triple minor figure, where it’s a lot easier to comprehend. Also, the hands used vary over time.

Sample text:

Video link


Courtesy fling

Description:

A courtesy turn variant. At the end of the courtesy turn, keep left hands with the other person, and turn to face them. Women will be slightly in the middle of the set, men on the outside. Everyone’s facing up/down, all set up to pull by left and go on to the next.

History:

Coined by Jim Hemphill.

Sample text:


Courtesy turn

Description:

The second half of right and left through, promenade across, and ladies chain. It’s also a way to turn as a couple.

A couple faces in the same direction and rotates counterclockwise around a central pivot point until facing the direction needed for the next move. (Typically halfway. If all the way around, this is sometimes called a “power turn".) The person on the left (typically the man) backs up, the person on the right (typically the woman) walks forward. The usual handhold is woman’s right hand on her hip, man’s right hand behind her back, connected to that right hand. Left hands are connected in front.

With the gent’s chain, there is a clockwise mirror image of this figure (man has left hand on his hip.)

Defaults:

This figure is assumed and not included for all chains/right and left through/promenades across, and is only listed when it is a separate figure.

Sample text:


Cozy line

Description:

An intermediate stage between a line of four and a cloverleaf. Start from a line of four facing down and keep hands throughout. Centers form an arch, then turn away from each other, the centers going under their own heads backwards, then bring those connected hands in front of them. The ends still have a hand-hold with the centers. With their free hand the ends reach behind the centers and take that free hand with each other.

You now have a cozy line, which goes up the hall. To form the cloverleaf, the original ends raise their joined hands to make an arch, the insides back up underneath the arch, and the arch comes down.

History:

First introduced into contra with “Symmetrical Force" by Fred Feild.

Sample text:

Video link


Cross

Description

Someone crosses the set on a straight path. Unlike trade or pass through, you are not exchanging places with another person coming straight at you.

This is typically done by walking straight across the set. However, a diagonal cross is possible, as in “Lamplighter’s Hornpipe" or the first part of a half figure eight. In that case, people diagonally cross, going to the other side while the others adjust (if needed) by moving down or up one place.

Notation

Trade is two people exchanging/passing on a diagonal. Pass is two people trading places, coming close to each other. In cross, you’re not closely passing by someone.

Sample text:


Crossover mirror hey for three

Description

A mirror hey for three, except one couple (or more) also crosses sides into the other hey at specified times. See videos of the ECD dance "Prince William" for an example.

Sample text:

Animation link


Cross trail through

Description

Two changes of a circular hey, and keep facing in the direction of the second pass.

This is typically started by first facing across. Pass right shoulders across the set, then face along the set. Pass left shoulders with that person.

History

Comes from 1950’s square dancing, giving a name to the move, “Heads pass through, then gent go right and lady go left." Depending on the source, “Cross trails through" can refer to both passes, or only to the left shoulder pass: “Pass through and cross trails through." In MWSD, Callerlab has redefined Cross trails thru to be something else entirely, but this version has yet to appear in contra dance.

Sample text:


Dip and dive

Description

A series of alternating arches and dives. If you run out of people, turn as a couple and wait to jump back in.

Notation

The number refers to the total number of arches/dives done in total. Just like counting hey passes, turning around as couples at the end counts as a pass.

A “progressive dip and dive" starts with two specified couples. When they reach other couples, those couples commence the dip and dive as well. The progressive dip and dive typically finishes when everyone has returned to place, so some will stop moving sooner than others.

Sample text:


Dixie twirl

Description

A way to turn around a line of four without letting go of hands. Originally, it was an as-couples California twirl. The center two people make an arch. The right-hand side of the line goes under the arch, while the left-hand side walks over to the other side.

However, the arch can be made anywhere, and either side can be the one going underneath the arch. See individual dance descriptions for details.

Sample text:


Do paso

Description

A compound figure from early Western square dance breaks. In a square, it’s the sequence “Partner allemande left, corner allemande right" repeated any number of times, finishing with a partner courtesy turn.

Notation

The corner can either be within the hands-four, or around the entire set. It depends on the dance. Each individual allemande will be listed.

Sample text:


Do-si-do

Description

Face someone, walk forward passing right shoulders, take a step to the right, and fall back (walk backwards) to place.

Notation

See also “Couples do-si-do", “seesaw", and “mad robin".

Defaults

Once around, unless otherwise specified.

Sample text:


Do-si-do, couples

Description

Connect up with someone facing the same direction and hold nearest hand (or possibly promenade position). As a unit do-si-do the other couple you’re facing.

Notation

“As couples, neighbor do-si-do" means you’re likely connected with your partner, and the two of you do-si-do your neighbor couple.

Sample text:


Dolphin hey

Description

A hey for three, where one of the three actors is a couple acting in tandem, with one closely following the other person. This couple swaps the lead whenever they loop around at the end of a hey, usually with the current lead person looping extra wide, and the trailing person cutting in front of them. Typically done across the set. Typically starts with the pair in the center of the hey axis.

Notation

Parentheses first list the pair of people, then whom they pass to begin the hey, and by what shoulder.

History

Comes from Scottish dancing. From there, Mary Devlin used it in the ECD dance, “Halsway Manners", where it spread to ECD. A few people have experimented with it in contra.

Defaults

Finishes where it starts. Each pass is considered 1/6 of a hey. Done across the set.

Sample text (for now):

Video link


Double figure eight

Description

Both the ones and twos simultaneously start a figure eight, though they begin it at different parts. One couples begins by crossing down/up through the set, while the other casts up/down on the sides.

Example

“Double figure eight (ones cast down, twos cross up):" The ones cast down one place, cross up through the middle (W1 before M1), cast down the other side one place, and cross up through the middle (W1 before M1) to original place. Meanwhile the twos cross up, cast down, cross up, and cast down to original place.

Notation

The full figure has four pieces. It can be fractioned, with double figure eight 1/2 reasonably common.

Sample text:


Double gyp

Description

People on the diagonals rapidly trade places, crossing as soon as the other diagonal has crossed. This can also be thought of as interlocking gypsies. In the original version, one diagonal pair passes by one shoulder, the other diagonal pair passes by the other shoulder.

Notation

Individual passes should be listed.

History

Introduced by Larry Jennings in Zesty Contras as an attempt to add new figures to contra dance. He probably got it from “Long Live London" by Pat Shaw. Pat Shaw may have gotten it from Morris dancing.

Sample text:


Double slice

Description

A variant of slice that progresses two couples. Face a couple on the diagonal, go forward towards them in four steps, as couples pivot so you’re facing the other diagonal, and fall back from them. Then face across so you’re facing yet another couple, double progressed.

Sample text:

History

Also termed “Yearn" by George Walker.


Down outside

Description

The noted people (typically the ones) separate to the nearest outside of the set, and individually walk down the outside of the major set.

Notation

If it’s go down the outside, and next come up the outside to place, no distance details are given. If it’s go down the outside a certain distance (like past two couples), the people you go past are noted in parentheses.

The difference between “down outside" and “cast down" is fairly arbitrary, though “down outside" is more likely to be in the direction you’re already facing, while “cast down" is more likely to be opposite the direction you’re facing. The database is sloppy as to the distinction between these two. Sorry.

History

Most commonly seen in “Chorus Jig", this was a common traditional figure in the 1800’s.

Sample text:


Draw pousette

Description

A pousette variant. The path is more of a circle (or broken circle), but only holding on to one person.

Take two hands with the designated person and orbit the other couple. However, one person always walks backwards, the other always walks forward. This means that your hold with the other person rotates with respect to the room.

History

A modern variant of the pousette developed by 20th century ECD.

Sample text:


Duck for the oyster

Description

Done in a circle, holding hands. One couple arches, the other couple ducks a little under the arch, then backs up to place.

History

Taken from southern square dance.

Sample text:


Eggbeater

Description

Simultaneous allemandes in the center. As an example, women allemande left. Between the pairs of women, men from a different set allemande right. The timing of the allemandes is offset so that only one pair is crowding the center at the same time.

History

Invented and named by Bill Olson.

Sample text:


Fall back

Description

Walk backwards. Please don’t fall over.

History

This wording is often used in ECD. Not so much in contra, but I need it to annotate certain dances.

Sample text:


Figure eight

Description

Two half figure eights in a row. (The active couple crosses down/up through the inactive couple, casts up/down one place, and repeats all that.) When viewed from overhead, it looks like a squished “8".

Sample text:


Flutterwheel

Description

Positionally this is the equivalent of a gent’s chain. When facing across, the right-hand people (typically the women) right-hand turn 1/2 to the other side. When they reach the opposite person, they form a weak star-promenade-type position with them. (Center person’s left hand with end person’s right hand.) (Centers keep right hands with each other.) They then continue to the other side, centers letting go of right hands and bending the line.

History

This is an MWSD square dance figure. It appears often in MWSD contras but has never successfully made the leap to traditional contras.

Notation

Across the set. While one of the pieces is listed as a star promenade, that’s only a loose approximation of the hand-hold. There is no butterfly whirl.

Sample text:


Forward and back

Description

In some formation, walk forward, then fall back to place.

Notation

Usually written as the formation, then “, go forward and back." Typically, it’s four counts to go forward, and four counts backwards.

Sample text:


Gate

Description

Two people face the same direction, hold nearest hands, and pivot around the central point. One person backs up while the other person walks forwards. This is similar to a hand cast.

History

An import from ECD.

Sample text:


Gay Gordons promenade

Description

For this figure, the ideal promenade hold is hands at shoulder level, with man’s right arm behind the woman’s back connecting to the woman’s right hand, and left hands in front. Promenade four steps forward, then individually pivot 180 degrees clockwise. Now the man is on the right, woman on the left, with hands still at shoulder level, left hands behind and right hands in front. Promenade like this four steps backwards. Then promenade four steps forwards in the same position, pivot, and promenade backwards to original place.

History

A variant of the promenade, taken from the couples dance, "The Gay Gordons."

Sample text:


Gents chain

Description

This is the mirror image of a ladies chain, where the left-hand people (men) trade places. Men pull by left (while women shift left to take their place), men veer a little more to their left, and on the other side do a clockwise courtesy turn. (Man is on the left, woman on the right. Man has left hand by his left hip, woman reaches behind with left hand to connect. Man walks forward, woman backs up.)

Sample text:


Georgia rang tang

Description

A series of arm turns and passes. Two people (for example, the women) stay on their side of the set. The other two people (for example, the men) cross the set passing by one shoulder, then turn the person they find by the same hand. Then they (the men) pass by the other shoulder and turn the person on the other side of the set by that same other hand. The pattern can repeat and is typically very fast.

History

Comes from Appalachian squares.

Sample text:

Notation

Individual passes and turns are included in the description.


Give and take

Description

When facing another couple, take two steps forward. Then take two hands with the person across from you, and one person brings the other straight back to the sidelines. It is usually followed by a swing.

History

Invented by Larry Jennings as a swing/swing connector. The move is meant to only take four beats.

Notation

The named person (“women give-and-take") is the person who steps backwards in the second part of the figure, pulling the other person back.

Sample text:


Grand gents chain

Description

Gents chain for four couples, for instance in a square formation. Men star left halfway, and clockwise courtesy turn with their diagonal opposite.

Sample text:


Grand ladies chain

Description

Ladies chain for four couples, for instance in a square formation. Women star right halfway, and courtesy turn with their diagonal opposite.

Sample text:


Grand right and left

Description

In a square/circle, face someone, and pull by right. Keep going to the next person and pull by left. Repeat the pattern as many times as the dance requires.

In a contra, it is done in the major set, along the sides. (If done in groups of four, this move is called a “square through".) People that reach the top or bottom of the set must face across and wrap around the ends.

History

From square dance/quadrilles. Introduced to contra dance by Ted Sannella in “Salute to Larry Jennings."

Notation

Passes and people are listed in order. There need to be at least two pull-bys to qualify as a “grand right and left".

Wrong-way grand right and left

Description

A grand right and left in a square/group of eight/circle mixer where men travel clockwise, women travel counterclockwise.

Notation

Currently, no grand right-and-lefts in this database are labelled “wrong way" -- you’ll have to determine this from the context of the dance.

Sample text:


Grand square

Description

An eight-person figure done in a square formation. Everyone individually walks a small square, walking one side of it (forwards or backwards), then pivoting 90 degrees to walk the next side of the square. The best thing to do is to see the video below.

Sample text:

Video link


Grapevine step

Description

A footwork pattern for sidestepping left (or right). If going to the left, step left on your left foot, then bring your right foot across and in front of the left foot, and put your weight on it. Then step left on your left foot, then bring your right foot across and behind the left foot. Repeat as long as needed. One step per beat.

The final step right is a close, rather than bringing the right foot behind/in front of the left.

Sometimes it starts with stepping on left foot, then bringing the right foot behind rather than in front.

For a grapevine step to the right, do the mirror image of all this.

Sample text:


Gypsy

Description

An allemande without touching.

History

The name comes from Cecil Sharp, when he was trying to interpret a figure from Playford.

Defaults

If followed by a swing, the amount of gypsy is left unspecified.

Notation

Gypsy right is clockwise. Gypsy left is counterclockwise.

Currently there are communities who do not wish to use the notation “gypsy". There are a number of terms out there: Spiral, Gyre, Walk around, Eyes, …. Until there’s consensus on which alternate term to use, this database will use gypsy so the move can be clearly understood and indexed. For calling purposes, translate to whatever term you feel appropriate.

Sample text:


Gypsy star

Description

A strange star variant where half the people are walking backwards. In the group of four, two people on one diagonal take right hands. The other two people take left hands. Often you then join your remaining hand with the person you’re facing. The whole structure rotates, with two people walking backwards, the others forwards.

History

Developed by Cary Ravitz in the dance “Gypsy Star".

Notation

See notes on “gypsy" about the name.

Parentheses show who’s on the diagonal, what hand they’re holding in the center, and who they’re facing.

Sample text:


Half sashay

Description

Trade places with someone you’re next to, finishing facing the same direction. The person on the left sidesteps to the right, while the person on the right sidesteps to the left. One goes in front of the other. It’s equivalent to a half mad robin.

This can also be done as couples, typically in a four facing four.

History

Comes from early Western square dance, which had full sashays around the edges of a square.

Sample text:


Half figure eight

Description

A way for two people (standing across from/next to each other in a hands-four, rather than on a diagonal) to trade places. They diagonally cross through the other couple, then cast around their original diagonal corner.

Defaults

Typically done by a pair of people either above or below the other pair. If done by a pair on the side of the set, it’s described as “across the set".

Sample text:


Hand cast

Description

A cast off figure done with hands.

Example

From a line of four facing up, the people in the center let go of each other. The centers walk forward and the ends back up, still holding hands. Typically finishes facing across. Very similar to a gate.

Sample text:


Hands-across star

Description

A star, except you're only holding hands with the person diagonally across from you.

Notation

In some communities, this is the default star handhold.

Sample text:


Heel/toe

Description

A bit of footwork. Holding on to one person (either in ballroom hold, or two-hand hold), extend the foot in the direction you'll be travelling in the next figure. (For example, men's left, women's right), and then touch the ground with your heel. Then bring the foot back, touching with your toe. This can repeat, or be followed by a side-step of a step-close step.

History

From the dance "Heel and Toe Polka." Introduced into contra dance by Herbie Gaudreau, but really only used in MWSD contra.

Sample text:

Video link


Hey

A hey is a weaving figure for four people. The path is that of a numeral 8 on the floor with an extra loop. In a standard hey, one pair of people (for example, women) pass one shoulder in the center. Then everyone passes the other shoulder on the side. The current ends make a banking loop while the current centers pass the original shoulder in the center. Then everyone passes the other shoulder on the side. Repeat all that to place.

Starting positions can vary.

Defaults

Hey is for four people. It can start with facing couples, or in a column of four. The default orientation is across the set.

Notation

All passes in the hey for four are listed by who passes, and by which shoulder.

Sometimes the final pass is followed by ~. That means the pass is only half-complete, until you're shoulder-to-shoulder with that person. For instance, finishing a hey in long waves, or in a circle.

Sample text:

Video link


Hey for three

Description

A hey for four with one less person and one less loop. It's the pattern of the number 8 on the floor, with three people individually weaving.

History

Another import from ECD.

Sample text:


Hole-in-the-wall trade

Description

A way to cross the set using up a lot of music – usually eight beats. Two people come together, pivot to trade places, and fall back to the other person's place.

History

From the interpretation of the corner crossings in the ECD dance "Hole in the Wall."

Sample text:


Interrupted square through

Description

A square through with balances. Starts with a balance, and then two pull bys. The pattern may repeat.

Sample text:


Jersey twirl

Description

A twirl to swap which is a reverse-handed California twirl. Men's left and women's right hand are joined. They make an arch, trade places, and face the other direction.

Notation

This figure has been named after a number of different states, including Nevada and Jersey. I've given them all the same name to keep the database consistent.

Sample text:


Ladies chain

Description

Women trade places by pulling by right, veering a little more to their right, and courtesy turn on the other side of the set. It helps if men step to their right as women start this figure.

Defaults

Across the set.

History

Before around 1970, the figure "ladies chain" was considered to be a ladies chain over and back, with all finishing where they started. The modern ladies chain was called a "half ladies chain".

Sample text:


Lead down/up

Description

A traditional figure as done in the A2 of "Chorus Jig". The active couple goes down/up the center of the set, holding nearest hand with each other. This is normally done with the sequence of ones lead down; one turn alone/as a couple; one lead up; and ones cast off into second place.

Notation

If it's a lead down followed by a lead up to place, no distance is given. Otherwise, the couples you pass are listed in parentheses.

History

This was very popular in 19th century contras, and ECD before. In modern contra, this has been mostly replaced by the all-active in a line of four, go down the hall.

Sample text:


Lead up under arches

Description

Usually done in longways sets rather than contras. Inactives form arches with their partners. Actives (typically only top/bottom couple) lead down/up the center under the arches.

Sample text:


Line of four, go around the hall

Description

A "line of four, go down the hall" variant for Sicilian circles.

Sample text:


Line of four, go down/up the hall

Description

Pretty much what it says. Make a line of four and go down the hall for a bit.

Notation

“In a line of four, go down the hall". Then in parentheses, it identifies all the people in the line (M1-W2-M2-W1). This ordering is from the perspective of the caller at the top of the hall.

For lines going backwards, it’ll finish with the phrase “(backing up)"

Sample text:


Long lines, go forward and back

Description

Holding hands in lines at the sides, take four small steps forward, and four small steps back.

Sample text:


Long lines, go forward and back with rollaway

Description

Long lines go forward. While they go back, the named people roll each other away with a half sashay on the side of the set.

Sample text:


Mad robin

Description

A sideways do-si-do/seesaw. Or a full sashay.

While facing one person, you travel in an oval around the person to your side.

Notation

Who you go around is listed. A clockwise mad robin begins with the left-hand person going in front, the right-hand person going behind. A counterclockwise mad robin begins with the right-hand person going in front, the left-hand person going behind.

Defaults

The person you face is across the set. You are travelling around the person on the side of the set.

Sample text:


Mirror/split

Description

A figure where one side of the set is doing one figure, and the other side of the set is doing the mirror image of the same figure. (For example, an allemande left on one side, and an allemande right on the other.) The mirror plane of symmetry runs down the center of the set.

Notation

The start of the figure (who splits who) tells which pair of people starts moving towards the center of the set.

Sample text:


Mirror hey for three

Description

A six-person figure. Two heys for three, where one hey starts right-shoulder, and the other hey starts left shoulder. Couples mirror each other, getting close to each other and away from each other.

Sample text:


Mountain-style do-si-do

Description

A two-person figure. Two people face the same direction, hold nearest hands, and make an arch. One person stays put, with the joined hands staying above their head. The other person goes clockwise/counterclockwise around the other person. The default is once around.

History

A figure from traditional western square dance.

Sample text:


Mountaineer loop

Description

A transition from a ring to a line of four. From a circle of four, one couple arches. The other couple goes under the arch, lets go of each other, and goes around the nearest person to the end of a line of four facing the same direction as the arch. Only one handhold is broken in this figure. The archers need to turn under their own hands towards the end of this figure.

Sample text:


Move up

Description

An adjustment figure to keep the set of drifting down/up during a cast or some other unequal figure. When one couple casts, the other couple shifts/leads into the vacant place.

Notation

This is not always explicitly listed in the dance description. Use your best judgement.

Sample text:


Open gents chain

Description

A gents chain with an allemande right instead of a courtesy turn.

Sample text:


Open ladies chain

Description

A ladies chain with an allemande left instead of a courtesy turn.

Sample text:


Orbit

Description

Within a minor set, two people go around the outside of the other two people. For instance, while men allemande left in the center of the set, the women could go clockwise halfway around the men.

Often, for space purposes, orbiters from neighboring minor sets will intersect paths.

History

Used first in Tryptophan Reel, adapted from the ECD dance Fenterlarick. Fenterlarick itself was the adaptation of the MWSD move spin the top.

Sample text:


Oval

Description

A giant circle for the entire major set, even though it looks more like an oval.

Notation

"Oval left" is clockwise. "Oval right" is counterclockwise.

Sample text:


Pass

Description

A generic way of two people to cross the set. This is only used if the pass isn't straight across the set (cross, or pass through), or on a diagonal (Trade). It’s often done with a hey-like weave.

Sample text:


Pass through

Description

Walk forward, passing the person you face by the right (or left) shoulder. Walk on to the next, if there is one.

Notation

This has a parenthetical comment, like (NR). The first part is who you pass by. The second is by which shoulder.

Sample text:


Pass the ocean

Description

Otherwise known as "pass through across to a wave of four". From couples at the sides, pass through across the set. The original right-hand dancers hook left hands as they cross and turn a quarter as they go to the other side. The original left-hand dancers cross all the way to the other side, then take right hands with the person they were originally standing next to. It finishes in a wave of four.

Defaults

Across the set. Typically finishes in a right-handed wave -- see the next figure in the dance instructions for the precise configuration of the resultant wave.

History

This is another figure imported from MWSD.

Sample text:


Petit fours

Description

This has some of the feel of a grand square. This figure is best known from the ECD dance "Mary K" by Gary Roodman. Everyone walks a side of a little square on their side of the set, taking a few small steps, rotating 90 degrees, and repeating until everyone is back where they started.

Video link

Sample text:


Petronella turn

Description

This figure starts in a ring or diamond of four. Everyone drops hands, and moves one position to their right, spinning clockwise in the process. There's a folk-processed clap that often happens at the end of this.

Notation

"Petronella turn, face next" means do a petronella turn, but then spin in place enough to face a new hands-four, as in "Maliza's Magical Mystery Motion" by Cary Ravitz.

Sample text:


Polka

Description

Use the footwork from the polka dance to go somewhere. This is typically done as couples.

Sample text:


Pousette

Description

Take two hands with another person, and as a couple orbit the other couple. You always face the same direction, never rotating with respect to the room.

Some pousettes finish by merging into a column of four, as in "Joyride" by Erik Weberg. In this, after finishing the (half) pousette, couples let go of each other. The people backing up go another step or two backwards and curve around, still facing the same direction. The people moving forward shift right/left until they're facing each other in the center of the set. This finishes in a column of four.

(This is often also spelled "poussette". I'm not clear if there is a correct spelling.)

Sample text:


Power turn

Description

An extra half courtesy turn, until you're facing away from your current minor set.

History

This term was coined by Kathy Anderson.

Sample text:


Progressive grand right and left

Description

A grand right and left that starts with two people. Those two people pull by, then the one they face pull by the other hand. Then those four people pull by the next person, until everyone’s involved.

Sample text:


Promenade

Description

Unless otherwise noted, this is a couples' move, done in promenade position. Couples have right hand to right, and left hand to left, both facing in the same direction. Typically, men are on the left and women on the right. Walk forward as couples.

Sample text:


Promenade across set

Description

This is the typical promenade in contra dance, and is always followed by a courtesy turn.

Sample text:


Promenade around set

Description

This treats the major set as one giant oval that couples promenade around.

Sample text:


Pull by

Description

Take the named hand with the named person and pull by. Keep going to the next.

Notation

Multiple pull-bys are usually notated as "hey with hands", "square through", or "grand right and left." The difference between half allemandes and pull-bys is fuzzy and arbitrary.

Sample text:


Reel the set

Description

A figure done in longways sets, where only the top couple is active, as in the Virginia Reel. The ones turn 1 (or initially by 1 & 1/2) by one arm, then each turn a person in the couple below by the other arm. Then the ones turn 1 by the first arm, and then the next couple below by the other arm. This process continues until the ones reach the bottom of the set.

Sample text:

Video link


Return/to place

Description

An ambiguous figure that most likely means returning to the positions on the floor where you started this particular figure or set of figures. Use the context of the rest of the dance to help you resolve uncertainties. Good luck.

Sample text:


Reverse flutterwheel

Description

The mirror image of a flutterwheel. When facing across, the left-hand people (typically the men) left-hand turn 1/2 to the other side. When they reach the opposite person, they form a weak star-promenade-type position with them. (Center person’s right hand with end person’s left hand.) (Centers keep left hands with each other.) They then continue to the other side, centers letting go of left hands and bending the line.

Sample text:


Reverse petronella turn

Description

Like a petronella turn, but everyone moves one position to their left, spinning counterclockwise in the process.

Sample text:


Revolving door

Description

Stay close to the person you swung. Women hook right elbows/arms/hands, and star promenade to the other side. They drop off the men, and then allemande right 1/2 to the other person. The next move is typically a swing.

This could also be thought of as a reverse-order flutterwheel.

History

This term is invented by Ron Buchanan, to provide an alternate for swing/men allemande left/swing.

Sample text:


Ricochet hey

Description

A hey variant, where instead of two people passing by a shoulder, they raise two hands and push off each other to bounce back to the side where they started. If the hey pass in the center was going to be right shoulder, the people push back and to the left. If the hey pass in the center was going to be left shoulder, the people push back and to the right.

Notation

Any number of passes in the center can instead be ricochets. The details of the hey indicate which couples ricochet at which point in the hey.

History

This originally started as a flourish -- if you ricochet twice in a full hey, they cancel. It was adapted into the dance "The Queen Bee" by Adam Carlson.

Sample text:


Right and left through

Description

Pass through, and then with the person you're travelling with, do a courtesy turn. In some communities, the pass through is replaced with a pull by right.

Notation

The default is across the set. The person you're doing it with is the person you courtesy turn with.

There's also a variant where there is a California twirl instead of a courtesy turn. Those are notated as a modified right and left through.

The default is also the man on the left, the woman on the right.

The default is also just a right and left through over. (Back pre-1970’s, right and left through was a 16-count figure going over and back.)

History

A corrupted version of four changes of rights and lefts.

Sample text:


Right hand high and left hand low

Description

A way for a line of three to face the other direction and swap ends without dropping hands. The middle person raises their right hand in an arch and brings the left-hand person under the arch to the other side, as the right-hand person also crosses to the other side. The middle person then turns under their own arms so that the line of three is now facing in the other direction.

Notation

The active center person is the person named in the figure description.

History

From the traditional square dance "Forward Up Six and Six Fall Back." Introduced into contra with "The Nova Scotian" by Maurice Henninger.

Sample text:


Right-hand ladies chain

Description

Someone other than women doing the ladies chain. People on the right pull by right, then courtesy turn with the named person.

Defaults

Across the set.

Sample text:


Roll away

Description

A way for two people to trade places, but finish facing the same direction. One person sidesteps into the other person's place. Upon starting the move, that person gently tugs the other person, who rotates 360 degrees in front of them to their other side, never turning their back on each other. This is a bit equivalent to a two-hand turn 1/2, but with interrupted hand connections.

Notation

The people doing the tugging and sidestepping are listed first. Then it's the relationship of the people who are rolling in front of them.

Defaults

There's an implicit half sashay for the non-roller. Unless specifically notated, the two dancers trade positions on the floor. In an duple minor contra, unless otherwise notated, the roll away is on the side of the set.

Sample text:


Roll the barrel

Description

A way for a circle to turn into a cloverleaf to turn back into a circle without ever letting go of hands.

Notation

Currently explicit directions are given. Depending on the roll-the-barrel, the action may happen across or along the set.

History

A figure from southern square dance.

Sample text:


Run

Description

A two-person figure to trade places. The named person goes halfway around the other person, finishing in their spot but facing the opposite direction from where they started. The other person sidesteps into the named person's starting position, finishing facing their original direction.

History

An MWSD figure used to get in and out of waves.

Sample text:


Same-role right and left through

Description

A right and left through that's done by a pair of men facing a pair of women. The courtesy turn is still counterclockwise. In real traditional communities, the courtesy turn is often done without hands.

Sample text:


Sashay

Description

This is a dance step -- a slipping sidestep. It is most often done as a couple, taking two hands with each other and slipping down the center of the set, as in Galopede.

This can be done slow or fast, depending on the distance covered.

The slow version of sashay is also known as "chassez". The fast version is also known as "gallop".

Sample text:


Scatter promenade

Description

Promenade anywhere, even outside of the temporary sets. It’s done in scatter mixers. The default is as couples.

Sample text:


Scoot back

Description

This starts in long waves, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Someone. Those facing out loop right (as in a circulate) into that Someone’s place. Those facing in walk forward till they’re right shoulder to right shoulder in the center of the set, allemande right 1/2 until they’re facing the other direction, and walk back to the sides of the set, facing out. Reform long waves with right hands to their same original Someone.

Positionally, it ends in the same place as long waves, then allemande right 1/2.

History

An MWSD figure.

Sample text:

Video link


Seesaw

Description

A left-shoulder do-si-do.

History

In square dance, it can mean other things, but in contra it’s been codified into a do-si-do that starts by the left shoulder.

Sample text:


Seesaw, couples

Description

Connect up with someone facing the same direction and hold nearest hand (or possibly be in promenade position). As a unit seesaw (left-shoulder do-si-do) the other couple you’re facing.

Notation

“As couples, neighbor seesaw" means you’re likely connected with your partner, and the two of you seesaw your neighbor couple.

Sample text:


Set

Description

Step in place in four beats. Step to the right, then step back to the left. Or with more energy, step right-left-right, then left-right-left.

Defaults

Starts to the right. Finishes where it starts. (There are setting steps where you move forward or backwards. Those will be annotated as such.)

History

A very common ECD figure. It may have gotten corrupted into a balance.

Notation:

"Set" can also refer to the group of dancers you're currently dancing with. (See "duple minor" for an example.) Use context to determine if it's a dance figure or a group of people.

Sample text:


Shift

Description

On the side of the set, as couples, sidestep (to the left or right) until you’re facing the next couple. This is often used at the beginning of a Becket contra, where you shift left and circle with the next.

Other:

May not need to be called as a distinct figure, but it is included here for notation purposes.

Sample text:


Single file promenade

Description

A individual no-hands circle within your minor set.

Sample text:


Single file promenade around set

Description

Everyone individually single file walks around the major set. This can either be one giant oval, or one inner oval and one outer oval.

Sample text:


Slice

Description

A forward and back variant. Starting on the side of the set, as couples face the next couple on the left diagonal. Take four steps forward to them, then pivot a little so you’re facing straight across the set, and either fall back or push back four steps.

Notation

This is sometimes called “Yearn", from George Walker’s independent creation of what is a double slice.

Sample text:


Slide right/left

Description

As done in the A2 of the “modern" duple minor version of Rory o’ More. From a wave, a slide right is dropping hands, and sidestepping to your right, passing one person and finishing in their place, facing your original direction. There’s also an optional but common clockwise spin added. The slide left is the similar thing, except it’s to the left with a counterclockwise spin.

Notation

Who you pass is indicated. Sometimes, in a wave of four, the ends will slide two places, which will be indicated in the notes. The default finishing position is facing your original direction in a wave, though this can change depending on the next figure (like a swing.)

Sample text:


Spin the top

Description

An orbit-like compound figure. The net effect is to rotate an entire wave of four ninety degrees and swap the center and ends.

In a right-handed wave, it begins with an allemande right 1/2. Then the new centers allemande left 3/4 while the ends orbit clockwise 1/4.

History

A move from MWSD.

Sample text:


Split/separate

Description

An active couple faces an inactive couple. The active couple walks between the inactive couple, then separates, individually casting around the nearest inactive person back to place.

Notation

The difference between this and lead past one; cast back to place is an exercise in semantics.

Sample text:


Square through

Description

A grand right and left within a minor set of four. With the person you’re facing, pull by one hand (typically right). Then turn a quarter to face the next person in your hands four and pull by the other hand. Continue as needed. The final orientation depends on the next figure.

Notation

The number after the square through shows the number of pull-bys. The passes, people, and hands are also listed in parentheses.

History

The name comes from a square dance figure in the late 1950’s. However, a similar figure (rights and lefts) has been in ECD going back centuries.

Sample text:


Star

Description

Stick the named hand in the center, and the foursome rotates in the direction everyone’s facing. In many communities your hand is on the wrist of the person in front of you. In other communities, it’s a hands-across star, where people on the diagonal shake hands.

Notation

The type of star is currently left unspecified unless it needs to be hands-across.

Sample text:


Star cast off

Description

From a right-hand star, then women pull by right to trade while men make a quick counterclockwise loop in place. The next figure is typically star left 3/4.

History

This was a move invented by Rod Linnell in the 1960's. Back then there were very few ways to progress -- ones lead down, return, and cast was the main one. (Progressing by the neighbor swing was unusual and new-fangled.) This added another possible progression.

Sample text:


Star promenade

Description

A four-person figure, done in a two-faced line orientation. Couples are in a modified promenade hold, where their nearest arm is on each other’s back. One person from each couple has hands in the middle in allemande hold. The whole contraption rotates forward. This is almost always followed by a butterfly whirl, but that piece is notated separately.

Notation

The people and handhold in the center are specified in parentheses, so men left in the center is represented by (ML). Most star promenades are to the other side and are written as star promenade 1/2.

Sample text:


Star through

Description

A twirl to swap. With the person you're facing, take man's right, women's left hand. Make and arch and trade places, woman going underneath the arch.

The difference between this and California twirl is: With a California twirl, you're interacting with the person by your side. With a star through, you're interacting with the person in front of you. This matters in MWSD square dance hash. Not so much in contra.

Sample text:


Swat the flea

Description

The mirror image of box the gnat. Take left hand to left, make an arch, and trade places, woman going underneath the arch.

Sample text:


Sweep a quarter

Description

A broken circle 1/4 in the direction yo u’re already going with the person you’re already holding. This most commonly follows a flutterwheel.

History

An MWSD figure.

Sample text:


Swing

Description

A couples figure. In modified closed ballroom position, go clockwise around each other with a walking step or buzz step. It finishes in the needed direction for the next figure, with the man’s role on the left and the woman’s role on the right.

Notation

A variable-length figure. The ending orientation depends on the next figure.

Sample text:


Swinging star

Description

A star done with a buzz step. The usual method is with a wrist-grip right hand star, and a hands-across left-hand star above that.

Notation

The number of rotations is variable. The figure ends where it starts unless otherwise noted.

Sample text:


Tag the line

Description

There are two different versions of this. The most common version, notated “tag the line" (with quotation marks) starts in a line of four. The people in the center let go of each other, so there are two couples. While facing the same direction, couples sidestep to trade places. (Look in the dance notes to see who goes in front of whom.) Then all drop hands and turn alone to form a line of four facing the other direction.

The other version of tag the line (notated without quotes) also starts in a line of four. All drop hands, and individually turn 90 degrees to face the center of the line. All walk forward, passing right shoulders with two people, until everyone’s passed everyone they can. The figure finishes with everyone facing out, though the next figure may require they face elsewhere.

History

The second version is the tag the line as defined by MWSD. The first version is the adaptation of said figure, as used by Mike Richardson in “Now We Are Three."

Sample text:


Three ladies chain

Description

Done by three couples in a column. The middle couple faces one end couple, and does a ladies chain, though the middle couple only does half a courtesy turn to face the other end couple and does a ladies chain with them. The figure continues, traditionally till all are back with original partners.

Notation

Each sub-chain is listed.

History

This is a traditional square dance figure, where couple #1 would stand between the side couples, and do the figure from there.

Sample text:

Video link


Trade

Description

Two people cross on the diagonal. From improper formation, the men could trade places with each other. In ECD, this is called “corner crossings."

Defaults

Shoulder is typically listed. If not, it’s by right shoulders.

Sample text:


Turn alone

Description

Individually drop hands (if needed) and face the other direction. Whether this turn is clockwise or counterclockwise depends on the figures before or after.

Sample text:


Turn as couples

Description

Trade place with the other specified person and face the other direction. The actual mechanics of the trading places is up to the dancers – courtesy turn, California twirl, hand cast, or something else. This is a typical way of changing the direction of a line of four.

Notation

Hopefully I’ve listed whom with. If not, use your best judgement.

Sample text:


Turn single

Description

Turn completely around in place, typically in four beats. Usually it’s looping around the equivalent of a manhole cover. It finishes where it began, usually in the same orientation.

Notation

The default turn single is right, or clockwise. Turn single left is counterclockwise.

History

This is an import from English Country Dance.

Sample text:


Twirl

Description

A very vague instruction that I’ve translated as best I can. It usually means to spin around in place, either solo, or led by your partner/neighbor.

Sample text:


Twirl to swap

Description

Trade places with the other person, raising your joined hands, the woman typically going under the arch. Finish facing another direction, which is often 180 degrees away from your original direction.

Notation

Joined hands will be specified.

History

This is a catch-all term invented by Larry Jennings. It includes the figures California Twirl, star through, box the gnat, swat the flea, Jersey twirl, and more unusual combinations. In this database, the first five figures are explicitly named. Anything else gets labelled “Twirl to swap".

Sample text:


Two-hand turn

Description

Take two hands with another person and walk around each other. It’s sort of a cross between an allemande and a swing.

Notation

Default is clockwise.

History

From ECD. The swing developed from this figure. In MWSD, this figure is known as “single circle."

Sample text:


Two-leaf clover

Description

Everyone’s in the position of a star promenade, but the hand-holds are a little more unusual. I recommend watching the video below. I’ll also tweak Cary Ravitz’s description from the dance “Contra Clovers":

“In the initial two leaf clover all four people are in line across the
set, women on the inside. One couple is together,
facing up and the other couple is
 together, facing down.
Men's left hands are behind their neighbor's back and right hands are
across their front. Women's hands are crossed in front. Everyone is
facing counter-clockwise to turn the clover.

Then the clover shifts. Women slide back to back and men turn around
in place counter-clockwise, with no raised hands. This puts partners
together, facing clockwise."

History

Taken from Appalachian square dance.

Sample text:

Video


Two-person petronella turn

Description

This is closer to the original version of the petronella turn. It is done by two people, where you have to imagine the other two ghosts that would form the diamond. It's the positional equivalent of an allemande left 1/4.

Sample text:


Up a double

Description

As couples, facing up, go forward four steps, then fall back four steps to place.

History

A very old ECD figure. The “double" refers to a double measure of music – you’re going up the hall for two measures.

Sample text:


Veer

Description

As couples, take two steps forward and to the left (for veer left), or two steps forward and to the right (for veer right). From couples facing couples, it finishes in a two-faced line. From a two-faced line, in finishes in couples back-to-back with each other.

History

An MWSD figure. In contra, it’s typically part of the “Weave the Line" figure.

Sample text:


Venus and mars stars

Description

Two stars (typically four people each, traditionally one with all men, the other with all four women) are next to each other, one rotating clockwise, the other rotating counterclockwise. Where the stars are closest, people swap from one star to the other, trading stars as they pass each other. Typically, all four people in turn swap stars.

Notation

Obviously this isn’t a contra dance figure, but pops up from time to time in four-face-fours, or other formations.

History

A figure from early western square dance.

Sample text:

Video link


Vicious circle

Description

A combination of circle 1/4’s and roll aways.

Notation

The circles and roll aways are specified within the figure.

Sample text:


Walk and dodge

Description

A move somewhat akin to circulate. It typically starts in long waves. Those facing in walk straight across the set to the next position in the minor set and stay facing out. Those facing out sidestep (dodge) to the next position and stay facing out.

History

Another MWSD move.

Sample text:

Video link


Walk forward

Description

Pretty much what it says.

Notation

This is primarily used for people stepping into the center of the set to form a long wave in the center, or walking forward from one wave of four to the next. But it can also be used when nothing else fits.

Sample text:


Waltz

Description

Get in closed ballroom position, and waltz in place, or in the named direction, or around another couple.

Defaults:

If you’re waltzing around another couple, it’s done in LineOfDance, which is counterclockwise around the other couple.

Sample text:


Weathervane

Description

A star promenade that goes once around, and typically is not followed by a butterfly whirl.

Notation

As in star promenade, parentheses show the people in the center and the hands they’re holding with each other.

History

This is a case of the same figure having two names. In MWSD, a star promenade involves four couples. A weathervane is an obsolete figure only involving two couples.

Sample text:


Weave the line

Description

A zigzag-type figure, partially heying along the line as couples. This can also be thought of as a sequence of veers. Face the other couple along the set, holding nearest hand with the person at your side. With the person at your side, step forward and to the left (or right for the mirror image), and then forward and to the right (or left for the mirror image) until everyone’s back in the set, all having progressed and facing the next couple. If the figure continues, it will continue forward and to the right (or left for the mirror image.)

Notation

The person you travel with is the person you do the figure with. Parentheses list when you go forward and to the left or forward and to the right, whom you pass, and how much you do.

Defaults

Finish with couples facing couples, unless indicated otherwise.

History

From the dance “Weave the Line" by Kathy Anderson.

Sample text:

Video link


Weave the ring

Description

A grand right and left without hands.

Notation

Parentheses show shoulder passes – whom you pass, and by which shoulder.

History

Imported from square dance.

Sample text:


Wheel and deal

Description

A way for couples to turn around, while converting from a line of four to a column of couples.

When done in a two-faced line, couples curve forward and to their right until they’re facing each other, all facing the opposite of their original direction.

When done in a line of four, couples curve forward and to their right until they’re in a column of couples all facing the same direction, which is the opposite of their original direction. The original right-hand couple in the line of four loops a bit more so they finish in front of the other couple.

History

An MWSD figure.

Sample text:


Wheelbarrow

Description

A pousette that doesn’t go around another couple, simply staying in a slot. This is typically done in a circle mixer. Everyone stands in front of their current partner, holding two hands. One person goes forward, the other person backs up. The figure then often reverses back to place.

Sample text: