Terminology

Heather and Rose Terminology and Conventions

  • Left File - in longways sets, those with their left shoulder to the top (where the music is) as they face their partner.
  • Right File - in longways sets, those with their right shoulder to the top.
  • Designating roles in circle dances - person on the left (or right) of partner (for dance like Jovial Beggar); or ones and twos (for dance like Gathering Peascods)
  • First Diagonal - in duple minor longways sets, those diagonally across with right hands closest (#1L-file, #2 R-file) (In many English Country Dance groups around the country this is referred to as 1st corner.) In square sets the concept of diagonal with right hand closest with opposite couple follows from longways formation; in a square of eight there are four first diagonals (another way to describe this position in a square is 'person on the left of partner'). In Sicilian circles first diagonals are on the left of their partner or those with right hand closest with diagonal of opposite couple.
  • Second Diagonal - the other diagonal.
  • First Corner - used in longways sets of six, triple minors, Scottish longways sets referring to relationship of other dancers to the twos (or the ones when in second place) - the person across the set diagonally to the right (e.g. ones turn first corner).
  • Second Corner - the other corner (the person across the set diagonally to the left).
  • Who passes in front (when crossing down the dance...) - we have a convention of passing right shoulder to right shoulder (within a couple, who the person that passes first is will vary depending on where you are both coming from in the dance). However, when in doubt don't crash or wait around to accommodate the convention if someone is late (i.e. whoever who gets there first, crosses first).
  • How to hold hands in circles, two-hand turns, hands with neighbor... - our convention is right palm up, left palm down.
  • How we deal with 'improper dances' - this term becomes meaningless because of the way we dance; since it doesn't matter what side of the dance one starts on, it becomes pointless to add this layer. When teaching duple minors we don't bother to have people change sides at top or bottom. When teaching set dances where you change sides we will point out at the end of one time through that some (or all) people will have switched sides and that is what was supposed to happen (just as we would point out at the end of a dance like Merry Andrew where you switch partners each time through the dance).
  • Forming sets: When we form sets we call for the number of additional dancers needed rather than calling for couples. Everyone who wants to dance comes to the floor to either side of the set (generally as individuals). By taking hands four (or six...) from the top it determines who is dancing with whom. If people want to dance an occasional dance with someone special, we ask them come in at the bottom after the set has been formed. Sometimes a couple may find themselves leaving an odd person out ahead of them in the middle of a longways. If this happens we encourage shifting so that one of them dances with the odd person out and the hands four continues on down the longways or inviting someone coming to the floor to jump in that spot.

[Back to top]


Ways to make the dance more fun

  • Eye Contact - this is a social dance form so looking (and smiling) at the people you are dancing with is a good thing. Keeping your eyes focused on the other dancers will also help you catch cues on where to go or what to do next if you have momentarily forgotten.
  • Giving Weight - on circles and turns, applying tension to improve centrifugal force - in circles this helps keep the circle round, with a partner it helps regulate the speed, helps the appearance of the turn and makes it more fun.
  • Listen - when the teacher is teaching or calling the dance and encourage others in your set to do the same; if you have a question ask the teacher (the whole room will benefit). H&R teachers tend to stop calling the dance fairly soon so dancers can enjoy the music while dancing.
  • Helping others - the subtler the help the better. If you help within your sets do so with your mouths closed - use eye contact, smiles, very small gestures (an occasional 'here' or 'left'... during the dance is fine, but please no sentences). Most people don't like to be pushed, pulled or grabbed so don't.
  • Country Dance Police - there are none, if you or someone else makes a mistake it's ok; this is supposed to be fun - rather than worrying, chastising or stopping, use it as an opportunity to play and keep dancing.
  • When in doubt, leave it out - for example if you didn't quite get through a figure and there is still a two-hand turn to do but the music/dance is on to the next figure, leave out the turn and do the next figure.
  • Partners - you don't need one to come to any H&R dance. We encourage people to dance with as many different people as possible. Improvement comes more quickly by dancing with more experienced partners. We recommend that two beginners not dance together for more than a dance or two. If you want to dance, come to the dance floor and you will find a partner and a set. By taking hands from the top (and retaining hands until the whole set is formed) you will determine who is dancing with whom. If you want to dance an occasional dance with someone special, please come in at the bottom after the set has formed. Make sure not to leave anyone without a partner in the middle of a set.
  • Children - our events are family environments, and dancers sometimes bring their children along. We invite children to dance. The annual dance camps and balls will provide childcare on request. In order to maintain a safe environment for both children and adults, we request that parents prevent non-participating children from coming on the dance floor during the dance, for this may be very dangerous for everyone.
  • Fragrance - please avoid wearing perfume, aftershave, cologne and other scented products to a dance. Besides their scent being magnified by the aerobic nature of dancing and making them unpleasant to many, some dancers are very sensitive or allergic to such products. This is not a preference issue - it is a health issue.
  • Clothing and Shoes - H&R classes/dances are informal. Wear comfortable, breathable clothes. For balls and other special events some people get more dressed up but it is not required. Shoes should be clean-soled and non-marking, no big heels. Ghillies or ballet slippers work well for Scottish. Many dancers like jazz shoes (oxford style rather than sneaker style) with a soft arch - these give flexibility and point for Scottish and a bit more support for English.

[Back to top]


Some Common Terminology

  • Presence - historically, the location in the ballroom of the highest ranking person. In modern country dance usually the location of the music. Sets are generally organized with the top nearest the presence.
  • Top of the Set - location of the number one couple as the dance begins.
  • Bottom of the set - the end farthest from the top (or the music/presence).
  • Numbering - couple nearest the top in a longways set are ones, others are numbered in sequence down the set. In a longways set for eight dancers numbering is one, twos, threes and fours. In a duple minor longways for as many as will numbering is hands four from the top with ones and twos all the way to the bottom; in a triple minor numbering is hands six from the top with ones, twos, and threes all the way to the bottom.
  • Improper - (or crossed over) when you are on the opposite side of the dance from where you started (in a longways dance).
  • Partner - The primary person you are dancing with; in a longways this person is across the dance from you, in a square, circle, Sicilian circle this person is next to you
  • Neighbor - the person you are standing beside (in a longways dance) or the person next to you who isn't your partner (in a square set).
  • Corner - see diagonals and corners in H&R Terminology and Conventions. Can also mean (in a square or round set) your neighbor.
  • Opposite - The person you are facing.

[Back to top]


Some Common Set Formations

  • Longways set - a set made up of two parallel lines, partners facing. May be for a specified number of people in English and Scottish (six and eight being the most common, sometimes ten, rarely more) or for as many as will in English.
  • Duple Minor - a longways formation for as many as will with 'minor' groups of two couples, each couple progressing down or up to join a new couple for the next repetition (ones move toward the bottom of the set and twos move toward the top).
  • Triple Minor - a longways formation for as many as will with minor groups of three couples with the ones progressing down the set to the bottom, twos and threes progressing up changing numbers with each repetition.
  • Square set - English and Scottish. Usually eight dancers (four couples) arranged so that each couple forms one side of a square, all facing the center of the square with partners standing side by side.
  • Head couples or Heads - in a square set, the heads are those facing and with their backs to the music (presence)
  • Side Couples or Sides - In a square set, the couples on either side of the head couples
  • Round set - English and (occasionally) Scottish. Any even number of dancers (six or more) in a circle, partners side by side.
  • Sicilian Circle - English and Scottish. Two facing two in a circle around the room.

[Back to top]


Some Common Figures

  • Allemande - Scottish. A progressive figure for two (or more) couples. Facing up with hands joined right in right (the person on lefts hand behind shoulder of partner) and left in left (in front), with the ones followed closely by the other couple(s): dance one step out to the right, turn 1/4 left as a couple to face across the dance, dance across the dance and turn down, dance down the dance, turn into a line facing the center, dance into the center with the dancer on the right turning under to face partner, in two bars partners fall back to sidelines.
  • Arming - English. Two dancers link right or left forearms and dance round each other.
  • Back to Back - two dancers move forward toward each other to pass right shoulders and then backing up pass left shoulders to end where started the figure (may also be done starting by passing left shoulders).
  • Cast - turn outward and dance outside the set. Cast up (or down) is to turn outward and dance up (or down) outside the set.
  • Chase - a figure in which one partner follows the others track
  • Circular Hey - see Rights and Lefts.
  • Cross over (or just cross) - changing places with partner (or diagonal) usually with right hands in Scottish and right shoulder in English.
  • Cross and cast - cross over and dance down (or up) one or more places, done without turning away as in a regular cast.
  • Double Triangle - Scottish. Ones are back to back in the middle of the dance facing their own side with right hands joined with person on right and left hand joined with person on left all six set, then ones drop hands and with setting step dance round right shoulders to face opposite side while others set, taking hands as before all six set, then ones drop hands and with setting set dance round right shoulders to second place on their own sidelines while others set.
  • Draw pousette - see pousette-draw
  • Figure of 8 - dancing the pattern of a figure of 8 (usually around standing dancers).
  • Chain - a number of handing figures, for example rights and lefts around a circle (a grand chain).
  • Corner, Partner, Corner, Partner - with the ones in second place of a set of six, ones turn first corner by right (or left) hand once round, ones turn by left (or right) to get to second corner, ones turn second corner by right (or left) hand once round, ones turn by left (or right) to own side in second place.
  • Corners Set and Turn - Scottish. Ones set to first corner, ones 2-hand turn with first corner (using setting step) to get to second corner, ones set to second corner, ones 2-hand turn once round with second corner
  • Corners Pass and Turn - Scottish. Ones cross, passing right shoulder and dance right around first corner positions, while first corners turn once round by two hands; ones repeat this pattern with second corners, on the last two bars ones return to own sides passing right shoulder.
  • Gypsy - Two dancers move around each other in a circular path facing outward or towards the center as directed.
  • Hands across - usually for three or four dancers. In the four person figure diagonals join either right or left hands to form a star and all move in the direction they face. This may be once round, halfway round, 3/4 round, etc. Three hands across: two dancers join hands, the third dancer places his/her hand on top.
  • Hands three, four (six or eight...) - The designated number of dancers form a ring/circle and move around in the direction indicated, usually first to the left and back to the right.
  • Hello/Goodbye Setting - see set to corners and partners
  • Hey - English figure (same as Scottish reel) Interwoven figure for three or more dancers.
  • When for three dancers, the first dancer faces the other two and passes right (or left) shoulders with the second dancer, left (or right) shoulders with the third, the other dancers moving and passing the indicated shoulder. On making the last pass, each dancer makes a whole turn on the end, bearing right if the last pass was by the right shoulder, left if the last pass was by the left, and reenters the figure returning to place. Each dancer describes a figure of 8 pattern. May also be done half way.
  • When for four (or six or more even number of dancers), dancers face alternately, the two in the middle facing out; each dancer goes forward passing alternate shoulders with the other dancers as they approach until they get to end of the line where they pass out, turn and pass in by the same shoulder they went out by, then continue weaving back to where started. May also be done half way.
  • Lead (up or down) (and lead down the middle and back) - traveling down or up the inside of the set to move into a new position, usually done holding right hands in Scottish and inside hands in English.
  • Orbit - traveling around the outside of the set (or one or more standing or moving dancer).
  • Petronella - moving one position counterclockwise while setting and turning over the right shoulder.
  • Poussette (Scottish quick time) - a progressive figure for two couples (or more) in which each couple, with both hands joined, uses eight pas de basque or setting steps to dance three sides of a square. Each couple moves as a unit counterclockwise (out to the side, quarter turn, up or down, quarter turn, into the middle, half turn, fall back, fall back - all turns are done by pulling back the right shoulder). If the figure is done with three or four couples the ones move all the way below the other couples who each move up one space.
  • Poussette (Scottish strathspey time) - also called diamond poussette or all around poussette. A non-progressive figure for two couples. Each couple, with both hands joined, moves as a unit counterclockwise using strathspey setting and traveling to go once round each other. May also be done halfway to progress.
  • Poussette (English) - a non-progressive figure for two couples. Each couple, with both hands joined, moves as a unit without turning. One pair moves a double (diagonally) toward the right wall, the other to the left wall and then back into set formation progressed, then complete the poussette moving in the opposite direction to end in original places. May be done clockwise or counterclockwise. Some dances use a half pousette to progress.
  • Poussette - Draw (English) - a non-progressive figure for two couples. Each couple, with both hands joined, moves as a unit while turning in a smooth oval to dance around the other couple. May be done clockwise or counterclockwise. Some dances use a half draw poussette to progress.
  • Promenade - a figure for two or more couples with partners in promenade hold and moving as a unit, the lead couple, followed by the other couples, dancing (casting) to left (or right), down to the bottom and back up the middle to place.
  • Reel - Scottish figure (same as English hey).
  • Rights and Lefts - usually a figure for four dancers where each person travels forward alternating right and then left hands or shoulders around a square. Can be two, three or four exchanges. Usually starts facing partner across the set (partner by right, face neighbor up or down by left, partner by right, neighbor by left). May sometimes start with neighbor and/or by left. Sometimes referred to as a circular hey in English dances when no hands are given. May also be done by more than two couples facing alternately and moving in opposite directions-usually to original places; this is sometimes called a grand chain.
  • Set and Link for four - Scottish. Neighbors set with nearer hands joined, then 2nd diagonals cast up or down while 1st diagonals dance through center and curve into neighbors' places.
  • Set and Link for six - Scottish. Begins with all improper - set, dancers at the left end of each line (1st corners) dance through the middle to the right end, to end on the left end of a line of three across the dance facing up or down. The dancers in the middle (ones) and at the right end (2nd corners) pull their right shoulders back and cast clockwise (2nd corners following middles), finishing in two lines across the set facing up or down (middle people still in the middle); Repeat the figure to finish on own sides progressed
  • Set to Corners and Partners - Scottish. Ones set to 1st corners but use the second part of the setting step to pull back right shoulder to the sideline and face partner across the dance; ones set to partner but use the second part of the setting step to face second corner; set to second corner but use the second part of the setting step to face partner up and down the dance; set while turning over right shoulder to second place on own side of dance. The corner set back when the ones set to them.
  • Siding - two dancers dance forward to meet right (or left) shoulders and retire. (Another version is Sharp siding in which two dancers come forward in a curve passing left shoulders and reverse that track back to place.)
  • Turn single - Turn in four steps, clockwise (i.e., to your own right) unless otherwise directed.

[Back to top]


Some Common Footwork

  • Chass - Slipping step to right or left as directed.
  • Double - in English dance, four steps forward (or back) closing on the fourth step; up a double and back or forward a double and back are common introductory figures.
  • Pas de Basque - a basic three-beat step beginning with weight evenly distributed, then shifting to the right foot, back to the left foot and finishing on the right foot; then left, right left for a full setting step. Used in both English and Scottish setting, may be in place or traveling.
  • Rant - a particular type of step in English dance.
  • Set - a set of two pas de basque steps.
  • Single - in English dance, two steps in any direction, closing feet on the second step.
  • Skip Change - the Scottish traveling step for jigs, reels and hornpipes.
  • Slip Step - Used in circular or sideways movements in English (sometimes) and Scottish (always) dances.
  • Strathspey - a slow but strong Scottish dance step. Written in 4/4 time.

[Back to top]


Some Common Musical Terms

  • Bar - 1) a vertical line on the staff separating measures of music.2) an alternate term for one measure of music.
  • Beat - Originally one strike to a drumhead, now used to designate the number of counts per measure, i.e. 2/4 time has two counts/beats per measure. Each strong beat corresponds to a dance step.
  • Duple meter (English) - dances with time signatures divisible by 2 (two beats per bar), requiring two, or multiples of two, steps per bar.
  • Hornpipe (Scottish) - a reel variant characterized by a distinctive note sequence.
  • Hornpipe (English) - modern hornpipes are strongly dotted (sharply uneven divisions within a measure) reels; historical hornpipes are in 3/2
  • Jig - a quick time (Scottish) dance written in 6/8 time. Many English dance tunes are also jigs.
  • Measure - one time through the time signature, e.g. in 4/4 time, one repetition of four beats. Quick time (Scottish) music played at a rapid tempo, e.g. reels and jigs
  • Reel - a quick time (Scottish) dance written in 4/4 or 2/4 time. Many English dance tunes are also reels.
  • Rhythm - a series of strong and weak beats in each measure of music, e.g. a reel has four strong beats per measure, while a jig has a sequence of one strong beat followed by two weak beats per measure.
  • Strathspey (Scottish) - a slow tempo dance written in 4/4 or 2/4 time, characterized by a fiddle snap (dotted quarter note).
  • Tempo - the speed at which music is played
  • Time signature - musical notation that defines the meter (number of beats per measure) and the note value of one beat, e.g. 4/4 time has four beats per measure and a quarter note has a value of one beat.
  • Triple meter (English) - dances with time signatures divisible by 3 (three beats per bar), requiring three, or multiples of three, steps per bar, e.g. 3/2, 3/4, 9/8

[Back to top]