A Barn Dance Repertoire
by Thomas Green

Formations

This is a list of all the dance formations in the database.  Click on any formation name to see a list of dances.

There are two main types of dance in this list, those danced slowish with a step-hop or a swagger step, and those danced a bit faster with a smooth walking step. Some dances can be done either way. Callers should tell the band what they want: hornpipes, polkas or rants work well for stepped dances, jigs or reels for others.

Set dance

A dance for N couples in a set formation.  If no other indication is given, start with partners facing each other across the hall in lines, with the men on the caller's right; this is called N-couple longways (for 3, 4, 5, 6, ..  couples).  Sometimes some of the couples start with the woman on the caller's right, man on the left: usually it's the odd-numbered couples who are swapped — N-couples improper.  There are also dances where the couples start side-by-side in a line across the hall, either all facing down (Cornish 6-hand reel) or with one line facing down opposite another line facing up (The Tempest), and even a few where they start in line across the hall facing inwards.  See the diagram of couple formations or in PDF format.

Big circle

Couples stand side by side, woman on the right, in one big circle round the room, usually with everyone facing in to start.

Sicilian circle

In the standard Sicilian circle, couples stand facing in a circle, partners side by side.  Alternate couples face either clockwise or anti-clockwise.  Usually each couple progresses to a new couple in the direction they started off; occasionally the round ends with couples dancing off at random into the room to find another couple (a 'scatter' dance). More rarely there are double Sicilian circles and four-facing-four circles.

Longways

Proper — all couples stand facing in a line.  As seen by the caller, men stand on the right.  Improper — like that but 1st, 3rd etc couples have man and woman swapped. 'Duple' means that the 1s are working with one other couple, the 2s.  'Triple' means that that the 1s are working with two other couples, the 2s and the 3s.  These are the 'minor' sets.  (The 'major' set is the whole line of couples.) In a duple-minor longways, by far the most common, the couples are numbered 1 2 1 2 down the line (usually by doing 'hands 4 from the top').  In single-progression dances, after each turn of the dance 1s find themselves below their old 2s, dancing with a new 2 couple; 2s likewise are moving up.  At the end of the line couples miss a turn and then come in as the other number (2s become 1s and vice versa).  If the formation is improper they need to change sides while they wait.  In the occasional double-progression dance, 1s move along more than one place.

Couple

Couples stand in a circle, all facing anti-clockwise, with the man on the inside.

Square

Four couples stand in a square, partners standing side by side, woman on the right, everyone facing into the middle, with the sides parallel to the walls.  Couple nearest the band is couple 1, couple on their right is couple 2, then couples 3 and 4 follow on, going anti-clockwise round the ring.  (Note — Scottish dancers number the couples the other way, i.e. clockwise.)

Other

The dances that don't fit in to the categories I've used.  Real gems, all of them.