In the diagrams, the numbered Places of the Dancers in the Full set, i.e., the Places in which they started the dance, are shown in Times New Roman font; their numbered Places in the Active set, i.e., the Places in which they started the Repeat, are shown in Helvetica font.
On the first time through (the first Repeat), the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Couples dance while the 4th Couple stand in Places.
Conventionally, the dance Finishes with all the Couples back where they started. However, it is more elegant, and has become common practice, for the 4th Couple of the Full set not to Drop to 4th Place at the end of their second Repeat as 1st Couple of the Active set; instead they remain in 3rd Place of the Full set for the chord at the end of the dance.
While this is the most common format, it can confuse the Beginner who needs to be careful to remember which 3 Couples are dancing the current Repeat and which Couple is not. S/he should not be tempted to join in the dancing when s/he is supposed to be Standing still (in 4th Place of the Full set for the odd-numbered Repeats or 1st Place for the even), awaiting the next Repeat when s/he will be involved; more importantly, while dancing a Repeat, s/he should not attempt to include the Couple who are Standing awaiting their turn in the next Repeat.
It may be helpful to remember the order in which the Original Couples of the Full set find themselves at the start of each of the eight Repeats of the complete dance. The Standing Couple is shown in italic; the Active set for each Repeat has the 1st Couple shown in bold face and the Supporting couples (the 2nd and 3rd Couples of the Active set) in roman face:
Another way of viewing this Progression is the sequence in which each dancer performs each Place of the 8 Repeats. For the Original 1st Couple this is:
11 43 32 20
where 4 means Standing in 4th Place and 0 means Standing at the Top, in each case while the other three Couples are dancing as the Active set. The Original 4th Couple follow the same sequence starting two Repeats down the list, i.e.,
43 32 20 11
and similarly for the other two Couples.
This rather complicated format does have a counterbalancing benefit for the Beginner and is helpful to the dancer unfamiliar with the particular dance. By starting in 4th Place, s/he can stand and watch the 3rd Lady/Man perform in the first Repeat and briefly memorize this ready to perform that same sequence of Figures in the second and third Repeats. The Figures for the next two Repeats (dancing as 2nd Couple of the Active set) are usually very similar to those for the 3rd Couple of the Active set with Up and Down reversed. Next, s/he stands at the Top and can watch the same Lady/Man perform as the 1st Couple of the Active set and can again briefly memorize this ready to perform that same sequence of Figures in the last two Repeats.
As an encore in dances of this format, usually only one Repeat per Couple is danced ("Once and to the Bottom"). On completing their Repeat, the 1st Couple of the Active set must Drop quickly to 4th Place, using a movement which will not impede the two Couples who need to move Up to start the new Repeat. Again, it has become common practice for 4th Couple not to Drop to 4th Place but instead to stay in 2nd Place at the end of the last Repeat of the encore.
At a Ball, and in order to avoid having keen dancers sitting out, the MC may allow a fifth Couple in one or more Sets; after completing their two Repeats as 1st Couple of the Active set, the Original 1st, 2nd and 3rd Couples Drop to 5th Place; unless the MC advises otherwise, the 4th and 5th Couples should dance as 1st Couple of the Active set once only. Alternatively, the MC may invite three Couples to dance as a "3 Couple Set"; on completing their Repeat, the 1st Couple of the Active set must move quickly Down to 3rd Place and the 3rd Couple of the Active set must move quickly Up to 2nd Place ready to start the new Repeat. The actual movement by the 1st Couple should be chosen to fit with the movements on bar 1 of the next Repeat when the 2nd and 3rd Couples become the new 1st and 2nd Couples.
For example, here are some Scottish Country Dances in which the term, 3 Couple Repeat In A 4 Couple Set, is used in either the Minicrib or the Maxicrib Dance instructions or both -
Alex Doig's Jig
Best Set In The Hall
John Of Bon Accord
MacLeod's Tables 2
Old Man Of Storr
Which Way Is Up?