Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

The Eightsome Reel

Scottish Country Dance Instruction

THE EIGHTSOME REEL (R40+8x48+40) Sq.Set RSCDS Book 2

1- 8 All circle 8H round and back
9-16 Ladies dance RH across (partners on their left) in St Andrews Cross formation, change to Men dancing LH across in centre back to places
17-24 All set to partners twice and turn 2H
25-40 All dance Grand Chain (2 bars per hand)

8 times through firstly with 1L in centre, then 2L, 3L, 4L, 1M, 2M, 3M, 4M
1- 8 With 1L in centre of dance setting (special steps?) the others dance 7H round and back
9-16 1L sets to partner and turns 2H, 1st Lady sets and turns 3rd Man
17-24 1L dances reel of 3 with partner and 3rd Man passing partner LSh
25-32 1L sets in centre while others circles 7H round and back
33-40 1L sets to 4th Man and turns 2H, 1st Lady sets to 2nd Man and turns 2H
41-48 1L dances a reel of 3 with 4M+2M across dance passing 4M LSh and 1L retires to place as 2L goes into centre

1-40 Repeat Introduction

(MINICRIB, Dance Crib compiled by Charles Upton, Deeside Caledonian Society, and his successors)

The Eightsome Reel
Anon   RSCDS Book 2
Reel   464 bars   4 Couple Repeat   4 Couple Set   Square Set

    1-40     Chorus:

      1-8     8 hands round and back;

      9-12   Ls right hands across with Mn outside;

    13-16   Mn left hands across with Ls outside;

    17-20   all set twice to partners;

    21-24   all turn partners twice;

    25-40   grand chain all round.

  41-88     1L's Solo:

    41-48   7 hands round and back WHILE 1L dances any solo setting step in the centre;

    49-52   1L and partner set and turn by the right;

    53-56   1L and opposite M set and turn by the left;

    57-64   1L, partner and opposite M reel of three (1L and partner right shoulder to start);

    65-72   repeat bars 41-48;

    73-76   1L and first corner (M originally next on the side away from her partner) set and turn by the right;

    77-80   1L and second corner (M originally next on her partner's side) set and turn by the left;

    81-88   1L reel of three with these two men (1L right shoulder to first corner), finishing with 1L back in place.

  89-136   2L repeat 1L's Solo.

137-184   3L repeat 1L's Solo.

185-232   4L repeat 1L's Solo.

233-280   1M repeat 1L's Solo (with M and L interchanged in the instructions).

281-328   2M repeat 1M's Solo.

329-374   3M repeat 1M's Solo.

377-426   4M repeat 1M's Solo.

425-464   All repeat Chorus (bars 1-40).

(MAXICRIB, Scottish country dancing instructions compiled by Reuben Freemantle)

Dance Notes

This is the popular informal version. Local variations are often encountered at ceilidhs in Scotland with, for example, the reels replaced by chains.
In the RSCDS version, all turns are with both hands and reels start with the left shoulder, i.e., as in the RSCDS version of The Dashing White Sergeant.

    9-12   For the right hands across, it's easier for the Mn to hold partners round the waist.

  13-16   Similarly for the left hands across, Ls hold partners round the waist.

  25-40   Slow chain, 2 bars per person.

  49-56   In the RSCDS version, set and turn both hands.

  57-       In the RSCDS version, 1L and partner give left shoulder to start.

  73-80   In the RSCDS version, set and turn both hands.

  81-       In the RSCDS version, 1L and first corner give left shoulder to start.

448-464 If you make the chain quicker and can get back to place soon enough, swing your partner.

Keith Rose's Crib Diagrams

Dance Instruction Videos

The Eightsome Reel - YouTube Scottish Country Dancing Instruction Video

Dance Information

A lengthy doctoral thesis, The evolution of the "Eightsome Reel", has been written about this popular dance. It is generally considered to be a late 19th-century invention. But in fact its origins go back much further. The essence is that the introductory section (repeated at the end) can be traced back at least to the early 19th century. Dances of this sort became suddenly popular both in Scotland and England in about 1820, though most soon went out of fashion again. There were similar sorts of dances in France and Germany too. However, the middle section ("the filling in the sandwich") is specifically Scottish in flavour.

An earlier form of the dance appeared in Anderson's Ballroom Guide which went through several editions between 1885 and 1902. The modern version first appeared in J.G. Anderson's Scottish National Dances (1900) and Donald R. MacKenzie's National Dances of Scotland (1910). For the next half-century or so (say about 1900 - 1960), the Eightsome Reel was probably the favourite Scottish dance. It has since gone somewhat out of fashion, especially among the international SCD aficionados who claim to find it long (it is), difficult (it isn't), and boring (it certainly isn't!). However, it is still regularly performed where Scots gather to celebrate Burns Nights, Caledonian Balls, Ceilidhs, regimental events, and so forth.

Dance information by Sir Christopher MacRae, KCMG.
Additional search terms: 8 Some, Ceilidh Dance.

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