Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

The Axum Reel

In Scottish Country Dancing, The axum reel is an elegant, but rare, 16-bar Figure named after the Strathspey, The Axum Reel, in which it first occurred, albeit appearing twice in the half form (8 bars). This Figure is a derivative of Parallel, Reverse reels of four in a 4 Couple, Longwise set modified so that one Dancer in each Reel Exchanges places with a Dancer in the other Reel, a new pair Starting every two bars but taking four bars to complete the Exchange. The Travelling step appropriate to the tempo of the dance is used throughout.

This description of The axum reel assumes that the Dancers all Start from their Original Places in the 4 Couple, Longwise set although there is no known example in any dance with these Starting Positions. Also, as in almost all occurences of Reverse reels of four (and of the much more common Reels of four) on the Side lines of a 4 Couple, Longwise set, the Dancers do not all Start in the correct, evenly-spaced (in time) Positions shown in the following diagram.

The Axum Reel, Bars 3-4.
Arrow heads show the Positions of the Dancers at the end of bar 4.
The emboldened line shows the modification to the paths of the Parallel, Reverse reels of four;
the medium-weight line shows those parts of the Parallel, Reverse reels of four which are unchanged.

Like the basic Reels of three or more, Schiehallion reels and many others, this Figure has all the Dancers on the same, overlapping path, spaced (in time) two bars apart. This means that, from each Position, the next two bars are a repetition of the previous two bars but performed by the Dancer who has just arrived there; as a corollary, an inexperienced Dancer needs only to know which Dancer s/he has to follow.

In practice, the Dancers only reach these Positions after two bars of adjustment as shown in the following diagram; similarly, a final two bars of adjustment is required if they are to Finish in their Starting Places.

The Axum Reel, Bars 1-2.
Arrow heads show the Positions of the Dancers at the end of bar 2.
An unshaded symbol shows the position of the Dancer in the Reverse reels of four and in The axum reel;
a lightly shaded symbol shows the position of the Dancer in the Reverse reels of four which does not also occur in The axum reel;
heavily shaded symbols show the initial Positions, in the sidelines, of those Dancers who are not in the ideal Starting Positions for either form of Reel.
The emboldened line shows the modification to the paths of the Parallel, Reverse reels of four;
the medium-weight line shows those parts of the Parallel, Reverse reels of four which are unchanged;
the broken line shows the adjustment required in the first two bars to get the Dancers to their evenly-spaced (in time) Positions; this adjustment is exactly as that required in the basic Reverse reels of four.

Assuming that The axum reel is to be performed from their Original Places in a 4 Couple, Longwise set, the Dancers in 2nd and 3rd couple's Places Start back-to-back on the Side lines, Facing ready to Give left shoulder to the adjacent End Dancer, those in 1st man's and 4th lady's Places Face Out and those in 1st lady's and 4th man's Places Face In, as though ready for Parallel, Reverse reels of four. Then, in detail, the full form of The axum reel consists of:

Bars 1-2
all Giving left shoulder to Start,
from 2nd and 3rd Places, Pass the approaching Dancer Finishing in that Dancer's Starting Position While
from 1st lady's Place, Pass the approaching Dancer Finishing halfway between 2nd and 3rd lady's Places and just Outside the Ladies' Side line Facing Down While
from 4th man's Place, Pass the approaching Dancer Finishing halfway between 2nd and 3rd man's Places and just Outside the Men's Side line Facing Up While
from 1st man's Place, Pass the approaching Dancer and Dance Across the set Finishing on the Centre line Below 2nd Position While
from 4th lady's Place, Pass the approaching Dancer and Dance Across the set Finishing on the Centre line Above 3rd Position, right shoulder to right shoulder with the Dancer from 1st man's Place.

Note that, for all the Dancers except those from 1st man's and 4th lady's Places, this is exactly the same as though they were Starting Parallel, Reverse reels of four on the Side lines.

Bars 3-4
Giving left shoulder to Start and Finishing Facing as did the Dancer who vacated that Place at the beginning of the 2-bar Phrase,
those Starting from 1st and 4th Places follow the path of those Starting from the same Places in bars 1-2 While
those Starting from the midpoint of the Reel just Outside the Men's and Ladies' Side lines continue on the path of that Parallel, Reverse reel of four Finishing at the End While
those Starting from the Centre line continue Across the set Finishing at the same End of the Reel on the Opposite side;

Bars 5-6
all repeat bars 3-4 from their new Positions;

Bars 7-8
all repeat bars 3-4 from their new Positions;

Bars 9-10
all repeat bars 3-4 from their new Positions;

Bars 11-12
all repeat bars 3-4 from their new Positions;

Bars 13-14
all repeat bars 3-4 from their new Positions;

Bars 15-16
all repeat bars 3-4 from their new Positions, making whatever modest adjustment is needed to Finish as required for the succeeding Figure (most commonly in the Side lines as at bar 1).

This full (16-bar) form of The axum reel occurs in Jig tempo in Lamp Black Lizzie.

At the end of the half form, as in bars 9-16 of the eponymous dance, and given the modest adjustment needed to complete any Reel, all are diagonally opposite their Starting Positions.

Since The axum reel is a modification of Parallel, Reverse reels of four on the Sides, one would expect each Dancer to follow an unmodified path so far as is possible. Those leaving 1st man's Place and 4th lady's Place cannot for 4 bars because they are Crossing The set to take up the other's Position in the other Reverse reel of four; in any 2-bar Phrase, the remaining four Dancers should follow the unmodified path, precisely.

The Phrasing is not quite as even as in the basic Reverse reel of four. For example: from 1st lady's Place, the tempo is as in the basic Reel for four bars; from 4th lady's Place, which that Dancer has by then reached, the path is slightly longer for the next four bars and so the pace must be slightly quicker. Essentially, it is the emboldened part of the path in the diagrams which requires the higher speed.

Note that The axum reel is sometimes described as having a path joining 1st man's, 2nd lady's, 1st lady's, 3rd lady's, 4th lady's, 3rd man's, 4th man's and 2nd man's Places and then back to 1st man's Place again. Although this is a useful and quite accurate description of the path, it is clearly not correct to imply that each of these segments should take two bars; as is clear from the lower diagram, that would result in grossly uneven Phrasing since, for example, the distance along the path from 1st man's to 2nd lady's Place is more than twice that from 2nd lady's to 1st lady's Place.


Dance Video Clip Which Demonstrates The Axum Reel

The Axum Reel Video Clip

Links To Pages Related To 'The Axum Reel'

Complex Figures

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