Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Best Set In The Hall

Scottish Country Dance Instruction

BEST SET IN THE HALL (J8x32) 3C (4C set) Helen Greenwood RSCDS Book 46

1- 8 1s set and 1L followed by partner casts below 3s. 1L crosses and casts up to face her 1st corner while 1M dances up the middle to face 1st corner
9-12 1s set to 1st corners and dance RSh round each other into 3rd corner (position) while 1st corners dance in and turn right about to face their original position
13-16 1s+1st corner person set and 1st corner persons dance RSh round each other into diagonal opposite corners while 1s dance in and pivot to right to face 2nd corners
17-24 1s repeat bars 9-16 with 2nd corners and end passing RSh to 2nd place opposite sides. (3)(1)(2)
25-32 3s+1s+2s chase clockwise ½ way and turn partners RH

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

Best Set in the Hall
Helen Greenwood RSCDS Book 46
Jig 8 x 32 bars 3 Couple Repeat 4 Couple Set Longwise Set

  1-2   1s set, 1L turning on the spot to finish facing out;

  3-6   1s chase clockwise halfway around the set, finishing below 3s on opposite sides;

  7-8   1L cast up, dance in and pull left shoulder back WHILE 1M dance up and pull right shoulder back to finish back-to-back facing first corners;

  9-10 1s set to first corners;

11-12 1s pull right shoulder back and dance out to partner's first corner position WHILE first corners advance and pull right shoulder back to finish facing the corner position just vacated;

13-14 1s set to the facing corner person;

15-16 first corners (persons) pull right shoulder back and dance out to their opposite corner position WHILE 1s advance, giving right shoulder, and pull right shoulder back to finish back-to-back facing second corners;

17-22 1s repeat bars 9-16 with second corners;

23-24 second corners (persons) pull right shoulder back and dance out to their opposite corner position WHILE 1s cross, passing right shoulder, to finish 3s1s2s, all on opposite sides;

25-28 all chase clockwise halfway around the set, finishing 2s3s1s on own sides;

29-32 all turn by the right.

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

Dance Notes

  9-24 This figure is commonly known as the Peter White Reel; it is named after the dance in which it first occurred, Peter White, devised by Alec Hay.

10-10 1s turn ¼ on the spot ready for the next movement.

14-14 Corners (persons) turn ¼ on the spot ready for the next movement.

Keith Rose's Crib Diagrams

Dance Instruction Videos

Best Set In The Hall - Scottish Country Dancing Instruction Video

Dance Information

Now here's a challenging jig to keep you on your toes, appropriately pointed of course. Best Set in the Hall was introduced to us just a few years ago in RSCDS Book 46. It was devised by a New Zealand dancer named Helen Greenwood, a resident of Auckland, and while this jig is lovely to watch being well executed, it does present the need for very careful thought as one is actually working one's way through it.

I think quite a few of us tend to be conditioned to follow SCD expectations as we dance the various formula moves to which we have become accustomed as reasonably experienced dancers. For example, when back-to-back in the centre of the dance with your partner, and facing a corner, you most commonly dance forward to either turn or change places with that corner. Not in this dance! When positioned as just stated, you pull back your right shoulder, and change places with the corner behind you. Easy to say, but if you are not focused, not as easy to execute!

As said earlier, this is a lovely dance to watch, but if still unsure of yourself after one or two attempts, I recommend you google Best Set in the Hall IT Black and, via YouTube, take a look at how it is danced by what is clearly a demo team in Newcastle, England. To me, it was delightful to watch this team of Geordies execute the dance with elegance and panache.

Personally, I do have a minor hang-up with the name of this dance. Although I am sure many readers will disagree, doesn't the name "Best Set in the Hall" sound a tad too competitive in tone? Twenty years ago, I am sure I danced in sets whose members may have thought they were outperforming other sets in the room. But who's to say, unless we were being judged formally.

Name aside, I believe that the devising of this jig was quite a work of art. Thank you, Helen Greenwood! When the opportunity arises, everyone who enjoys SCD should take another shot at it. Complete it flawlessly, and one gets a very pleasant feeling of accomplishment.

Commentary on Best Set In The Hall Published in set and link, December, 2015.

Dear Editor, RE: Best Set In The Hall, from Helen Greenwood, deviser of the dance

Thanks, Barry, for the article. I really enjoyed reading it. Best Set in the Hall is dedicated to Campbell Mackay, a long-time Auckland dancer. It was his custom when counting sets to stand at the bottom of the hall with the requisite number of fingers in the air calling loudly for couples to join and selling it by saying that it was the best set in the hall. Since the dance was devised, he has stopped this practice, which was not the intention at all.

The movement in the middle was originally devised by Alec Hay, a prolific deviser here in Auckland, in his strathspey Peter White. In briefings here, it is often described as the 'Peter White movement' (Peter White Reel). Our Australian musician friends, Catherine Fraser and Duncan Smith, were playing for our dance when Best Set in the Hall was first put on a programme and they asked if they could include it on their CD, Old Favourites and Odd Couples, with the lead tune of Danse de Chez Nous. From there, it has gone on a most unexpected journey around the world and dancers from as far away as Toronto are interested in its story.

I am a New Zealander by way of Yorkshire and Canada. I was born in Yorkshire; we emigrated to Canada and lived in Montreal for 5 years then moved across the country to Chilliwack near Vancouver. My family still live there, but I came to New Zealand on holiday in 1981 and have been here ever since. This has led to a most confused accent: no matter where I go, people ask me where I am from. I started dancing in Auckland in the 1990s and have been a member of the Innes Club ever since.... Helen Greenwood

Dear Editor, RE: Best Set In The Hall, from Amanda Peart, The Sunday Class

I love reading set and link and haven't even finished this month's yet but feel the need to remark on the article What's in a Name? on Best Set in the Hall. The dance was called that as the MC (not sure if it was Helen herself or someone else) would exhort people to get up and "join the best set in the hall" when trying to get those last few couples needed to make up the last set, so it doesn't mean 'the best' necessarily in performance terms but certainly the best place in the room to be! :-)

Keep up the good work!

...Regards, Amanda Peart,

p.s. Friends of mine have grandchildren in New Zealand and were told by them (7-9 year olds) that their pronunciation was completely wrong. It should be (phonetically): "Bist Sit in the Hole". So there you are! Regards, Amanda Peart,

The Barry Pipes Canon 078- November, 2015.

(Dance information from set and link, RSCDS Toronto Newsletter - What's In A Name? The Barry Pipes Canon 2005-2018, reproduced here with kind permission. Copyright Barry Pipes. All rights reserved)

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