Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

The Celtic Brooch

Scottish Country Dance Instruction

This is not so much a single dance as a recipe for producing thousands of millions of different dances in a highly prescriptive format of figures within the The Celtic Brooch Set, an unusual form of circular set for three couples; all the Ls perform the same movements at the same time and all the Mn similarly. Every 32-bar sequence contains the distinctive figure, The Theme, danced by the Ls in bars 1-12 and by the Mn in bars 17-28; while The Theme is being danced (by those whom the deviser, Hugh Foss, calls the "outsiders"), their partners (the "insiders") dance three complementary 4-bar figures (or, occasionally, one 12-bar figure) of which the deviser identifies 57 (and invites others to devise more). A Celtic Brooch dance is any six of these different 32-bar sequences in succession and so an immense variety of combinations is possible. Hugh Foss identifies three groups of six sequences as detailed in the separate dance instructions:
The Celtic Brooch (Elementary), The Celtic Brooch (Intermediate) and The Celtic Brooch (Advanced). He codifies and lists the 57 complementary figures.
The Theme of the Celtic Brooch

The Celtic Brooch set is a form of circular set in which the three Ls are at the vertices of a large equilateral triangle facing in, 1L at the top, back to the music; the Ls should be approximately 4m (4½ yards) apart. The Mn are in a smaller, concentric, parallel triangle, facing out toward their partners who are about 1m (just over 1 yard) away.
The essential element of every 32-bar sequence in The Celtic Brooch dances is The Theme, a 12-bar figure danced first by the Ls while their partners dance a complementary figure and repeated by the Mn while the Ls dance the same complementary figure. In crib form, for the Ls' theme:

  1-4   Ls pass partner giving right shoulder and dance right hands across two thirds round to finish 1L in 3L's place, 2L in 1L's place and 3L in 2L's place, Ls pulling right shoulder back to face in;

  5-8   Ls repeat bars 1-4, to finish 1L in 2L's place, 2L in 3L's place and 3L in 1L's place, facing in;

  9-12 Ls repeat bars 1-4, all finishing in original places, facing partners.

The Basic Sequence of the Celtic Brooch

  1-12 Ls dance the theme WHILE the Mn dance a complementary 12-bar figure or three 4-bar figures which may all be the same:

13-16 1s 2s 3s turn by the right 1½ times, finishing in partners' original places;

17-28 Mn dance the theme WHILE the Ls dance the complementary figure, all repeating their partners' movements of bars 1-12 from their partners' places:

29-32 1s 2s 3s turn by the right 1½ times, finishing in their own original places.

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

Dance Notes

Each L performs the same figure in unison; each M performs the same complementary figure in unison. There is no distinction between a dancing couple and supporting couples and there is no progression; at the end of every 32-bar sequence, all are back in their starting places.

Making up the Celtic Brooch set is not intuitive. For those familiar with the recommendation for making up the more familiar triangular set, the following procedure may be helpful:
all take hands in a neat circle with 1s at the top, 1.2m (4ft) between dancers (this is much more widely spaced than in the triangular set, full stretch for small dancers and almost so for average or larger dancers);
these circular sets must be at least 3 yards (2.7m) apart;
move round one twelfth of the circle anticlockwise so that 1M has his back to the music (the line between him and 3L will be the centre line of the set and so 3L should control the rotation so that she looks over his head towards the music on a line parallel to what would be a side line in a lengthwise set);
each M, turning on the spot, should now turn his partner by the right, still at (almost) full stretch, one third round so that they finish 1s on the centre line, 2L 3L in a line across the set, i.e., at right angles to the centre line and equidistant from it, all facing partners;
finally, each M should move 20cm (8in) forward so that he and his partner are now only 1m (1.1 yards) apart.

  1-4   The right hands across is only slightly more than halfway and so the Ls touch hands only quite briefly. In other sequences, the "insiders" may be using the centre of the set; if so, the "outsiders" will not then be able to take hands and may have to follow a path further from the centre.

    -4   Ls must finish by pulling right shoulder backwards quite sharply to finish facing ready to repeat the figure from the new place.

Coding for the Complementary Figures

These figures are classified according to the nature of the travelling by the "insiders" in the complementary figure using two numeric codes and an alphabetical suffix to differentiate those with the same code. The first numeric code is concerned with the speed of travel:

1No travelling.
2Irregular travelling, either only part of the time or at widely differing speeds.
3Regular travelling but at a speed appreciably slower than that of the "outsiders".
4Regular travelling at roughly the same speed as that of the "outsiders".

The second numeric code is concerned with the direction (clockwise or anticlockwise) and the extent of the travel (the number of times that the "insiders" go completely around the set if this is a 12-bar figure or in three repeats if it is a 4-bar figure):

0No travelling.
1Clockwise, once.
2Anticlockwise, once.
3Clockwise, twice.
4Anticlockwise, twice.
5Clockwise, three times.
6Anticlockwise, three times.
7Clockwise, more than three times.
8Anticlockwise, more than three times.

The Complementary Figures

The following are a few of the 57 complementary figures devised by Hugh Foss; in each case, the code is shown followed by the name wherever he supplied one. Each complementary figure, when inserted into the Basic Sequence of the Celtic Brooch, makes a different Celtic Brooch Sequence. Any six of these Sequences in succession make up a different Celtic Brooch Dance; Hugh Foss details three examples, graded as Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced.

A few complementary figures are 12-bar phrases in their own right but most are 4-bar phrases and so can be used three times in succession or can be combined with two other 4-bar phrases to make up the 12-bar phrase. Where the beginning and/or ending of the combination 12-bar phrase requires a significant difference to the repeated 4-bar phrase (as in 21C), the full 12 bars are described explicitly.

10A   The Theme (undecorated)
Note that The Theme is used here to mean the whole of this 32-bar sequence, rather than the 12-bar phrase.

  1-4   Mn stand in places, acknowledging each L as she arrives in his partner's place.

10B   Reel Steps

  1-4   Mn set using any suitable steps (but all must be in unison).


  1-2   Turning on the spot clockwise to face inwards, Mn set advancing (pas-de-basque);

  3-10 Mn take hands in a circle and set using any suitable steps (but all must be in unison);

11-12 Mn release hands and set retiring (pas-de-basque), finishing by turning on the spot to face anticlockwise.


  1-2   Mn set (pas-de-basque), turning on the spot clockwise to face inwards;

  3-4   Mn advance, touch right hands briefly and dance out to the next place clockwise, finishing by pulling right shoulder back to face anticlockwise.


  1-1   Pulling right shoulder back to face inwards, Mn advance to finish right shoulder to right shoulder;

  2-2   Mn set (pas-de-basque), turning on the spot anticlockwise once round;

  3-4   Mn dance out to the next place clockwise, finishing by pulling left shoulder back to face anticlockwise.

21C   Set and Travel

  1-2   Mn set (pas-de-basque), turning on the spot to face clockwise;

  3-4   Mn chase to the next place clockwise on a circular path;

  5-6   Mn set (pas-de-basque) facing clockwise;

  7-8   Mn chase to the next place clockwise on a circular path;

  9-10 Mn set (pas-de-basque) facing clockwise;

11-12 Mn chase to the next place clockwise on a circular path, finishing by pulling left shoulder back to face anticlockwise.

Dance Instruction Videos

The Celtic Brooch - YouTube Scottish Country Dancing Instruction Video

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