Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Circassian Circle

Scottish Country Dance Instruction

Round the room dance, 2 facing 2

1- 8 All dance R&L
9-16 All set to partner twice and turn 2H
17-24 All dance Ladies' Chain
25-32 All dance Poussette to change places and progress to face next couple

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

Keith Rose's Crib Diagrams

Dance Instruction Videos

Circassian Circle - Scottish Country Dancing Instruction Video

Dance Information

This dance was published by Chivers in 1822 (The Handbook of Modern Dancing) and in Wilson of 1852 (The Art of Dancing).

(Dance information from Circassian Circle Video On YouTube, reproduced here with the kind permission of George Williams)

A while ago, I was asked by an RSCDS Toronto teacher what I knew about the name "Circassian". Beyond the fact, as many of us know, that Circassian Circle is a round-the-room reel that had originally surfaced in RSCDS Book 1 in the 1920s, I had to admit that I thought that Circassia was a country that had existed somewhere in the Middle East a few centuries back. To this admission, she suggested that I research the name... as it might be timely to do so!

Intrigued by her suggestion, I bore down on it. The first thing I remembered was a scene from the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, which I am sure many readers will also have seen, perhaps more than once, it having secured numerous Oscars. The scene that came to mind went as follows. Lawrence, played by Peter O'Toole, had been captured by the Turks in a WW1 scenario, and Lawrence, in Arab dress, was being interrogated by the local Turkish Bey, played by Jose Ferrer. Ferrer? Remember Toulouse-Lautrec in the movie, Moulin Rouge? The very one! The Bey had it in mind that Lawrence was a British spy, and questioned his pale complexion. How did Lawrence answer that question? "Because I am a Circassian!" he exclaimed. It is over 50 years ago that I first enjoyed that movie. Yet the scene sprang immediately to mind! Go figure!

If one is or was a Circassian, then where exactly is home? And why is this information likely to be timely, as my informant had suggested? Here's what I found. Circassia was located in what is now Russia on the north-east shore of the Black Sea due east of the Crimean Peninsula, which in itself is certainly topical as I write. But wait! There's more! Descendants of the old Circassians consider the capital of their aged state to be a city called Sochi, where, as everyone knows, the 2014 Winter Olympics have recently (2014) ended. Now! Is that timely enough for you?

This fact still leaves us with a loose end. From whence does a Scottish-Circassian connection materialize? Well, scholars specializing in Russian history can give you reams of chapter and verse about such connections going back to the 16th century. They are far more complex to recount than time and space permit here. Simply put, Circassian Circle is not just a Scottish country dance. More precisely, it is an international folk dance known in many other parts of the world.

Indeed, there does exist a folk dance troupe in that part of Russia called Circassian Circle. It might well be based in Sochi.

(Footnote - The RSCDS Toronto teacher who gave me this lead? Thank you, Barbara Taylor.)

The Barry Pipes Canon 067- April, 2014.

(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)

Circle Dancing
"Circle Dancing" Franz Stuck (1863-1928), Tempera On Wood, c. 1910

Image copyright Franz Stuck [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
Additional search terms: Ceilidh Dance, Cercassian, Sircassian.

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