Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Dances for Small Numbers of Dancers

Whatever the cause, there will be occasions when a very small group of Scottish Country Dancers would like to indulge their favoured pastime together. While this page is prompted by the needs of households in lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic and of reduced size classes immediately after, it will retain importance for any group temporarily or permanently short of dancers.

Dances for Eight or More Dancers

With eight dancers, almost the whole répertoire of Scottish Country Dances is available.

For ten dancers, the common practice is to modify the 3 couple repeat in 4 couple, Longwise set format to a 5 couple, Longwise set with the Dancing couple Dropping to 5th place on completing their 2nd Repeat. The 2 couple repeat in 4 couple, Longwise set format can also be readily extended to accommodate an extra Couple; 1st couple take 4 Repeats to reach 5th place and it is probably wise to have 3rd couple Start on bar 1 of the dance. In either case, the music, restarted if necessary, should be adapted to accommodate the extra Couple. The loss of most 4 couple repeat in 4 couple, Longwise set and 4 couple, Square set dances is partially recompensed by the availability of the 5 couple repeat in 5 couple, Longwise set and 5 couple square set format dances.

Twelve dancers are probably best treated as two Sets of 3 Couples; the relatively few 6 couple repeat in 6 couple, Longwise set and 6 couple square set dances provide a little extra variety.

Fourteen dancers can be accommodated in many ways, probably best treated as one Set of 4 Couples and one of 3 Couples. The 2 couple repeat in 4 couple, Longwise set format can be used without adaptation for the 3 couple set, enabling both Sets to perform the same dance; similarly, those 3 couple repeat in 4 couple, Longwise set format dances which can readily be adapted to the 3 couple repeat in 3 couple set format provide the same option. For the more ambitious groups, any 3 couple repeat in 4 couple, Longwise set format dance can be performed by Borrowing. There are also a few 7 couple dances of which The Kelpie of Loch Coruisk is especially satisfying.

Odd numbers around and slightly above eight do present problems though it has always been seen as acceptable to have one or a few dancers sitting out. While it may make the task of the teacher more difficult, s/he can join in for the performance to make up an even number.

Dances for Seven Dancers

These are exceptionally rare, often involving a Longwise or Triangular set with an extra Dancer in the Centre; the option to have the teacher join in for the performance and so make up an even number is especially beneficial with a class of seven.

We have a crib and/or a crib diagram and/or a video for:

All The Lads They Smile At Me
Heptathlon Jig
McNeil Of Barra
Wallflower

Dances for Six Dancers

Although some initiative is required on the part of the teacher, there is a wealth of such dances:

  • all of those with the format 3 couple repeat in 3 couple set
  • all of those with the basic 3-couple Triangular set for Couples
  • those having the 3 couple repeat in 4 couple, Longwise set format which can be adapted for 3 Couples by modifying the Progression
  • all of those with the 2 couple repeat in 4 couple, Longwise set format since these can be performed in a 3 couple set without adaptation.

Dances for Five Dancers

These are quite rare: Domino Five will remind those suffering from withdrawal symptoms of the popular Fisherman's Reel; the Reel of Five is specified for a Man and 4 Ladies but could readily be danced unisex. Both of these have four Dancers disposed as in a Square set with the fifth in the Centre. A few dances have all in a line Up and down The set; others have them disposed in a "W" shape, either Across the set or Longwise.

We have a crib and/or a crib diagram and/or a video for:

5D For Anett
5D For Wiebke
Dandelion
Dinton Fivesome
Dragonflies
Falling Maple Leaf
Fingle-Fangle
Folksy Fivesome
Ghost And Mary Jo
Herself
Lions Head
Mixter-Maxter Medley
Mousetrap
Move It
Polka Dot
Quinary Strathspey
Ranald's Rum
Razzle-Dazzle Reel
Take Five
Tantalus Jig.

Dances for Four Dancers

There are many of these. All with the 2 couple repeat in 4 couple, Longwise set format can readily be performed in a 2 couple set; after one Repeat, the Couples will have Exchanged places; after two Repeats, they will be back in their Original Places. Four Repeats makes a meaningful dance.

There are also many dances for 2 Couples in Round the room sets but all involve Progression; in many cases this can be modified so that the Couples Exchange places at the Finish of the Repeat, as for example the Waltz Country Dance.

In their own home, the enterprising Graziani family of four produced more than 80 videos (one each day) of dances in these two formats during the Covid-19 lockdown in Italy in the Spring of 2020.

Dances for Three Dancers

These are very rare: some are in the Triangular set format for single Dancers; some have them disposed in line Across or Up/Down. Apart from the Ceilidh dance, The Britannia Twostep, the few in Round the room format have Progression and so would need substantial adaptation.

We have a crib and/or a crib diagram and/or a video for:

Adele's Jig
Aztec Weave
Christmas At Bleecker
Delft Delight
Jumping Joan
Kelley's Aye
Shepherd's Crook (MacNab)
Sir David Lindsay Of The Mount's Strathspey
Three's The Charm
Threesome Reel

Dances for Two Dancers

Scottish Country Dances specifically for two dancers are rare; mostly, these are Ceilidh dances for a single Couple and so might be perceived as somewhat peripheral to Scottish Country Dancing. However, The Gay Gordons and The Schottische certainly both warrant a place in the répertoire; The St Bernard's Waltz and Canadian Barn Dance are popular as well as providing interesting musical variety.

The Covid-19 pandemic has spawned many new dances of which a few are specifically devised for a single Couple: Conical Chronicles is a dance in what is basically a single Repeat in the format of a 3 couple repeat in 4 couple, Longwise set with traffic cones as markers of the Standing Dancers; Left In Isolation Jig has a single Repeat in the format of a 3 couple repeat in 3 couple, Longwise set, Starting with the Dancing couple in 2nd place, with no Progression and using chairs as markers of the Standing Dancers; Down but Not Out is a Medley which takes liberties with the Timing of Allemande for 2 couples and of Figures of 8 across and so is not well-suited to the inexperienced.

In a similar vein to the last, many dances with the 2 couple repeat in 4 couple, Longwise set format can be performed by a single Couple. Provided the dance contains no Figure which involves contact between the Couples, as is the case in Petronella, it can simply be danced Starting as would 1st couple; at the end of the first Repeat, they will be in 2nd place from which they dance as 2nd couple. Note that Timing when dancing as 2nd couple will be quite difficult without the visual aid of the performing 1st couple; in this example, they have to Wait for 23 bars before Starting.

Some Figures involving contact between the Couples in the standard format can be adapted to suit a single Couple. For example, 4 hands across can be replaced by Turn by the right and Hands round can be replaced by Turn both hands, performed slowly; Taking hands On the sides and Rights and lefts can be performed with a "ghost"; The Lea Rig and The Magic Roundabout (Freemantle) are two such examples. However, there is no practical workaround for Figures such as Ladies' chain, Reel of four, The bourrel for 2 couples and so on in which each Dancer engages substantially with someone other than his/her Partner.

While reduced to only two dancers, the resourceful Graziani family produced videos which are all adaptations for one Couple of the following 2 couple repeat in 4 couple, Longwise set dances:
Kiss For Nothing
Marchioness Of Blandford's Reel
Miss Falconer's Fancy
Mr Watson's Favourite
Petronella
Village Reel

Dances for One Dancer

Solo Scottish dancing is the domain of the Highland and Ladies' Step Dancing traditions; while Scottish Country Dancing occasionally, but quite rarely, borrows a more exotic step from that répertoire to embellish a specific dance, for example Angus MacLeod, no complete Scottish Country Dance existed for a single dancer before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Onesome Reel was the first specifically intended for one dancer with the option to add one, two or three more. It is a "recipe" dance in the style of the Foursome Reel and others of that genre from the 18th century in which the 8 bar Phrases assigned for Setting are not specified in detail but are left to the choice of the performers; The Lonesome Reel is a prescriptive example, intended for those whose footwork répertoire does not extend beyond those seven basic steps which are sufficient for the vast majority of Scottish Country Dances. The Winsome Reel provides variety in the same Set format.

In the RSCDS Online Class of 16 September 2020, an unnamed dance for a single dancer was taught by the deviser; for purposes of access, it has been temporarily named DSAH-16-9-2020.

Some dances for a single Couple can be adapted for a single Dancer provided there is no substantial engagement between the Partners as, for example, in Left In Isolation Jig where there is no physical contact at all.

See The Influence of Covid-19 on Scottish Country Dancing for other suggestions appropriate to the single dancer household.



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