Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Grand Chain
In Scottish Country Dancing

To perform a Grand chain in Scottish Country Dancing in a 4 couple square set, the 8 Dancers usually Start (as in the upper diagram) by Facing their Partners, Cross on the side By the right with Partner, Cross on the side By the left with the approaching Second corner, repeat By the right with the originally Opposite Dancer and By the left with the First corner, and then repeat this whole sequence Finishing in the Starting Position.

Normally, in a Quick tempo dance, 2 bars are allocated for each Crossing movement so that the complete Figure takes 16 bars (as in the formal version of The Eightsome Reel in bars 24-40 and 424-464); in Strathspeys, 8 bars are sufficient.

Diagram, Grand Chain - In Square Set

Grand Chain - In Square Set

Grand chain in a 4 couple square set, Starting Facing Partners, all ready to Take right hands. The Men's path is shown as a full line, the Ladies' as a broken line. The arrow heads show the 1st couple's Finishing Places.

To perform a Grand chain in a Longwise set, 6 or 8 Dancers Start by Facing alternately clockwise and anticlockwise around the rectangle formed by the Active set, Finishing in their Starting Positions. It is important to follow the rectangular shape of The set as closely as possible, with sharp rotations at the corners rather than an irregular circle. Of course, the actual paths must be slightly curved, as in the lower diagram, so that the Dancers proceeding clockwise can Pass those going anticlockwise; even so, each Dancer changes direction by almost exactly a right angle at each corner.

Diagram, Grand Chain - In 3 Couple Longwise Set

Grand Chain - In 3 Couple Longwise Set

Grand chain in a 3 couple, Longwise set. The Top couple Start Facing Across the set, 1st couple (in 2nd place) Start Facing Down, Bottom couple Face Up. 1st man's path is shown as a full line, 1st lady's as a broken line; the arrow heads show their Finishing Places.

In a Longwise, Active set of 4 Couples, usually the Couples in Top and Bottom Places Cross By the right and those in the 2nd and 3rd Places Cross on the sides By the right to Start.

In a Quick tempo dance, the complete Figure takes 16 bars; the Phrasing should then be 2 bars for each Dancer Passed. In a Strathspey, it more commonly takes only 8 bars, 1 bar per Dancer Passed.

In a Longwise, Active set of 3 Couples, usually the Couple in Top Place Cross By the right and the other Couples Cross on the sides By the right to Start; the lower diagram shows an example as in bars 17-24 of Mrs MacPherson of Inveran. The complete Figure normally takes only 8 bars. It is important to Phrase the Figure so as to Pass three Dancers in the first 4 bars and the other three in the second 4 bars. One will often notice a Dancer counting "1" on Passing the first Dancer, "2" for the second, "3 and 4" for the third, "5" for the fourth, "6" for the fifth and "7 and 8" for the last; this is a good discipline though the actual Phrasing should be made more even than this implies.

In a Circular set with 3 Couples, the complete Figure normally takes only 8 bars and the Phrasing is as for the Longwise, Active set with 3 Couples.

Hands should first be taken as though shaking hands; the joined hands should be raised to shoulder height of the shorter person on the approach and released from that level as the Dancers Pass. The first rule of Palm Position should be applied between a Man and a Lady and Eye contact, at least briefly, is important while the hands are raised. To allow the joined hands to drop Below shoulder height before releasing is uncomfortable and looks ugly.

Here are examples of those Scottish Country Dances for which we have instructions on this site and in which the term, Grand chain, either appears explicitly or is implied; note that for a common term these will be a small selection; for a rare term, these may be all that exist:

Admiral Nelson
Back To The Fireside
Broadford Bay
Cadger's Bridge
Carlisle Castle
Chain Walk
Cherrybank Gardens
Circle Of Cheer
Millennial Strathspey
Peggy's Wedding

Dance Video Clip Which Demonstrates Grand Chain

Grand Chain Video Clip

Links To Pages Related To 'Chains'


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