Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Hands Across

Sometimes called 'star' or 'wheel', Hands across, is the formal term for the Figure in which 3, 4 or more Scottish Country Dancers join right or left hands in the centre to form a Star shape (or like the spokes of a Wheel) and Dance round with a Travelling Step, clockwise or anticlockwise.

The full Figure normally takes 4 bars and normally returns the dancers to their Positions at the beginning of the Figure; the half Figure takes 2 bars and, typically, interchanges the dancers diagonally.

It is usual to be explicit over right or left though right (clockwise) is implied when the hand is not specified. In the double form, Couples Dance round, the Men (or the Ladies) Taking hands as for the individual form of Hands across and, with the other hand, Take hands with their Partners. Where this Figure occurs in a Quick tempo dance, such as in bars 9-16 of The Eightsome Reel, the Man usually places his arm around his Partner's waist.

The procedure for Taking hands is complicated since there are more than two dancers and the previous or subsequent Figure may dictate a particular procedure. However, the general principles, notably hands at the height of the shoulder of the shortest dancer and Men with Palms up, Ladies with Palms down, should normally apply.

When 3 dancers are involved, two are usually stationary at the beginning of the Figure and the 3rd dancer is usually the Dancing man or Lady; the former can conveniently Take hands as though for a Turn while the latter places his or her hand to touch the joined hands from below or above, respectively.

When 4 dancers are involved, it is conventional for the Opposite dancers to Take hands as though for a Turn, with the joined hands touching, one pair above the other. However, the previous or subsequent Figure may make this unpractical.

For example, in the eponymous Figure in bars 1-4 of Drumelzier, adjacent Couples Turn by the right halfway and then Dance Right hands across halfway; to avoid untidy fumbling, the Couples should retain their Hold at the end of the Turn and then link a free finger from each Couple to make the contact.

Similarly, when Right hands Across follows Set on the Sides, it is polite practice for the dancer on the right of each Setting pair to use her/his left hand to pass the adjacent dancer's right hand into her/his own right hand ready for the Hands across; linking the joined hands as recommended for Drumelzier clearly works better than linking Opposite dancers' hands.

Here are examples of those Scottish Country Dances for which we have instructions on this site and in which the term, Hands across, 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:

Allt An Duin
It's Nae Bother
Provost Wynd
Society Piper
Victoria Plums
Walkers O' Banchory
Where The Snowflake Reposes

Dance Video Clip Which Demonstrates Hands Across

Hands Across Video Clip

Links To Pages Related To 'Hands Across'


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