Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Ladies' Chain

In the most common usage of this Figure, the Ladies' chain occurs in 4 couple square sets, in Progressive Round the room set dances for 2 Couples and in Longwise sets with either the Lower of two adjacent Couples on the Opposite side or, occasionally, near the Centre line, Facing Up and down.

Ideally, the Dancers start with the Ladies Facing each other slightly Diagonally Across the set and with each Man Facing Out on the left of a Lady (not necessarily his Partner); this will normally be the case when the preceding Figure leaves the Men Facing Out as, for example, in Mrs Stewart's Jig. Sometimes the Men Start from Standing Facing In; for elegance, they should Pull left shoulder back and Cast anticlockwise into the adjacent Lady's Place. In the least favourable situation, as in Kendall's Hornpipe, 1st man finds himself Facing In as he completes the preceding Figure; again Casting clockwise is more elegant but perhaps the dance is better avoided (or modified to interchange bars 1-8 and bars 9-16 as in Kendall's Jig).

Note that having the Men Start from Facing In by Pulling left shoulder back and Casting differs from the RSCDS recommendation (which is, effectively, Dance direct to the adjacent Lady's Place) but is much more satisfying to those for whom Flow of the dance is of paramount importance.

The whole Figure takes 8 bars. On the first 2 bars, the Ladies Cross By the right, each Finishing Facing Out in the Opposite Man's Position While each Man Casts anticlockwise to Face In in the adjacent Lady's Position. On the next 2 bars, the Dancers Turn by the left halfway on the Sides, the Men Finishing back in their Starting Positions, Facing Out, the Ladies on Opposite Sides, Facing In. These 4 bars comprise the half Figure (see Ladies' Chain Halfway for more detail) and are repeated from the new Positions so that all return to their Starting Positions. Note that the Men do not make a Polite turn at the halfway point; instead, they Finish Facing Out, ready for the second Ladies' chain halfway. Unless the next Figure requires otherwise, the Men do Finish the whole Figure with a Polite turn so that all are Facing In.

Other variants exist for adjacent Scottish Country Dancing Couples in a 3-Couple Triangular set as, for example, in Indian River Strathspey and Up and down in a Longwise set as, for example, in The Kenora Reel.

The double Figure occurs in JB² (JB Squared), a Square set in which the Dancers in 2nd and 4th couples' places perform a Ladies' chain which overlaps at right angles a Ladies' chain performed by those in 1st and 3rd couples' places; instead of Crossing By the right, the four Ladies Dance Right hands across, again a little more than halfway as in the single Figure.

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

Border Meeting
Burns Bicentenary Strathspey
Campbell's Caper
Craigleith (Goldring)
Crathie Bellman
Glenalmond Gamekeeper
Grants' New Rant
Immigrant Lass
Lamp Black Lizzie

Dance Video Clip Which Demonstrates Ladies' Chain

Ladies' Chain Video Clip

Links To Pages Related To 'Chains'


Additional search terms: Ladies Chain.

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