There should not be any deviation from strict tempo of the music within a Repeat of a dance and so, if more or less ground has to be covered than is normal in a particular Figure, this can only be achieved by taking larger or smaller steps or, if the Figure allows, by following a more open or a tighter path. Most experienced Dancers do this intuitively though there are pitfalls even for them. A good teacher will count the bars whenever a variation of tempo is required either within a Figure or between Figures; the Beginner is advised to count the bars (but not aloud) until correct Phrasing becomes second nature.
The following are examples of individual Figures and combinations of Figures where the tempo may need care:
In Right and lefts for adjacent Couples in a Longwise set (see the top diagram), when Crossing Up and down on the Sides there is about half as far to Travel as when Crossing Across The set and so the Dancers must take steps of only half the size; it is not acceptable in this Figure to attempt to dance at an even tempo.
Note, however, that Rights and lefts performed by Dancers Starting in the Corner positions is at an even tempo because the width of The set is usually twice the spacing of Dancers on the Side lines.
Sometimes, especially in Reels, one or some of the Dancers must move especially quickly at the beginning so as to set up an even tempo for the remainder of the Figure; for example, the Reels of four in MacDonald of the Isles require very quick steps by the Dancing couple (2nd Couple) on bar 1 so that they Pass By the left before the Corners can move too far.
In Reels, the even tempo of the Figure in a particular context may naturally take one or more Dancers beyond the desired Finishing Position. For example, in bars 9-16 of MacDonald of the Isles, the Reels of four at even tempo would allow the Dancing couple (2nd Couple) to reach the Centre line; they can best Finish in the Side lines by Dancing a larger loop than normal around Partner's First corner positions in bars 15-16.
The simple combination of Turn by the right (bars 1-2), Cast (bars 3-4) and Turn by the left (bars 5-8) of Duke of Perth and many other dances are often mistakenly treated as a though the tempo should be even throughout whereas the first is a Quick turn for which the Dancers should use a Quick turn grip and the second is a Slow turn for which the Dancers should use an Open turn Grip.
In some older dances, the Time allocated for a succession of Leading and Casting Figures may be less than one would expect from a sum of the components, for example in bars 17-24 of The Machine without Horses, and so the Dancers must Phrase the individual Figures unconventionally; Covering, and Taking hands whenever practicable, helps to avoid untidiness.