Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Polite Turn

The Polite turn is not a Figure in its own right but is an adaptation of any Figure which would otherwise Finish with a Dancer Facing Out of The set so that s/he Finishes Facing Inwards; the Dancer Travelling on the Inside of The set completes the Figure by making a partial Turn on the spot, in the natural direction, so as to Finish Facing Inwards.
Polite turn was first used for the adaptation of the final bar of Right and lefts. As is shown in the diagram, in the final 2 bars the Dancers are Crossing on the Sides and so 1st lady and 2nd man would naturally Finish Facing Out; both need to Turn on the spot in an anticlockwise Direction if they are to Finish Facing Inwards. In this specific situation, it is helpful if 2nd lady retains the Hold with the 1st lady (who is going Down) for fractionally longer than normal so that the latter can more readily make the Turn on the spot; similarly, 1st man can help 2nd man.

Diagram, Rights And Lefts

Rights And Lefts

Rights and lefts in a Longwise set. 1st couple Start in 2nd place; the arrow heads show their Finishing Positions. 1st man and 2nd lady Finish normally, Facing In. 1st lady and 2nd man make a Polite turn; Finishing rotations shown for 1st couple only. 1st man and 2nd lady follow the path shown as a full line, their Partners follow the broken line.

This movement merely modifies the Finish of a previous Figure to provide a more elegant completion; no additional Time is allowed for it though it is at its best when the Dancer is due to be stationary on the following bar of music and so can encroach a little into the next Phrase. It should be used at all times unless either it is specifically proscribed by the Scottish Country Dance deviser or the following Figure requires the Dancer to Face in some other Direction.

The usage has been extended and so, for example, applied to a Reel of four on the Men's Side of a 4-couple set where the 4th Man would Finish by Turning on the spot halfway, clockwise, in order to Face Inwards; of course, in this situation he has no helpful hand to facilitate his Turn on the spot.
Here are examples of those Scottish Country Dances for which we have instructions on this site and in which the term, Polite turn, 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:

An' Thou Wert My Only Dear
Angus MacLeod
Black Donald
Braes Of Breadalbane
Celtic Square
Easy Peasy Rights And Lefts
Langdon Knot
Melbourne Cup
Mrs Stewart's Jig
Waternish Tangle

Dance Video Clip Which Demonstrates Polite Turn

Polite Turn Video Clip

Links To Pages Related To 'Polite Turn'


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