Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Progressive Chain

In its most common usage, Progressive chain occurs in Longwise Active Sets of 3 or 4 Couples where it is really only a modification of the Grand chain halfway; Snowball chain and Pick-up chain are synonyms for the term Progressive chain.

In the 3 couple version, the Dancing couple, at one End of The set, Dance a Chain for four Places, taking 2 bars to pass each Dancer and Starting by Crossing By the right; each other Dancer waits until one of the Dancing couple reaches him/her and then joins in the Chain, Starting with the hand appropriate to the approaching Dancer. The Dancing couple move four Places, those who Started as the Middle Couple move three and the other Couple move only two as, for example, in bars 17-24 of both Scottish Country Dances The Blacksmith of Elgin and MacDonald of the Isles; the End Couples Finish at the other End on the same Sides and the Middle Couple in the Middle on Opposite Sides. The individual two-bar Crossing movements, and the final Places, are shown in the diagram, Starting with the Couples in their Original Places.

Diagram, Progressive Chain

Progressive Chain

Progressive chain in a 3-couple, Longwise set. Men's paths are shown as full lines, Ladies' broken; arrow heads show the Finishing Positions of the separate, two-bar Phrases.

The 4 Couple version occurs almost always from both Ends. The Top and Bottom couples each Dance a Chain for four Places, taking 2 bars to pass each Dancer and Starting by Crossing By the right; next the 2nd Place Couple with the Top couple, and the 3rd Place Couple with the Bottom couple, Cross on the sides By the left. The Half grand chain then proceeds normally for two more Places. Aird Of Coigach provides an example in bars 33-40 though the "Couples" are not actually the Original Partners at either the beginning or the end of the Figure.
Other usages exist, for example with some Crossing movements replaced by a full Turn or a Setting step or with some Couples finishing before the end of the 8 bar Phrase. This last occurs in Auld Grey Cat (Mitchell) as the reverse form of a Progressive chain in a 4 couple set, Starting from one End; it is sometimes known as a Drop out chain though, as with all rare derivatives of the Progressive chain, it must be defined explicitly by the teacher or deviser.
Here are examples of those Scottish Country Dances for which we have instructions on this site and in which the term, Progressive 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:

An Niseag
Blacksmith Of Elgin
City Of Stirling Reel
Geneviève's Jig
Leaving Benbecula
Three And One

Dance Video Clip Which Demonstrates Progressive Chain

Progressive Chain Video Clip

Links To Pages Related To 'Chains'


Additional search terms: Snowball chain.

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