Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

The Snake (The Smoke)

This is a rare, Complex figure in Scottish Country Dancing which occurs in 3 Couple, Longwise sets. It consists of a distinctive, double form of Chase, one led by the Dancing man, the other by the Dancing lady; the shape of the paths has the form of a Z with pronounced serifs. There is also a reflected form, The reverse snake, whose shape has the form of an S, again with pronounced serifs but requiring the same rectilinearity of a Z rather than the curves implied by an S. The name of the Figure derives from The Snake Pass, in which it occurs in bars 29-32; the alternative name, The smoke, derives, by allusion to a steaming kettle, from Whistlin' in the Kitchen, in which it also occurs in bars 29-32.

The snake uses the Travelling step, exclusively, and requires four bars; it is equally suitable for Strathspeys and Quick tempo dances.

The snake starts with the Dancing couple, left shoulder to left shoulder, in 2nd position of the 3 Couple set, Facing Second corner positions. The Supporting couples are normally interchanged but on their Own sides. When 1st couple are the Dancing couple, 3rd couple are in 1st place and 2nd couple in 3rd place; it is not a requirement but the Figure commonly follows Right hands across, 3rd couple with 1st lady Above 1st man with 2nd Couple . Then, for the Dancing couple:

Bar 1
1st lady Dance to 3rd man's Place While 1st man Dance to 1st lady's Place, Finishing by Turning on the spot anticlockwise to Face Across the set;

Bar 2
1st man Dance to the Centre line in 1st position While 1st lady Dance to the Centre line in 3rd position;

Bar 3
1st man Dance to 1st man's Place While 1st lady Dance to 3rd lady's Place, both Finishing by Turning on the spot anticlockwise to Face 1st man Down, 1st lady Up;

Bar 4
1st man Dance Down to 2nd man's Place While 1st lady Dance Up to 2nd lady's Place.

This is a Chasing movement with 3rd lady following 1 bar behind 1st lady and 3rd man following 2 bars behind 3rd lady While, similarly, 2nd man follows 1 bar behind 1st man and 2nd lady follows 2 bars behind 2nd man. All Finish on their Own sides, 2nd couple in 1st place, 1st couple in 2nd place and 3rd couple in 3rd place. Note that for greater evenness of Phrasing, the last Dancer in each Chase is 2 bars behind the Middle Dancer. Note also that each 1 bar Phrase should be on a straight line, not a sloppy curve.
The Dancers in one Chase must always Give left shoulder to an approaching Dancer in the other Chase; those on the outer path at any time should pass through the designated Places in The set; those on the inner should follow a path slightly inside them until the last approaching Dancer has been Passed.


For example, here are some Scottish Country Dances in which the term, The Snake, is used in either the MiniCrib or the MaxiCrib Dance instructions or both -
Devil's Elbow
Dinna Haud The Cannle
Hidden Assets
Skippin' Barfit Thro' The Heather
Snake Pass
Whistlin' In The Kitchen

Dance Video Clip Which Demonstrates The Snake

The Snake Video Clip

Links To Pages Related To 'The Snake'

Complex Figures

Additional search terms: Dance to Each Corner and Set (MiniCrib).

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