Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

The Snake/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. Note that the Figure is sometimes called The Snake Pass though this risks confusion with the whole dance.

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 (or just Inside The set from) 1st place and 2nd couple in (or just Inside The set from) 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 and the Corners do not return fully to Places. 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. In detail:

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 While 3rd lady Dance to the Position vacated by 1st lady and 2nd man Dance to the Position vacated by 1st man While 3rd man and 2nd lady Advance to the Centre line;

Diagram, The Snake/Smoke - Bar 1 Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

The Snake/Smoke - Bar 1

Men's paths shown as full lines, Ladies' broken, 1st couple's emboldened. Arrow heads show Finishing Positions but not the Facing Directions.



Bar 2
1st man Dance to the Centre line in 1st position While 1st lady Dance to the Centre line in 3rd position While 3rd lady follow the path of 1st lady in the previous bar and 2nd man follow the path of 1st man in the previous bar While 3rd man and 2nd lady Advance to the Place occupied by Partner at the beginning of bar 1;

Diagram, The Snake/Smoke - Bar 2 Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

The Snake/Smoke - Bar 2

Men's paths shown as full lines, Ladies' broken, 1st couple's emboldened. Arrow heads show Finishing Positions but not the Facing Directions.



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 While 3rd lady follow the path of 1st lady in the previous bar and 2nd man follow the path of 1st man in the previous bar While 3rd man and 2nd lady follow the path of Partner in bar 2;

Diagram, The Snake/Smoke - Bar 3 Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

The Snake/Smoke - Bar 3

Men's paths shown as full lines, Ladies' broken, 1st couple's emboldened. Arrow heads show Finishing Positions but not the Facing Directions.



Bar 4
1st man Dance Down to 2nd man's Place While 1st lady Dance Up to 2nd lady's Place While 2nd man and 3rd lady Dance Across to First corner positions While 2nd lady and 3rd man Dance Disgonally to Second corner positions.

All Finish on their Own sides, 2nd couple in 1st place, 1st couple in 2nd place and 3rd couple in 3rd place, Facing In unless the succeeding Figure requires otherwise.

Diagram, The Snake/Smoke - Bar 4 Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

The Snake/Smoke - Bar 4

Men's paths shown as full lines, Ladies' broken, 1st couple's emboldened. Arrow heads show Finishing Positions but not the Facing Directions.



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 Travel 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. It is crucially important that those on the outer path do not cut corners, especially at the end of bar 2; otherwise, those on the inner path will have inadequate space. The following diagram shows the complete 4 bar Figure:

Diagram, The Snake/Smoke Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

The Snake/Smoke

This represents the complete 4 bar Figure.
Men's paths are characterized by full lines, Ladies' by broken, 1st couple's by emboldened. Note that, since there is some overlap, each element of the path is characterized by its first Dancer in the Chase. Thus the whole of the Dancing man/lady's path is characterized by him/her; the second Dancer in each Chase characterizes the path from his/her Starting Position to the Dancing man/lady's; the third Dancer in each Chase characterizes the path from his/her Starting Position to the second Dancer's.
Arrow heads show the Finishing Positions, but not the Facing Directions, of the Dancing couple, only.



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

Devil's Elbow
Dinna Haud The Cannle
Hidden Assets
King Neptune
Serpent Of Loch Nell
Skippin' Barfit Thro' The Heather
Snake Pass
Whistlin' In The Kitchen


Dance Video Clip Which Demonstrates The Snake/Smoke

The Snake/Smoke Video Clip

Links To Pages Related To 'The Snake/Smoke'

Complex Figures

Back to the top of this Scottish Country Dancing 'The Snake/Smoke' page