Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Triangular Set

In recent years, the 3-couple Triangular set for Couples (see the diagram) has become quite popular; the Couples are numbered clockwise as in the 4-couple square set and there is usually Progression around The set.

3-Couple Triangular Set.
At the start of the third repeat following the more usual progression, 231, or of the second repeat following the less usual progression, 312.

Note that the numbered Places of the Dancers in the Full set (the Places in which they started the dance) are shown as 1 2 3, i.e., in Times New Roman font in the upper left part of the Dancer's symbol; their numbered Places in the Active set (the Places in which they started the Repeat) are shown as 1 2 3, i.e., in Helvetica font in the lower right part.

In The Swelkie, the Progression involves changing Partners though all are back with the original Partner at the last chord of the dance. The mathematically minded will recognize that this arises because the Progression for the Men, 312, is different from that for the Ladies, 231.


Square set is a completely natural name for the Circular set for 4 Couples since it is easy to visualize the square formed by extending the lines joining the Positions of the Man and the Lady of each Couple. On that basis, it was logical to name the Circular set for 3 Couples as the Triangular set. However, with no markers for the points, A B C, visualizing the equilateral triangle, ABC, formed by extending the lines joining the Positions of the Man and the Lady of each Couple in the Triangular set is strongly counter-intuitive (even mathematicians have difficulty with alignment at 60o rather than a right angle!). If only the Square set had been called an Octagonal set, i.e, the shape of the polygon formed by joining the Positions of the adjacent Dancers, the Triangular set would much more fortunately have been called a Hexagonal set, as shown shaded in the diagram.

Given that most Scottish Country Dancers have so much difficulty in positioning themselves correctly in this Set format, while Making up they should all Take hands in a neat circle; they should then move round as necessary so that the Top couple are aligned Across the set, as they would be in a 4-Couple Square set. When not required to Face Partner, every Dancer in a Triangular set should take care to Face the Opposite Dancer. It is most important that the 2nd and 3rd couples should never align themselves as though they were 2nd and 4th couples of a Square set.

Each Dancer should maintain the correct shape of the Triangular set by checking his/her Position whenever back to one of the Starting Places. Some dances, such as The Wind on Loch Fyne, use Figures particularly suitable for Circular sets and so the Triangular set format can readily be maintained, throughout; others, such as Indian River Strathspey, use Figures which have to be distorted from their use in Longwise and Square sets, making the Triangular set format more difficult to maintain.


Much as the basic Square set (with single Couples on each Side) has developed into more complex forms, so also has the basic Triangular set:
The Pink Triangle has two Couples on each Side of the Triangular set;
Carrick Castles is an example with threesomes, a Man between two Ladies, rather than Couples, on each Side of the Triangular set;
The Celebration Seven has a fourth Man in the Centre of the 3-couple Triangular set.
See Alternative Dance Selections for lists of those dances in rarer formats of The set, such as these, for which a crib or a crib diagram is available on this site.

Links To Pages Related To 'Circular Sets'

Types Of Sets

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