Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary


This Turning section covers those Figures in which two Scottish Country Dancers rotate either clockwise or anticlockwise around each other. In almost all forms they Take hands; exceptionally, in the Gypsy turn, they do not Take hands. Unless specified otherwise for the individual forms, the step used is Skip change or the Strathspey travelling step according to the tempo of the dance but, exceptionally, for Turn both hands in Quick tempo dances, Pas-de-basque is the default.

The extent of the rotation is usually counted in whole Turns or fractions of a Turn; a whole Turn is a rotation of 360° and so the Dancers Finish the Turn in their Starting Positions. Alternatively, the extent may be determined by the Finishing Position, expressed either explicitly or even implicitly by the requirement of the subsequent Figure; for example, bars 5-8 of Duke of Perth can be expressed as, "1s Turn by the left to Face First corners", where the amount of the Turn is really about 78 rather than a full Turn.

Turn halfway means that the Dancers Exchange positions; it is a synonym for the first meaning of Cross.

When starting from their Own side lines of a Longwise set, Turn ¾ By the right means that the Dancers Finish on the Centre line, Lady Above the Man. The way in which the Dancers Take hands depends on the Time available for the rotation required; details of the various Holds including their suitability for Quick or slow turns are covered in Hand positions. When 2 bars are allocated for a full Turn, the Quick turn grip (or, more casually, Elbow grip or Birl hold) is necessary; when 4 bars are allocated for a full Turn (or pro rata for a fractional Turn), a much more Open hold is appropriate.

The Finishing Positions after a Turn are strongly dependent on the immediately following Figure, if any. For example: if they are not involved in the next Figure, the Dancers normally return to Standing places, in the Side lines of a Longwise set or at the vertices of a Circular set, Facing Inwards; if it is Cast, they return to the Side lines of a Longwise set or to the vertices of a Circular set, Facing Outwards; if the next Figure is Allemande or Promenade or some such, they stay on the Centre line of a Longwise set.

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

Around About In St George's Hall
Ayrshire Wheelie Bin
Back To Dundee
Balgeddie Reel
Crathes Castle
Donald Iain Rankine
First Of September (Dix)
Jack O' Carron
Lang Whang
Red Ghillies

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