The Basic Figures

The basis for our dances are the figures. Three of these figures are very common in our dances. They are: Double (Left) Forward, Double (Right) Back, Siding, and Arming. Other figures are fairly common and appear in quite a few dances. When dancing with Thrir Venstri Foetr, unless told otherwise, step forward with your left foot and backwards with your right foot.

Men will be on the women's left, men offer their right hands palm up (at the level of their partner's waist), when same genders are dancing together, the stationary person offers hand (palm up). When circling, right palm will be up, left palm will be down. In lines of 3 dancers, the middle person offers his/her hands, palm up. Unless stated otherwise, longways sets will face up the hall (towards the head) at the start, square and circle dances will face into the center of the set, and the Duple dances will be gender lines facing each other.

A brief note on pressure/weight/lead/tug/etc. In some dance traditions (and/or communities) the participants are encouraged to lean on one another for balance or to provide tension which will cause the muscles to flex. In our group (for a number of reasons), we encourage LIGHT pressure. Since the dances are following a given pattern, as the dancers become more comfortable the need for any lead will decrease. A new dancer should focus on following the vocal calls (thus should learn the basic figures) during the walk throughs along with his/her partner's body language. Since several of the figures are done without touching, following non-tactile cues is critical. In general, within the group there should be less pressure involved than opening a door. There are times that people will need to use pressure in order to get a dancer in place but that should be avoided.

Hands Four/Six
In the as many as will dances (Duple and Triple Minors), we will often request take Hands Four/Six from the top which simply means, starting at the head of the hall each group of 4/6 people join hands to form set-lets for the dance. The couple closest to the head of the hall are the ones. Hands Four/Six/etc. can also be used within a dance to refer to forming a ring or square of the set (or setlet) holding hands and often rotating as a group.

Double Forward, Double Back
Starting with your left foot take 4 steps (left, right, left, right) forward with the last step being a small-medium sized tap ahead of the body so that the dancer is standing (briefly) on their left foot with the right foot reaching slightly forward with the toe pointed (called "left, right, left, tap"). When dancing in a square set, the tap in the double forward is replaced by a small reverance. Usually this will be done with joined inside hands (man's right, palm up; women's left, palm down).

The double back is the reverse of the double forward. Without changing hand-grips, with your right foot starting take 4 steps straight back (right, left, right, left) so that the final step is bringing your left foot back in line with your right (it is often called "right, left, right, close"). Remember to cover as much distance backwards as you did forwards, i.e. you should end up in exactly the same place you started the figure.

Is very much like the double forward and back. Without holding hands, face your partner, do a small double forward (see above) so that you are just past your partner's shoulder, looking over the shoulder at your partner, then double back to place. In this troupe, we side right shoulder to right shoulder then left shoulder to left shoulder. There are no turns included in siding in our group. Sharp siding is a modern figure that Cecil Sharp recanted.

Reach forward, gently grasp the middle of your partner's forearm with your hand (it is very risky to hook your thumb over the arm or anything around the elbow). The arms should be held in a comfortable manner and the figure should not require much pressure on the arm. After grasping arms, walk around a circle with your partner in eight steps, starting with your left foot so that you return to place (left, right, left, right (now at the half-way around point), left, right, left, close). The center of the circle should be your wrists. We arm with the right arm then with the left arm.

Two-Hand Turn
Face your partner, men offer their hands palm up, women place their hands on their partners. Face slightly to the side of your partner so that as you turn you are walking forward. Most of the turns in this group are clockwise so that each person's body will be pointing toward the left shoulder of their partner while watching your partner's eyes (yes, this mean's turning your head slightly). Arms are to be held up.

A set is a small hop to the left onto your left foot with a slight cross over with your right foot to tap just in front of or barely to the left of your stationary foot. Bring your right foot forward and to the right as you start the hop onto your right foot with a slight cross-over with your left. This is often followed by the Turn Single (see following)

Turn Single aka Turn Over Your Left Shoulder
Starting with your left foot, walk around an imaginary post that is standing at your left shoulder. It is a four step sequence. Often the turn is following a set, but it can (and does) appear on its own or as part of another figure.

A figure where the couple turns away from each other and towards the outside of the dance, moving along opposite sides of the dance. Generally, the dancers will acknowledge his/her partner at the beginning of the cast (e.g. nod). Occasionally, a cast will be performed by a single dancer, but it is very rare in our group.

Slip Steps
These are galloping steps in a sideways direction. Generally we are either going to slip-step left, then right OR toward the head of the dance then back to the foot. This step requires jumping. Starting with your weight on your right foot, take a small hop/jump to your left, continuing your motion to the left, bring your right foot down next to your left and repeat. The footwork is like a shasay or the exercise you sometimes see athletes working on to improve their ability to go sideways. In the circle dances, slip-steps often replace the double foward, double back. In order to move the circle smoothly, each dancer should line up with the person facing them in the circle and balance the movements with each other. This will help keep circles round. Another trick is to anticipate the stop or change of direction when doing slip steps. If you land from the final step with your feet under you, it makes the change much easier.

Turn by the Right/Left
Gently grasp your partner by the hand, palm to palm as if you are arm-wrestling. Your hands should be at about shoulder height. Turn with your partner using your hands as a pivot point. As with the other figures, do not hold tightly to your partner. There should be less pressure between your hands than between a normal magnet and a refridgerator.

Pull Through
Gently grasp your partner by the hand, palm to palm as if you are arm-wrestling. Your hands should be at about shoulder height. Gently tug on your partner's hand as you step forward with your left and start pass by each other. Remember to relax your grip as you pass your partner. Continue in the direction you are moving (generally down the set).

Lead Up/Down/In/Out
This move is very similar to a Double Forward. Facing in the direction you are going to be moving (usually up or down the set) and take inside hands with your partner (Man offers his hand at the level of the Woman's waist) and, starting with your left feet, move in the direction required.

Since you are usually going to be gating the same gender, the inactive person (the gate) will offer his/her hand palm up. The gate will then pivot thus 'leading' the gated party around. The figure is named for the concept of a gate swinging on its hinge thus moving around a fixed pivot This differs from a turn or arming where both parties are turning about their joined hands/arms. The key here is to be gentle, the gated person should NOT be hauled around.

Often on the diagonal of a dance but not always. This is a way to switch places with someone else in the dance without touching each other. In order to avoid collisions, we have adopted some guidelines. When crossing with someone always pass him/her face to face, moving sideways towards your left (also called leading left shoulders). This may require turning as you start the figure so that you are leading left shoulder, passing nose-to-nose.

A star is a group of dancers (4) all facing the same direction in a circle with their hands/arms linked. Each dancer is grasping the wrist of the person in front of him/her so that the hands/wrists are forming a square. Then walk forward. The 'hand' in the star refers to which hands are being linked, in a right-hand star, the dancers will be moving clockwise with their right hands linked in the center of their circle. In a left-hand star, the dancers will be moving counter-clockwise.

Hey also written as Hay
One of the more difficult figures to describe verbally. In essense a hey is a weaving figure where all the dancers are moving around one another in a pattern resembling a celtic knot. In a simple 3-person hey, each person will be walking a figure 8 on the ground, alternating which side the other dancers are passing on (with the loops at the end counting as a pass). In our troupe, if you are in a longways set, usually the ends will move toward the middle of the set and between the center couple. If you are in the middle you will be moving towards the outside of the set as you pass the next person.

XXX   Head of the hall

         1      3              2      1              3    2  
     /\  /\    /\  /\      /\  /\    /\  /\     /\  /\    /\  /\         
   3/  \/  \  /  \/  \2  1/  \/  \  /  \/  \3 2/  \/  \  /  \/  \1         
    \  /\  /  \  /\  /    \  /\  /  \  /\  /   \  /\  /  \  /\  / 
     \/  \/    \/  \/      \/  \/    \/  \/     \/  \/    \/  \/
          2    1               3      2             1      3   
In the diagram above, the numbers are the Women and the 'Xs' are the Men. Women1 will go between Woman2 and Man2 (pass Woman2 on the left), will pass Woman3 on the right as she (as outside person heads towards the middle), continues the curve, passes Woman2 on the right, Woman3 on the left and returns to place.

In a circular hey, you pass the first person by having him (or her) on your right, pass the next on your left, and continue until you have finished the figure. A hey with hands will follow the same pattern but you will grasp hands (as if you were shaking hands) and hold the hand as you pass the person (a grand right-and-left of American square dancing). Do not hold tightly or pull the other dancer's off balance when using hands.

Pavanne Step
A pavanne step is forward (or back) and slightly to one side. A pavanne left is: Step left and forward with your left foot, close right; step forward and right with the right foot, close left; Step forward and left with the left, swing the right past it and forward to the right, swing the left past it and forward to the left, close with the right. As of January 8, 2002, we no longer rise slightly on the toes at the end of each sub-set,

Bransle Steps aka Branle aka Brawl pronounced 'brawl'
These are given a direction (e.g. bransle left). It is simply a step sideways while followed by closing with the other foot. So, a bransle left is a step left with the left foot then bring the right foot to next to the left foot. A double-bransle is (like a double forward) 2 of the steps one after the other. A double bransle left would be step (sideways) left, close with right, step left, close right. The close is bringing the foot next to the other one, not crossing it.

Usually done around another couple. The active Woman crosses in front of her partner and loops around the inactive Man while the active Man loops around the inactive Woman. The active Woman again crosses in front and now loops around the inactive Woman while the active Man loops around the inactive Man. Each person is walking a Figure-8 with the other couple (aka doorknobs) in the center of the loops. In a half-figure 8 the active couple will be switching sides.

Alman Step
Similar to the 'regular' single or double but ends with the foot left in the air. In general, going forward you will still start on your left. Howefver, if you are doing multiple doubles forward, the foot pattern will be LRL[pause with right foot in air]RLR[pause with left foot in air] etc.

Italian Steps

Not used as much by the group (since we tend to focus on English Country) but some of the dancers like the Italian Dances so they are included.

Cadenza - a jump

Continenza - A slow, graceful step to the side and close.

doubles in half time (not closing>

Doppio or Sequito Ordinaro - Similar to ECD double, 3 steps with no close.

Italian Double
This follows a different foot timing than the English steps. Instead of the footfalls being 1-2-3-4 like in a march, these are more along the lines of the old 'slow, slow, quick, quick'. It is sometimes called as single, single, dou-ble-two-three, dou-ble-two-three.
Step forward with the left foot, close with the right [single]
Step forward with the right foot, close with the left [single]
Step slightly and slowly forward with the left foot, quickly take a small step forward with the right, quickly take a small step forward with the left, quickly close with the right.

Brief rise onto the toes and then sinking back down to standing on flat feet.

This is sort of a cross between a skip and a walk. The group has decided that skipping is acceptable for piva steps. However, if you want to try to do the piva, here it is.
Step forward with your left foot, shift your weight onto it, start to bring your right foot forward then jump up (pushing off with the left foot), landing slightly further forward with your right foot landing first, then your left (still in front). Step forward with your right foot (ahead of the left), shift your weight onto it, start bringing your left foot forward and jump up off the right landing slightly forward with the left landing 1st and behind the right. This would constitute 2 piva steps.

Ripresa/Repreza can go left or right, the instructions are for left
Step to the left with your left foot
With your right foot either close or step behind (the group does both)
Step to the left again with your left foot
Close with your right

Riverenza (short) - the "bow" of Italian dance. Often done in 1 - 2 beats. Foot slightly back, feet together closed.

Double with a hop at the end instead of closing.

Scambiate - Step to the side, undercut, jump to close both feet. This step resembles a quick grapevine step, except with a jump to close both feet at the end of the sequence.

Scorsi - Rise up on toes, scurry 8 steps in 4 beats. Sink back down at the end.

Sempio / Passo - A single step without a close.

Spezzato - a syncopated double step that resembles a skipping step.

Trabuchetto (often called Traps) - small jumps sideways (shifting weight onto each foot). It's like a ripresa without a close (or crossing if you do ripresa that way).

Turn of Joy
This is a turn over your left shoulder and moving to the left in four beats
1st beat step forward and to the left on your left foot
2nd beat continue turning to the left by bringing your right foot behind your left
3rd beat step behind yourself with your left foot
4th beat close

quick turn

Or send email to thrirvenstrifoetr (AT) gmail [DOT] com -- address is set up in an attempt to slow the influx of spam/viruses to my account.