Easy when you know how - looking at difficult dances

Mervyn Short      September 2012

Easy when you know how - looking at difficult dances

Awkward sections of dances and how to dance them well.  Easy when you know how!

Easy When You Know How 

Mervyn Short 

accompanied by Judith Muir         September 2012 


Reporter: Mervyn Short


There are many dances published by the RSCDS, especially in the earlier books, that are unclear from the instructions as to how they should be danced. Currently the books are being revised and some instructions are clearer. ‘The Manual’, which is also being updated, offers helpful hints so do the Teachers’ Association of Canada (TAC) notes. However, there are some dances which you need to dance and/or be taught to appreciate the difficulties. 


Some of these dances have excellent tunes by the old masters, another reason to teach them to your classes. 


If you are looking for a challenging dance for your class look at those marked with *. 


Book 3 Rachel Rae 

Bars 1 – 8 Follow instructions in ‘new’ A5 book. Clarification still required. 

On bars 7 – 8 1st M dances behind 2nd M to finish in second place facing out on the opposite side. 1st W and 2nd M retain left hands from left hands across, 1st W finishing in second place facing out on opposite side while 2nd M dances round into first place with a polite turn. 

Bar 12 1st couple turn right about. 


Lady MacIntosh’s Rant 

Bars 17 – 24 1st M and 3rd M, 1st W and 2nd W break circle remember to go to LEFT for all circles 

Bars 29 -32 1 step per hand 


Book 4 Highland Laddie 

Bars 13 – 16 Face second corners who are on the opposite side 

Bar 24 1s pull Right shoulder back to face out on own sides 


Book 5 *Cold and Raw 

Bars 9 – 12 Long steps 1st man going first, 2nd man dances up and across, covering when crossing back to own sides 

Bars 13 – 16 Clap then join hands to form circle 


Book 8 *Braes of Atholl Bars 

9 – 16 Reels across are danced on the diagonal. 1st M and 1st W cut through the two women or men to start reel. 2nd M and 3rd M loop round each other at the end of the first reel, 2nd W and 3W do the same. 3rd W and 2nd M cover, 1st M and 3rd M cover, 1st W and 2nd W cover. Finish with 2nd M and 1st M and 1st W and 3rd W facing out, 3rd M and 2nd W facing in. 

Bars 17 -24 All dance for 8 bars. ‘Diagonal’ covering works better, 1st couple cover, 2nd W and 3rd M cover, 2nd M and 3rd W cover. At the end 3rd M dances down to third place and 2nd W dances up to first place, 1st couple dance in to face first corners. 


*The Jimp Waist Must be sets of 5 couples for progression. On second chord when 1st couple cross into second place they turn outwards, i.e. man to his left, woman to her right. Bars 3 – 4 & 7 – 8 Follow instructions in The Manual for the above bars. See notes in the A5 size book re. progression in this dance. 


Book 9 Cadgers in the Canongate 

Bars 1 – 8 There are two ways of dancing these bars. In the new A5 Book see note 1. If the reel is danced this way it is the same as Tulloch gorm Book 8 and Willie with his tartan Trews Book 14. 


Book 10 The Scots Bonnet Bar 

24 1st man pulls left shoulder back to face down. 

Bars 31 – 32 All pull left shoulder back and dance into progressed positions own sides. 


Book 12 *Green Grow the Rashes 

Bar 12 Polite turn for 1st man Bars 15 – 16 Very strong two handed turn 1 ½ times in two steps. 1st man pulls back right shoulder before entering hands round with 3rd couple. 

Bars 17 – 20 1st M and 3rd couple dance three hands round to left. 3rd M takes four steps to reach opposite side. 

On bars 19 – 20 1st M and 3rd W turn both hands to finish 1st M in second place own sides and 3rd W in third place opposite side. 

Bars 21 – 24 1st W and 3rd couple dance three hands round to right. 3rd M again takes four steps to return to own sides. 

On bars 23 – 24 1st W and 3rd W turn both hands to the right to finish 1st W in second place and 3rd W in third place own sides. 


*Fiddle Faddle B

ars 9 – 24 These are the same reels as in ‘Braes of Atholl’ see Book 83 Book 14 *Push About the Jorum 

Bars 14 2nd M and 1st W dance into the middle of the set as on bar 6 of a normal allemande but 1st M and 2nd W dance in and make a quarter turn to the left, man to face up woman down. 

Bars 15 – 16 2nd M retires into first place, 1st W makes a quarter turn to the left, almost on the spot to face down. 1st M retires to finish between 3rd couple to face up and 2nd W retires diagonally into first place. 


Book 17 *The Gentle Shepherd Let class practise dancing at a slower tempo for this dance. Bars 5 – 8 1st M and 3rd W lead with the right hand, woman on man’s right, 3rd M and 1st W lead with the right hand, 3rd M pulls left shoulder back as he begins to lead 1st W. Bars 9 – 16 1st couple dance towards each other, 1st M pulls left shoulder back to lead his partner up to original places. 3rd couple dance towards each other, 3rd M pulls left shoulder back and leads his partner left hand into third position. Both women are on the right of their partner. 


Book 18 *Axum Reel 

Bars 9 – 16 Follow diagrams in book. 


Book 19 *Just as I was in the Morning 

Bars 17 – 20 1st couple in promenade hold, woman on man’s right. 

On bars 19 – 20 1st M leads his partner across in front of him to 2nd M place, 2nd M steps up. If it helps 1st W can think of this as a polite turn into place. 


Book 22 *Miss Janet Laing’s Strathspey 

Bars 9 – 10 1st M and 4th W dance a petronella turn to face each other, further to go. 

Bars 17 – 24 2nd and 3rd couples are the important couples. Emphasise that 2nd couple never go below second place and 3rd couple never go above third place. Couples remain together throughout the formation. Top two couples and bottom two couples dance four hands round (all the way) in 3 bars. 

2nd W lets go of 4th M and follows her partner across to the men’s side where she collects 1st W. 3rd M lets go of 1st W and follows his partner across to the women’s side where he collects 4th M. All dance eight hands round briefly until 2nd M is in his partner’s place and similarly 3rd W is in her partner’s place. 2nd M lets go of 4th W and dances across to join up with 1st M while 3rd W lets go of 1st M and dances across to join up with 4th W. 1st and 2nd couples and 3rd and 4th couples continue to dance four hands round to original places. 

Bars 25 – 32 Phrase bars 25 – 30, 1 step per hand and then 2 steps with the right hand on 31 – 32. However, 1st couple dance the chain for four steps, 1 step per hand, and then turn 1 ½ time right hand. 


Book 27 *Miss Nellie Wemyss 

Bars 1 – 4 1st W dances down in front of her partner towards 2nd M position as he dances up slightly. 2nd W dances up own side to meet 1st m who dances across top of set. 

Bars 9 – 16 Right hands for bars 

9 – 10, nearer hands thereafter. Two bar phrasing. Instructions are clear. 

Bar 24 1st couple turns right about to face down. 


Book 28 *Mrs Hill’s Delight Bars 

1 – 4 1st couple slip down the centre for two bars then releasing man’s left and woman’s right hand 1st W dances round her partner to face 3rd M as 1st M faces 3rd W with two pas-de-basques. 

Bars 9 – 12 Repeat above dancing up to face 2nd couple. 

Bars 19 – 20 At the end of half rights and lefts a full turn is made with the left hand. 

Bars 21 – 24 2nd couple cross right hands. 1st couple don’t give hands but pass left shoulder. Very long steps required by 1st couple. 


Book 29 *Land O’ Cakes Bars 

9 – 14 Chain for six bars, phrase 1, 2, 3 & 4, 5, 6 (1st couple cross to opposite side on bar 6). 3rd W (and 2nd W) make polite turn on bar 6. Bars 

15 – 16 1st and 3rd couples turn half way both hands to finish in centre facing up or down own sides. #*The Charmer An excellent dance to focus on transition from one step to another 


These notes are my own and they are not necessarily endorsed by the RSCDS or any other teacher.


Mervyn Short