(Second in a series of posts discussing and analyzing the Swedish dances. The first post may be found here.)
To introduce some of the typical Swedish dance figures, here are a three simple thirty-two-bar figure combinations, as given by Chivers in his various manuals, which are a nice mix of standard country dance figures with ones that are particularly characteristic of Swedish dances. For information about the specific sources of these dances, please see the introductory post in this series.
The first of the three dances is taken from The Modern Dancing Master:
8b Cross over giving right hands, back with left
8b Hands six half round, and back again
8b Advance and retire in two lines twice
8b Two lines lead round and exchange places (make diagram)
This set of figures is specifically listed as suited only to a group with an equal number of ladies and gentlemen, though in practice they will still end up dancing with opposite-configuration trios, as explained in the sections on formations and types of Swedish dances in my earlier post.
Cross over giving right hands, back with left and the problems it presents as far as what gender one ends up setting with were discussed in my introductory article in this series.
Hands six half round and back again is a standard country dance figure -- all six facing dancers take hands and circle to the left for four bars, then circle to the right back to places. “Half round” is roughly where most dancers end up, but the exact distance traveled is not critical, since there is an equal amount of time to go back.
Advance and retire in two lines twice, while not a country dance figure before the advent of quadrilles, is exactly what it sounds like: each trio takes hands and goes forward for two bars and back for two bars.
The progressive figure, two lines lead round and exchange places, is one of the standard progressions for Swedish dances. The name of the figure doesn’t fully explain it. Simply leading round and exchanging places, rather like hands six half round, leaves the dancers still facing the same trio, with the end dancers reversed, and only takes four bars when there are eight available. Fortunately, Chivers adds enough detail to make sense of it:
[One trio] join hands and lead round to left at the same time [other trio] do the same, forming an oval round each others position.
The dancers take hands within their trios (without forming a full circle) and move round to the left as in a hands six half round,leaving each trio on the opposite side facing in. Each trio then continues leading sharply around to the left (clockwise) on an oval path, staying on their progressed side with trios passing back to back. This brings the dancers back to their usual ends and each line facing the other way -- all have thus progressed up or down the set to the next trio. The sketches at left show, separately, the paths taken by each line of dancers in this progression.
Dancers coming to and end of the set might choose between (1) only dancing the first half of the figure, which leaves them facing back toward the set and each dancer in the same relative position, or (2) completing the entire figure and, while waiting out one iteration of the dance, either simply turn around to face back into the set (the end dancers will then have switched position relative to the center dancer) or looping around once more to bring each dancer to the same position in the trio.
The next set of figures found identically in both An Instructor to the Swedish Country Dances and The Dancers’ Guide. It can be danced by a group with either a majority of one gender or equal numbers of both:
8b Advance and retire in two lines twice
8b Whole figure your own lines
8b Hands three your own lines and back again
8b All six lead through; hands three round to places
Advance and retire in two lines twice was described above.
Whole figure your own lines is performed only by the center dancer in each trio, who moves slightly into the set and turns to his or her right to start a path around the other two dancers in the shape of a figure eight, looping around the first dancer clockwise and the second dancer counter-clockwise. Chivers actually provides a helpful diagram for this figure:
A moves round C and D, while B. moves round F. and E. all set and finish [in original positions]. (8 Bars)
The description of the dancers' tracks matches the diagram nicely, but where did that "all set" come from? The figure is the same as one used in regular country dances (including in Chivers' manuals), and does not include, or allow any time for, setting. Eight bars is just enough to complete the traveling, as confirmed by my own extensive experience dancing this figure. Reducing the traveling part of the figure to six or, worse, four bars, would make it impossible. I believe the "all set" to be an error on Chivers' part. Whole figure your own lines should consist of the center person looping around his or her partners as shown above, nothing more.
Hands three your own lines and back again is a simple circling figure; all three dancers in the trio take hands and circle to the left (clockwise) and back, opening up into their line again. This flows nicely from the whole figure: the center dancer is coming up from behind the line, and if he or she simply hangs back slightly it’s easy for the other two dancers to take hands with each other.
All six lead through is another common Swedish dance progressive figure, and it does present a small reconstruction issue, as Chivers describes it differently in two sources. In An Instructor to the Swedish Country Dances he states that:
The two lines lead through giving right hand as they pass and set.
In The Modern Dancing Master, he describes it simply as:
The two lines exchange places, by passing on the right of each other.
This might simply be a shorthand version of the earlier description, or it might be that Chivers decided over time that he preferred to eliminate the taking of hands and the setting. In this case, I prefer the more elaborate version because it helps address an issue with “lead through” figures, which is that the dancers tend to move forward so enthusiastically that they end up too close to the next line of dancers, which is a problem whether the figure is a simple lead through or followed, as in this case, by a hands three round which will be awkward if the new facing trios are too near each other. Alternately, they lead through and then suddenly realize they’re getting too close to the next line and end up dancing awkwardly in place for a couple of bars to try to maintain the proper spacing. Leading through for only two bars and then setting reduces the distance traveled and neatly eliminates the entire problem.
The version with the setting presents its own small problem, which is what direction to face while setting: toward the next trio (awkward if still holding hands with one’s former opposite) or back toward the trio one has just been dancing with (awkward for beginning the next figure). Chivers’ diagram for leading through is unhelpful -- it shows only that the dancers end in a straight line facing the next trio, with no indication of what they did before arriving. Since, unlike the cross over figure given above, the description does not specify that the dancers are “still holding the hand” while setting, I think that in this case the dancers take right hands only briefly in passing as they move toward and through the other line, then drop hands and face the other trio while setting.
My preferred reconstruction for all six lead through is therefore that the two trios pass through each other (two bars), each dancer taking right hands with their opposite in passing but dropping hands quickly as they pass each other, then all set facing the new opposite trio (two bars).
If the center dancer hangs back slightly while setting and the two end dancers drift forward slightly it will be easier to form the circle for hands three round to places, which is a simple taking of hands and circling clockwise all the way round (four bars), ending by opening out into their line and facing the next trio again to restart the figure. The end dancers must drop hands early to make the opening into a line flow smoothly.
The third set of figures, from The Dancers’ Guide, is listed as suitable for an equal number of ladies and gentlemen or a majority of either:
8b Swing with right hand, back with left
8b All six hands across, back again to places
8b Hands six half round and back again
8b Advance and retire in two lines; all lead through
Swing with right hand, back with left is a figure which appears only in The Dancers’ Guide and is nowhere explained in detail. The modern contra style of “buzz swing” does not yet exist in this era -- a swing simply means a turn by one hand. This could simply be a variant wording for cross over giving right hands, back with left, but I think it more likely to be a different figure entirely, consisting of each dancer turning their opposite by the right hand all the way around (four bars), then turning around, taking left hands, and going all the way round back to places (fourbars), ending in original lines.
All six hands across, back again to places is simply the six-person version of the country dance “right hands across, left back” figure (shown at left) or the moulinet found in quadrilles. The center dancers take right hands with each other while the end dancers take right hands diagonally across the set. All go round for four bars, then turn, taking left hands with the same people, and return to places in four bars, opening out into their original lines. Avoid making the figure one bar of coming into the middle followed by three bars of going around; the flow is better if the dancers take a circular path to start, joining hands as soon as they are close enough to do so. The same applies when coming out to the lines at the end -- flow straight forward into the lines rather than backing out.
This figure is sometimes given as all six hands across half round, and back again. Halfway around is about as far as most dancers get, but as with hands six half round and back again, precision in distance traveled is not really necessary.
Hands six half round and back again is explained above. Advance and retire in two lines is the four-bar version of a familiar figure, with the lines moving forward and back only once instead of twice. The remaining four bars are taken up with the progressive figure, all lead through, likewise described above.