This is the third in a series of three posts discussing the "Rats" Quadrille, with this one covering the fourth and fifth figures. See the two previous posts for introduction and background and the first three figures.
No. 4. First 2 give right hands, cross over; back with left on a line; balance and turn partners to place; ladies grand chain; all promenade.
Figure 4 8b + 32bx4
8b Intro (not repeated)
4b First lady and second gentleman gent cross over, giving right hands in passing
4b Same two cross back, giving and keeping left hands and taking right hands with partners to form a line of four from top to bottom of set, facing alternating directions (see illustration below)
8b Balance in line twice (4b) then turn partners by right hands to places (4b)
8b Ladies’ grand chain (right and left of the four ladies)
8b All promenade
The figure is performed three more times: by the second lady and first gentleman, third lady and fourth gentleman, and fourth lady and third gentleman, respectively. The third and fourth times through, the line of four will be formed from side to side rather than top to bottom.
Though the original text lacks the "Others same" direction of figures two and three, it must be performed four times in all to give each pair of opposites a chance to lead the figure.
The first sixteen bars of the figure are identical to those of the La Poule, the third figure of the original set of French quadrilles. On returning with the left hand the dancers should take a long, looping path to fill the time, their partners stepping up to take their right hands at the last possible moment. The line will look like this:
The top of the set is at left in this illustration, taken from Charles Durang's Terpsichore (Philadelphia, 1848). The dancers, from left to right, are the first gentleman, first lady, second gentleman, and second lady.
The balance in line would be performed with a gentle step-and-close forward and slightly to the right, then step-and-close back and slightly left, all then repeated again. Dancers should direct their attention to the right on the forward steps and left on the backward steps, making eye contact with the person in that direction, if there is one. The turn to place will be longer for the lady in the active pair and her partner, one-and-a-quarter round compared to the three-quarters-round for the other couple.
The ladies' grand chain figure is frequently confused with the ladies' double chain, which is a variation on the normal ladies' chain performed by all four ladies at once (see my earlier discussion of this confusion for details). Howe knew there was a difference; he used the double chain in other quadrilles in the same manual in which "Rats" is found, on pages 58-59 in The Queen's Quadrille (figure 3) and The Galopade Quadrille (figure 1). Since Howe knew and used both figures, there is no reason to doubt that the ladies' grand chain would be an actual grand chain, rather than a mistaken term for the double chain.
Specifically, the ladies' grand chain is a single-gender version of the grand chain (right and left all round). All four ladies move around the inside of the set taking right and left hands in turn. On the first two repetitions the head ladies would move to their right diagonal and the side ladies to their left diagonal to start the chain by taking right hands, then continue moving around the set in the same direction, taking alternate hands every four steps. The last two times, the head ladies would move left and the side ladies right.
The transition into the ladies' grand chain can be a little awkward for the ladies involved in the preceding line of four and turn to places, particularly for the lead lady in the figure, who must finish her longer turn and abruptly drop right hands with her partner to offer her right hand to the lady to her right. If she ends the turn facing her partner briefly and then turns clockwise over her right shoulder toward the side lady, the figure will work about as smoothly as it can. I do not regard either this or the following transition into the promenade as a particularly well-thought-out sequence of figures.
(Edited 8/28/14 to add: here is a video of the St. Petersburg dance group Rondino performing this reconstruction of Figure 4 using steps in the manner of the early nineteenth century.)
The original text:
No. 5. First 4 lead to right, chassa out; right and left; ladies chain; all forward and swing to place; ladies grand chain; all promenade. Sides same.
Figure 5 8b + 48bx2
4b Heads lead to right side couple (2b) and balance (2b)
4b Facing couples take two hands with the person each is facing and chassé away from their partners (2b) then turn halfway (clockwise) to open into lines of four at the top and bottom of the set (2b)
8b Right and left (chaine anglaise) (two groups side by side)
8b Ladies' chain (two groups side by side)
4b All forward and back in lines
4b Turn partners two hands to places
8b Ladies’ grand chain (as in Figure 4)
8b All promenade
This figure is performed only twice, the first time by the head couples and the second time by the side couples.
The last figure of "Rats" is a lengthy one, at forty-eight bars, and offers the delightfully old-fashioned "chassa out" figure in which the dancers form facing lines, involving all eight dancers throughout in good finale fashion.
The lead to the right/chassé out and form lines sequence is one I have discussed at length twice. For how I get from "First 4 lead to right, chassa out" to "lead to the right/chassé out and form lines", please see my post Wrestling with Belle Brandon, which discusses reconstructing this sequence in the context of another Howe quadrille. For more background on the figure and my current thoughts on how to dance it in an 1861 quadrille, please see my recent article on Revisiting Chassé Out. Both articles are long and technical, and I am not going to repeat myself on the topic here.
The first time through the quadrille, the position of the dancers after this sequence is thus:
bottom of set
W2 M4 W3 M1
M2 W4 M3 W1
top of set
The right and left and ladies chain are performed by two parallel groups of four, side by side: the original first and third couples, now temporarily partnered with new people and facing their original partners across the set, and the second and fourth, who are likewise recombined and facing each other at the other end of the lines. While Howe does not specify the two separate right-and-left and ladies'-chain groupings, I think that is the only way to interpret the instructions; while a double ladies' chain (all four ladies) would be workable, a grand right and left involving all eight dancers would not fit the given music. The head couples are the only other logical dancers for Howe to be addressing, and they are stuck at opposite ends of the hall. The same sequence of figures is used in Howe's Fra Diavalo Set in his Complete ball-room handbook (Boston, 1858), which puts the dancers into facing lines and then includes the calls "all right and left--all chain across the hall".
As in the first figure of "Rats", I would give both right and left hands in the right and left, rather than the "pass right shoulders/give left hands" pattern used by, e.g., Hillgrove.
"All forward" includes the unspoken "and back". This and the following turn to places are the standard nineteenth-century way (dating back to at least the late 1810s) of moving from facing lines back to the original square of couples.
"Swing to places" might be interpreted as a one-hand turn, but a two-hand turn is the standard early nineteenth-century way to do it, and since Howe is old-fashioned to be including this sequence at all, I am sticking with tradition over his sometimes inconsistent terminology. For this turn to places, each gentleman should move very strongly forward toward his partner at the start, and then drop one hand (his right/her left) after turning about halfway in order to move directly leftward, pulling his partner gently after him along the side of the quadrille into their original places. This is simpler in practice than it sounds.
The ladies' grand chain is discussed above in the notes for the fourth figure. This transition into the ladies grand chain is somewhat easier since it follows a two-hand turn and all the ladies will have their right hands free as they open into places. The chain will be performed the first time with head ladies moving right and side ladies moving left and the second time with the head ladies moving left and the side ladies moving right.
(Edited 8/28/14 to add: here is a video of the St. Petersburg dance group Rondino performing this reconstruction of Figure 5 using steps in the manner of the early nineteenth century.)
The Spare Parts recording of "Rats" matches the fourth figure perfectly. The fifth figure, however, was recorded in a completely different pattern (8b + 32bx4 + 8b vs. the required 8b + 48bx2). This is not an error in the recording; as noted in my introductory post on "Rats", it was made to match the First Set rather than Howe's figures. I have a rough but usable edit of the recording which I will make available to anyone who can prove they already own the CD. The easiest way to prove this is to email me a picture of yourself holding it.
A note on figures three and four
As mentioned in my previous post and above, figure three is really more like a fourth figure in its use of trios, and figure four incorporates the first half of La Poule, the traditional third figure. This sort of thing did not seem to bother Howe; though La Poule variants are often found in his sets as the third figure, they are also found as the fourth and at least once, in the May Queen Set in Howe's 1858 manual, as the first figure! As noted before, the long series of quadrille calls for different sets that Howe includes are for the most part not carefully composed choreographies but semi-random combinations of standard figures and sequences with minor variations.
Despite this evidence that Howe is happy to mix up the traditional figures, I would still strongly consider swapping figures three and four of "Rats", for two reasons:
First, that because figures four and five both have the same final sixteen bars (ladies' grand chain and promenade), doing them back to back is going to feel overly repetitive. Swapping the figures makes for a more interesting quadrille.
Second, that the music for the figures really does work better if the order is reversed. The music for figure four is in large part composed of two-bar phrases repeated over and over again, which better matches the repeated two-bars-forward-and-two-bars-back sequences found in Howe's figure three. The music for figure three has longer four-bar sequences that better fit Howe's figure four, which contains only four-bar sequences. This music/dance mismatch is another thing that suggests to me that Howe was not putting a lot of effort into choreography in his lists of calls.
Despite this, I have given the figures in Howe's order here for the sake of accuracy. But that is not how I would recommend dancing them.
Enjoy! And special thanks to Tom Willson for asking me to actually get this reconstruction published.
(Edited 8/28/14 to add: here is a video of the St. Petersburg dance group Rondino performing the full Rats Quadrille using steps in the manner of the early nineteenth century.)