Sometime between first edition of An Analysis of Country Dancing in 1808 and the third edition in 1811, London dancing master Thomas Wilson started creating his own original country dance figures. Not sequences of figures, which anyone could do, but actual new floor patterns:
As novelty in Dancing as in every other amusement, is the author and promoter of an enlivening vivacity...it is equally irksome for good Dancers to be always using the same Figures, as for a professed musician to be continually playing the tunes of “God Save the King,” and “Foot’s Minuet;” and from the repeated suggestions of several good Dancers, and at the particular request of a great number of the author’s Friends and Pupils; and in order to answer the purposes of novelty and variety...The author has been induced to compose and arrange a variety of New Figures...
I wouldn’t take the “particular request” part too seriously; almost every nineteenth-century dancing master who comes up with something new modestly attributes its publication to requests by his students. I suspect Wilson himself was the one finding it “irksome” to use the same figures over and over again.
Most of Wilson’s new figures are not terribly exciting. Overwhelmingly, they involve only the active couple making increasingly elaborate loops and circles around the other couples, leaving four dancers with nothing to do for eight or even sixteen bars. There are only a few which I’ve found worth bothering with over the years. The latest of these is the True Lovers Knot, shown at left (click to enlarge).
Let me be perfectly clear: this is not a typical Regency-era country dance figure. It is very specific to one dance teacher and his students and customers. Wilson himself rarely used it in his published works, and I have never seen it used by any other author or publisher.
That said, it’s a really lovely figure. So I finally decided to work out how to dance it.