Green Mountain Volunteers is currently fourth on my list of go-to contra dances for the 1910s, after the Circle; Hull's Victory; and Lady of the Lake. It really ought to be sixth, after Boston Fancy and Portland Fancy as well, but the former is too much like Lady of the Lake, and the latter I'm still thinking about.
Unlike the five dances listed above, which appear on a pair of Maine dance cards from 1918-1919, I do not have dance card evidence for this one. The only pre-1937 source for it, in fact, is Elizabeth Burchenal's American Country-Dances, Volume I (New York & Boston, 1918), in which she lists it among the dances "half-forgotten or less used" by the late 1910s:
Some of the most widely used of the contra-dances to-day in New England are The Circle, Lady of the Lake, Boston Fancy, Portland Fancy, Hull's Victory, Soldier's Joy, and Old Zip Coon (or, the Morning Star); while among the half-forgotten or less used ones are Chorus Jig, Green Mountain Volunteers, and Fisher's Hornpipe.
This is a category distinct from dances which are "obsolete" and which she reconstructed herself from old books. I don't consider those latter ones to be sufficiently documented for my taste.
But, frankly, I include Green Mountain Volunteers in my repertoire for 1910s primarily because it's a neat dance by virtue of its unusual figures. Contra dances, then and now, can get somewhat monotonous, so I appreciate the ones that stand out.
Green Mountain Volunteers is unusual among 1910s contra dances in having no obvious nineteenth-century pedigree. The only potential connection, suggested by Ricky Holden in The Contra Dance Book (1956), lies in its loose resemblance to figures listed under "Beaux of Oak Hill" in some mid-nineteenth century manuals. I'm not entirely convinced by the association, however, and the differences are substantial enough that "Beaux" warrants a separate post.
Green Mountain Volunteers (32 bar contra dance)
Formation: improper duple minor set, active couples crossed over. Simultaneous start.
8b Active man and second woman buzz swing
4b Active woman and second man cross hands and walk (eight steps) or chassé (four steps) down the set; woman is on the man's left
4b Without dropping hands, they turn and come back up, woman on the man's right
8b Active woman and second man buzz swing
4b Active man and second woman open up facing down the set, keep ballroom position, and walk (eight steps) or chassé (four steps) down the set; woman is on the man's right
4b Switching to crossed-hands, they turn and come back up, woman on the man's left
8b Active couple cross hands and go down the center, turn individually (four bars/eight steps), and come back up and cast off (four bars/eight steps)
The couples have now progressed
8b Both couples right and left (pass right shoulders, pivot as a couple shoulder-to-shoulder)
1. For the "down the set" moves by the active woman/second man and active man/second woman, the woman is always nearest the center of the set and the man is on the outside. The dancers must turn individually, not as a couple. Note that the second pair to go down the set changes from an opened-out ballroom position to a crossed-hand hold at the halfway point!
2. At the end of the second eight bars, the active woman/second man open up from the swing with the woman on the right (below the second man) while the active man/second woman, coming up the set, fall into line most easily with the man on the right (above the second woman). This doesn't matter in practice; the active man simply goes directly to his partner for the down-the-center figure.
3. Burchenal specifies walking or chassé steps for the down-the-set moves in the first sixteen bars, but not for the active couple going down the center and back. Her chassé step has no initiating hop; it is just a smooth two-step.
5. On the down-the-center by the active couple, they must be careful not to go too far or they will have trouble getting back to the top and casting off. My preference (discussed here) is for only four steps of real travel down the center, with the next four being occupied by the couple making slightly looping individual turns without dropping hands.
6. Holden gives some later variations and notes that sometimes which line swings and which goes down the set varies. Since I'm interested in this as a 1910s dance, not a 1930s-1950s one, I've stuck with Burchenal's version.
7. Calling the "meanwhile" figures in the first half of the dance is a real pain. Holden suggests using "left line" and "right line", but I find those impossible to process while dancing. I would use a call like "Lady down the set, gent swing", making sure the dancers know I am addressing the active couple.
Holden cites a tune called "Green Mountain Boys", while noting that as of his writing, fiddlers usually pick any suitable jig, but Burchenal actually gives a version of the famous tune "Haste to the Wedding":
In the absence of live musicians or a recording of this tune, any thirty-two-bar jig will work for the dance.
About the name
Holden writes: "This dance commemorates the story of the Green Mountain Boys. Organized under Ethan Allen, they were a small band of Vermont settlers who offered resistance when New York claimed Vermont as part of its territory. Allen and his Volunteers forced the surrender of Fort Ticonderoga on May 10, 1775. They were a valiant band and later played an illustrious part in the Revolution of 1776." More information may be found at the University of Vermont website.
I'm not sure this dance has any current popularity other than when people are deliberately doing "chestnuts", but the modern version (to a different tune) may be seen here. Significant changes from Burchenal include pairs doing a galop down the set in two-hand hold rather than ballroom position or crossed-hand hold, and a balance before the swing, which Burchenal says is no longer done in the 1910s.