Longways Progressions

Although the 'standard' duple-minor single-progression dance is quite easy after a bit of practice, it gives trouble to new dancers. Other forms - triple minors and double progressions - perplexed me still more when I first started dancing. You can't call convincingly unless you're absolutely sure how the dance works, so here is an explanation of those other forms of progression.

Duple minor, single progression

This 'standard' progression was already explained in the page on Longways dances. In diagrammatic form it looks like this. The couples have been called a1, b1 etc to help identify where they move to; they keep these labels as the dance proceeds. Square brackets mark off the minor sets. Neutral couples in italics.

1st turn of dance:
[a1 b1] [a2 b2] [a3 b3] [a4 b4]

2nd turn - b1 sitting out at the top, a4 at the bottom:

b1 [a1 b2] [a2 b3] [a3 b4] a4

3rd turn - b1 has come back in as a 1st couple, and a4 has come back in as a 2nd:

[b1 b2] [a1 b3] [a2 b4] [a3 a4]


Duple minor, double progression

In a double progression dance the 1st couples move on two places rather than one. This is more straightforward than the triple minor, but it goes past pretty fast, so mistakes are not easily rectified.

Quite often the double progression is achieved by having a single progression halfway through the dance and another single progression at the end. During the second half, therefore, there is a neutral couple at each end.


Triple minor

A triple minor has three couples in each minor set. After each turn of the dance, the 1s move down, usually by one place. The inactive couples (i.e. those who are not 1s) alternate between being 2s and being 3s. Now for the end effects.

Top: After the first turn of the dance, there is a neutral couple sitting out at the top. They stay sitting out for another turn, coming back in (as 1s) when there are two couples below them.

Bottom: This is usually the difficult end. Callers should explain clearly and keep a sharp lookout. After the first turn of the dance, there are only two couples in the minor set at the bottom; these two couples are usually encouraged to perform the dance with a ghost for a third couple, so that there is a progression - otherwise the very bottom couple will stay there for ever. After the second turn of the dance, the 1s will now be right at the bottom, and they sit out one turn before re-entering as 3s.

Here is the pattern in diagrammatic form. X is a ghost couple.

1st turn of dance:
[a1 b1 c1] [a2 b2 c2] [a3 b3 c3] [a4 b4 c4]

2nd turn - At the top, b1 is sitting out. All the other b couples are now 3s instead of 2s, while the c couples are now 2s instead of 3s; the b and c couples alternate between being 2s and 3s all the way up the dance. Meanwhile, at the bottom, a4 and c4 are dancing with an imaginary couple, X, so that a4 progresses past c4:

b1 [a1 c1 b2] [a2 c2 b3] [a3 c3 b4] [a4 c4 X]

3rd turn of dance - at the top b1 is still sitting out, joined by c1, while a4 sits out one turn at the bottom:

b1 c1 [a1 b2 c2] [a2 b3 c3] [a3 b4 c4] a4

4th turn of dance - everybody is dancing again:

[b1 c1 b2] [a1 c2 b3] [a2 c3 b4] [a3 c4 a4]

5th turn of dance - At the top, c1 is sitting out:; at the bottom, a3 and a4 dance with a ghost:

c1 [b1 b2 c2] [a1 b3 c3] [a2 b4 c4] [a3 a4 X]

Sometimes dancers prefer not to dance with a ghost, or the dance is unsuitable. In that case, during the 2nd turn, a4 and c4 must change places. Otherwise when the 3rd turn starts, a4 will come back into the dance instead of c4, who are left sitting miserably out. This is a common mistake, causing perplexed and unhappy dancers.

Although it takes a bit of practice the triple minor is not actually difficult, and it used to be very common in old contras (used extensively in some of the eighteenth century collections).


Becket formation

Although I have not included any Becket formation contra dances in this set, you may like to know about it in principle. Dancers stand side by side with their partners in two rows, man facing woman. The minor set is with the couple opposite, as usual. To get a progression each couple moves one place left, which gives them a new opposite couple (but the same neighbours).

Because of the need to progress by moving one place left, these dances often include diagonal rights and lefts: the couples do a normal half right and left through not with the couple opposite but with the couple on their left. Couples at the left-hand ends are neutral for that move. ("Everybody holds their right arm out at 45 degrees to the left and does a right and left with whoever's arm meets yours; if there's no arm there, stay where you are."). Couples are now the wrong side of the dance. If that  move is then followed by a normal half right and left with the couple now directly opposite, couples finish up on the correct side of the dance but one place to their left. (Sometimes there are diagonal rights and lefts to the right instead of the left.)

In the diagram, each letter (a, b ..) indicates one couple, standing side-by-side with the woman on the right.

1st turn of dance. In the diagonal left and right through, the pairs are ag, bf, ce. Couples d and h will be neutral.
a b c d
h g f e

2nd turn of dance - couples g and c will be neutral this time:

h a b c
g f e d

The problem about diagonal moves is that the couples at the left-hand ends will not have anybody to work with and often feel unsure of themselves. So here is another end-effect problem which the beginning caller has to cope with. For myself, I would not feel confident including a Becket formation dance at a barn dance, but for those who want an example here is the eponymous classic Becket Reel (which for some reason is sometimes called Bucksaw Reel in Britain).

Becket Reel

Herbie Gaudreau. Difficulty: 4

Partners stand side by side in two lines. An even number of couples is preferred.

Start by turning away from your partner ready for the allemande in A1.

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Last updated 10 June, 2002