Dance Kaleidoscope Dance Terms

Below are descriptions of the movements that make up the displayed dances.

Allemande right/left
See a right hand turn or left hand turn.
Arm right/left
Take your partner's right/left hand in your own and circle each other back to your own position in eight steps. In English country dances our group prefers a low hold, palms together pointing down.
Back a double
Walk a double backwards to your original position.
Back-to-back
Walk around your partner and back to your original position, but keep facing the same direction, walking forwards on the way over and backwards on the return. Pass right shoulders initially unless otherwise specified.
Balance
Usually this involves moving towards your partner and then back to place. It can be done while hold both hands with your partner, or just right hands. It can also be a step and kick to the side while staying in place.
Becket formation
A duple-minor longways set where couples face each other across the set.
Cast
Turn away from your partner and move outside the set to another position (usually the next one up or down a longways set).
Circle right/left
Take hands around the set and all walk around in the direction specified.
Circular hey
A weaving motion usually performed by two couples facing each other. Give right hand to your opposite then turn and give left hand to your partner. Continue until back in original place. Some dances only make three changes to effect a progression along the set.
Corner
In a square set, the person next to you on the side that is not your partner. In a duple-minor, the person diagonally opposite in the groups of two couples.
Courtesy turn
Part of a ladies chain or rights-and-lefts Contra movement. The man takes the woman's left hand in his own, while placing his right hand around her waist to hold her right hand. He then turns her half way around. It helps if the man moves backwards at the same time the woman is moving forwards.
Cross
Pass by your partner into their position, usually passing by the right shoulder.
Do-si-do
See back-to-back. From the French dos-à-dos.
Double
Walk four steps or two waltz steps holding inside hands with partner. This may be done forwards or backwards in a specified direction.
Down a double
Walk a double forwards towards the bottom of the set.
Duple-minor
A longways set dance where groups of two couples dance together. The couple nearest the front of the hall are designated couple 1 and those opposite are couple 2. Usually the dance involves a progression such that each couple moves on to another and the dance is repeated in new sets of two couples. Couple 1 move down the hall, while couple 2 move up the hall. When they reach the end of the set they must wait out one round of the dance before re-entering as the opposite number.
Figure eight
Pass between two people that act as posts (usually not moving), turn around one of them, back between them, and turn around the other of them, back to position. Sometimes done as a half figure eight in which case you end in your partner's position.
First corners
In a duple-minor dance, the first corners are the first man and the second woman.
Forward a double
Walk a double forwards towards the top or centre of the set.
Gatepost turn
The dancing couple (1) pass between another couple (2) and take inside hands with them. They (1) are then turned (moving forwards) around the latter (moving backwards) to swap positions.
Grand chain
Travel around the outside of the set, taking right hand with the first person you meet and passing them by the right shoulder. Then take the left hand of the next person and pass them by the left shoulder. Repeat until back to original position.
Gypsy right/left
Walk around your partner passing right/left shoulders and back to place. Maintain eye contact with your partner throughout (a flirting move).
Hands across right/left
Extend your right/left arm into the centre and hold the hand of the person opposite only, then walk in the appropriate direction. Etiquette holds that the first man should have his hand above others in the set.
Hey
See reel or circular hey.
Improper
An improper duple-minor longways set has all the first couples swapped, so that each line alternates man/woman.
Ladies chain
Within a group of two couples facing each other, women take right hands and pass by, taking left hands with the man opposite who then guides them around in a courtesy turn. A half ladies chain stops here, while a full ladies chain repeats the sequence to return to original positions. In Contra dances, the woman is sometimes twirled once or twice instead of being guided around the courtesy turn.
Left hand turn
Take partner's left hand and hold at about elbow level, then circle each other back to your own position. May also be done half, one-and-a-half, or even twice.
Longways set
A dance formation with couples arranged in two lines down the hall. Men stand on the left (facing the band) and women opposite them on the right.
Neighbour
See opposite.
Opposite
The person next to you that is not your partner.
Partner
The person of the opposite sex that you are primarily dancing with. In general partners stand with the woman on the man's right.
Pass by right/left
Walk past your partner into their position, passing by the right/left shoulder.
Promenade
With your partner walk around the set, usually in an anti-clockwise direction. Upper promenade hold has the man's left hand holding the ladies left hand in front, while the man's right hand is over the woman's right shoulder to hold her right hand. Lower promenade hold has woman's left and right hand in man's left and right hand, both in front. The woman's left arm is in front of the man's right arm.
Proper
A proper longways set has all the men on one side and all the women on the other.
Reel
A weaving movement usually done by three or four people. For three people, the middle one (2) faces one end (1). Those two pass right shoulder, 2 turns around, while 1 and 3 pass by the left shoulder. Then 1 turns around while 2 and 3 pass by the right shoulder. A half reel finishes here, while a full reel repeats the move but uses opposite shoulders. For four people, the middle two (2 and 3) face out and pass right shoulder with the ends (1 and 4). 1 and 4 then pass left shoulder while 2 and 3 turn around. Continue alternating shoulders.
Right hand turn
Take partner's right hand and hold at about elbow level, then circle each other back to your own position. May also be done half, one-and-a-half, or even twice.
Rights and lefts
Facing your partner, take their right hand and pass them by the right shoulder. Then face your neighbour, take their left hand and them by the left shoulder. A half rights and lefts ends here, while a full one repeats the movements to return to your original position.
Second Corners
In a duple-minor dance, the second corners are the first woman and the second man.
Set
Facing your partner, take a step to your right and then back to your left. In a quadrille or slow set take two steps to the right and raise your left foot behind your right leg, then takes two steps to the left and raise your right foot behind your left leg.
Side
Change places with your partner by taking four steps while continuing to face them, passing by the left shoulder. Pivot in their place and return to your own, again taking four steps and continuing to face them, but passing by the left shoulder.
Spanish waltz
In a circle around the set, step forward and back. Then men pass the woman on their left across to their right, giving them a twirl clockwise on the way. Repeat until back with original partner.
Spin
See swing.
Square set
A dance formation with four couples arranged along the sides of a square.
Star right/left
Extend your right/left arm into the centre and hold the others' hands, then walk in the appropriate direction.
Swing
Take your partner in a close hold and rotate around each other on the spot, turning clockwise. The hold may be a ballroom hold with man's right hand behind the woman's left shoulder, her left hand on his shoulder, other arms extended and joined, a cross hold with the man's right holding the woman's right and left in left, a ceilidh hold with both right hands around your partner's waist and left hands holding each other between you, or (when more experienced) just right hands around your partner's waist and left hands held out or up. In a Contra dance a swing usually ends with the couple positioned on the side of the set facing their opposites, with the man on the left and woman on the right.
Triple-minor
A longways set dance where groups of three couples dance together. The couple nearest the front of the hall are designated couple 1, followed by couples 2 and 3. Usually the dance involves a progression such that the first couple down one position and the dance is repeated in new sets of three couples. Couple 1 move down the hall, while couples 2 and 3 move up the hall, but swap between being 2's and 3's. When couple 1 reach the end of the set and don't have two more couples below them they must move to the end wait out one round of the dance before re-entering as a 3. 2's and 3's reaching the top wait until there are three couples there before the top couple start as a new couple 1.
Turn contra corners
Performed by three couples with the active one in the middle. Actives turn their partner by the right hand a little over half way. Then turn their first corners (originally diagonally to their right) by the left hand. The actives meet their partner in the centre, turning by the right hand about three-quarters around. Then turn their second corners (originally diagonally to their left) by the left hand. Finally the actives return to place.
Two-hand turn
Take both hands with your partner and walk around each other and back to place. A half two-hand turn means you stop when you reach your partner's place.
Up a double
Walk a double forwards towards the top of the set.