The annotated Canadian Barn Dance

The Canadian Barn Dance is one of the Scottish Ceilidh staples and descriptions abound on the web. It's lively and straightforward, often called as a mixer (where you change partners and get to know everybody)

The Dance

The setup is very much like the Chapelloise, you need a partner and you join in what should become a large circle on the dancefloor. You are side by side with your partner, facing anticlockwise round the circle and looking at the back of the heads of the couple in front of you. The men will be on the inside of the set and the ladies on the outside.

As it is a progressive dance or mixer, you'll dance with your partner the first time through and then move on and dance with someone else. In this dance if the men snatch a look back over their right shoulder they'll see the lady they'll be dancing with next. As it's all in a circle, it's possible you'll get back to your original partner if the music goes on long enough.

A Music: Bars 1 to 4...

  • Four steps forward and kick... although if you are counting it is really three steps and a little kick forward
    • ... it makes sense to start on the 'outside foot' "Inside foot" and "Outside foot" are technical terms, if you are dancing side by side with someone your inside foot is the one closest to them and the outside foot is further away.
    and four steps back (again strictly it is three steps back and the fourth is a drop down onto your heel)

...bars 5 to 8

  • Move apart four steps and a kick...
    • This is rather less of a 'walk' and more of a step sideways, slide together, step and kick across. You are slipping sideways apart ending with a little kick and a clap...
    and back together in four steps.
    • ... back towards a new partner. This is the 'progressive' bit; the men drop back a little while they move in and the ladies move a little forward to meet them. It is reassuring to catch the eye of the 'new partner' to make sure that your going in the right direction towards the right person. You meet and take up a ballroom hold, the pointy end pointing anticlockwise round the room.

B Music: Bars 1 to 4...

  • Chassé two steps (left for the man) and two steps back.
    • ... when you get the hang of it, you'll find the previous apart and together steps are very similar to the chassé

...bars 5 to 8

  • Polka (or schottische) round for four...
    • ... ending by opening up to your side-by-side anticlockwise starting position and you start again...

More information: The Music...

If you were in a Scottish Ceilidh, you are likely to get a bright and crisp jig but it also works well to the same sort of schottischy tunes as Ideal Schottische and the Italian Polka It doesn't need to be hectic; a touch slinky allows you to make the most of the four steps of sliding apart and coming together again. With tunes of this persuasion, you do a Schottische step-hop, step-hop, step-hop, step-hop instead of the Polka.

See also...

There's a similar dance from Belgium called the Maclotte De Steinbach danced to the tune of the same name. The figures for this are:

  • Four steps forward and back...
  • Separate for four and return to your partner, taking up a loose ballroom hold...
  • Chassé with your partner, but not back again, you swing your partner instead...
  • The men, continue sliding left, leaving their partner, meeting a new lady and swinging with her