The annotated Circle Hornpipe

A circle and partner changing dance, lots of chasséing back and forth, some clapping and a nice bit of swing.

Form up in a big circle...

Find a partner, find a place in a 'large circle' forming up in the room. The men will be on the inside the of the circle and the ladies will be standing on the outside. Or, to put it another way, if you are standing on the inside of the circle looking out you are dancing the men's role, and if you are on the outside looking in you are dancing the woman's role.

You face your partner and take two hands with them. The dance starts with you together slipping 4 steps anticlockwise round the circle.

A Music
Bars 1 to 4 ...
: 4 steps left ...

  • Strangely, instructions are often aimed at the 'man' so when you hear '4 steps left', it means you slide off anticlockwise round the room. If you were in 'ballroom hold' instead of 'two hands with your partner', it would be a chassé left but you don't get so close to your partner with this dance.

In an eCeilidh the music is likely to be a bit lumpy so you are not sliding gracefully, or doing a crabwise walk, there will be a

  • one-and-a, two-and-a, three-and-a, four hop

rhythm with you taking larger steps sideways on the one, two, three etc. The four comes with a little kick of the heel as you are going to be changing direction and going 4 steps back...

As always with these descriptions, don't worry about them too much, when you are there dancing, it's likely to 'just happen'. The good bit about this dance is that you have a chance with a series of different partners (it's mixer) and can pick it up as you go.

... 4 steps back

  • 4 steps back, same rhythm... and a kick on the 'four' again because...

... Bars 5 to 8: 2 steps left ...

  • You do 2 steps in the original direction, a 'one-and-a, two hop', and

... 2 steps back

  • ... You are getting the hang of it by now.

Clapping ...

Stop, face each other and...

  • Clap own hands together and right hands with partner
  • .. together and left hands with partner
  • .. together and across chest
  • .. together and both hands with partner

No reason for the feet to stay rooted to the floor while doing all this; you don't have to stop dancing when you start clapping. Try drawing step back with the right foot and then stepping forward when you clap right, drawing back and stepping forward with the left when you clap left.

B Music
Bars 1 to 4...
: Right elbow turn with your partner ...

  • Now a 'right arm turn' can mean a smooth circling round each other, looking into each other's eyes, a 'right elbow turn', with the sort of music you are likely to get, can mean something with a little more rock and roll.

If you are doing 'elbow turns' there's a temptation to grab too hard, particularly with your thumb. Avoid this! you'll know exactly why when someone does it to you. Best make the whole movement more relaxed and looser...

... Bars 5 to 8: ... and left elbow turn with the next person

  • The men look along round the circle to the next lady and do a left elbow turn with her...

Music

It's a 16 bar hornpipe or step-hop tune and the more swing it has the better. A tune which works well for Nottingham Swing has a good chance of working for the Circle Hornpipe

Variations: There's more than one way of doing it....

If there's a motto for English Ceilidh, Folk Dance, Barn Dance etc it's there's more than one way of doing it... and more than one name for it when you are doing it. In this instance the dance appears in Colin Hume's collection with the men on the outside

More information: Origins...

Either written by Jim Billson (of the Giffard Folk Dance Group

See also...