The annotated Clopton Bridge

A classic you are likely to meet at every festival, one for people who don't like standing still. Scan of the dance from 'Dancing through the night' by John and Dee Chapman You are in four couple sets, the corners swing each other, the middle couples star and back while the end couples dance around them in a big square, ending with the top couple swinging to the bottom of the set.

All danced to Hornpipes - Step Hops or Morris Steps as fits the music.

Form:

Longways sets of four couples... So you need a partner and you join up with 3 other couples. Men on one side, ladies on the other. Although it really does not matter if the people dancing the men's role are men or the people dancing the women's role are women. It's good to make sure that you know where your set 'starts' and 'stops' (and, once you've got four couples, make sure any further couples don't attach themselves to 'your' set).

It's also good for the "First Man" to look down to the bottom of the set to catch the eye of the "Fourth Lady", these two are going to start the dance with a right arm swing.

A1: First corners, Right Arm Swing...

Who are the "first corners"? It's a description for the "top left man" and the "bottom right woman" in a set. It is the people on the diagonal.

First Man and Fourth Lady head towards each other with a step-hop (or something that fits the music), right arms out, they meeting in the middle of the set and swing for 4 bars. It works best if each person cups their hand round the other person's elbow and keep their thumbs out the way. It's a hornpipe; the swing is likely to be lollopy and have Rock-and-Roll connections...

... and back with Left Arm Swing

Let go, turn and swing with the left for the next four bars, make sure they get back to place and out of the way of the second corners who will be wanting to do the same...

Who are the "second corners"? It's the people on the other diagonal - the top right woman and the bottom left man

A2: Second corners, Right Arm Swing and back with a Left Arm Swing

Now it's the turn of the second corners. First Lady dancing with the Fourth Man, a step-hop swing with the right arm and back with the left.

B1: Middle four people, Right Hand Star...

Middle two couples, put right hands in for a right hand star, round for four bars and turn to go back the other way... The original notation for this says dance with a 1-2-3-hop. That is, with a Morris step rather than a step-hop. You can be quite flash doing this.

Meanwhile...

... Meanwhile the end couples cross over with their partners and start to dance a big square round the set. The middle couples will be doing their star, you'll be dancing round them. If you want a name for this, it is the same pattern as Four Changes of a Circular Hey but writ large as it danced around the people doing the star. Note that the end couples can but don't have to do this, it's their choice. There is quite a bit of music for each "side of the square" but then the "square" can be quite big and there can be other people to bump into. Give your partner your right hand and change places with them. Someone from the 'other end' couple will be heading towards you, give them your left hand and change places...

... Back with Left Hand Star

The middle two couples, put left hands in for a left hand star and go back to place...

Meanwhile...

... The end couples keep going round the outside, crossing with their partners again and the person from the other end couple, and dance back to place.

B2: Top Couple swing down to the bottom of the set...

The top couple needs to get to the bottom, the instructions say swing but the music is yours, fit any move to it. As the top couple swings, dances or progresses past you, head towards your partner and swing them...

The top couple get to the bottom, swing and get into place in time for the dance to start again. They will be the new bottom couple. There'll be a new top couple and the new first man will be heading down, with wild step hops, towards the lady. There's very little time for her to catch her breath...

More information: Origins...

Written by John Chapman, published in Dancing through the night, by John and Dee Chapman, 1987. The original was quite clear that different moves were to be danced with a Step Hop or a One-Two-Three-Hop.

Music

Step-hoppy stuff. Hornpipes. Music you can Morris Step to...

Variations

The original Clopton Bridge did not mention the end couples dancing that long, slow square around the middle couple's star. The above version is therefore already a variation...

It's is a dance for people who don't like standing still. You don't have to stand still while the corners are swinging, you can practice your backing singers movements along the line, or a reel of three.

You may also see flash stuff with people dancing a Right Hand Star, turning anticlockwise and bringing their somehow still joined left hands up to dance back with a Left Hand Star. It can be done like this:

  • If your partner is following you in the Right Hand Star, hold your left hand behind your back.
  • If you are following your partner and they put their left hand behind their back, grab it with your left hand.
  • Both turn anticlockwise at the end of the Right Hand Star, keeping hold with your left hands. Make sure that you lift those left hands high enough as you turn so that it's possible to dance underneath them.
  • Put the still-joined-left-hands into the centre of the new "Left Hand Star".
  • Make it look like magic

You can do this in many dances that include a 'Right Hand Star and back with a Left', you've just got a little bit of extra time to do it with Clopton Bridge

See also...