The annotated Holmfirth Reel

A driving longways dance...

The caller will say Longways, for as many as will and, when enough people have formed up, most likely a Hands Four from the Top, then after a little delay as people work out where they are, First Couples Improper. Yes, it's jargon, but it helps to get you into the right place for the dance...

Form: Longways Duple Improper

  • Longways means that you are in couples, facing your partner in a long line stretching away from the band. Or rather, two lines and what normally happens is that all the men start off in one line and the women in the other and they stand facing their partner.
  • Hands Four means that the first two couples (the ones nearest the band) nod to each other, say hello and join hands in a small ring, they will start off the dance dancing together. The next two couples do the same, the next two, the next two etc all down the line.

Out of each group of four, the couple closer to the band are called the 'first couple' and the others the 'second couple' or the 'ones' and 'twos'. The Hands Four from the Top is something that happens before the dance starts. It makes sure all the couples know whether they are 'ones' or 'twos' - so it helps to keep hold in the circles of four until it is clear that everyone does know. The 'ones' and 'twos' will be doing different things during the dance and the caller will sometimes say what the 'first couple', or 'ones', should do, sometimes the 'twos'.

  • Improper means that despite the men initially lining up on one side and the ladies on the other, there'll be a change and the first couple should swap places with each other.

The Dance:

The music is a 32-bar reel, the A and B below refer to the parts of the music.

A1: First Couple Figure of Eight down through the second...

The second couple don't move and the first couple heads down between them and individually dance a figure of eight round them back to place. What this means is:

  • The first lady heads diagonally between the second couple and turns left to go around the second lady (it's the second lady as the set is improper)
  • The first man, with a faint pause to allow his partner to get safely through the gap, heads through and turns right behind the second man.
  • Each follows a figure of eight pattern, with the figure of eight on its side. They go round the backs of the twos, cross back through the gap (not hitting each other), round the other person and back to place. It's a bit like a motorcycle display team...

That don't move bit? If you are the second couple make sure that the first couple can get between you. You are still dancing though, so no need to stand still. As the first couple dances round behind you, you can move towards your partner to give them a little bit of extra space and then move apart again in time to give them a gap to go through

How you do this is depends on the music; with a driving reel, the music will invite you to make the most of the movement, to make big sweeps round the backs of the other couple and head through the gap at speed. You may be encouraged to see if you can dance the reel so you can touch both walls of the hall before you get back to place. Needless to say, this is madness

A2: Second Couple Figure of Eight up through the first

This time the second couple heads up between the first couple. They cross over the set with the man allowing the lady to get through the gap first and dance a figure of eight back to place and the first couple do that don't move bit.

B1: Poussette

A Poussette is a gentle push, a slight step sideways to get into a new place, and a pull. You are holding both hands with your partner and the idea is, with a shuffle backwards and forwards, to change places with the other couple.

The question is who pulls and who pushes? Here it is easy, the dance is improper and for both couples "the lady" steps back, drawing her partner across the set. The two take a small step sideways and the man then pulls his partner gently back into their new place.

Some collision avoidance may be required. The two men will be reversing and not looking back over their shoulders. They should be watching their partner, their partner's job is to look worried if there's likely to be a collision.

The two couples have swapped places, the 'first couples' will have moved down the set and be looking for a new couple to dance with, the 'second couples' will have moved up.

Right arms out ready for a...

B2: Right Hand Star with a new couple...

You've got your new couple? Do a right hand star with them.

If you are at the end of the set and don't have another couple, don't panic, you'll have a short rest...

Left Hand Star back to place and you are ready to start again. First couples look down the set at the gap between the twos and get ready for their figure of eight

Don't Panic If you are at the end of the set...

If you've got to the end of the set and there's no-one there to star with?

Don't panic, it's one of those things that happen in longways dances, you get to end and have to head back the other direction. If you've danced Nottingham Swing, Speed the Plough or Portsmouth, you'll have been in this situation.

There will be one time through the dance where you'll be watching and then someone will head towards you expecting you to join them. If you had been a 'first couple' dancing down the set, you will start dancing as a 'second couple' but, as this dance is improper, an extra bit of magic is needed and you have to change places with your partner.

Vice versa, the couple who had reached the top of the set, having danced as a second couple all the way up, change sides, watch and start dancing as a 'first couple' and dance down the set.

The Music:

Danced to reels. Ones with driving 'A' music, maybe a little more restrained for the 'B'.