The annotated Ideal Schottische

There are not so many couple dances done at eCeilidh events, it's not unusual to find a Rozsa waltz nowadays but the Ideal Schottische also has a well established place in the repertoire even if it is not quite as popular as it was previously

The music is an eight-bar hornpipe or schottische, so something twice as long as a normal French/Breton schottische. It can be anything from crisp and bouncy to slow and slinky

This description seems to have originated from some Hemlock Cock and Bull sleeve notes (All Buttoned Up, 1981) and appears as one of the couple dances in Brian Scowcroft's County Dance collection. (The Australian Heritage's Bush Dance pages include it and there's a variation on the Committee Band's It's about time CD)

The Dance...

A Music
Bars 1 to 4 ...
: Dance 3 side steps to man's left (anticlockwise). On 4th step let go leading hand, bring trailing hand forward so you are back to back with your partner. Keep going anticlockwise and dance a double step (1,2,3 hop)

Think Ballroom Direction as anticlockwise round the room, you'll hear it called the Line of Dance as well. This means that, the man is on the inside and the woman is on the outside, facing each other, and the man is going to head to his left and the woman to her right.

  • Start with 2 hands to your partner, facing each other
  • Chassé in the ballroom direction. Going sideways, the feet go 'slide, together, slide, hop'.
  • Forget about your leading hand; keep hold of your 'trailing' hand and sweep it forward. Make this is a nice sweeping movement and it will turn you back to back. Your feet will be doing the 'hop' when you are doing the sweeping...
  • Keep on moving and do a second chassé following the way your hands are now pointing...
    The more confident you are with pointing your hands forwards, the more likely it is that people will stay out of your way :-)

... Bars 5 to 8: Dance 3 steps clockwise and turn on the 4th step so you are facing your partner. Keep dancing clockwise and dance a double step.

You are back-to-back and holding one hand and you want to get back to where you started...

  • Forget about your 'leading' hand; you are going to be changing direction.
  • Look back to where you came from, lift your other arm to point to where you want to be and find your partner's free hand which will be doing the same... It will be there but don't worry too much if it isn't :-)
  • Do a chassé step back, turn towards your partner (you'll have found the free hand by then) and a second chassé back, face to face

B Music
Bars 1 to 4 ...
: Dance two hop steps into the middle of the room (man dances backwards) and 2 steps out....

This is where the music tells you what to do, with a crisp hornpipe you'll have no trouble doing steps into the middle.

  • Two steps into the middle of the room, two steps out

With a more slinky Schottische you'll find the chassé variation easier

.. Bars 5 to 8: Ballroom hold, dance 4 hop steps around.

  • Swing for four steps, one-hop, two-hop, one-hop, two-hop, in a schottischy style


Leading or trailing hand...

There a degree of ambiguity in the published descriptions of the dance:

  • Do you let go the leading hand or the trailing hand?

This annotation made an executive decision that you let go of the leading hand after the first chassé. It is however often called that you let go of the 'trailing hand', for example as described in the Committee Band's It's about time sleeve notes. This means that you spend some time dancing backwards before you find you partner's free hand and it requires a little more space on the dance floor.


For smaller spaces and smoother tunes, the two steps into the middle and back out can make you feel like an elephant in a china shop. A Weberknecht variation is to chassé left and right again. This is smoother and at a stroke avoids the problems of having to remember which foot to start on when going into the middle (difficult) and the risks of colliding knees when you get it wrong (something which is all the more painful if you are dancing to an energetic hornpipe)

More information: Tunes...

As mentioned, the music is an eight-bar hornpipe or schottische. 16-bar tunes do work but the 'typical' 4-bar French/Breton schottische tune won't help you enough with the phrasing, you won't hear when the A and when the B starts.

YouTube has Tickled Pink playing Green Potato where it's quite possible to see the effects of the ambiguity about which way to turn, with the dancers getting the swing of the dance by about halfway through.

See also...