The annotated Staffordshire Knot

There seem to be other descriptions, maybe other dances, answering to the 'Staffordshire Knot' name. This description is expanded from Brian Scowcroft's 3 Couple Sets collection (now on the wayback machine)

Form: 3 couple set

This is a dance for three couples; you are facing your partner as part of a 'set' of 6 people (a 'set' being the group of people dancing together).

The Music...

Originally written for jigs but works with 32 bar jigs, reels or hornpipes. If you are dancing to hornpipes, you'll have loads more time for the moves

The dance splits up into 4 parts, each part takes 8 bars of the 32 bar tune.
Typically the phrases of the music are described as 'A' parts and 'B' parts, the description of the dance refers to the four phrases, A1, A2, B1 and B2...

The Dance...

In this dance it is the people in the 'second place' who do most of the enjoying themselves. The second man is the one who has to be awake and start... (Don't worry, each couple will have their time in the 'number 2's place)

A1: Second Man and Third Lady, right hand turn. The man goes on to do a left hand turn with the First Lady

  • Second Man does a right hand turn with the bottom lady
  • Think you are in the middle of your line of men and facing across the set. The third lady is diagonally out to your right at the bottom of the set...

The man does not need to go back to place, the right hand turn happily flows into the left hand turn...

  • Second Man leaves the bottom lady, looks for the top lady and does a left hand turn with her.

It's a good trick for the first lady to realise that the man is most likely not going to know which way he's facing and who you are! Catch his attention, make sure your left arm is ready and there is no way he can miss it.

A2: Second Lady and First Man, right hand turn. Then left hand turn with the Third Man

As above, where the man looks diagonally to the right, this time it is the lady who looks diagonally out to her right. This is to the top of the set, not the bottom...

  • Second Lady does a right hand turn with the top man...
  • ... leaves the top man, sticks her left hand out and looks for the bottom man. Does a left hand turn with him.

Listen for the call, you may find the caller calls Second Lady and Third Man, left hand turn... for A2, there are a number of variations possible. Second Lady dancing with First Man does mean that she is moving in the right direction when it comes to the hey.

B1: Hey along the sides

Hey? Reel of Three? The descriptions Hey or Reel of Three are used interchangeably, you'll hear either called.

  • If you are at the top of the set (say, you are dancing as a man and are in the first man's position, the 'Red Arrow' in the image), face down
  • Otherwise face up...
    • If you are in 'number 2's position in the middle of the set, you have to actually remember to face up... the people at the bottom of the set will face up anyway as there is nowhere else reasonable to face :-)

You are dancing a 'figure eight' in your line and you want to get back to where you started.

This continues, with everybody weaving 'right shoulders/left shoulders' and doing broad turns at the ends; a turn to the right at the top of the set and a turn to the left at the bottom. See this in the animation

The two sides will be dancing parallel to each other. It is quite reassuring to look across the set and see your partner dancing the same track in his/her set.

B2: Top couple swing down

  • Top couple swing down to the bottom of the set
  • The others balance to their partner and swing when the top couple has got out their way.

At the end of the swing, everybody has 'progressed', that is they have moved to a new position. The man who was earlier at the bottom is now in second place and it is his turn to right hand turn the new third lady (who has just swung down the set and is looking forward to a rest)

Variations: Mixing it...

In the A2 part, when the second lady if heading off to the top man, it is quite possible for the second man just to continue. He's danced with the bottom lady, then the top lady, he can go on and dance with them again...

More information: Origins...

A dance written by Dave Hunt, 1974, published in John Reay's "Barn Dance Book", 1990.

The first figure is intended to follow the county symbol of Staffordshire which is an overhand knot showing the three loops. It is noticeable however that somewhere along the way the Staffordshire Knot dance has stopped looking quite like the Stafford(shire) knot.

See also...