You stand next to your partner, facing across the set. There's a swapping of sides and back; a ladies chain and back. And at the end a crazy, mad, wild dash from the top of the set to the bottom
The standing next to your partner, facing across the set used to be called the Rifleman Formation. The term Becket Formation came over from the States (as per Contrafusion Notes)
A longways dance, but unusual for English Ceilidh as instead of the men being on one side of the set and the women on the other, you stand next to your partner and both look across the set to another couple. This is known as Becket Formation. The dance itself was earlier known as the Galopade.
The dance is in three parts, for most of it you dance back and forth across the set with the other couple but the last part is where the two couples closest to the band make a mad dash to the bottom of the set in a more (or less) elegant way.
Here the bold shows the headings as they appear in the Community Dances Manual, Book III, the annotations hopefully describe the detail.
This second part is sometime described as 'gateposts', meaning that the man really doesn't move much apart from turning three quarters of the way round to the left and leaving 'the lady' in the place his partner started. The men have stayed where they were and the ladies have changed position
You then do it again to get back to where you started. That is ...
There's more than one way that people do this...
The second part of the dance is a Ladies Chain, something more complicated to describe than do...
As above the move means that the ladies have changed position. The movement just flows on and you repeat the movement to get back to where you started.... (the second half of the Ladies' Chain)
There are at least two ways of doing this, the quickest and safest way is to dance (polka) down as couples. You are reasonably fast, maneuverable, and can get out the way in time if you run out of music. Recommended if you are in a very long or narrow set.
The second option is for the four people to cross their arms, form up into a tight circle (think like a four leaf clover) and spin down the set to the bottom. This movement is colloquially known as the Moulinex. Everyone else needs to step back a bit.
The rest of the set shuffles sideways up towards the band as the lunatics hurtle down to the bottom...
The Rifleman is most often done to a rant, a severe test of stamina and indeed the ankles if the dance goes on for any while.
As per the Contrafusion description, the original description of the stepping was that "A Polka or Double-Step is used throughout" and that ranting is a recent development.
The North West Morris community will take to this like a duck to water, the North West 'Polka' step is a rant by another name (and in clogs). The rest have to suffer the aide memoire of:
and so on. That is, it is a
rhythm where you cross your right foot across in front of the left and tap the heel of the ground for the ONE, this 'front foot' goes back it's proper side for a second tap and then both feet together. Repeat with the left foot in front...
The energetic can get away with this, and the really energetic can do the rant and get a bit of movement and grace in the dance. Fortunately it it also possible to fit an anonymous sort of soft shoe shuffle to the rhythm where it is substantially easier to move...
The person on the left, irrespective of gender, holds still and acts as a gatepost. The person on the right, irrespective of gender, does the ladies chain. Listen out for The Lefts, Gateposts and The Rights, Chain.
There's more than one way of doing a Ladies Chain, the description above is the one the most commonly met. However listen out for North Country Ladies Chain. It starts the same way:
But then the man stays facing forward:
This is a dance where the ladies have all the fun. In fact it's not until you try swapping places that the men realise quite how much fun the ladies are having. To find this out, swap places.
The Rifleman appeared in the English Dance & Song, November 1949, and was then published in the Community Dances Manual, book III.