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Information - Taking the Floor

Moving from an intimate class setting to a thronged ballroom floor can be a challenge to newer dancers. Here are a few explanations of the way things usually work. Thanks to Mel Briscoe, whose "Unwritten Rules of Scottish Country Dancing" provided many of these ideas:

Giving Hands

Aside from the man giving palms up when taking two hands and the shaking-hands hold when taking one hand, it is better to take hands as they are offered and not worry about too many rules. Some dancers choose to observe other pleasant conventions, however. In a line of three, the centre dancer may give palms up, and when circling right hands may be given palms up and left hands palms down. Four hands across are stabilized when dancers take hands with those diagonally opposite. In three hands across, all three hands may be clasped together or alternatively the supporting couple may give the shaking hands hold as 1st man or woman places a hand on top.

"Extra" Joined Hands

Please try not to miss the warm-up period before dancing class. It serves two purposes: to improve technique and prevent muscle injury. If you miss the warm-up you should do some foot and leg stretching on the sidelines.

Helping Other Dancers

If you are trying to help less experienced dancers in the set, please remember that they can easily reach a state of information overload if too many people are shouting instructions. A simple gesture from their partner is a much less intrusive way of helping them. If you are about to turn a less experienced dancer, bringing up the hand a little early can help them anticipate what is coming.

Counting Sets

We may believe that traditional etiquette requires the 1st man in each line to count the sets. In fact, the Manual specifies that "appointed stewards" should do the counting (in earlier years of dancing in Vancouver, it was done by "floor managers"). These days, the counting is often done by 1st couple together - it is up to the 1st couple to decide their preference. When lines have been counted, 1st man or 1st couple should stay at the bottom and signal to the MC how many couples are still needed.

Getting to the Bottom

When 1st couple dancers have completed their second turn in a three-couple dance, they should slip to the bottom as unobtrusively as possible as the new top couple begins. If possible, they pass behind the couple who have been at the bottom, especially if that couple is needed immediately in 3rd place. Then the new 3rd couple may need to dance up into the figure, as in the opening reel of "Maxwell's Rant."

Set Arrangement

When lines are crowded and space is free elsewhere in the room, sets may decide to move (or be asked to move by the MC). They should be careful to move as an entire set. In round-the-room dances like "The Dashing White Sergeant," a second circle can be formed inside the first.

Five-couple Sets

When an extra couple has joined a set, 4th and 5th couples each have one turn as top couple. 4th couple may take their turn and slip to the bottom as the 5th couple starts. However, a neater method which also gives more dancing time to the 4th couple is for 4th couple to stay in 2nd place as the 5th couple take their turn.

Final Circles

Dances ending in "six hands round and back" draw everyone together; hence dances like "Reel of the Royal Scots" and "Mairi's Wedding" are good choices for the final dance of the evening. The original 1st couple, who would be' standing out. at the top, are usually invited to join the circle. Occasionally, all the sets in an entire line join in a single, very elongated circle, especially in the final dance of the evening.

Signalling Encores

At the end of a dance, the MC must quickly interpret the wishes of the dancers and convey them to the band leader. Loud applause as the sets break up means that dancers have thoroughly enjoyed the music but do not wish to repeat the dance. (This often happens towards the end of an evening when the dancers are in a state of happy exhaustion.) Loud applause with the sets staying together may mean that the dancers want an encore. Raising one finger for "once and to the bottom" or two for "twice and to the bottom" also helps the MC gauge the mood of the dancers.

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