Partner – The Man or Woman you are with.
Opposite – The person of opposite gender across from you in a Square dance for two couples.
Contrary – Similar to Opposite, but used in Longways and Circle dances to refer to the other person of opposite gender near you.
Corner – Also similar to Opposite, but used in larger Circle and Square dances to refer to the person of opposite gender on the other side of you from your Partner.
Neighbor – same as Side (person) – The other person of the same gender next to you.
The Presence – the seats or physical presence of any important personages present. Usually the top of the hall.



Circle Dance – All dancers are in arranged in a circle. With Partners, the Lord is on the Left because the Lady is always Right.

Square Dance – For two couples facing each other, with Partners side by side.

Duple Minor Longways – a progressive form of line dance that involves sets of two couples within the line. First Couples dance the figure with the Second Couples, then progress down the line to repeat the dance with a new Second Couple. The Second Couples, meanwhile, progress up the line. At either end, the Couple sits out one verse before coming back in in the new direction with the other number assigned.

Triple Minor Longways – like Duple minor longways, but with groups of three Couples, the Second and Third Couples progressing up the line.

Duple Minor Longways Repeated – like Duple Minor Longways, but rather than doing the entire dance before repeating with new 1st and 2nd Couples, the repeats happen in more than one verse

Longways – As Many As Will – Usually but not always Another progressive line dance, but only the First Couple progresses, working their way down the entire line. Or the dancers join in when the First Couple reaches them.

Progression – used in the longways dances, where the 1st Couple ends in the 2nd position, then repeats the dance with the next couple, and so on until everyone is back in their original position

Repeat down the line – Used in longways dances, where the 1st Couple repeats the figure with the next Couple and progresses down the line while the 2nd Couple progresses up the line. When they get to the end, they wait out one cycle and then repeat it back up. All the other “1st Couples” within each minor grouping also dance as 1st Couple, waiting out one cycle at each end of the line. When the dance only involves two couples, every other Couple takes the role of 1st Couple each time.

“The rest follow and do the same” is similar, where the 1st Couple does the dance and progresses down the line. Everyone else joins in doing the same once the 1st Couple has danced with them and there is another Couple to dance with.

“Do thus to all” or “Do this to the last” generally meant continuing the same figures and progressing down the line. Since the first Couple is doing all the work (and having all the fun), it could become dull for the rest of the dancers who spend most of the dance waiting for their turn. Eventually the other dancers started following and doing the same, allowing everyone to be more active in the dance. This collection tends to encourage the other dancers to follow and do the same, or to treat the dances more like “Duple Minor Longways” so the group does not have to just stand and wait for most of the dance.


Steps and Figures

(In general, steps are small, individual actions, while figures are more complicated and are made up of steps.)

Abreast – All involved are side by side.

Arming – Partners reach out gently grasp each other’s forearms (or link elbows, take hands, or put palms together), then circle around each other in eight steps back to position. Usually done with right arms (“arm right”) then left arms, whether with the same or a different person.

Back to Back – Two people go around each other back-to-back (modern do-si-do), passing by the right shoulders, then the left shoulders on the way back. If repeated, the second time is the opposite direction.

Balance – By itself is a more energetic form of a Set. Step with your left foot, then kick with your right foot across to the left. Then the same on the other foot. If this is too difficult, two regular Sets repeated will fill the same amount of music.

Balance Back – Generally a Single backwards, often in preparation for moving forwards

Cast Off Short – Begin as if casting up or down, but return immediately to your place. Similar to a Turn Single.

Cast Up/Down – Turn in place and go down behind one or more people to take their place in the line. If moving to the right, the turn should be over the left shoulder, etc. The people being passed should usually step in the other direction to offset the movement.

Change Places – Switch places with the other dancer, sometimes done taking both hands and going halfway around, ending in the other’s place.

Clap right and left – Clap your hands together, then your partner’s right, then yours, then your partner’s left.

Close – Come together again, often with both hands.

Cross over below – Usually means the Partners go across without holding hands to change places (passing right shoulders) then keep going around the other Couple, ending below them (rather than crossing through between them).

Double – Three steps and a close. In a triple meter, this is two steps and a close. Done both forward and backward, and even to the sides in Circle dances. When forward then immediately backward, do not put much weight on the right foot, then start the backward Double with the right foot. Note: Later period dances (i.e., after 1700) became more creative with doubles and singles, introducing different styles, such as using a fleuret step for the single, which was comprised of three small steps per measure. This allowed greater flexibility, loosened up the time restrictions a little, and could be danced to music with any number of beats per measure.

Embracing – Usually at a small distance. Bodies need not touch.

Fall Back – Moving backwards, often a Double

Foot it – It is still debated what this means, but most today see it as similar to a “Set,” maybe with a longer or more animated step. It usually takes as much time as a Set, but the dancer is encouraged to get fancy. Sometimes replaced with “dance” in a general way or suggesting that the previous step be done fancifully, such as “take hands half round and foot it.”

Go the Figure – Couple crosses through, as in a half Figure 8. When one couple does it, they cross through the other couple then go around the person, ending where their Partner had been. The Lady should go through first. This can also be done by an individual, starting by crossing through the middle between the other two people.

Go the Whole Figure – Couple or person performs an entire Figure 8 around another Couple, usually beginning by crossing through them, then going around, and crossing through again, going around the other person.

Gypsy – Same as back to back, but facing each other and maintaining eye contact. This is not a period term, but it easily encapsulates the figure for a modern dancer.

Half Hey – Same as Hey, but only halfway, ending up with the line in reverse order.

Hands – Perform the action while holding hands.

Hands All and Circle – Dancers take hands in a circle and move to the right or left as directed.

Hey (Circular Hey) – Similar to the Vertical Hey, but going around the circle instead of in a line. The 1st Couple passes each other by the Right shoulders, with everyone else alternating the directions they face. Half the group will circle clockwise and the other half clockwise, until all have reached their original places.

Hey (Vertical Hey) – A weaving pattern where the dancers are in a line and move around each other, alternating sides as they go. When the end of the line is reached, the dancer turns over the same shoulder by which they just passed someone, then comes back in to pass the next person by that same shoulder again, continuing up the line, everyone ending in their original positions. A Hey is usually done without hands; with hands, it is like a linear version of a grand right and left.

Honouring – Bowing to the person, implying acknowledgement of their presence and your thanks for dancing with you.

Improper – The man in the woman’s position and the woman in the man’s position.

Inside Hand – the hand closest to your Partner

Kissing – Usually the hand or sometimes the cheek. Hugs are also fine.

Lead out to the wall – go away from the line toward the walls on the sides

Lead Up/Down -Partners take hands and move forward in the direction indicated.

Meet – Dancers move toward each other, nod (not a full Reverence), and often fall back to their original position.

Minuet Step – generally consists of the following: Step, feet together (rise to toes and fall), step, step, step, feet together (rise and fall), and takes two measures to complete.

Not turning your faces – Playford sometimes used this term and the meaning has been debated since Cecil Sharp revived the English Country Dance Tradition. In general, it will be interpreted here as a gypsy.

Open – Step apart, still holding inside hands.

Put Back (Poussette) – Take both hands of the woman opposite and go forward a Double (putting the woman back).

Right and Left – Take right hands with your Partner or the person mentioned and change places with them, then take left hands with the next person and change place with them, and so on.

Right hands across – All dancers indicated put their right hands together and turn clockwise. Can also be done the other direction with left hands across.

Saluting – Not a military salute, but rather a greeting. Typically kissing the hand, but honouring is also acceptable.

Set – A step or light hop sideways onto the left foot, with the right foot closing. Usually repeated to the right side as well. Think of it as a Single to the left, then a Single to the right. Can be done forward toward a person as well as sideways. A Set is most often done facing someone (“Set to your partner”), though in some circle dances it can be done facing the center. If no specific directions are given, Set facing your partner.

Set Sides – A combination of Set and Side, where the Set is performed slightly forward and may involve hopping back and forth between both feet.

Siding – Facing your partner, both go a Double forward and slightly to the left, so that right shoulders line up (this is a “side right”), then a Double back to position. When repeated with the same or another person, you will usually pass on the other side (“side left”). Right and Left refer to the shoulders lining up. Partners usually look at each other during this time, making it an ideal opportunity for flirting in the social dance.

Single – A step and a close, resulting in the weight on both feet. Done both forward and backward. Note: Later period dances (i.e., after 1700) became more creative with doubles and singles, introducing different styles, such as using a fleuret step for the single, which was comprised of three small steps per measure. This allowed greater flexibility, loosened up the time restrictions a little, and could be danced to music with any number of beats per measure.

Slip – Dancers take sideways steps without turning their hips, the second foot generally sliding across the floor to meet the first foot.

Turn Single – A measured turn in place done individually (rather than a spin). Turn over your shoulder and around in place using four small steps. If done right after a Set, the turn is done in the direction of the first step of the Set.

Turn Two-Hands – Partners take both hands and go around each other, either halfway or all the way around, as directed. If a turn is with another dancer, it is usually assumed to be with both hands and all the way around.

Additional Notes

In earlier period, movements usually begin with the left foot, though modern English Folk Dance groups differ on this. By the 19th century, the dances would begin with the right foot.

Most figures begin with the left foot or turning to the left. When siding, arming, or going the Hey or the Figure 8, begin by passing right shoulders. When stepping backwards, the right foot is usually preferred.

Many tunes were raised a whole step as of the 17th Edition.

When numbering couples in a Circle or Square dance, the numbering generally goes clockwise.