My argument against 2-couple dances in 4-couple sets

I'm not sure I've ever written this post, and I just made reference in a bio that points at this blog, so here we go. If you don't dance Scottish Country Dance, this may not make the slightest bit of sense to you. That's okay.

I don't think two-couple dances should be danced in four-couple sets.

I wouldn't think of this as a particularly controversial statement to make, but I've gotten some very confused and blank looks when I've tried making this assertion. My reason is simple --I want to have as much dancing as possible. When you dance a two couple dance in a four couple set, at least traditionally, where only the 1s start as active, then the original 3s and 4s lose out on a round of dancing. I find that terrible.

(Don't believe me? The eight rounds of a two/four dance go like this, with italics meaning the couple is dancing and bold meaning they're active. Couples keep their original number throughout:


If you count it up, 1s dance six times (3 active), 2s six times (3 active), 3s five times (3 active) and 4s five times (2 active). 3s and 4s lose out on a round of dancing, with the 4s being deprived of one round as active.)

Luckily there are some very simple fixes to the problem, to ensure that everyone in the hall gets an equal amount of dancing (as it should be). My favourite is just encouraging the dance to be done in a three-couple sets instead, and the musicians play six times through.

You can also solve the problem by having the 1s and 3s start in the first round. I recognize that this is not the "proper" way to do things, but it makes it so everyone gets six rounds of dancing (and 3 rounds as the active couple). It may feel a little weird for the 3s, who spend one round active, then several rounds moving up the set before they are active again, but if contra dancers can manage that sort of weird reversal, us SCDers certainly can.

(When I'm being especially irreverent, I will also suggest the "solution" of having the musicians play the music nine times through instead of the typical eight, so that the 4s can finish their last round active. I suspect that this would lead to people tripping all over the dance floor in confusion, however, and would probably cause the 1s to start again, thereby not really solving the problem of inequitable dancing in the first place.)

So dear Scottish Dancers, here's my plea: I want to dance as much as possible. When I find myself as the third or fourth couple in a 2-couple dance, I know that I'm not going to get as much dancing as other people and I find that unfortunate. Please, encourage a dance floor where everyone gets in as much dancing as possible --stop regimenting your two-couple dances into strictly four-couple sets with only the ones active.

1 comment:

sneswhiz said...

Huh, I've always wondered why the bottom two couples didn't start the dance, but never ended up writing it out.

I also just noticed your link to jere7my's post about the fours casting to the bottom in a five couple set, and I don't think I ever realized fours traditionally stayed as twos. I'm not sure if I picked up my current behavior of casting down to the bottom based on copying other people or just assuming they cast to the bottom. (I've definitely been a four in a five couple once at least once and casted to the bottom, but I'm not sure if I have other than that.)