Bird in the Cage ~ The Running Set is an Appalachian Circle Dance. It was published by Cecil Sharp & Maud Karpeles in 1918 in The Country Dance Book (Part 5). It is a Square dance. It is a multipart dance. The minor set lasts 208 bars.
The Kentucky Running Set is the name Sharp gave to a style of dancing he found in the Southern Appalachians when he visited in 1917. The locals called the dances square dances even though they were often danced in large circles. Sharp, however, describes squares, and this is an attempt to follow his description.
This style of dance begins with a common introduction:
Each time a new figure is called, it begins with a "Grand Promenade." Sharp defines this as: partner two hand turn, corner two hand turn, promenade with partner half round, reverse direction (turn inward, without releasing hands), promenade back, partner two hand turn, corner two hand turn, partner promenade all the way around.
Then starts the first figure: the first couple moves right to the 2nd couple and does some figure with them. Then they move on to the next couple (3s) and do the same figure. Then on to the last couple and do the same figure. Then they do a do-si with that couple and promenade home.
Most of the time the "Little Promenade" comes between repetions of the figure.
Then the 2nd couple repeats the whole thing, starting with the 3rd couple.
Another "Little Promenade"
Then the 3rd couple.
Another "Little Promenade"
And finally the last couple.
At this point they would do the grand promenade again, and the 1st couple would start with a new figure, and so forth.
Sharp adds a paragraph at the end of Appendix B where he mentions that in one dance he watched the progression was slightly different: the second couple would start as soon as the 1st couple reached the fourth (rather than waiting until the 1st couple had finished with the fourth and were home). This is exactly the progression that Ida Levin describes in her Kentucky Square Dances book (and is topologically the same as the progression used in longways duple minor sets from 1650 to 1850).
Sharp writes that the "Little Promenade" consists of:
Men turn their partners half-way round (four steps), turn their contraries half-way round (four steps), rejoin their partners, cross hands, and move once round the circle, with them, counter-clockwise to places, men on the inside (i.e. on the left of their partners).
For this figure, Sharp writes:
First man leads his partner to the second couple and goes hands-three with the second couple around her.
First man, breaking hands with second woman, goes hands-five with second and third couples around his partner.
First man, breaking with third woman, goes hands-seven with second, third and fourth couples round his partner, and then, immediately the ring is forned, changes places with his partner, stands in the centre facing his station and executes a pas seul while the others dance round him to places.
The first woman should edge toward the center as the successive rings are formed around her, so that, when the seven ring is made she shall be in the centre of the set.
I assume a pas seul would be a clogging routine?
Hugh Stewart says that the active man should rejoin the circle after doing his pas seul. He also says that the woman should do something when in the cage and not be "a dead bird."
Lloyd Shaw's version of the dance has the woman turning against the motion of the outer circle (the man doing the same when he's in the middle).
The animation plays at 120 counts per minute normally, but the first time through the set the dance will often be slowed down so people can learn the moves more readily. Men are drawn as rectangles, women as ellipses. Each couple is drawn in its own color, however the border of each dancer indicates what role they currently play so the border color may change each time through the minor set.
If you find what you believe to be a mistake in this animation, please leave a comment on youtube explaining what you believe to be wrong. If I agree with you I shall do my best to fix it.
The dance is out of copyright in the US, but I'm not sure of other jurisdictions. My visualization of this dance is copyright © 2023 by George W. Williams V and is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
This website is copyright © 2021,2022,2023 by George W. Williams V
My work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Most of the dances have more restrictive licensing, see my notes on copyright, the individual dance pages should mention when some rights are waived.