Circassian Circle ~ RSCDS

Circassian Circle ~ Burchenal Circassian Circle ~ Wilson The Sicilian Circle Circassian Circle ~ Lowes Circassian Circle ~ RSCDS

Circassian Circle ~ RSCDS is a Scottish Country Dance. It was devised by G.M.S. Chivers in 1822 and published in The Modern Dancing Master, London. It was interpreted by RSCDS in 1924 and published in RSCDS Book 1. It is R32 2C/2C Round the Room, an improper duple minor longways dance. R32.

This is the original name for the dance we now call "Sicilian Circle", a term that has come to mean a way of dancing a minor set dance in a circle instead of longways. But once upon a time there was a dance with the name. (Circassia is (or was) a region on the northeastern shore of the Black Sea).

I do not have access to the 1822 version, the earliest I have found is Lowes' Ball-Conductor and Assembly Guide (Edinbourgh, ~1831) where they write:

The Circassian Circle

Is a circular Country Dance, for which the party is arranged, as for Quadrilles, across the room; the four at the top commence first, and change sides at the end of the firgures, they continue to repeat them with all the couples down the opposite sides of the room, crossing over at the bottom, and continuing till they arrive at their original places; all the other couples must also continue, after they commence, till they make the circuit of the room; and when all have regained their places, the dance is finished

First Circassian Circle

Ladies chain, set and turn partners, right and left, hands four half round, and turn partners, changing places.

I'm not sure I understand the Lowe's set-up description, but I think they are describing a hall full of two couple quadrille sets (that is improper duple minor lines), lined up along each side wall of a building. In keeping with the staggered start in use for country dances at the time, only one set start dancing, as they move down the first line the dancers behind them will also start, then when they reach the bottom instead of becoming 2s and working their way up, the cross over to the other line, and work their way up. When they reach the top of the other line they stop and wait until everyone else has reached their original position but in the other line.

The Lowes sometimes quoted Chivers word for word, so it is possible this is Chivers' version too.

The next version I've found is Wilson, 1852.

Wilson writes:

Couples vis-a-vis; form a circle round the room; figure, right and left or hands across; set and turn partners; ladies chain; waltz pass on to next couple; repeat.

Wilson defines "Right and Left" on page 15 of The Art of Dancing and it involves no hand clasps.

The tune is a traditional one from the US Revolutionary war, and the music was synthesized by Colin Hume's software.

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 (no music plays during this slow set). 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.

An online description of the dance may be found here.

A11-8Face opposite: rights and lefts
A21-4Set twice to partner
5-8Partner two hand turn
B11-8Open ladies chain, over and back

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.

If you wish to link to this animation please see my comments on the perils of youtube. You may freely link to this page, of course, and that should have no problems, but use one of my redirects when linking to the youtube video itself:

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The dance itself is out of copyright, and is in the public domain. The interpretation is out of copyright in the US, but I'm not sure of other jurisdictions. My visualization of this dance is copyright © 2021 by George W. Williams V and is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This website is copyright © 2021,2022,2023,2024 by George W. Williams V
Creative Commons License 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.