Figure Eight ~ Kentucky Square Dances

Figure Eight ~ Kentucky Square Dances Figure Eight ~ The Running Set Him and Her ~ Shaw Lady Round the Lady - Ford Lady Round the Lady - Hume Lady Round the Lady - Page

Figure Eight ~ Kentucky Square Dances is an Appalachian Circle Dance. It was published by Ida Levin in 1928 in Kentucky Square Dances. It is a Custom dance. It is a multipart dance. The minor set lasts 280 bars.

Ida Levin describes an early form of "square dancing" which is actually danced in a large circle. This bears some similarities to the dance which Cecil Sharp called The Running Set 10 years before.

Every "change" of a dance begins win an introduction, first Ida gives the calls for this:

  1. Join hands, circle left all the way around.
  2. Swing home
  3. Corners, too.
  4. Don't forget your partner

And then she explains what the calls mean:

  1. All couples join hands in a circle and walk to the left completely around.
  2. Partners join both hands and swing once around.
  3. Each gentleman joins both hands with the lady on his left and swings her once around.
  4. Each gentleman joins left hands with his partner and swings her once around

(At this time "Swing" was a generic term which meant roughly: "turn in a circle", it did not mean the modern partner swing.)

One essential figure for this style of dance is the do-si-do. This is not the standard back to back figure we all know. I will call it simply "do-si" so as to avoid confusion with the better known variant. Sharp, Levin and Shaw all give descriptions of the do-si-do and all of them are different. The following is how Levin says it should be called:

  1. Out to the right and circle four once around.
  2. Partners join left hands and swing half around.
  3. Give opposite your right hand and dance all the way around.
  4. Promenade, both hands joined.

Which means...

  1. First couple walks to the last couple, all four join hands in a circle and walk to the left completely around.
  2. Partners then join left hands and change places.
  3. Each gentleman joins right hands with the opposite lady and swings her completely around.
  4. Each gentleman takes his partner on his right and joins both hands crossed with the right above the left. The visiting couple passes to the right of the other one, around behind that couple's place and back to its own place in the circle. Simultaneously the other couple describes a circle following the visiting couple and finishes by turning into its own place.

After the introduction a "change" is performed. The first couple leads to the right and dances a particular figure with the second couple. Then the first couple moves right again to dance the same figure with the third couple. As they move on to the fourth couple the second couple moves right to dance with the third couple (at the same time). Both 1s&2s then move on to the 5s&4s. When they move on to the 6s&5s the third couple will start up with the 4th. And so on until everyone is dancing.

Quoted from Ida Levin:

A figure danced by all couples in the circle is called a Change. In each Change the first couple walks to the couple on the right, dances with this couple, then with the next couple on the right, and so on until it has danced with all the couples in the circle. In leading the lady to the next couple the gentleman takes her left hand in his right.

In the majority of these Changes, when the leading couple has danced with all but the last couple in the circle it does the Do si do (No 1) with this couple (...)

When the first couple moves on to the fourth couple, the second couple simultaneously walks to the couple on its right and begins dancing with this third couple (a couple must be careful not to lead off to the couple on the right too soon, and in order to avoid confusion the prompter may call "Next"). As each couple completes the trip around the circle it takes its own place in the circle and remains there, dancing with the other couples as they coume along.

When all the couples have danced the Change, the prompter calls "Swing home, corners too" (...)

...

Three Changes are called while the same couples are on the floor.

This example shows only one Change, not three. I have chosen the figure "Figure Eight".

Again Ida gives calls:

  1. Way to the left around the first lady.
  2. Back to the right around the gent.
  3. Circle four.
  4. On to the next.
  5. Next couple out to the right.
  6. Swing home, corners too.

and meaning...

  1. First gentleman, taking his partner's left hand with his right hand, leads her to the couple on the right, between this couple and around the lady.
  2. First gentleman continues leading her in a figure eight as follows: he leads to the left, then, turning to the right, leads her between this couple again and around the second gentleman.
  3. All four join hands in a circle and walk to the left completely round.
  4. First couple repeats 1, 2 and 3, with the next couple on the right.
    First couple continues in this manner until it has danced with all save the last couple, with whom it daces Do si do (No. 1)
  5. When the first couple moves on to the fourth couple the second couple simultaneously walks to the couple on its right and repeats 1, 2, 3 and 4.
    Repeat this figure until all the couples have danced.
  6. Each gentleman, joining both hands with his partner swings her once around, then joining both hands with the corner, that is, the lady on his left, swings her once around.

Ida gives two kinds of figures, some which can be danced in groups of 2 couples and fit into the framework described above, and some which require the whole set to be involved. Some of these whole set figures seem designed to be danced once to give people new and somewhat random partners for a round dance. Others seem to give everyone the "next" partner and presumably are intended to be repeated until everyone is back to their original home.

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.

The dance contains the following figures: hand turn (allemande), circle, figure eight (and probably others).

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.

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The dance is copyright © 1928 by Ida Levin. 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
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.