Hands Four ~ The Running Set

Hands Four ~ 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 236 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.

One common figure is something called "do-si-do" (which is nothing like the back to back figure I grew up with). I use the term "do-si" for the figure "do-si-do" to distinguish it from the modern usage, (Sharp also did this).

Sharp's version of the "do-si-do" is different from that Ida Levin describes in Kentucky Square Dances, 1928, and different again from what Lloyd Shaw describes in Cowboy Dances, 1939

Two couples face. Men turn their partners half-way round with left hands, pass each other by the right (moving sideways, right shoulders forward, back to back), turn their contraries half-way round with right hands and return to places, passing each other by the left (back to back, left shoulders forward). This movement, which is known as the Do-si-do or the Do-si, is then repeated.

At the conclusion of the repetition, men turn their partners once round with left hands, cross hands with them and dance round a small circle, counter-clockwise, each couple breaking off and proceeding to its original station.

The half turns in the Do-si-do must be executed at great speed and with bent arms, each performer describing as small a circle as possible. In crossing over between the turns the men should arch there backs and pass as closely to each other as they can.

Sharp mentions that these dances are always called: Normally, the caller recites certain prescribed verbal phrases, a mixture of prose and doggerel rhyme that, in the course of time, has become stereotyped. Sharp provides an appendix with the calls used at one of the dances he saw. Sadly I don't understand the calls he gives.

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).

In this example I show the simplest figure of all, (a circle four hands round). According to Ida Levin the call for this figure is "Dance 'em round."

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.

An online description of the dance may be found here.

1-6Introduction: Circle left
7-8Partner two hand turn
9-10Corner two hand turn
11-16Promenade partner home
17-20Heads circle four
29-34Left hand turn and promenade home
35-38Sides circle four
47-52Left hand turn and promenade home
Grand Promenade
1-4Grand Promenade: Partner two hand turn
5-8Corner two hand turn
9-12Promenade half round
13-16Turn inward to face back and promenade home
17-20Partner two hand turn
21-24Corner two hand turn
25-32Promenade once around
1-4$1 couple lead right and circle four
5-8On to the next and circle four
9-12On to the last and circle four
21-26Left hand turn and promenade home
Little Promenade
1-4Little Promenade: Partner two hand turn
5-8Corner two hand turn
9-16Promenade once around
Little Promenade
Little Promenade

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 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 © 2021,2022,2023,2024 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.