One of the things about the Society which first attracted me was the dancing. Early in my S.C.A. life I found a tape of dances based on "Playford". Naturally I bought it thinking that we would be taught all the dances it contained. I was not far wrong, it just took longer than I expected.

We had already been taught "Jenny pluck Pears" and "The Spanish Gypsy". After about a year I was beginning to give up hope of learning the other dances when the Lochac Dance Manual came out with "Rufty Tufty". Shortly afterwards we were taught "Upon a Summer's Day" both at the college dance classes and the CREMS (Canberra Recorder and Early Music Society) Renaissance dance classes. A few weeks later two interpretations of "Grimstock" were taught. Since both these interpretations underwent some changes I saw how the interpretation process worked.

At about the same time a friend managed to get me a copy of Playford's "The English Dancing Master". So with tape, book and the indulgence of the St. Aldhelm dance classes we began to interpret more dances.

This manual assumes some knowledge of dance as done in Lochac. I have not tried to explain all the steps and formations completely. Where necessary I have resorted to using diagrams to show the movements. In these diagrams I have followed the convention used by Playford in his "Dancing Master" i.e. the astronomical sign of the moon for men and the sun for women.

I have split the dances into choruses and verses to help you remember them. Here I am using "everyone doing the same thing" as the meaning of chorus. Most of the country dances have as a first part two sets of two doubles followed by a Verse. Next come sidings and a Verse, followed by armings and a Verse.

The verses may be the same throughout the dance, as in Upon a Summer's Day, or they may be similar - one time the men do the verse, the next time the women dance it. They may also be variations on a theme - e.g. the "mirror hay" in Grimstock - or they may be totally different, as in some of the progressive dances.

The basic pattern

It is often said that English country dances follow the formula "Forward and back a double. Repeat. Chorus. Siding. Repeat. Chorus. Arming. Repeat.". This is indeed the pattern for many of the dances but not all.

It is also assumed that steps follow the left, right, left, right pattern associated with walking.

The Steps

Here I will attempt to clearly describe the dance steps used in these dances as performed in St. Aldhelm’s. Only the left steps are described, for right steps swap the words left and right.


Take a step with one foot and bring the other up beside it. This usually takes two beats of the music.

A single left forward means step forward on the left foot and bring the right foot up beside it.

A single left is denoted by SL, and a single right is denoted by SR.


Take a step with one foot; bring the other forward to take another step; bring the first forward to take another step; bring the other foot up beside the first foot. This usually takes four beats.

A single left forward means: step forward onto your left foot; bring the right forward past the left and take another step; bring the left forward past the right and take another step; bring the right up beside the left.

A double left is denoted by DL, and a right double by DR.

The Step Patterns

Arms All (ARMINGS)

Take your partner by the elbow and walk around each other back to your place. You have 8 beats/steps to do this in.

A left arming means take right arms and starting on your left foot walk around your partner.

If you are losing which foot the next step after the armings is on, try doing this as a set of two doubles, DL, DR, instead of the eight steps. This variation looks and feels right in some dances.

If the dance is fast or you have lots of energy, spin your partner as fast as you can. Just remember to get back to your places at the right time for the next step.

Forward and back a double

This is a double forward followed by another double backward to your starting place. "Lead up and back a double left" starts on the left foot, i.e. DL,DR.

If the dance is fast the doubles are not quite completed. Instead of ending with the feet together flat on the floor. The last foot is not placed flat but only the toe hits the ground. This makes it quicker to start the next step. It also gives the doubles a "bob" instead of a rise as in other dances.

Set and turn single

This is - single, single, turn single.

A left set and turn single means - left single, right single, left turn single.

Sides All (SIDINGS)

There are two main variations of these done in Lochac, one is based on singles and the other on doubles (see Appendix A for a description of five different types of sidings). In St. Aldhelm and Politarchopolis we use the one based on doubles.

Do a double to your partner's place. Your head should be turned to face your partner all the time. Turn your body only on the last step. Repeat this to get back to your place. In a left siding you pass by the right shoulder when moving to your partner's place, and by left shoulder when returning to your own place.

Turn single

This takes four beats (like a double). You to turn on the spot ending up facing in the direction of the next step.

A left turn single means turn over your left shoulder. Your left hand stays still and you go around it.

Turn x

Take x's hand and walk around them. This usually takes eight steps.

"Turn your own right" means take your partner's left hand and walk, or double (usually two doubles), around them starting with your right foot.

"Turn your corner left" means take your corner's right hand and walk, or double, around them starting with your left foot.

The hands can be held low as if walking hand in hand, or high like palming.

Turn out or Cast Off

This means that you turn away from the rest of the dancers in your group. Finish turning when your back is to your partner. This maneuver is usually done in combination with another step.

Back to back

This is the modern country dance's "Do-si-do". You and your partner go around each other in 8 beats/steps passing back to back. This is approximately 3 steps forwards two sideways passing back to back then 3 steps backwards to your place.

Hands all

Join hands in a ring. There are usually more instructions with this to say what to do with your feet.

Hands across

Put your hands in to form a cross. This is usually done with 4 people. As with Hands All it is not really a step but a formation which will also have a step described with it.

Slip steps

For example left slip steps are "step left with left foot then slide the right foot to the left so that it ends beside the left.

Who is who


For a lord this is usually the lady on his right. The lord on the lady's left is her partner.


This is the person who is on the same side as you in the formation. In some formations it is the person you are facing as in Rufty Tufty, or the person behind/in front of you as in Spanish Jeepsy. If you are facing into the set it is the person on the other side of you to your partner.

First man/woman

These are the people who are leading the dance. In some dances who is first changes during the dance, in others there is no change even when people change places.

Second man/woman

These are the second couple in the dance.