Ladies Chain

Iain Boyd and Noeline O'Connor

Message 29195 · 21 Jan 2002 22:19:31 · Fixed-width font · Whole thread

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Greetings All,

I was not going to enter this discussion - for two reasons -

1. I have very strong views as to how this figure should be performed

and 2. There are just as many who have a contrary view and will not be
convinced.

However, I feel it is about time that someone stood up and stated how this figure
really should be danced in a _Scottish Country Dance_ context.

The form now current (ie. with the turn on the corner in the women's original positions)
is based on written descriptions of the formation as it was performed in quadrilles
and similar non-Scottish dances (see the description reproduced on page 11 of RSCDS
Book 34). This is also the form still used in modern American square dancing.

What needs to be taken into account is that this formation was originally performed
using walking steps _not_ skip change of step or strathspey travelling step.

Note also that in modern square dancing (and in contra dancing and, I think, in English
country dancing) the turn is on the spot and the man assists the woman round by placing
his right arm around the woman' waist. (The description in Book 34 suggests that
the turn is on the spot.)

However, I would suggest (in fact, I would state) that this is _not_ how the figure
should be performed in _modern_ Scottish country dancing.

When I first started dancing in the late 1950s the teachers, newly emigrated from
Scotland, taught the Ladies' Chain as follows -

Assuming normal starting positions with second couple on opposite sides -

1-2 The men dance along the side-lines with a shallow loop into the
place vacated by the woman originally beside them
while
the women turn with right hands three-quarters round to finish
on the side-lines in the place vacated by the man originally
opposite from them.

3-4 The men half-turn the opposite woman.

The women are required to give a firm grip and turn strongly during bars 1-2.

When the figure is danced this way there is a feeling of 'light and shade' or 'strength
and relaxation' between the two turns for the two women.

The covering that results from the turn on the side now frames the turn in the middle.
This really needs to be viewed from above to be appreciated.

Also, there are not the problems in getting back to the correct positions at the
end of the formation as occur when danced in the manner now advocated.

Admittedly, the new way is easier for the women.

However, it is a great deal harder for the men (who must dance round on the spot
at the beginning of the turns on the side then must return to places at the end of
the turn without any help from the women).

Also, the figure is unbalanced and usually becomes quite shapeless.

The diagrams in "Won't You Join The Dance" are not good but they do support my point
of view.

I still teach this form of the Ladies' Chain and try to dance it this way. It is
not always possible owing to the large number of older women who are unable to get
off the floor and dance and who find the new version quite adequate for them!

I would ask anyone teaching any of my dances with a Ladies' Chain to teach the figure
as I have described it as _that is what I want_. The dances were devised to utilise
the figure as I have described it.

Iain Boyd

Wellington
New Zealand

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