Crossing Patterns

For several years I went contra dancing pretty regularly.  Contra is usually done in long sets, with a long line of dancers facing another, but periodically callers include dances in other sets: short sets with a definite number of couples (usually 3 or 4) , square (and interlocking grid square), and – based on my observations probably the public favorite – four-facing-four sets.  In a normal contra the lady and gentleman in each couple are in a different line and progress up or down their respective lines together: with four-facing-four, the dance occurs in a short set of four couples, but the progression of the dance is down a set of sets stacked up parallel to each other down the hall.  It’s as complicated as it sounds but not too hard to do.

At any rate the four-facing-four always provoked the thought, “Why stop there?” and thus vaguely witty remarks I would make about writing a dance six-facing-six – same concept, but each short set with six couples or a dozen people.  A friend eventually asked me why I didn’t actually write such a dance instead of just talking about it, so I finally did.  Not that I’ve ever written another dance: some definite running before walking here.

That probably has a lot to do with the final result, which is pretty involved, and maybe more complicated than it has to be: my primary considerations were the “overhead view” and figuring out how to get the progressions to work.  Four-facing-four dances usually have the couples switch sides with the other couple they progress with: to do the corresponding thing with a six-facing-six meant somehow shifting the short set each time.

Here are the complications:

  • The A1 figures are differentiated between side couples and middle couples (although it would be a simpler call for all couples to do the same figures at once this is where the “overhead” consideration came in)
  • There’s a series of quick rights and lefts that don’t all go the same direction (in fact I’m not sure I’ve seen rights and lefts on a left diagonal, though I don’t see why it wouldn’t work)
  • Although the final progression is single in line of dance, the majority of the dance works out to almost a complete reverse progression with quick double progression at the end to return.  It shouldn’t gum up the ends too badly, as they wind up involved in most of the dance, but the final double progression will necessitate a quick turn around to pull back through with the next “outs”.  Ideal might be a circle rather than a line if numbers and space allow.

Start six-facing-six.  Within the short sets, there are four “side” couples (two on each end of the short set) and two “middle” couples.

  • A1 (8) sides balance & California twirl to face a new couple while middles star right; (8) middles balance and California twirl to face while sides star right with new couple
  • A2 (8) rights and lefts on right diagonal (8) sides do-si-do while middles half hey
  • B1 (8) rights and lefts on right diagonal (8) rights and lefts on left diagonal
  • B2 (8) partner swing (8) pull by right, pull by left (in line of dance for large set)

I wrote this a couple years ago and it’s been sitting in one of my random stuff boxes, but that’s a silly thing to do with a dance so now I’m posting it on the blog.


Periodically, colleges and universities in the United States change what sports leagues – colloquially known as “conferences” they are aligned with under the NCAA umbrella.  In contrast, in the NFL these changes are usually driven by teams having been added to the league.  In addition, for several years, NFL wonks have been considering, to various degrees of formality, adding a 17th game to the regular season schedule.

I’m all in favor, actually, because it would be really easy to do by realigning the NFL’s eight current absurdly small four-team divisions into four eight-team ones.  The requisite two games against each division opponent, plus my favorite quirk of the NFL’s competitive balance scheme, scheduling games against teams with equivalent finishes the previous year in other divisions, yields a neat 17 games.

The NFL playoffs have a near-perfect balance of just deserts and drama at 12 teams, so I’d keep that: the four division winners, plus eight wild cards based on record, though I’d be inclined to do overall seeding by record, 1 to 12.  If the NFL would prefer to keep up the polite fiction of separate conferences, the divisions could be aligned two and two and each seeded 1-6, it doesn’t really matter.

There’s no convenient way to carry out the new alignment, though – or is there?  As long as one doesn’t scuffle too much over the NFL’s history, there are actually some lovely logical arrangements just waiting to be made, based on the names – though not the actual geographical footprints – of some of college’s classic conferences.  With that as a reference, here is my proposed NFL realignment:

  • Big East: Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, New York Giants, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Redskins
  • Mid-American: Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings
  • Mountain West: Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, Oakland (Las Vegas) Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks
  • Southeastern: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans

See?  Easy!