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.