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A1
By Rick Mohr; December 2004
Contra, Becket
Level: Intermediate
A1: (On left diagonal) Right and left through (8)
Women allemande right 1 1/2 (8)
(Join left hands with neighbor to form a wave of four)
A2: Balance the wave (4)
Allemande left with neighbor 3/4 (4)
Swing next neighbor (8)
B1: Men allemande left 1 1/2 (8)
(Join right hands with partner to form a wave of four)
Balance the wave (4)
Allemande right with partner 3/4 (4)
B2: Allemande left with shadow (6)
Swing partner (10)

An accessible dance with some nice symmetries and a "two steps forward and one step back" progression.

Dancers are next to their shadows at the beginning of the dance. If you introduce them before the walk-through they might still remember each other in B2.

For Bill Olson, an A1 caller, musician, and human being, in honor of many great times at the A1 Diner in Gardner Maine before the North Whitefield dance. "A1" is also the beginning of a contradance, and if Bill's there it's bound to be great.


Anna's Reel
By Rick Mohr; March 19, 2003
Contra, Becket
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
A1: Women allemande right 1 1/2 (8)
(Join left hands with neighbor to form a wave of four)
Balance the wave (4)
Allemande left with neighbor 3/4 (4)
A2: Allemande right with next neighbor 1 1/4 (7)
Half hey (women pass left shoulders to start) (9)
B1: Women balance and swing (16)
B2: Swing partner (16)
A1: Men allemande left 1 1/2 (8)
(Join right hands with neighbor to form a wave of four)
Balance the wave (4)
Allemande right with neighbor 3/4 (4)
A2: Allemande left with next neighbor 1 1/4 (7)
Half hey (men pass right shoulders to start) (9)
B1: Men balance and swing (16)
B2: Swing partner (16)

I love Tom Hinds's dance "Fisher's Jig", where the women balance and swing each other in the center and then whirl around for a partner swing. But why just the women? This dance uses Tom's idea in a different set of figures so the men and women each get to do the swing, as they alternate leading the sequence in successive rounds of the dance.

Note that after the women lead the figure everyone ends on the "wrong" side of the set; then the men lead the figure and everyone gets back home. Because "home" keeps changing, dancers swinging in the middle should keep track of their partner so as to whirl into the arms of the right person! The transition from swing to swing can be a thrill if the middle people trust their partners, throw their arms in the air and pivot around expectantly. The side people, right on the money, put a left hand on partner's back, wrapping that pivot straight into a "hoop hold" swing.

Because dancers don't necessarily know how to do a same-sex swing it can help to teach it while everyone is still proper. (There's something ironic about that term in this context...) Even so, the men aren't always as enthusiastic about swinging each other as the women are. Probably they just need extra encouragement and a little practice? Or should we just stick with Fisher's Jig?

For Anna Patton, talented and heartful musician, dancer, and singer from Brattleboro VT, who likes interacting with everyone in the set.


Balance and Cross
By Rick Mohr; May 2010
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Easy/Intermediate
A1: Balance the ring (4)
Men cross, passing right shoulders (4)
Swing partner (8)
A2: Down the center, four in line (turn as a couple) (8)
Return (bend the line to form a circle) (8)
B1: Balance the ring (4)
Women cross, passing right shoulders (4)
Swing neighbor (8)
B2: Long lines forward and back (8)
Half hey (women pass right shoulders to start) (8)

A straightforward dance with good symmetry and timing.


The Barn Mixer
By Rick Mohr; August, 1986
Mixer, Scattered 4's
Level: Easy
A1: Circle left (8)
Right hand star (8)
A2: Right and left through (8)
Dosido neighbor (8)
B1: Balance and swing neighbor (16)
(This is your new partner)
B2: Promenade anywhere with new partner (16)
(Find another couple to circle with)

Summer dances in New Haven Connecticut are held in the beautifully rough-hewn Eli Whitney Barn, which has a long narrow space next to (and about five inches below!) a shorter space. It's perfect for longways sets but dismal for circles, so in need of a mixer I wrote this "scatter promenade" dance. It has turned out to be a reliable crowd pleaser; the chaos factor from the scattering is great for loosening people up early in the evening.

Bill Olson (fine caller from Maine and all-around great guy) points out that doing a Maine-style right and left through (with hands) in the A2 makes for a nice transition out of the right hand star. Thanks, Bill!


The Birds and the Bees
By Rick Mohr; January 2015 (original February 2008)
Grid Square,
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
A1: Heads forward and back (8)
All circle left half way around (8)
A2: Heads circle left 3/4 (6)
Heads pass through (2)
Heads split sides, separate around one to lines of four (8)
B1: Lines of four forward and back (8)
Opposing women allemande left 1 1/2 (8)
(Face opposite squarely, lining up across the hall)
B2: Balance opposite (4)
Grand right and left two changes across the hall (4)
Balance the one you meet (from another square) (4)
Grand right and left two changes across the hall (4)
C1: Balance and swing the one you meet (from yet another square) (16)
C2: (Heading toward partner) Into the center and back (8)
Swing corner (8)
D1: Men star left 3/4 (6)
Pull by partner (2)
Women star left (8)
D2: Balance and swing partner (16)
  (Repeat with sides active)

To set up the grid have each square join hands in a ring, and line up the squares in rows and columns. Make sure they're straight, with no gaps. You need 9 squares minimum, the more the better. If any row has only one square, move a square from a different row—for example, 3+3+2+2 is better than 3+3+3+1.

Pause in the walkthrough after the B1. Everyone is facing an opposite (each woman is in the center facing a man on the side), and beyond them can see a file of other facing pairs across the hall. Have everyone spot their partner in the other file—women look diagonally behind and men look diagonally ahead.

The grand right and left takes you to a different square. Crucial point—if there's no one to pull by (when you hit the edge of the grid), turn around and stay in the same file. Don't switch to the other file.

The forward and back in C2 will solidify the new squares, but dancers may be disoriented after the swing in C1. The simple solution is to head for your partner (in the same relative diagonal position where you spotted them after the B1). I call "Look for your partner!"

Heads and sides alternate leading the A1-A2. (When sides lead, the grands right and left go up and down the hall instead of across.) In successive changes heads remain heads and sides remain sides, but couples swap roles at the edge of the grid so everyone gets thoroughly mixed around.

Named for a memorable day at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown NC, with a morning bird walk led by Frank Clayton and an afternoon extracting 150 pounds of wildflower honey produced by the school's bees. (So I finally learned about the birds and the bees in my forties...) If you want a visual, B2 is the birds migrating and C2 is the bees swarming.


Bobsled
By Rick Mohr; November 2014
Grid Square, 4-Face-4
Level: Intermediate
A1: Lines of four forward and back (8)
Swing corner (8)
(End in a square)
A2: Head couples forward and back (4)
Side couples right and left through (4)
Head couples left hand star (8)
B1: Balance and swing partner (16)
(End in lines at the sides)
B2: Lines of four forward and back (8)
California twirl (4)
Pass through one line of four to meet the next (4)
  (Repeat with sides leading the A2, and lines at the heads in B2)

A fun grid square with a contra-length sequence, where everyone gets thoroughly mixed around. To set up the grid have dancers line up for a Becket contra and then take hands 8. Make sure the 8's line up across the hall (feel free to walk out there and help), and then form a 4-face-4 up and down the hall.

Make a square in A1 after swinging your corner, who is next to you if you're in the middle of the line and across from you if you're at the end of the line.

Head couples and side couples alternate leading the A2. No one is with their partner at that point, but in successive changes heads remain heads and sides remain sides (until hitting an edge and swapping roles).

The three figures in A2 overlap—sides start a right and left through as the heads back up from the center, and heads then start a left hand star as the sides begin their courtesy turn. I call

(1) (2) (3) (4) Head couples forward and back
(1) Sides, right and left through (5) Heads, left hand star

End the B1 swing in lines of four. In successive changes the lines form alternately at the sides and at the heads, facing the direction of the couple who did the right and left through. To help dancers stay oriented at this point I call "Face across the hall" or "Face up and down the hall" before "Lines go forward and back".

After the California twirl in B2, walk straight ahead to pass through one line of four and meet the next line. If there's nobody there just do another California twirl to face back in (but don't try to trade places with the other couple—it spoils the mixing.)

In the A1 line of four walkthrough it can help the dancers to hear that middles will do the forward and back in A2 and ends will do the right and left through.

For Bob Isaacs, prolific composer of fine dances, grid square innovator, mentor to new callers, and all around nice guy. Until Bob did it I didn't think a good grid square could be shoehorned into 64 beats, inspiring me to write this one for him.


California Clover
By Rick Mohr; May 2003
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate
A1: (Join hands in a wave of four—men left, neighbors right)
Balance the wave (4)
Allemande right with neighbor 3/4 (4)
Swing next neighbor (8)
A2: Circle left 3/4 (8)
Balance the ring (4)
California twirl with neighbor (4)
B1: (Keeping hands, face neighbor and form cloverleaf by reaching across to join free hand with partner)
Balance the cloverleaf (4)
Nevada twirl with partner (4)
Swing partner (8)
B2: Long lines forward and back (8)
Men allemande left 1 1/2 (8)

This is a nice dance with a different way of forming a "cloverleaf".

Even though the dance technically begins by progressing I find the setup is simpler if I skip the initial balance and allemande, starting the walk-through with a long neighbor swing. I start the dance that way as well.

The transition from A2 to B1 is novel but not difficult. After the California twirl with your neighbor, keep hands and turn to face each other. Then reach your free hand over your joined hand to take your partner's hand and form the cloverleaf. After balancing the cloverleaf, let go of your neighbor's hand—now partners' hands are set for the "Nevada twirl" (a "California twirl" with opposite hands). Raise joined hands and trade places, with the woman ducking under the arch. As partners pass, men are to the outside of the set and women inside.

Many thanks to Susan Petrick and Nils Fredland for convincing me this dance was a keeper, by calling it after its trial run at the Scout House and bugging me to give it a name!


Centennial Reel
By Rick Mohr; March 2015
Contra, Duple Proper
Level: Intermediate
A1: Long lines forward and back (8)
Right and left through (chestnut-style) (8)
A2: First lady and second gent (right-hand person of each pair) cross, passing right shoulders (2)
Gypsy and swing partner (14)
B1: Down the center, four in line (6)
Sliding doors (trade places as couples and turn alone) (4)
Return (face center, still in line of four) (6)
B2: 3/4 hey (center couple pass right shoulders to start) (12)
Other couple push off (forming new long lines in progressed places) (4)

For the centennial anniversary of the Country Dance and Song Society.

Choreography has evolved hugely in the 100 years CDSS has been promoting contra dancing. This dance includes some figures from 100 years ago, some just hitting the scene, and some from the years in between.

The dance starts proper (gents in one line, ladies in the other) as did most dances 100 years ago. Back then all dancers knew the chestnut-style "right and left through", but these days it will be unfamiliar to many. Same-role neighbors pass through across (without taking hands) and do an arm-around cast on the other side—right-hand person goes forward, left-hand person backs up. If your community does "right and left through" with hands, try calling "pass through" and "arm-around cast" instead.

Down the center four in line is a staple of many old dances. Here it appears with the emerging "sliding doors" figure, where couples dynamically trade ends of the line. Here's one way to teach it: "Go down the hall six steps, and stop. Stay facing down. Right hand couple take a step forward. When I say go, still facing down, as couples move sideways to trade places with the other couple. Go! Now turn alone to face the music."

Some call this figure "tag the line", the name of a related figure in Modern Western square dancing. But "sliding doors" is preferred as the two figures are somewhat different.

After returning in the line of four, dancers face in and the center couple (second lady and first gent) pass right to start the hey. When the other couple (first lady and second gent) meet in the center for the second time they push off with both hands, moving back and left to end proper and progressed.

Heys are everywhere in English and Scottish dancing but weren't used in contras until modern times. According to Tony Parkes the first modern contra with a hey is thought to be Ted Sannella's "Bonny Jean," written in 1975. More recently the hey inspired improvising dancers to invent "push offs".

As the dance begins again with forward and back, dancers should shift focus to their new neighbors, doing the right and left through with a new person.


Chuck the Budgie
By Rick Mohr; August, 1991
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Easy/Intermediate
A1: Men allemande left (6)
Swing neighbor (10)
A2: Circle left 3/4 (6)
Swing partner (10)
B1: Long lines forward and back (8)
Women allemande right 1 1/2 (8)
(Join left hands with neighbor to form a wave of four)
B2: Balance the wave (4)
Allemande left with neighbor 3/4 (to long wave) (4)
Balance the long wave (4)
Allemande right with next neighbor 3/4 (4)

There's a fine fiddle tune called "Pat the Budgie" with sharply punctuated notes in the B2 which cry out for balances. This dance provides the balances in the right spots and otherwise moves along pretty well.

"Budgie" is slang for "Budgerigar" (a type of small parrot) as well as, I'm told, for "logger". Whichever the tune refers to, we're left with the tormenting question of whether it commemorates a notable budgie named Pat or the act of patting some nameless budgie on the head. We may never know; likewise with the dance.


Colin's Carnival Ride
By Rick Mohr; January 2008
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate
A1: Half hey (men pass left shoulders to start) (6)
Allemande right with neighbor 1 1/2 (8)
Men pull across by the left (2)
A2: Balance and swing partner (16)
B1: Circle left 7/8 (leaving men at the sides and women in the center) (8)
Women allemande right 3/4 (4)
(Join left hands with neighbor to form a wave of four)
Balance the wave (4)
B2: Allemande left with neighbor 3/4 (4)
Swing next neighbor (12)

A good all-moving dance with some nice moments, like the just-in-time balance and swing in A2 and the uncommon swing progression in B2.

This dance is particularly great if the band knows a tune with a balance at the end of the B1. Many rags (such as Beaumont Rag) have a "stop" in just the right place, as does Bowin' the Strings (recorded by Rodney Miller and Airdance on "Flying On Home").

Technically this dance doesn't start in the normal "improper" formation, but don't tell the dancers. Begin the first walk-through with a neighbor swing; then when you're ready to start the dance leave everyone next to the neighbor they've just swung rather than backing up to original places.

For Colin Davidson of Georgetown Ontario; commissioned by his wife Sandy Cameron in a Pinewoods auction.


Come With Me
By Rick Mohr; May, 2014
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
A1: (New) women cross, passing left shoulders (2)
Right shoulder gypsy with partner (6)
Circle left (men lead partner) (8)
A2: Pass through across (3)
Swing partner (13)
B1: Men cross, passing right shoulders (2)
Left shoulder gypsy with neighbor (6)
Circle right (women lead neighbor) (8)
B2: Women turn out and back (3)
Swing neighbor (13)

Gypsy-to-circle is a rare and fine transition. This dance offers it with contrasting symmetries—clockwise with partner (led by the men), and counter-clockwise with neighbor (led by the women).

In A1 new women look right, and cross by left shoulders; men should step left to flow into the partner gypsy. After once around, women can connect everything by placing left hand in the man's right as he leads into the circle.

Men start the B1 passing right shoulders, which flows smoothly out of the partner swing if the men can suspend their usual instinct to pass left. Women should step right to flow into the left-shoulder gypsy. After once around, men can connect everything by placing right hand in the woman's left as she leads into the circle right. After circling, women cast right and back to flow into the neighbor swing.

The timings given above are approximate; in my experience, different foursomes dance with different timings (often starting the A2 and B2 later than indicated) but it all works out.

Thanks to Kathy Anderson for pointing out how to connect the gypsy-to-circle transition years ago in Jim Kitch's dance "Bees in the Shower". I've been wanting to double it up for years, and finally worked it out while serving on a Philadelphia jury in a slow-moving trial. (The verdict was "not guilty".)


Comfort Deluxe
By Rick Mohr; January 1, 1998
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate
A1: Women allemande left 1 1/2 (8)
Swing partner (8)
A2: Men allemande left 1 1/2 (8)
Half hey (neighbors pass right shoulders to start) (8)
B1: Balance and swing neighbor (16)
B2: Circle left (8)
(With next couple) Circle right (8)

The transition in B2 can be very satisfying -- without losing momentum from the circle left, partners turn and circle right with the next couple -- but many dancers need help in the walk-through to get it. After the swing in B1 I have them take hands in a ring, then turn and take hands with the next couple. After noticing that the easy turn is toward your partner, we turn back and forth a couple more times before trying it with the circles.

In a dream around 1988 I was calling a dance, and the card in my hand clearly read "Comfort Deluxe". It took ten years to come up with a dance worthy of the name.


The Connectrix
By Rick Mohr; March, 2000
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Easy/Intermediate
A1: Balance the ring (4)
Swing neighbor (12)
A2: Down the center, four in line (6)
2s in center turn away from partner (bringing joined hands over heads);
1s join free hands behind them to make a cozy line of four (2)
Return (6)
1s make an arch; 2s duck back under to form a "cloverleaf" (2)
B1: Circle left 3/4 in the cloverleaf (6)
Swing partner (10)
B2: Circle left 3/4 (8)
Balance the ring (4)
California twirl (4)

Once when my foursome improvised the A2 (from Fred Feild's classic modern contra "Symmetrical Force") in a different dance, I noticed the seamless transition from cloverleaf to swing. The result is this pleasing straightforward dance, with the additional quality that hand connection is never broken.


Crow Flight
By Rick Mohr; April 27, 2006
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate
  (Join right hands with neighbor, left hands with previous neighbor to form long waves)
A1: Balance the long wave (4)
Slide or spin right, past this neighbor (4)
Swing next neighbor (8)
A2: Circle left 7/8 (8)
Half hey (partners pass right shoulders to start) (8)
B1: Balance and swing partner (16)
B2: Men allemande left 1 1/2 (8)
Allemande right with neighbor 1 1/4 (8)
(Join left hands with previous neighbor to form long waves)

A "Rory O'More" spin into a swing can be great fun, and works well here as a progression to the next neighbor.

Even though this progression technically begins the dance I find it simpler to start the walk-through (and the first dance-through) with a long neighbor swing, skipping the initial balance and spin.

The circle left to half hey in A2 (stolen from Sue Rosen's excellent dance "Mood Swings") is not difficult, but some care in the walk-through helps to avoid confusion. Circle almost once until the men are at the points of a diamond facing across the set, with the women facing up and down the set. The women then "tuck in" to the center by stepping forward and slightly right to stand back-to-back facing their partners. When clearly taught, the women will easily slip into the center to start the hey smoothly.

For my friends Adam Broome, Jaige Trudel, and Nicholas Williams, and their awesome band Crowfoot.


Cup of Joe
By Rick Mohr; December 2013
Contra, Duple Improper, Reverse-progression
Level: Easy/Intermediate
A1: (Men stand back to back in center, facing neighbor)
Balance neighbor (4)
3/4 hey (neighbors pass right shoulders to start) (12)
A2: Balance partner (4)
1/4 hey (partners pass right shoulders to start) (4)
Swing neighbor (8)
B1: Revolving door (6)
Swing partner (10)
B2: Slice left (8)
Men allemande left 1 1/2 (8)

A fun and accessible dance, with a punctuated hey and Ron Buchanan's "Revolving Door" figure.

In "Revolving Door", couples start a "wrong side" half promenade where women pass right instead of men passing left. As the women meet they catch right hands and allemande right once around. The men drop out after crossing the set, and partners swing as the women come around. It flows easily and feels good. I often do a floor demo, both because it's unfamiliar and because it's pretty cool to watch. Since the promenade only lasts for a beat or two I think the easiest hold is for neighbors to join left hands, with the man's right arm briefly behind the woman's back.

"Slice left" is a left-diagonal "long lines forward and back"—dancers join hands in long lines, walk forward on the left diagonal to meet the next couple, and retire straight back.

For Joe Rush of Melrose, Florida (via a Pinewoods auction), wholehearted dancer and community builder, known to drive a bus full of Florida dancers to Pinewoods American Week.


Dance All Night
By Rick Mohr; July, 2000
Four-Face-Four, Level: Easy/Intermediate
A1: Lines of four forward and back (8)
Swing corner (8)
(Face the center in a square formation)
A2: Women right hand star (9)
Allemande left with corner 1 1/4 (and face partner) (7)
B1: Grand right and left (10)
Dosido partner (6)
B2: Balance and swing partner (16)

This is a good straightforward "4 face 4" dance, long on movement and short on complexity. As with other such dances, your corner in A1 is next to you if you're in the middle of the line and across from you if you're at the end of the line. And after the swing in B2 dancers should face their original line of direction, having swapped to the other side of their line.

At the 2001 Labor Day Brattleboro Dawn Dance I called the "milkman shift", the 3:30-7:00 AM slot where dancers need a maximum of energy and variety with a minimum of confusion. This dance fit the bill, and after Maia Rutman's enthusiastic endorsement I named it for her and the other inspired dance-all-nighters.


Dr. Bluhm's Delight
By Rick Mohr; June 1, 1995
Contra, Becket
Level: Intermediate
A1: Shift left to meet next couple (2)
Circle left 3/4 (6)
Swing neighbor (8)
A2: Long lines forward and back (8)
Left hands across 1/2 (men drop out) (4)
Women allemande left 3/4 (4)
(Join right hands with neighbor to form wave of four)
B1: Balance the wave (4)
Allemande right with neighbor 5/8 (4)
(Men join left with next man to form wave on right diagonal)
Balance the wave (4)
Men allemande left 3/4 (4)
(Partners join right hands to form wave on left diagonal)
B2: Balance the wave (4)
Swing partner (12)

Diagonal action makes this dance fun and different while staying accessible.

The neighbor allemande right in B1 is slightly more than half way round—men go just past the opposite man to join left hands with the next man, forming a wave on the right diagonal. Then left allemande 3/4 easily forms the left diagonal wave with partner for the balance in B2. Of course the men would never forget to complete the balance by looking left at each other before diving into the partner swing ... but it couldn't hurt to remind them!

Usually after the swing in B2 dancers are almost across from their new neighbors and don't need to shift left very far to start the circle left in A1.

For my buddy Carey Bluhm of Fitzwilliam NH, who delights in playing fiddle tunes.


Double Mud Pig
By Rick Mohr; February 12, 2012
Contra, Becket
Level: Intermediate
A1: Circle left 3/4 (6)
Swing neighbor (10)
A2: Long lines forward and back (8)
(On right diagonal) Women chain (to shadow #1) (8)
B1: Left hand star (with shadow #1) (8)
Allemande right with partner 1 1/2 (8)
B2: Left hand star (with shadow #2) (8)
Swing partner (8)

While enjoying Mike Boerschig's Happy as a Cold Pig in Warm Mud I wondered, could you enjoy flying stars with both shadows instead of just one?

This dance is the result. It's more accessible than you might expect for a dance where you leave the minor set twice, because finding your partner rights the set in both B1 and B2. In B1, watch for your partner in the other star and meet with an allemande; in B2, watch for your partner in the other star and meet with a swing.

I'm not usually a fan of "shadow / partner / other shadow / partner" sequences because you keep repeating the same longish sequence with the same people, and so don't mix enough. But because the stars in this dance involve a changing cast of neighbors, you get the thrill of flying to your partner twice without the tarnish of identical setups.


Earth and Sky
By Rick Mohr; June 27, 1998
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate
A1: Gypsy with neighbor (8)
Swing neighbor (8)
A2: Circle left 3/4 (8)
Allemande right with partner 1 1/2 (8)
B1: Allemande left with shadow (6)
Swing partner (10)
B2: 5/8 hey (men pass right shoulders to start) (8)
Gypsy (left shoulder) with neighbor (8)

In B2 the men start the hey by passing right shoulders rather than left shoulders. With the fifth change the men cross back to their original side, leading in to the left shoulder gypsy with original neighbors, then on to the next with a right shoulder gypsy.

This dance has steady movement throughout, with a strongly connected segment ("earth") and a free segment ("sky").


Ellen's Yarns
By Rick Mohr; July 22, 1995
Contra, Becket
Level: Intermediate
A1: Right and left through (8)
Left hand star (8)
A2: (on right diagonal) Women chain (8)
(straight across to shadow) Women chain (8)
(Form circle of four)
B1: Balance the ring (4)
"Petronella turn" one place to the right (4)
Balance the ring (4)
"Petronella turn" one place to the right (4)
(to face partner in the adjacent ring)
B2: Balance and swing partner (16)

Ted Sannella was the first to use "Petronella turn" into "balance and swing" with someone from another ring, in his dance "Fiddleheads". This dance was written (before the craze for such dances!) to provide that experience for everyone rather than just the actives.

When starting the left-hand star in A1 it helps if the women take a look at the woman on the right diagonal so they know who to aim for when coming back around into the ladies chain.

When waiting out at the ends dancers should stand as a couple on the women's side of the set; in A2 they should participate in the ladies chain.

For Ellen Cohn of New Haven, Connecticut; raconteuse, natural dyer, gifted musician and singer, longtime Fiddlehead, and valued friend.


A Fair Wind Home
By Rick Mohr; September 15, 1997
Contra, Becket
Level: Intermediate
A1: Women allemande right 3/4 (4)
(Join left hands with neighbor to form a wave of four)
Balance the wave (4)
Allemande left with neighbor 3/4 (4)
(Join right hands with next neighbor to form long waves)
Balance the long wave (4)
A2: Allemande right with next neighbor (6)
Swing original neighbor (10)
B1: Down the center, four in line (turn as a couple) (8)
Return (bend the line to form a circle) (8)
B2: Balance the ring (4)
Give and take (2)
Swing partner (10)
(Face across the set; women look on left diagonal for the next woman)

"Balance the ring" in B2 makes a nice transition to Larry Jennings' "give and take" figure. After the balance, each man pulls his partner toward him and smoothly into a swing. The woman can resist momentarily, and then use the arm tension to accelerate across the set into the swing.

After the partner swing in B2 couples will be offset from one another, with each man more or less across from the next man he will dance with. The new women find each other by looking on the left diagonal, and complete the progression with an allemande right halfway (actually about 5/8) to a wave of four.

To help everyone get this progression I start the first walkthrough by saying "Everybody take one step to the right so the men are across from each other. This is how the dance ends. Women, you'll always look on the left diagonal for the next woman to start the dance..."

For the engagement of David and Susie Titus.


Gaye's Groove
By Rick Mohr; October 2015
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate
A1: (Join hands in a wave of four—neighbors right, women left)
Balance the wave, right then left (4)
Walk diagonally right (4) (join left hands with neighbor #2 in a new wave)
Balance the wave, left then right (4)
Walk diagonally left (4) (join right hands with neighbor #3 in a third wave)
A2: Balance the wave, right then left (4)
With neighbor #3 allemande right 3/4 (4)
Swing neighbor #2 (8)
B1: Revolving door (6)
Swing partner (10)
B2: Pass through across (4)
California twirl with partner (4)
Circle left 3/4 (8)
(to a wave of four with current neighbors)

This dance offers a single-progression version of the travelling wave sequence from Bill Olson's inspired dance "Eleanor's Reel", along with Ron Buchanan's "Revolving Door" figure and some satisfying glue.

After the first A1 balance, spot your neighbor #2 in the next wave. Walk diagonally right to join left hands with them, as men join right hands in the center of a new wave. Then balance left and repeat on the left diagonal, joining right hands in a third wave with your neighbor #3 and women in the center.

Some dancers like to spin while moving between the waves—big fun and highly optional.

In "Revolving Door", couples start a "wrong side" half promenade where women pass right instead of men passing left. As the women meet they catch right hands and allemande right once around. The men drop out after crossing the set, and partners swing as the women come around. It flows easily and feels good. I often do a floor demo, both because it's unfamiliar and because it's pretty cool to watch. Since the promenade only lasts for a beat or two I think the easiest hold is for neighbors to join left hands, with the man's right arm briefly behind the woman's back.

For Gaye Fifer, heartful and fun-loving dancer, caller, and connector from Pittsburgh PA. When Gaye's around you're sure to have a good time.


Goody One Shoe
By Rick Mohr; September 19, 2009
Contra, Becket, Double-progression
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
A1: Women take four steps to make a long wave of women, and balance (8)
Women spin to the right (as in Rory O'More) and 1/4 more (4)
(Form a diamond, not with partner; women in center and men at the sides)
Balance the diamond (4)
A2: "Petronella turn" one place to the right (4)
(Men spin 1/4 more to a long wave of men)
Men balance the wave (4)
Men spin to the right (as in Rory O'More) and 1/4 more (4)
(Form a diamond, with partner; men in center and women at the sides)
Balance the diamond (4)
B1: Men allemande left 3/4 (4)
3/4 Hey (neighbors pass right shoulders to start) (12)
B2: Gypsy partner (8)
Swing partner (8)

Micah Smukler invented the cool "waves to diamonds" sequence for his dance Goody Two Shoes; I hope this somewhat simpler dance gives it wider circulation. With a couple relaxed walkthroughs most dancers get it well.

I encourage dancers to form sets with a full circle at the bottom, eliminating end effects throughout this double-progression dance.

You could do a balance and swing in B2 instead of the gypsy and swing, but I thought the dance might have enough balances already.


Grand Picnic
By Rick Mohr; 1989
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate
A1: Balance and swing neighbor (16)
A2: Women chain (8)
(Keep left hands with partner, face partner up and down the set)
Pull past partner by the left (2)
Allemande right with shadow (6)
B1: Balance and swing partner (16)
B2: Circle left 3/4 (8)
Allemande right with neighbor 1 1/2 (8)

This is a straightforward dance with continuous motion for all and lots of swinging; it works well provided that the novel bit in A2 is taught carefully. The key is to face your partner up and down the set after the women chain, continuing to hold left hands. During the walk-through this is a good moment to identify shadows by looking past your partner.

For my friends in the great New York City contra band, Grand Picnic.


The Grass Valley Glide
By Rick Mohr; November 2004
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate
A1: Half hey (men pass right shoulders to start) (6)
Courtesy turn with neighbor (4)
Half promenade with neighbor (6)
A2: (On right diagonal) Left hand star 3/4 (8)
Allemande right with partner 1 1/2 (8)
B1: Half hey (women pass left shoulders to start) (6)
Swing partner (10)
B2: Circle left 3/4 (7)
Pass through (2)
Allemande left with next neighbor (7)

This dance has a nice nonstop glide, especially with a true courtesy turn in A1. Its novelties are fairly well-telegraphed, so dancers tend to stay oriented. But the end effects can be unexpected; best to relax and follow George Marshall's advice: "The people coming at you know what you should be doing better than you know what you should be doing."

The A2 transition from half promenade to diagonal star is borrowed from Gene Hubert's dance "Song In the Night". Technically the next couple is on the right diagonal, but it's easier to think of making an extra wide left turn in the half promenade.

For the dancers of Grass Valley California, in appreciation for their warmth, fun, grace, and enthusiasm in hosting me and Nightingale for four splendid days in the summer of 2004.


Home in Pasadena
By Rick Mohr; 2005
Singing Square, Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Figure:
A1: Circle left 1/2 (8)
Women star right (8)
A2: Allemande left with partner 3/4 (4)
Allemande right with corner 3/4 (4)
Men star left while women promenade clockwise around ring... (8)
B1: ... continue star and promenade (4)
Swing partner (12)
B2: Promenade partner around the ring (16)
(singing "Beneath the palms, in someone's arms, in Pasadena town")
Break:
A1, A2: Teacup chain (32)
B1, B2: Beer mug chain (32)

When I heard "Home in Pasadena" sung by the amazing vocal trio Finest Kind (on their album "Heart's Delight") I thought it would make a killer singing square. Great tune, chords, and swingy feel, with a good singable tag phrase. And best are its cool verses to different melodies that interlock nicely when sung together. But in a singing square the caller has to sing the calls, so how could those great lyrics possibly be included?

My solution is to use an uncallable break figure, and sing the lyrics while the dancers make their way through it. The teacup chain plus beer mug chain makes just the right length, and can't be called since dancers have to do different things at the same time. It works great but takes a while to teach, so is perhaps better in a workshop than an evening dance.

In the A2 of the figure the two 3/4 allemandes are shorter than might be expected. The second propels the men and women in different directions; dancers pass their partner once and on second sighting swing at (roughly) their home place.

Allow enough time to teach the teacup chain. Here's a good description and teaching method from a modern western square dance caller (substitute allemandes for e.g. "star left" or "right arm turn", and end with a quick courtesy turn). The beer mug chain is the same sequence but led by the men (with left hands) rather than the women (with right hands); end with a brief swing.

To get the feel of the song and learn its melodies your best bet is to buy "Heart's Delight". I include here the words and melody for singing the figure, and below are the words and chords for the song verses. If 3 singers are available, use this sequence:

Intro: Band plays final 8 bars ("Beneath the palms, in someone's arms, in Pasadena town")
Figure: Caller sings calls. Break: Singer 1 sings verse 1
Figure: Caller sings calls. Break: Singer 2 sings verse 2 (singer 1 can sing verse 1 quietly in the background)
Figure: Caller sings calls. Break: Singer 3 sings verse 3 (singer 1 can sing verse 1 quietly in the background)
Figure: Caller sings calls. Break: All three singers sing all three verses together
Ending: Repeat final 8 bars ("Beneath the palms, in someone's arms, in Pasadena town")

Don't stress about perfect singing—the dancers need most of their brains to make it through the teacup chain and only hear you as an interesting backdrop.

(1) Home in Pasadena
Home where grass is "greena"
Where honeybees hum melodies
And orange trees scent the breeze

I want to be a home-sweet-homer
There I'll settle down
Beneath the palms in someone's arms
In Pasadena town

(2) Soon I'll be on my merry way to that dreamland of yesterday
Tell the mailman I long to stay, my California
To be where honey bees
And orange trees they scent the breeze (sweet melodies)

Settle down in that happy town with the mountains there all around
Friendly people there to be found, nuts right by my door (*)
There beneath the palms, somebody's arms
In Pasadena town

(3) Oh there'll be an aggregation waitin' for me at the station, in Pasadena town, Pasadena town
All my life I've been a rover, now it's time to think it over, I want to settle down, want to settle down
Busy little bumblebees, syncopated melodies
Trees are slowly swingin' while the birds are softly singing in the breeze

I want to be a happy home-sweet-homer, never want to be a roamer, from Pasadena town, Pasadena town
There away from all the worry of the city's hurry-scurry, every evening when the sun goes down
Moonin' Junin' honeymoonin' palms, captivatin' fascinatin' arms
P - A - S - A - D - E - N - A   T - O - W - N   town

(*) The original words may in fact be "night life by my door". But Finest Kind sings "nuts..." and I love it.

A    A     C#m7   A7   D    D    F#7  F#7
Bm7  Dm    A      A    G#7  G#7  E7   E7
A    A     C#m7   A7   D    D    C#7  C#7
Bm7  Cdim  Amaj7  F#7  Bm7  E7   A    A
      


In Cahoots
By Rick Mohr; March 15, 2008
Contra, Becket
Level: Easy/Intermediate
A1: Shift left to meet next couple (2)
Circle left 3/4 (6)
Swing neighbor (8)
A2: Women allemande right 1 1/2 (8)
Allemande left with partner 1 1/2 (8)
(Men join right hands to form a wave of four)
B1: Balance the wave (4)
Walk forward (to meet shadow from next wave) (4)
(Join hands in a wave of four—shadows join left; men join right)
Balance the wave (4)
Allemande left with shadow 3/4 (4)
B2: Balance and swing partner (16)

A good all-moving dance with strong balances in the B music.


The Joy of Six
By Rick Mohr; February 26, 2002
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate
A1: Women allemande left (6)
Gypsy neighbor (6)
A2: Swing neighbor (12)
B1: 3/4 hey (men pass left shoulders to start) (12)
B2: Swing partner (12)
C1: Circle left 3/4 (6)
Men allemande right (6)
C2: Allemande left with neighbor (6)
Allemande right with next neighbor (6)

Dancing to 6-count phrases is a fun change of pace with this flowy dance—if your band has appropriate music. Here are some tunes that have worked well for me, including a slangpolska, a 3/2 hornpipe, and some 3-part slip jigs, all with 6-count phrases and 72 beats total.

The circle in C1 is really 5/8, and feels to the women like just halfway round. They should take a step back afterwards to give the men more room.


Juicy Themes
By Rick Mohr; November 6, 2011
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate
A1: Balance the ring (4)
California twirl with partner (4)
Swing next neighbor (8)
A2: Mad Robin (men cross in front to start) (8)
Men allemande left (4)
1/4 Hey (neighbors pass right shoulders to start) (4)
B1: Gypsy and swing partner (16)
B2: Pass through across (4)
California twirl with partner (4)
Circle left 3/4 (8)

An all-moving dance with some fresh twists.

Even though the dance technically begins by progressing it's simpler to start the walkthrough with a long neighbor swing, skipping the initial balance and California twirl. I start the dance that way as well.

In the B2 walkthrough I suggest taking a full 4 beats for both the pass thru and California twirl. Otherwise skilled dancers may arrive extra-early for the A1 balance.

As a variant, balance and swing in B1 can work well if the dancers are agile enough to fully complete the A2 in 16 beats.

For the milestone birthday of California dancer Julie Thomas from her husband Ed, who reports that "Juicy Themes" pops up when you spell-check her name. Ed's recipe for what the dance might include: "If it helps, she likes gypsies and long swing w/ partner (me), give and take, mad robin, and some flirting w/ neighbors. I'd like it to include a California twirl (natch) and a men's left allemande (inside joke, so she knows its from me). These are certainly not requirements, just hints of some of what she likes. Mostly she likes contra dancing."


Kiss the Groom
By Rick Mohr; September, 2010
Contra, Becket, Double-progression
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
A1: Long lines forward (4)
Men roll away with partner as lines go back (4)
Long lines forward (4)
Women roll away with partner as lines go back (4)
A2: Men allemande left 3/4 (to momentary long wave of men) (4)
New men allemande right 3/4 (4)
Swing new neighbor (on left diagonal) (8)
B1: Right and left through (8)
Women allemande right 3/4 (to momentary long wave of women) (4)
New women allemande left 3/4 (4)
B2: Balance and swing partner (16)

A wedding gift for my friends Ethan Hazzard-Watkins and Anna Patton. (At the end of their excellent self-uniting ceremony, Ethan said to Anna "You may kiss the groom!")

The rollaways in A1 may be the hardest part for newer dancers. The person not rolling must step left (a "half sashay"), and it helps to share an arm tug to start and end each rollaway.

At the start of A2, dancers should spot their next neighbor on the left diagonal so the men know who to aim for.

Dancers arriving at the top of the set seem to forget there's no waiting out in this double-progression dance. They remember better if I make a point of it during the walkthrough.


Lads of Ohio
By Rick Mohr; December 3, 2004
Contra, Becket (but see note)
Level: Intermediate
A1: Men cross, passing left shoulders (2)
Gypsy (current) neighbor 1/2 (4)
Swing next neighbor (10)
A2: Circle left (8)
Women chain (to partner) (8)
B1: Women chain (8)
Left hand star 3/4 (8)
B2: Allemande right with shadow (6)
Swing partner (10)

While this is technically a Becket dance with the progression in A1 it's simpler to teach it as duple improper starting with the neighbor swing, and to call it that way the first time through.

After the women chain in A2 everyone is next to their shadow. Introducing shadows at this point in the walk-through will help them find each other in the B2.

The progression is like 1/4 of a hey, but don't tell the dancers. Instead, have the men cross and stop in the center facing neighbors. All look right to identify the next neighbor, then gypsy the current neighbor 1/2 and progress to swing the next.

In honor of fine times with my friends Joseph Pimentel and Fred Todt of Columbus Ohio, warm talented fun lads, at whose dining room table this dance was written. I was preparing for a session billed to lure the local men with fabulous dances and then help them to be less rough with the women. I had no fabulous dance with both neighbor and partner courtesy turns, and this was my attempt to provide one. So a secondary nod is to all the lads of Ohio, on their path to becoming everyone's favorite dance partner. (A spot firmly held by Joseph and Fred, I might add.)


Larry's Listening
By Rick Mohr; February 1, 1997
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
A1: Balance and swing neighbor (16)
A2: Half hey (men pass left shoulders to start) (8)
(Join hands in a wave of four--neighbors join right; men join left)
Balance the wave (4)
Walk forward to next couple (2)
Men allemande left 1/2 (2)
(Join right hands with partner to form a wave of four)
B1: Balance the wave (4)
Swing partner (12)
B2: Circle left 3/4 (6)
Allemande right with neighbor (5)
Allemande left with previous neighbor (5)

The allemandes in B2 move right along, and their 5-count timing requires some attention in phrasing the calls. I might call it this way (starting with the last phrase of B1):

(1) (2) (3) (4) Face across, circle left
(1) three quarters round; neighbor right allemande go once around
your old neighbor left allemande; new neighbor balance and swing

The progression (at the end of A2) requires some attention from the men. During "balance the wave" in A2 each man should locate the man in the next wave. With two steps forward those new men meet, allemande left halfway in the remaining two counts, and join right hands with partners to balance the wave. If the men are prepared there's plenty of time, but they have to focus on the allemande rather than on the walking forward.

Also note that as dancers walk to meet the next couple they are on the opposite side of the set from their usual position during a progression. If couples waiting out at the ends are extra-alert they can cross over to what feels like the wrong side; another option is for the woman waiting out to do the allemande left halfway with the approaching man.

For Larry Jennings, whose many contributions to the contra dance community include listening carefully to every caller at the Thursday night dance in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Larry once referred (with mixed judgment) to dances where you "balance and swing your neighbor, balance and swing your partner, and do a bunch of things in between which prove the caller is smarter than you are." This is one of those.

Thanks to Larry for improving the title and suggesting re-aligning the parts (I originally started the dance with the current B2).


Laura's Zigzag
By Rick Mohr; May, 2001
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate
A1: Balance and swing neighbor (16)
A2: Circle left 1/2 (4)
With partner, zig left to pass neighbors; zag right to meet next couple (4)
Circle right 1/2 with these new neighbors (4)
With partner, zag right to pass current neighbors; zig left to meet original neighbors (4)
B1: Circle left 3/4 with original neighbors (6)
Swing partner (10)
B2: Long lines forward and back (8)
Women chain (8)

Dedicated to Laura Johannes, caller and dance organizer from Jamaica Plain MA. Laura crafted the sequence in A2 for her dance "Autumn Breeze", expanding on the zigzag idea in Rockin' Robin, and I was full-circle inspired to write this dance.

The A2 is most satisfying when momentum from circling launches the zigzags and momentum from zigzagging launches the circles. Also note that the 1/2 circle left passes quickly, so the women must be alert to lead into the zigzag. Then the men must be likewise alert to lead into the zag-zig after the 1/2 circle right. Finally, note that keeping some elbow tension can help partners enjoy staying together in the quick sideways motions of the zigzags.


Leave the Wine
By Rick Mohr; September 27, 2007
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate
A1: Men allemande left 1 1/2 (8)
Half hey (partners pass right shoulders to start) (8)
A2: Gypsy and swing partner (16)
B1: Circle left 3/4 (8)
Weave the line—with partner, zig left to pass neighbors, zag right to pass #2 neighbors, zig left to meet #3 neighbors (8)
B2: Dosido neighbor #3 (6)
Swing neighbor #2 (10)

This updates Kathy Anderson's fine dance "Weave the Line" so that both couples get a partner swing.

It's a single-progression dance—even though you interact with neighbor #3 after the zig-zag-zig, you turn around to swing neighbor #2 to end singly-progressed. Then the men in those singly-progressed minor sets take left as the dance begins again.


Love Sting
By Rick Mohr; September 27, 2007
Contra, Becket
Level: Easy/Intermediate
A1: Down the center, four in line (6)
Man on left end turn alone; women trade places as man between them does "right hand high, left-hand low" (3)
Return, bend the line (7)
A2: Balance the ring (4)
Swing neighbor (12)
B1: Long lines forward and back (8)
(On right diagonal) Women chain (to shadow) (8)
B2: Left hand star (8)
Swing partner (in adjacent star) (8)

This "leave the minor set" dance has worked well with newer dancers. You're not long away from home, and the familiar faces of shadow and partner help with orientation.

After going down the hall (A1) dancers should start their turn sooner than usual. The man between the two women raises his right arm as the women trade places (with the left-hand woman ducking under the arch) and then ducks under his own right arm as all face the music to return up the hall.

After the women's diagonal chain (B1) dancers may need to look slightly left to find the correct couple for the star.

For the wedding of Chris Love and Sarah Easterling of Asheville NC, who thought "Love Sting" a fun option when they considered combining their names.


Mad Scatter
By Rick Mohr; March, 2010
Mixer, Scattered circles of two or more couples
Level: Easy/Intermediate
A1: Circle left (8)
Dosido neighbor (8)
A2: Allemande right with partner 1 1/2 (8)
Women star (or allemande) left while men orbit clockwise (8)
B1: Balance and swing new partner (16)
B2: Promenade anywhere with new partner (16)
(Find another group to circle with)

In this mixer dancers form scattered groups with any number of couples. That makes for fun chaos, less transition panic (compared with 2-couple scatter mixers), and more flavors to enjoy as circle sizes vary.

The A2 allemande ends with women in the center facing counterclockwise and men on the outside facing clockwise. If there are two women they allemande left for 8 beats; if there are more than two they star left for 8 beats. Either way, the men orbit clockwise around the women. Then all balance and swing a new partner and promenade to a new group.

I tell the dancers it's a zero-stress dance. "If a couple wants to join your circle, let them in!" And no problem if you happen to keep the same partner now and then.


Mad Slice
By Rick Mohr; September 5, 2009
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
A1: Women allemande left (6)
Swing neighbor (10)
A2: Double slice left (8)
Right hand star 3/4 (with shadow #2) (6)
Pass shadow #1 by left shoulder (2)
B1: Balance and swing partner (16)
B2: Circle left 3/4 (6)
Pass through up and down (2)
Mad Robin around new neighbor (women cross in front to start) (8)

Here's a dance with two figures introduced fairly recently to contra dancing. "Double slice" is Bob Isaacs's term for the move in A2: dancers take hands in long lines and head for the couple on the left diagonal (always containing shadow #1), then continue moving left to back away from that couple and face a third couple (always containing shadow #2). I encourage dancers to move all together as a line.

Star right with that couple 3/4 until you see shadow #1, then pass by to balance and swing your partner.

The second newish figure is the "Mad Robin" which ends the dance; I borrowed this nice transition from an English dance by Jim Kitch. As you pass thru to progress, turn to face your partner and continue momentum smoothly into the Mad Robin (a sideways neighbor dosido keeping partner eye contact).

Then still continuing momentum, the women catch left hands to start the dance anew.


Merry Maze Reel
By Rick Mohr; December 2016
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate
  (To form initial wave, neighbors allemande left 3/4 and ladies join right)
A1: Balance the wave (4)
Allemande left with neighbor 3/4 (to long wave) (4)
Balance the long wave (4)
Allemande right with next neighbor 3/4 (4)
A2: Balance the wave (forward and back) (4)
Walk forward to meet original neighbor (2)
Swing neighbor (10)
B1: Gents allemande left 3/4 (4)
New gents allemande right 3/4 while ladies step right (4)
Swing partner (8)
B2: Right and left through (8)
Ladies allemande right 1 1/2 (8)

A fun "balance and turn" dance, whose title and B1 progression were inspired by David Kaynor's classic dance Mary Cay's Reel (where ladies do the allemandes).

In the A2 it's nice to balance forward and back so you can pull forward to head into the neighbor swing.

In the B1 walkthrough it can help to form a center wave of gents after the first allemande (so everyone knows they're in the right place), saying that in the actual dance gents keep moving directly from the first allemande to the second.


My Marbles Have Many Moods
By Rick Mohr; July 13, 2001
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate
A1: Half hey (men pass left shoulders to start) (6)
Swing neighbor (10)
A2: Men cross, passing left shoulders (2)
Gypsy partner (6)
Swing partner (8)
B1: Circle left (8)
Women chain (to neighbor) (8)
B2: Left hand star (8)
Allemande right with next neighbor 1 1/2 (8)

This dance has continuous motion for all and smooth transitions.

For Jane Hecht, who created the poetic title by her casual comment that "My marbles have many moods" as we drove the twisty coastal roads to English Dance Week in Mendocino CA. Somehow about 25 marbles from a florist had managed to roll into her car's sub-floor heating ducts, and they kept up an entertaining array of sounds as Jane contoured the roads.


Night Sail
By Rick Mohr; April 1, 2006
Contra, Becket
Level: Easy/Intermediate
A1: Women chain (8)
Circle right (8)
A2: (With next couple) Circle left (8)
Dosido that new neighbor (8)
(Join hands in a wave of four--neighbors join right; women join left)
B1: Balance the wave (4)
3/4 Hey (neighbors pass right shoulders to start) (12)
B2: Gypsy partner (8)
Swing partner (8)

Nightingale plays a galvinizing contra arrangement of the Québecois song Nous Allons à une Fête, with Keith Murphy singing once the pesky caller quiets down. It has a killer steady drive building through the A's culminating in a full stop, which is wildly rewarding when matched with a balance on the B1 as the music zings back in. After an unsuccessful search for the perfect companion dance I wrote this one, and the combination is rather thrilling. Of course one isn't always so fortunate to have Nightingale playing, but the dance can be a decent thrill on its own.

Encourage the women to step out strongly and lead the transition from courtesy turn to circle right in the A1. Then encourage the men to keep eye contact with their partners as (without breaking stride) everyone turns to circle left with new neighbors in the A2. This three-figure sequence is stolen from Gene Hubert's dance "Mama Lou's Reel", though it feels fairly different here.

Dedicated to Keith, Becky, and Jeremiah in honor of many stellar, sailing nights of dance music. You can hear Keith sing the song on his fine album Bound for Canaan.

Thanks to Lisa Sieverts for pointing out that this dance works great for beginners.


Norcross
By Rick Mohr; September 2015
Contra, Becket
Level: Intermediate
A1: Shift left to meet next couple (2)
Circle left 3/4 (6)
Swing neighbor (8)
A2: Down the center, four in line (6)
Sliding doors (trade places as couples and turn alone) (4)
Return (still in line, face the center) (6)
B1: Half hey (1's pass right shoulders to start) (8)
1's, then 2's: push off with partner (8)
B2: 1's, then 2's: men draw partner back and left (8)
Swing partner (12 for 1's, 8 for 2's)

"Push-offs" were invented by dancers improvising during heys, and have been finding their way into some dances written on purpose. Usually it's either men or women doing the push-offs; here partners get to do push-offs with each other.

After coming up the hall in A2 dancers stay in their line of four and all face the center, so the 1's are face-to-face in the middle.

A floor demo can help everyone get the push-offs and flow of the B parts. I start with the half hey, noting how dancers make a counter-clockwise loop at the ends. Dancers duplicate that loop during the push-offs—approach from the right to meet partner, push off with both hands backing away to the left, and loop to the right to meet partner again. Men continue the loop by backing away to the left again, this time drawing their partner with both hands for a swing. The 2's are about four beats later in their loop than the 1's, making for a nice alternation.

See Tag and Zag for notes on the "sliding doors" figure.

For Chrissy Fowler, fine caller, community creator, and bundle of positive energy from Belfast Maine. Her great-great-great-grandparents Thomas and Betsy Martin Fowler were the first white settlers of northerly Millinocket Maine, and her family still has a house in the nearby tiny village of Norcross. For decades tens of thousands of logs floated by every spring along the West Branch of the Penobscot River on their hair-raising journey to the sawmills of Bangor.


Oatmeal Creams
By Rick Mohr; March, 1992
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate
(To start join left hands with neighbor, and reach back to join right hands in a long wave; men face in, women face out)
A1: Balance the long wave (4)
Allemande left with neighbor 1/2 (3)
Women chain (9)
(Keep left hands with partner, women join right hands in center to form wave of four)
A2: Balance the wave (4)
Walk forward (to meet shadow from next wave) (2)
Allemande left with shadow twice around (10)
B1: Balance and swing partner (16)
B2: Long lines forward and back (8)
Women cross to neighbor (pass right shoulders) (2)
Allemande right with neighbor (6)
(Join left hands with next neighbor to form new long waves)

The ladies chain in A1 has an extra 1/4 courtesy turn, which opens just in time as the women join right hands to form the wave. Encourage the dancers to do a "tight courtesy turn" in order to be on time for the balance. (Suggesting that they avoid twirls just gets their dander up.)

In A2 I call "Walk to your shadow" rather than "Walk forward"; the latter is confusing if people are out of place, while the former suggests the solution of heading for a familiar face.

Keebler used to make a fantastic oatmeal cream cookie but they deep-sixed it, probably due to financial tyranny of chocolate lovers.


Orbit the Stars
By Rick Mohr; February 12, 2012
Four-Face-Four, Level: Intermediate
A1: Lines of four forward and back (8)
Swing corner (8)
A2: All eight into the center and back (8)
Swing next corner (this is your "step-corner") (8)
B1: Allemande left with next corner (6)
Pull by step-corner with right hand (2)
Allemande left with first corner 1 1/2 (8)
B2: Balance partner (4)
Box the gnat (4)
Women star left while men orbit clockwise 1/2 (8)
C1: Balance step-corner (4)
Box the gnat (4)
Men star left while women orbit clockwise 1/2 (8)
C2: Balance and swing partner (16)

A fun all-moving four-face-four.

In B2 after boxing the gnat, men are facing clockwise and women counter-clockwise. All walk forward—women to star left once and men to "orbit" around the outside halfway—and all meet "step-corners" for a balance.

Finding the right person for the balance is the only tricky part of this dance. One strategy is to remember your step-corner from the A2 swing and watch for them. Another is to watch for your partner and balance the second person after them.

In C1 the roles reverse: after boxing the gnat, women are facing clockwise and men counter-clockwise. All walk forward—men star left once and women orbit halfway. This time it's easy to find the right person as partners meet for a balance and swing.

I settled on this long version after trying for many years (!) to shoehorn the figures into a standard-length dance. The strong story line helps dancers remember the longer sequence, and the band gets a rare chance to play three-part tunes.


Pensacola Rollaway
By Rick Mohr; May, 1999
Mixer, Big Circle
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
A1: Dosido partner (8)
Allemande right with partner 1 1/2 (8)
A2: Pass #2 by left shoulder (2)
Gypsy #3 (6)
Circle left (8)
B1: Women roll away with #2 (3)
Swing partner (13)
B2: Promenade partner (15)
Women turn back (to meet next partner) (1)

With a little attention to the transitions in A2 and B1 this can be a very pleasing seamless dance, and remind us that circle mixers come in a wide range of moods!

When finishing the gypsy in A2, each woman can place her left hand in her #3 man's right as he leads smoothly out of the gypsy into the big circle left.

Now each dancer is between their #2 and #3 dancers. As B1 begins, each man continues to walk left as he rolls his #2 woman from left to right. Each woman rolls to her right across her #2 man and then continues rolling smoothly into a swing with her partner. I suggest a "hoop hold" for the swing because it allows the man to fully support the women with his left arm as she rolls into his arms.

Please encourage the men to keep walking in several key spots: from gypsy to circle in A2, from circle to roll away in B1, and from promenade to dosido in B2. Many men tend not to do this, but it makes all the difference.

The title commemorates a memorable trip to Pensacola, which I have not yet taken.


The Phantom Tollbooth
By Rick Mohr; January 29, 2005
Grid Square, + Mini Contra
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
A1: All into the center and back (8)
Heads right and left through (4)
Sides right and left through (4)
A2: Heads left hand star (8)
Allemande right with corner 1 1/4 (8)
B1: Allemande left with partner (6)
Swing corner (10)
B2: Allemande left with next corner (6)
Pull by with right hand (the one you swung) (2)
Allemande left with partner 1 1/4 (8)
(Men join right hand with man in adjacent square to form a wave of four—this foursome is now a mini contra set)
C1: Balance the wave (4)
Men pull by with right hand (2)
Pull by neighbor with left hand (2)
Women chain (8)
C2: Hey (women pass right shoulders to start) (16)
D1: Balance and swing partner (16)
D2: Right and left through (8)
Balance the ring (4)
Pass through (to a new square) (4)
Break:
A1: All into the center and back (8)
Swing corner (8)
A2: All into the center and back (8)
Swing next corner (8)
B1: Men left hand star (8)
Allemande right the one you swung 1 1/2 (8)
B2: Women left hand star 1/2 (4)
Swing partner (12)

Dance a square, then dance a 4-person contra with the couple in the adjacent square, then progress into a new square! It works, and feels magical every time in a Phantom Tollbooth sort of way.

To set it up have each square join hands in a ring, and line up the squares in rows and columns. Make sure they're straight, with no gaps. You need 9 squares minimum, the more the better. If any row has only one square, move a square from a different row&emda;for example, 3+3+2+2 is better than 3+3+3+1.

In the walk-through, after the (staggered) rights and lefts in A1 have everyone turn around to meet the couple behind them in the adjacent square. Then finish the square through to the partner allemande in B2, when those same adjacent couples meet to form a wave. Those foursomes now dance a contra, with couples along the edges of the hall waiting out.

After the partner swing in D1 make sure to teach (and call) "face that couple" as some dancers will tend to face the next square too soon. Then in D2 pass through into the new world of another square.

Call the square + contra sequence twice and then call the break figure. The break rotates the set 1/4 and swaps heads/sides so that everyone now progresses on the other axis. Lather, rinse, repeat; run it as long as a typical contra.

For Carol Ormand, longtime music and dance soulmate and contra/square alchemist, whose mind sparkles up at all the best times.


Propeller Promenade
By Rick Mohr; April 25, 2001
Contra, Becket (but see note)
Level: Intermediate
A1: Men cross, passing left shoulders (2)
Gypsy (current) neighbor 1/2 (4)
Swing next neighbor (10)
A2: Long lines forward and back (8)
Left hand star (8)
B1: Promenade neighbor counter-clockwise around the big oval (turn as a couple) (8)
Promenade neighbor back home (8)
B2: Right hand star 3/4 (women lead, men follow neighbor) (6)
Men turn in, swing partner (10)

While this is technically a Becket dance with the progression in A1 it's simpler to teach it as duple improper starting with the neighbor swing, and to call it that way the first time through.

In A2 the men scoop up their neighbor to transition smoothly from the left hand star into the promenade. The next transition, from the promenade into the right hand star in B2, can be just as smooth but requires some attention. Without turning to face across the set, the men should let the women step ahead, while putting right hands (which are conveniently joined from the promenade) into the center to form the star.

The progression is like 1/4 of a hey, but don't tell the dancers. Instead, have the men cross and stop in the center facing neighbors. All look right to identify the next neighbor, then gypsy the current neighbor 1/2 and progress to swing the next.

Sometimes an idea leads quickly to a satisfying dance, but in this case it took six years and three versions!


Quern of the Century
By Rick Mohr; June, 2014
Contra, Duple Improper, Reverse-progression
Level: Intermediate
A1: Balance the ring (4)
California twirl with partner (4)
Swing next neighbor (8)
A2: Circle left 3/4 (face partner) (7)
Pass through up and down (2)
Dosido shadow (7)
B1: Balance the ring (with shadow and neighbor) (4)
California twirl with neighbor (4)
Swing partner (8)
B2: Down the center, four in line (6)
Women trade places as man between them does "right hand high, left-hand low" (3)
Return, bend the line (7)

Surprise swings flow from California twirls, and balances punctuate the tops of the parts.

For a smooth walk-through I start with the neighbor swing (skipping the initial balance and California twirl reverse-progression) so everyone is dancing and progresses in the expected direction. I end the walkthrough with the balance and California twirl (saying "This is actually the beginning of the dance), and start the dance with a long neighbor swing.

In B2, dancers going down the hall should start their turns sooner than usual. The man between the two women raises his right arm as the women trade places (with the left-hand woman ducking under the arch) and then ducks under his own right arm as all face the music to return up the hall.

For Bill Quern, multi-instrumentalist with a twinkle in his eye, giant heart, and unlimited capacity for playing tunes. ("Quern" sounds like "Kwirn".)


Animation, courtesy of Dance Kaleidescope.

Retronella
By Rick Mohr; January 4, 2003
Contra, Reverse Becket
Level: Intermediate
A1: Balance the ring (4)
Nevada twirl with partner (4)
(Reach across, joining free hand with neighbor to form cloverleaf)
Balance the cloverleaf (4)
California twirl with neighbor (4)
(Join free hand with partner to form ring)
A2: Balance the ring (4)
Swing partner (12)
B1: Down the center, four in line (turn as a couple) (8)
Return (bend the line to face across) (8)
B2: Right and left through (8)
Pass through across (2)
(Turn individually right to face single file up or down the set)
Walk 2 steps up or down (meet next couple) (2)
Circle left 1/2 (with that new couple) (4)

To get into the "Reverse Becket" formation, start in duple improper formation. Then the women trade places, and everyone is next to their partner but backwards from normal Becket formation.

The A1 is easy to do but hard to describe! After "balance the ring" partners are holding hands, man's left in woman's right. "Nevada twirl" is just a "California twirl" with these opposite hands -- partners raise joined hands and trade places, with the woman ducking under the arch. (As partners pass, men are to the inside of the set and women outside.) Then face partner without letting go of hands, and reach across the set to join free hand with neighbor and form a "cloverleaf". After balancing in this formation, an easy California twirl with neighbor re-forms the original ring (rotated 1/2).

The progression in B2 is satisfying, but dancers will be late unless helped out by attention to timing during the walk-through and precise (early?) calls during the dance. Take just two steps to cross the set, turning right immediately after passing neighbor to face single file up or down the set. Then two more steps to meet the next couple, and four steps to circle halfway.

As to the title "Retronella" -- the dance is loosely similar in structure to Petronella, but is "retro" (backwards) in numerous respects: the reverse Becket formation, progressing on the other side of the set, women leading the progression (scandalous...), and men moving around the ring in the opposite direction as Petronella. And one more -- when waiting out at the ends, dancers should stay as they are, resisting the urge to cross over. Despite all this retrocity I have found the dance to be popular and not disorienting.


Rad Robin
By Rick Mohr; January 2016
Contra, Becket
Level: Intermediate
A1: Right and left through (8)
Women chain (8)
A2: Mad Robin (women cross in front to start) (8)
Swing next neighbor (8)
B1: Circle left 3/4 (6)
Women roll away with partner (2)
Half hey (men pass left shoulders to start) (8)
B2: Gypsy and swing partner (16)

A good connected dance, with a "rad" progression.

From the A1 ladies chain, women continue forward and left to start the Mad Robin. All lock eyes with partner while walking the path of a neighbor dosido, then turn at the last moment for a new-neighbor swing.

To make the most of the B1, encourage partners to use some weight from the roll away to pull into the hey.


Rick's Triplet #1
By Rick Mohr; July 23, 2000
Triplet, 1's Improper
Level: Intermediate
A1: Balance and swing partner (16)
(1's face down, others face up)
A2: Dip and dive, 6 changes (inside couple arch) (16)
B1: Top two couples balance in a ring of four (4)
Top two women roll away with neighbor (4)
All balance in a ring of six (4)
All women roll away (bottom two with neighbor, top with partner) (4)
B2: All balance in a ring of six (4)
Circle left 6 hands round (12)

Ted Sannella wrote many wonderful triplets and popularized the formation for contra dancers. The best triplets give a short intimate dancing experience with a zesty all-moving contra feel and the added variety of 3-couple figures.

A2's "dip and dive" starts with couples 1 and 2 trading places, couple 1 ducking under couple 2's arch. Then couples 1 and 3 trade places, couple 1 arching over couple 3, while couple 2 does a California twirl at the top. Then couple 3 arches over couple 2 while couple 1 does a California twirl at the bottom. After 6 such changes everyone is back home. (This figure works best if the preceding dance had a California twirl so everyone can do it smoothly!)

In B1, couple 1 moves to the middle during the first roll away and to the bottom during the second roll away. In both rollaways the women move to their right while the men move to their left.

In terms of the original numbering, once through the dance leaves the couples in a 2, 3, 1 sequence.


Rick's Triplet #2
By Rick Mohr; January 28, 2002
Triplet, 1's Improper
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
A1: 1's cross (passing right shoulders), go outside below 2's who move up (6)
1's cross (passing right shoulders), turn right, go outside around two people (ending proper) (10)
A2: Circle left 6 hands round (12)
Allemande right with partner 3/4 (4)
(Join left hands with neighbor to form a wave of six)
B1: Balance the wave (4)
Half hey for 6 (neighbors pass left shoulders to start) (12)
B2: Balance and swing partner (16)

The figures of this dance fit the music phrases exactly, so it can be quite satisfying if dancers are on the ball but somewhat unforgiving if they get confused.

The active couple moves continuously in A1. First they cross around the 2's to the middle position, and then without stopping they cross again and both turn right—the man loops around the bottom couple while the woman loops around the top couple. As the active dancers return to the middle position (proper) all join hands and match their motion smoothly into a circle left.

The circle left in A2 takes 12 steps, so be aware to call the allemande right in time for its four steps to end the phrase in time to balance the wave at the start of B1. Then 12 weaving hey steps invert the set in time for the partner balance and swing at the start of B2.

In terms of the original numbering, once through the dance leaves the couples in a 3, 1, 2 sequence.


Rockin' Robin
By Rick Mohr; November, 1996
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Easy/Intermediate
A1: Circle right (8)
Allemande left with neighbor (6)
Men pull across by the right (2)
A2: Hey (partners pass left shoulders to start) (16)
B1: Balance and swing partner (16)
B2: Circle left 1 1/4 (to original places) (10)
"Zig left": move left with partner out of set (3)
"Zag right": move right with partner past neighbors (to meet next couple) (3)

This is a very fun dance, especially with fast reels.

It helps to alert the men to pull by at the end of the phrase in A1. Otherwise some will delay until the beginning of A2, making them late for the balance in B1. This can be reinforced during the dance by calling "Men right hand pull by" early by a beat or two.

The "Zig-Zag" in B2 is most satisfying if dancers emphasize the sideways left/right motion rather than the forward motion which gets them past their neighbors. There's plenty of time, so encourage them to go a good distance out of the set in the Zig. The idea is to let the momentum from the circle left propel into the Zig left, and then let the momentum from the Zag right lead directly into the circle right with the next couple.

For Robin Kynoch, a fine tinwhistle player from Framingham, Massachusetts. You might not think it possible to "rock" on the whistle, but Robin does.


Rosen at the Wheel
By Rick Mohr; October 2004
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate
A1: Gypsy neighbor (8)
Swing neighbor (8)
A2: Men allemande left 1 1/2 (8)
Allemande right with partner 3/4 (4)
Allemande left with shadow (4)
B1: Balance and swing partner (16)
B2: (On left diagonal) Right and left through (8)
Circle left 3/4 (6)
(Face new neighbor up and down the set)
Pass through to meet next neighbor (2)

The right and left through in B2 is a double progression, but the subsequent pass through makes for a single progression dance. I got the idea of doing a "fake double progression" starting with a diagonal right and left through from Tori Barone of Wilmington Delaware. Thanks Tori!

This dance progresses in the opposite direction from most duple improper contras, with the 1's moving up the set and the 2's moving down the set.

For my friend Bruce Rosen of Newton MA, fine pianist and champion of maligned instruments like melodeon and banjo uke, who never lets me drive.

Back when I used to name untried dances I wrote another dance with this title, but it just wasn't as great as Bruce. If by some chance you have the old one please bury it.


Shoot the Breeze
By Rick Mohr; December 2015
Contra, Becket
Level: Easy/Intermediate
A1: Balance the ring (4)
Give and take (2)
Swing neighbor (10)
A2: Circle left 3/4 (8) (keep hands with neighbor)
Dosido as couples (8)
B1: Balance the ring (4)
Swing partner (12)
B2: Half promenade with partner (wide loop to face new neighbors) (8)
Right and left through (8)

An accessible all-moving dance with a distinctive feel, and balances at the tops of the parts.

To set up the A1 "Give and Take", neighbors use the ring balance to create some arm tension. Women then release the tension to zip across the set and smoothly start a neighbor swing.

In the A2 couples' dosido, keep some elbow tension to have good sideways communication with your neighbor.

In the B2, couples progress by making an extra wide left turn in the half promenade. Then meet new neighbors with a right and left through.


Shift Happens
By Rick Mohr; January, 2016
Contra, Becket
Level: Intermediate
A1: Circle left 3/4 (6)
Swing neighbor (10)
A2: Slice left (8)
Women chain (8)
B1: Half hey (women pass right shoulders to start) (8)
Swing partner (from adjacent hey) (8)
B2: Half hey (men pass left shoulders to start) (8)
Gypsy partner (6)
Shift left to meet next couple (2)

A smooth dance with a nice progression, plus a partner swing sandwiched by half heys.

The A2 "slice left" is a left-diagonal "long lines forward and back"—dancers join hands in long lines, walk forward on the left diagonal to meet the next couple, and retire straight back.

After the B2 gypsy, women in the center can connect everything by placing left hand in the man's right as he leads into the shift left.

Ever notice how all in-flight annoucements seem to come from some overly-formal script written decades ago? Southwest Airlines is the exception, as I learned one landing when our flight attendant announced "Be careful when removing things from the overhead bins, because ... shift happens!"


The Shy Gazelle
By Rick Mohr; January 16, 2009
Contra, Duple Improper, Reverse-progression
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
A1: Gypsy neighbor (8)
Swing neighbor (8)
A2: Long lines forward and back (8)
1/4 Hey (women pass right shoulders to start) (4)
Men allemande right (4)
B1: Star promenade partner 1/2 (4)
Swing partner ("hoop hold") (12)
B2: Circle left 3/4 (8)
Pass through up and down (2)
(New) women allemande left 3/4 (4)
1/4 Hey (partners pass right shoulders to start) (4)

In B1 the men hold on after the allemande right, put their arm around their partner (man's arm below), and turn halfway more. This star promenade uses different arms than "usual", with the nice consequence that partners are rotating the right direction for a smooth transition into the swing. And since the man's left and woman's right arms are already connected it's a great chance to use the "hoop hold" (seen sometimes in Scandinavian turning dances) where both partners make a big hoop with their arms, supporting each other equally. It might profit from a quick demo since many dancers don't use it.

In B2 the "wrong side" reverse progression can come as a surprise, but the last two figures give a quick satisfying resolution to get everyone back on the "right" side.

A birthday gift from David Schwartz (who came up with the title) to Yael Schy.


Snakes Are On the Move
By Rick Mohr; September 2, 2010
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate
A1: Balance and swing neighbor (16)
A2: Circle left 3/4 (8)
Allemande right with partner 1 1/2 (8)
B1: Half hey (men pass left shoulders to start) (6)
Swing partner (10)
B2: Men cross, passing left shoulders (2)
Allemande left with neighbor (6)
Pull by next neighbor with right hand (2)
Allemande left with neighbor #3 (6)
(return to neighbor #2 to begin again)

Continuous movement for all make this a crowd pleaser, especially when the dramatic B2 buildup / A1 release is matched by a killer buildup and release in the music.

The allemande left in B2 may be unexpected. I say "Men, you're going to do two things by the left—cross the set passing left shoulders, and allemande left with your neighbor."

Before the Fire Ant Frolic one year I enjoyed a memorable camping trip with Crowfoot in the Texas hill country. Pulling into Pedernales Falls State Park (pronounced "PER-duh-NAL-us") we asked the ranger, Dolores Fenton, if there was anything we should watch out for at the campsite. "Well," she said in her fine texas drawl, "SNAKES are ON the MOVE!"


Spoot the Dog
By Rick Mohr; August, 1989
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Easy
A1: Balance neighbor (4)
Dosido neighbor (6)
Allemande right with neighbor (6)
(Women join left hands to form a wave of four)
A2: Balance the wave (4)
Women allemande left 1/2 (3)
Swing partner (9)
B1: Long lines forward and back (8)
Women chain (8)
B2: Left hand star (8)
Right hand star (8)

In Michael McKernan's "Daybreak Real" (and descendants), the men balance each other, then dosido, then allemande right. This combination cries out for more uses, as in this dance where everyone gets to do it with their neighbor.

The rest of the dance isn't too complicated, making it a candidate for that small category of dances which are straightforward for beginners while still interesting for veterans. I often use it successfully as the second dance of the evening for a mixed crowd.

Named for Malcolm Sanders' wonderful dog Spoot, who appeared in Malcolm's life at 1:00 AM after a Froggie on the Carport gig during the time the band was infatuated with Ian Burns' tune Spootiskerry. (One story is that "Spootiskerry" approximates the sound of the ocean splooshing into a rock formation on a particular Scottish island.)


Starshadow
By Rick Mohr; February 2, 2005
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate
A1: Men allemande left (5)
3/4 Hey (neighbors pass right shoulders to start) (11)
A2: Gypsy partner (8)
Swing partner (8)
B1: Long lines forward and back (8)
(With shadow and neighbor) Right hand star (8)
B2: (Original foursome) Left hand star (8)
Shift right to meet next couple (2)
Circle right 3/4 (6)

A smooth dance with nice transitions and a fun progression led by the women. (Shocking!)

In B1 your shadow is next to you—give their hand a little squeeze during the forward and back to remind everyone to start the right-hand star with shadow rather than partner.

Then come back for a left-hand star with your partner, ending where you finished the swing. Face single file up or down the set, and continue the momentum of the star to walk forward two steps with the women leading. Meet the next couple and circle right!

For Nica Faulkner of Jamaica Plain Massachusetts and Stoddard New Hampshire, who appreciates a starry night and a smooth dance.


Steel Anniversary Reel
By Rick Mohr; May 12, 2003
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate
A1: Long lines forward back (4)
Women roll away with neighbor as lines go back (4)
Mad Robin (men cross in front to start) (8)
A2: Men cross, passing left shoulders (2)
Gypsy partner (6)
Swing partner (8)
B1: Circle left 3/4 (8)
Allemande right with neighbor 1 1/2 (8)
B2: Half hey (men pass left shoulders to start) (8)
Swing neighbor (8)

The "Mad Robin" figure, borrowed from the English country dance of the same name, has shown up in a number of contra dances; I think it fits particularly nicely in this sequence. Dancers walk the path of a neighbor dosido but face their partner across the set throughout, keeping eye contact. Since the figure is unfamiliar to many dancers it can help to first walk a neighbor dosido and then repeat the same track keeping partner eye contact.

While backing up in long lines in A1, each man rolls his new neighbor from left to right. Then neighbors pull sideways into the sliding doors, with the man passing in front of his neighbor but keeping eye contact with his partner across the set. After one revolution, men cross the set passing left shoulders to gypsy and swing partner.

For David and Cynthia Simonoff on their 11th anniversary, commissioned by our mutual friend Karen Geer from a Pinewoods auction.


String of Swings
By Rick Mohr and Bob Isaacs; April 11, 2009
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Easy/Intermediate
A1: (1's step between 2's)
Down the center, four in line (turn alone) (8)
Return (8)
(face neighbor, 1's back to back in the center)
A2: Hey (neighbors pass left shoulders to start) (16)
B1: Allemande left with neighbor 1 1/2 (8)
2's swing (8)
B2: Swing neighbor (8)
1's swing (8)

The sequence of swings can be a thrill, especially if dancers end each of them with their back to the person they're going to swing next and then continue momentum to whirl 180° to the right and immediately into the next swing. (The men in particular need extra encouragement to turn right out of each swing.)

Here's how I do that part of the walk-through: 2's—finish your swing facing each other in the center, with your back to your neighbor. 1's be ready to catch them! 2's whirl right, right into a swing with your neighbor. End that swing facing your neighbor, with the 1's back-to-back in the center. 1's—whirl right, right into a swing with your partner.

The neighbor swing in B2 ends in the middle of the phrase, something I usually avoid because dancers are so used to swinging until the end of the phrase. But this dance has always worked well, maybe because the series of short swings is a clear focus.

Thanks to co-author Bob Isaacs for greatly improving the sequence of surrounding figures for the string of swings.


Sue's Cruise
By Rick Mohr; February 26, 2002
Contra, Becket
Level: Intermediate
A1: Shift left to meet next couple (2)
Circle left (8)
Women allemande right 1 1/4 (6)
A2: Half hey (partners pass left shoulders to start) (8)
Left shoulder gypsy with partner (8)
B1: Circle right (8)
Men allemande left 1 1/4 (8)
B2: Pass neighbor by right shoulder (2)
Women cross, passing left shoulders (2)
Swing partner (12)

This dance can have a wonderfully steady cruise feeling, with each figure flowing into the next and culminating in the final swing. Things that help are leisurely allemandes, uncrowded sets, and smooth reels with good drive. The timing noted above is not precise; dancers' individual variations can cause the figures to align with the music differently each time through. But it all works out.

The transition from left shoulder gypsy to circle right is unusual. It can be smooth and satisfying, but is initially awkward for some dancers. As the gypsy ends the women are in the center looking out at the men, and everyone is still moving to their own right. The man should continue moving to his right to lead into the circle, and the woman can connect everything by placing her right hand in the gent's left as she follows him into the circle. (Thanks to Kathy Anderson for pointing out this lovely connection years ago in the other direction.)

In the transitions from circle to allemande in A1 and B1 it helps to remind the dancers who aren't doing the allemande to make room by taking a step back, particularly the women in B1.

For Sue Rosen, good friend and fine caller from Newton MA.


Summer Of Delight
By Rick Mohr; September 27, 2007
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Easy/Intermediate
A1: Balance and swing neighbor (16)
A2: Circle left 3/4 (8)
(Join hands in a wave of four—partners join right; women join left)
Balance the wave (4)
Walk forward (to meet shadow from next wave) (4)
(Join hands in a wave of four—shadows join right; women join left)
B1: Balance the wave (4)
Allemande right with shadow 3/4 (4)
Swing partner (8)
B2: Men allemande left 1 1/2 (8)
Star promenade with neighbor 1/2 (4)
Butterfly whirl (4)

This dance combines the distinctive figures from "Summer of 84" by Gene Hubert and "Marion's Delight" by Carol Kopp. It's an accessible yet interesting dance for a mixed crowd of dancers.


Sunset Limited
By Rick Mohr; September 27, 2007
Contra, Becket
Level: Intermediate
A1: Men allemande left (5)
Swing partner (11)
A2: Circle left 3/4 (6)
Allemande right with neighbor (5)
Women allemande left (5)
B1: Gypsy and swing neighbor (16)
B2: Step forward to meet partner in the center (4)
(Take partner's free hand—man's left and woman's right)
Men lead partner back and to the right (2)
Shift right to meet next couple (2)
Circle right (8)

This is a good "steady groove" dance, with continuous flow and smooth transitions. After the 2008 Dance Flurry I was pleased to hear from a dancer that "In combination with the tune Nightingale played and the partner I was dancing with, [Sunset Limited] was one of the most exquisite dance experiences I've ever had. I don't remember many individual dances in my life, but that one will stay with me."

For some dancers the B2 progression feels odd at first because their partner is on the "wrong" side. I start by teaching the progression—get in Becket formation, trade places with your partner, and shift left to be in front of another couple. Assure the men it's correct to have their partner in their left hand. Assure the women it's correct to have their partner in their right hand. Now shift right and circle right with your original neighbors.

I encourage dancers to do the A2 allemandes more tightly than usual, but it's not crucial since the subsequent gypsy is forgiving.

For my wife Chloe Maryam Mohr (who is the best) in honor of our epic Fall 2007 train trip, and the ride from Houston to New Orleans on Amtrak's Sunset Limited.


Synchronicity
By Rick Mohr; December 2004
Contra, Duple (reverse) Improper
Level: Easy/Intermediate
A1: Men allemande left 1 1/2 (8)
Half hey (partners pass right shoulders to start) (8)
A2: Gypsy partner (8)
Swing partner (8)
B1: Circle left (8)
Women chain (to neighbor) (8)
B2: Left hand star (8)
Swing next neighbor (8)

Smooth transitions, unbroken momentum, and a mid-B2 progression make this a dynamic dance using standard figures.

Technically it doesn't start in the normal "improper" formation, but don't tell the dancers. Begin the first walk-through with a neighbor swing; then when you're ready to start the dance leave everyone next to the neighbor they've just swung rather than backing up to original places.

There's not much extra time, so encourage the dancers (men especially) to keep the momentum going between figures—particularly the swing to allemande in A1, swing to circle in B1, and chain to star in B2.


Taconic Stars
By Rick Mohr; January 22, 2006
Contra, Becket
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
A1: Shift left to meet next couple (2)
Circle left 3/4 (6)
Swing neighbor (8)
A2: Right and left through (8)
Left hand star (8)
B1: (With previous neighbors) Right hand star 7/8 (7)
Men (of original foursome) allemande left 3/4 while women walk up or down the set to meet partner (3)
Allemande right with partner 3/4 (3)
Allemande left with shadow (3)
B2: (... allemande continues) (2)
Gypsy partner (6)
Swing partner (8)

It's helpful to meet your shadow before the walkthrough, standing next to you in the Becket formation.

Men should remember each other during the first star in A2 so they can find each other after the second star in B1. When they meet there is a momentary long wave of men in the middle of the set, and the women are facing up or down the set. While the men allemande each other the women continue along the set a few small steps to meet their partner.

The B1 timing may look rushed, but this is how I've observed it to work in practice.

For Matece Duncan and the crystal-bright stars above the Falcon Ridge folk festival.


Tag and Zag
By Rick Mohr; January 2015
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate
A1: Balance and swing neighbor (16)
A2: Down the center, four in line (6)
Sliding doors (trade places as couples and turn alone) (4)
Return (bend the line to form a circle) (6)
B1: Balance the ring (4)
Petronella turn (4)
Swing partner (8)
B2: Circle left 3/4 (8)
Zig left with partner, past neighbors (3)
Zag right with partner, almost past next neighbors (3)
Men allemande left 1/2 (2)

An all-moving dance with fun side-to-side movement, and balances at the tops of the parts.

In the "sliding doors" figure couples dynamically trade ends of a line of four. It's easy and fun, but unfamiliar and requires careful word choice in the walkthrough.

Here's one way to teach it: "Go down the hall six steps, and stop. Stay facing down. Right hand couple take a step forward. When I say go, still facing down, as couples move sideways to trade places with the other couple. Go! Now turn alone to face the music."

In B2, couples zig left to progress and then zag right until the new men have almost passed each other. But then they catch left hands, turning halfway for a just-in-time balance with new neighbors.

"Tag" in the title is from "tag the line", a Modern Western square dance figure similar to sliding doors. After naming the dance I learned that the two figures are actually somewhat different so it's better to call this one "sliding doors". But never junk a good title!


Take the Hey Train
By Rick Mohr; March 2011
Contra, Becket
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
A1: Shift left to meet next couple (2)
Circle left 3/4 (6)
Swing neighbor (8)
A2: Long lines forward and back (8)
Women chain (8)
B1: Women allemande right 3/4 (to momentary long wave of women) (4)
Next women (along wave) allemande left 1/2 (2)
Next women (along wave) allemande right 3/4 (4)
Allemande left with shadow 1/2 (2)
Men allemande right 3/4 (to momentary long wave of men) (4)
B2: Next men (along wave) allemande left 1/2 (2)
Next men (along wave) allemande right 3/4 (4)
Swing partner (10)

In several existing dances either the women or the men do a series of allemandes along a central wave. In this dance, everyone gets to do it. Challenging, but rewarding with a focused walkthrough.

After the A2 everyone is next to their partner. This is a good time to introduce shadows (next to you) and describe the "hey train"—first the women and then the men do three allemandes along the middle of the set. That moves each couple one place to the right, a double progression, so the shift left in A1 makes this a single-progression dance.

In B1, the women (who just chained) allemande right 3/4. It's good to pause here with a long center wave of women so they can visualize moving along the wave with the next two allemandes. After those everyone turns their shadow halfway, launching the men on their part. It's good to pause again after they allemande right 3/4 so they too can visualize moving along their wave with the next two allemandes.

With apologies to Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.


Ted and Lynn
By Rick Mohr; September 9, 2009
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate
A1: Balance neighbor (4)
Pull by neighbor with right hand (2)
Pull by neighbor #2 with left hand (2)
Swing neighbor #3 (8)
A2: Cross trail through (6)
Swing neighbor #2 (10)
B1: 1/4 Hey (men pass left shoulders to start) (4)
Women push off (2)
Swing partner (10)
B2: Circle left 3/4 (8)
Dosido neighbor (8)

This dance has three swings, each with a slight surprise—first with a neighbor you haven't seen yet, second with a neighbor you thought you were finished with, and finally with your partner in an unexpected way.

Dancers may not be familiar with the cross trail through in A2, but it's easy if you think about who you're passing. Pass right shoulder with your partner to cross the set, then pass left shoulder with the neighbor you just swung (#3) to meet the neighbor you passed earlier (#2).

Then in B1, after the men pass left and partners pass right, the women meet and push off each other with both hands. The next transition is quite fine if the woman backs directly into her partner's extended right arm and he wraps her smoothly into the swing.

For Ted Hodapp and Lynn Baumeister, good friends and exceptional dancers, on the occasion of their wedding.


The Ten Pound Snowflake
By Rick Mohr; 1983
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
A1: Allemande left with neighbor 3/4 (4)
(Women join right hands to form a wave of four)
Balance the wave (4)
Women allemande right (5)
Give left to neighbor; courtesy turn (3)
A2: Women allemande right 1/2 (4)
Balance and swing partner (12)
B1: Circle left 3/4 (6)
Swing neighbor (10)
B2: Circle left (8)
Men allemande left (4)
Allemande right with neighbor 3/4 (4)

This is the first dance I ever wrote. Some spots are more challenging than I might prefer nowadays, but it's been enthusiastically danced many times in the Midwest so here it is! It was originally written to match the balances in Brian Humphrey's tune of the same name, but goes fine with other tunes too. Brian wrote the tune after a particularly HEAVY Minnesota snowstorm and a visit to the East Lansing Michigan coffeehouse "The Ten Pound Fiddle".

After the women allemande quickly in A1 they should allemande leisurely in A2, taking 4 full beats before the partner balance.

In my exuberant age 25 dancing style, the circles in B1 and B2 were punctuated by double-footed stamps on the last two beats of the phrase! (Somewhere along the line these were dubbed "the snowflakes".) How about we say these are optional?

In B2 (with or without the snowflakes) it's challenging to get all the way around in the circle and do a full men's allemande in 4 counts. As the men move into the allemande, giving a little right-hand tug can help their neighbors complete the circle and be well positioned for the final allemande.


Trip to Peterborough
By Rick Mohr; August 13, 2002
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Easy/Intermediate
A1: Women take four steps to long wave of women, and balance (8)
Men take four steps to long wave of men, and balance (8)
A2: Men allemande left 3/4 (4)
Pass neighbor by right shoulder (2)
Women cross, passing left shoulders (2)
Swing partner (8)
B1: Circle left 3/4 (8)
Allemande right with neighbor 1 1/2 (8)
B2: Allemande left with next neighbor (6)
Swing original neighbor (10)

For Steve Zakon-Anderson, who has called, organized, and composed many wonderful dances, many of them in Peterborough NH. The dance borrows its A1 from Steve's well-known "Trip to Lambertville" (and Peter Lippincott's "Snake River Reel"), and was premiered in Peterborough at the 2002 Fall Ball.

The middle of the A2 is essentially a 1/4 hey. It works best if the women take a half step right to line up across from each other while the men are in the middle.

After the neighbor swing in B2 the women appreciate a firm right hand from the men to push off from as they head into the center.


Trip to Troy
By Rick Mohr; March 17, 1994
Contra, Duple Improper
Level: Easy/Intermediate
A1: Balance the ring (4)
Circle left 1/2 (4)
Swing neighbor (8)
A2: Women allemande right 1 1/2 (8)
Allemande left with partner 1/2 (2)
Allemande right with shadow (6)
B1: Balance and swing partner (16)
B2: Circle left 3/4 (8)
Balance the ring (4)
California twirl (4)

Finding the right shadow in A2 is easier if dancers identify their shadow before the walk-through. Look across the set at your partner; your shadow is two places to the right.

The allemande left in A2 is technically 3/4 round but there is less confusion if it is taught as 1/2 round.

Written for a visit to my sister Carol when she lived in Troy, New York.


Walking On Air
By Rick Mohr; April 2017
Contra, Becket
Level: Intermediate
A1: Pass through across (4)
California twirl with partner (4)
Mad Robin (gents cross in front to start) (8)
A2: Circle left (8)
Ladies chain (8)
B1: Mad Robin (ladies cross in front to start) (8)
Circle right (8)
B2: Zig right with partner, past neighbors (2)
Zag left with partner to home side, across from next neighbors (3)
Swing partner (10)

An all-moving dance with good flow and symmetry—gents lead a clockwise Mad Robin (eyes on neighbor) into circle left, then ladies lead a counter-clockwise Mad Robin (eyes on partner) into circle right.

After the A1 California twirl, gents are moving forward and can smoothly step in front to start the Mad Robin. But some gents on autopilot use their left hand instead of their right hand to twirl their partner, making for an awkward transition. To help avoid that mistake I say in the walkthrough "Pass through across and stay facing out. Take your partner's near hand (gents, that's your right) and trade places—gents to the outside and ladies to the inside under the arch."

Gents lead the B2 zig right (partners are on the "wrong" side of each other); ladies then lead the zag left and have a nice opportunity to pull into the partner swing after crossing in front of new neighbors.

For my friend Cindy Visness, college bagpipe buddy and heartful dancer in Chapel Hill, NC.


Warp and Weft
By Rick Mohr; February 2005
Grid Square, 4-Face-4
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
A1: Lines of four forward and back (8)
Swing corner (8)
A2: Allemande left with next corner (8)
Dosido the one you swung (8)
B1: Men left hand star (8)
Allemande right the one you swung 1 1/4 (6)
Pull by partner with left hand (2)
B2: Balance and swing the one you meet (16)
C1: Heads (or sides) forward and back (8)
Heads (or sides) left hand star (face original partner) (8)
C2: Hey (partners pass right shoulders to start) (16)
D1: Gypsy partner (8)
Swing partner (8)
(End in lines at the sides (or heads))
D2: Lines of four forward and back (8)
Pass through two lines of four (8)

Depending on which side of bed you got out of this morning, this is either a grid square or a 4-face-4 double-progression contra. Extra fun comes from progressing alternately down the hall and across the hall, so everyone gets thoroughly mixed around.

To get the spacing right, set it up as a grid square. Have each square join hands in a ring so everyone can see to line up the squares in rows and columns. Make sure they're straight, with no gaps. Then have everyone move a bit to their left to form lines of four facing four up and down the hall.

You need 9 squares minimum, the more the better. If any row has only one square, move a square from a different row—for example, 3+3+2+2 is better than 3+3+3+1.

Form a square in A1 after swinging your corner, who is next to you if you're in the middle of the line and across from you if you're at the end of the line.

Head couples and side couples alternate leading the C1. No one is with their partner at that point, but in successive changes heads remain heads and sides remain sides (until hitting an edge and swapping roles). After the left-hand star all face original partners, and you're lined up for a hey with the people in your original line of four.

End the D1 swing in lines of four, facing the couple you did the hey with. The lines form alternately at the sides and at the heads in successive changes. If dancers face their hey mates everything works out, but of course it's best to keep it straight in your own head and call e.g. "Face across the hall, lines go forward and back".

To help with the D2 progression during the walk-through, look past the line facing you to see another line of four and then look past that line to see a third line of four. You'll be dancing with that third line next—pass through the first and second lines to meet them. If there's no second line, do a California twirl and face back into the set.

I wrote this dance after a trip to Lowell Massachusetts to see the Industrial Revolution factory museums. The alternating progressions reminded me of all the warp and weft in those amazing waterpowered looms.