Basics: Crossing the Set

Crossing the Set

This is how you get from a neighbor swing to a partner swing, and back again.

This is also  a quick and dirty way to check choreography, to make sure things progress correctly and everyone keeps their partner.

In a rotationally symmetric contra (in other words, nothing proper), there are pairs on the side of the set where all the swinging happens. You are either on the same side of the set as your neighbor, or as your partner. (If you’re next to your shadow, you’re also on the same side of the set as your partner, just in a different hands four.)

To get to the other pairing, say to transition from a neighbor swing to a partner swing, one gender needs to cross the set.

For instance, take the original version of Marian’s Delight:

Marian's Delight
Improper
A1 Neighbor balance and swing
A2 Long lines
   Women do-si-do 1 & 1/2
B1 Partner gypsy and swing
B2 Men allemande left 1 & 1/2
   Neighbor promenade across

(Yes, the star promenade is a bit of folk process.)

And with the crossings labelled:

Marian's Delight
Improper
A1 Neighbor balance and swing
A2 Long lines

Nobody crosses the set

   Women do-si-do 1 & 1/2

Women cross the set to get to their partner

B1 Partner gypsy and swing
B2 Men allemande left 1 & 1/2

Men cross the set to get across from partner, ready for progression

   Neighbor promenade across

Everyone crosses the set to be progressed.


Sometimes you can talk about crossings for a set of figures, like a whole 16-beat section, or a string of moves connection to swings. In Marian’s Delight, the entire B2 has the women cross.


In a dance, both men must cross the set an even number of times, and women must cross the set an even number of times.

  • If one number is odd, and the other even, it’s a mixer.
  • If both are odd, couples vibrate, progressing back and forth between two hands fours.
  • If both are even, it’s not a guarantee the dance works, but it’s a good start

You need to be a little careful with some figures, like fractional circles and stars. With circle left 3/4, if done after a neighbor swing, it has the women cross. But if done from initial improper formation, it has the men cross.

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