The Circassian Circle is a mixer type of collective folk dance. It is commonly found in folk balls in France, but also seems to be found around the world where it is danced in similar fashion. This dance stands out because France has a number of dances which are particular to the region from which they come. The Circassian Circle is one of the few mixer dances that everyone will know - and which is so easy anyone can figure it out with no explanation.

The dance seems to have originated in England (and not Circassia as one might have thought) during the 19th century, where what is now called "Circassian Circle" was only the second part of the original dance. It came to France in the 1960s and presumably reached other parts of the world at a similar time.

Ingredients

  • An even number of dancers - at least 10 would be ok, but somewhere between 20 and 40 would be better
  • Music - most tunes for this are in 6/8, but any music with two strong beats to the bar will do. Irish jigs work particularly well for this, having the correct rhythm and the right structure: an A and B part of 8 bars each, each of which is played twice - AABB. So errr... Music which repeats over a total of 64 beats.

Instructions

  1. All stand in a circle with boys and girls alternating. If you don't have equal numbers of boys and girls or you have some of those boorish people who refuse to behave naturally, just make sure that every second person knows that he is a boy for the purpose of these instructions. And that those who are not boys are girls.
  2. Hold hands
  3. During the first eight bars of the music (16 beats), you will do the following twice:
    1. Take four steps towards the center of the circle (arm swinging optional but fun)
    2. Walk back four steps (ditto)
    Note that you usually start with the left foot. You can also take two polka steps instead, depending on the music. These would go one-and-two three-and-four.
  4. Girls then take four steps in and four steps out. Boys clap their hands.
  5. Boys take note that their partner is to their left.
  6. Boys take four steps in, turn around and take four steps out. They now face their partner.
  7. You have now completed half the dance
  8. Partners swing for a count of 16 (8 bars). Don't worry about counting - just do as the others do. Once you are used to it, you will hear it in the music.
  9. Partners promenade around the circle counter-clockwise for a count of 16 (8 bars). Again, just follow the music - and the other couples.
  10. All rejoin the circle. The girl is now to the right of her old partner. Boys, you have a new partner to your left. (Girls, your new partner is to your right - is he cute?).
  11. Start over at step 2. Repeat ad lib.

The Swing

There are a large number of ways to swing. The basic effect is that you and your partner spin clockwise around each other. In order to accomplish this, hold your partner in a ballroom position and pretend you are on a scooter (the non-motorised kind). You place your right foot forward next to that of your partner and push yourself round on the left foot. As such you will be standing slightly to the left of your partner.

The ways of holding are very varied and will depend a lot on location and inclination. Most common is ballroom (or slightly different modern) hold:

  • Boy has right hand on girl's waist, lower back or shoulder-bone.
  • Girl had left hand on boy's shoulder.
  • Other hands are joined, in any position between stuck straight out tango-style or folded in, lover-fashion.

Another nice swing hold which allows one to move more easily into the promenade hold is to hold left hands and have right hands on each other's shoulders. Lean out and spin.

The Promenade

For the walk around, the boy is on the left (inside), girl is on the right (outside) and slightly to the front. Left hands are held above left shoulder, right hands are held above right shoulder.Ordinary steps or polka steps can be taken, according to music and preference. Arms are waved left and right. If so inclined, this part can be very flirtatious. Exit this position by spinning the girl clockwise and under your left arm.

Notes for the terminally confused

  • It is best to grab a partner before joining this dance - this ensures that the number of dancers is correct.
  • So long as the basic in out - in out - girls - boys - swing - promenade is respected, you can do whatever variations you like. Extra spins, different steps, whatever you fancy.
  • This is supposed to be fun. You are allowed to smile, laugh, whoop and holler if you like.
  • If you find yourself with too many dancers for the available space, try positioning yourselves in concentric circles.
  • If you find yourself without a partner during the swing, there should be another person in the same predicament, go find him/her in the middle of the circle. Among the fun things to do are to rush across the room and steal someone else's partner, either on the return from the boy's walk or even beforehand.
  • Don't forget to flirt with everybody. Only an ever so subtle difference should betray your real intentions.
  • Some people dance this in a very boring, funeral dirgesque manner. Don't be one of these people.

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