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Dance Instruction


When you get the choice to sit it out or dance . . .

We hope you dance!


Dance Masters will vary how they make their calls, so listen very carefully to their instructions. Most moves are with your opposite (the person facing you in the formation) but they can also be with your partner, with a side couple, with a corner person, by the ladies or by the gentlemen. Pay particular attention to calls of “across” or “half” which usually indicate you will exchange places with opposites, while calls of “to home”, “and return” or “around” usually mean you will finish the move in your starting position. Almost all movements are an eight count that begins as soon as you begin to move, not when you reach the other person involved in the move. Generally, the lady is on the gentleman’s right. Gentlemen start moves on their left foot and Ladies start moves on their right foot.
(L = Lady, G = Gentleman, Home Position = starting position.)

NOTE: All of the movements marked with a star («) can be seen in the Lincoln Quadrille performed as part of the "For the People" oratorio in honor of the of the Abraham Lincoln  Bicentennial.  See  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcgYAcxNhjI   Most of the moves in this dance are "half" or "across" the formation. 

Other helpful videos are on YouTube at
Civil War Dance, Part I – Soldier’s Joy, Money Musk Reel, Lancer’s Quadrille
Civil War Dance, Part II – Spanish Waltz, Tempest, German Waltz
Civil War Dance, Part III
Lincoln Quadrille (another performance) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOo38GBNA68


Forward and Back - March forward, nod to other person, and return to home position.

«Right Hand Around - Join right hands, turn clockwise and return to home.

«Left Hand Around - Join left hands, turn counter clockwise and return to home.

«Two Hands Around - Join both hands (G palms up), turn clockwise and return to home.

Dos a Dos - Pass right shoulders, backs, left shoulders and return to home.

Chain Down the Line (line of gentlemen facing a line of ladies) - Right hand to partner and turn 1½ around, left to next person on line of the opposite sex. Repeat right hand to partner and left hand to line until you reach the bottom of the set. Dancers on line should: (1) Wait for chaining person to come to you; do not go out into the set to meet them; (2) raise your left hand as a target; (3) after they pass, move up the set one place.

«Ladies’ Chain (two couples facing each other) -
L joins right hand with opposite L, release in center and continue to opposite side
L joins left hand with opposite G, G turns L counter clockwise
L joins right hand with opposite L, release in center and continue to home side
L joins left hand with Partner, Partner turns L counter clockwise

«Grand Chain (done in a quadrille formation or a large circle) - Turn and face partner and join right hands. Pull past partner’s right shoulder and release right hand. Give left hand to next person and pull past their left shoulder and release left hand. Repeat, alternating right and left. In some dances the second left will be your new partner. In others, you will continue until you meet your original partner at your home position.

«Cross and Return (done in a quadrille formation or line of couples facing couples) – Both couples move at the same time:
Top couple (TG and TL) holds hands and walks across the set and split the bottom couple going between them as they pass in the middle of the set. When the top couple reaches the opposite side of the set they release hands and turn away from each other in a “U” turn (note they will be on the “wrong” side of their partner). The top couple walks back to their home position, splitting for the bottom couple in the middle of the set.
Bottom couple (BG and BL) release hands and walks across the set and split for the top couple going around them as they pass in the middle of the set. When the bottom couple reaches the opposite side of the set they turn in toward each other and join hands (note they will be on the “wrong” side of their partner). The bottom couple walks back to their home position, splitting the top couple in the middle of the set.

«Balance’ is a variable move that involves walking four steps forward, not turning around, and walking four steps backwards.
In the Soldier’s Joy dance, each person actually walks past the other person’s right shoulder and then backs up, again passing the right shoulder.
In the Lancers’ Quadrille Dance, one person stands still and the other walks four steps up to them, both nod and the second person returns to their starting position.

«Rights and Lefts (two couples facing each other) - Join right hands with opposite and release hands as you pass right shoulders. Join left hand with partner. G put right hand at L’s back and “push” her in counter clockwise direction. At completion of this move, you should be in your opposite’s home position, with L or G’s right (this would be a “half rights and lefts”). If call is “Rights and Lefts to Home (or “and Return”), the moves are repeated to take the couples back to their home position. [Note: The gentleman’s hand at the lady’s back should be used for learning which direction to move. Once the move is mastered, the gentleman should merely guide the lady using his left hand.]

«Right Hand Star (two couples facing each other) – Gentlemen join right hands and ladies put their right hands on top of the gentlemen’s hands. All move in a clockwise direction either four or eight steps, depending on the dance. All release hands and turn around so that all are now going in a counterclockwise direction, All rejoin hands and move four or eight steps back to home position.


The CWDF has a dance manual available in PDF format.  This booklet was originally produced for a seminar
at the Civil War Preservation Trust’s Teacher Institute.  It has been revised and updated several times. 
It is designed to give basic instruction in several mid nineteenth century formation dances. 

If you would like a free copy,
email us.
Please include your name, city, state, and name of your Civil War or other type of group (if any).

Email: Info@CivilWarDance.org
(Copy and paste address into your email if link does not work)

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