Cumberland Square Eight

Source: Traditional; published in English Dance & Song, November December 1939, Volume IV, Number 1.
Formation: Square

A1 Heads, in Ballroom or Two-Hand Hold: Gallop across the set, Men passing back to back (8)
Gallop Back, Ladies passing back to back (8)
A2 Sides: The same
B1 Heads: Star Right (8); Star Left (8)
B2 Sides: The same
A3 Heads: Basket (16)
A4 Sides: The same
B3 All Eight: Circle Left (16)
B4 Partner Promenade Home (16)

32 bars. Some bands play medleys mixing jigs and reels.

The initial EFDSS dance focus was on Playford and Morris. Eventually people started researching what people were actually dancing in the villages, without any influence from the EFDSS. Many of these were quadrilles and other old dances which had become popular in particular areas and evolved into local dances; that may have been the origin of this dance. World War II started on September 1 1939; this issue was published just after that and the EFDSS was uncertain of its future, but in the article below you can see that "Cumberland Square Eight is all the rage at the moment" and was published as the first in a planned series of traditional dances.

Below that you can see an article from six months later describing a village dance in Cumberland, and sure enough the Square Eight was danced.

This seems to be one of the dances that has remained unchanged for the last 100 years, The description in the Community Dance Manual is exactly the same, and that is exactly how I first learnt it in the 1960s, and still call it today.

I would suggest that in the basket everyone has their right foot in the middle, and scoots with the left, so that you can achieve a high speed. Attempting to lift the girls off the ground should only be done if they consent, you have good technique, and there is plenty of room! You are not trying to achieve this at a social dance:

Flying Basket
From "Cowboy Dances" 1939.

Here is Douglas Kennedy, in the 1950s, teaching the dance and teaching how to dance it well:

When I teach the Basket I explain that they will be doing the Basket in the same foursomes every time; I get them to move into those groups of four. I teach them an Inside Basket first: "Hold hands in a circle of four, now let go, cross your hands, and retake hands with same people. Now put your right foot in the middle and pretend you are on a scooter or skateboard and push with your left foot. Don't look down! And Spin the Top!" Then I teach them how to do a standard Basket and tell each group of four to decide which one they want to use during the dance.

To make the Basket quickly, each couple, as they wait to go into the middle, can make half a Basket ready to meet the other couple in the middle.

Here is a video of me teaching the Inside Basket and the standard Basket:

For lots more information on Baskets and variants please see Baskets.

I wanted the fun of Cumberland Square Eight in a contra dance, so I wrote Cumberland Contra.

Original pages from English Dance & Song, November December 1939

Cumberland Square Eight

Cumberland Square Eight

Original page from English Dance & Song, March April 1940

Cumberland Square Eight

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