Circassian Circle

Source: Traditional, collected by Maud Karpeles, published by Peter Kennedy in English Dance & Song, February 1948. Vol XII. No. 1

Part 1 Formation: Sicilian Circle
A1 Right & Left Through OR Ladies Cross by the Left Shoulder; Men Cross by the Right Shoulder
Repeat to places
A2 Partner Balance & Swing
B1 Ladies' Chain x2
B2 Swing & Change OR Promenade on to the next couple

Part 2 Formation: Circle Mixer
A1 Into the Middle & Back x 2
A2 Ladies into the Middle, Clap, & Back
Men into the Middle, Clap, & Turn Left and go to your Corner
B1 Corner Swing
B2 Promenade - this is your New Partner

As published in the Community Dances Manual 1 in 1949: "A jig for one part and a reel for the other." It is generally danced these days to whatever the band want to play.

Part 1 has disappeared almost completely from the modern dance floor, but it was one of the original Circassian Circles.

Part 2, however, is a very common dance, often used as a finisher, with the dancers being told to find their original partner during the last B1, ready for a final swing. Part 2 is widely known as just "Circassian Circle". It was collected by Maud Karpeles in 1928 (though she called it Part 3 and doesn't document a Part 2!).

The first mention of a Circassian Circle that I know of is in "The Modern Dancing Master" by G.M.S. Chivers (1822). He uses it to mean what we now call a Sicilian Circle, couple facing couple in a big circle around the room. He lists four dances to do in this formation.

"La Daphne" is one of these dances:
  Right & left = set and turn partners = ladies chain = half-pousette into each others place, and turn partners under the arm = (= means 8 bars)
Depending on how you interpret the words, that is very close to Maud's Part 1.

Chivers describes the dances as starting with only one couple active; all the odd couples are lined up in a curve behind the #1s and all the even couples are lined up in a curve behind the #2s. Eventually everyone will be dancing. Of course we start with everyone active these days.

Thanks to Michael Barraclough for these scans of Chivers' book:

Circassian Circle

Circassian Circle

Circassian Circle

Coulon in 1844 describes the formation, couple facing couple in a big circle, but all it says about the dance is, "The figures to this dance may be taken either from the country dance, or from the quadrille: the waltz figures may also be introduced with advantage."

Radestock, in 1877, specifies that the first figure of the Caledonian Quadrille is generally danced:
  Top & bottom couples hands across
  Set to your partners and turn
  Ladies' chain
  Half promenade
  Half right and left

Later 19th century sources give descriptions for Part 1 such as:
  All balance (4); Four hands around (4)
  Ladies' chain (8)
  All balance (4); Turn partners (4)
  Right and left (8)
  All forward and back (4); Forward and pass through to next couple (4)

There are lot of common elements between these early forms of Part 1, and the one that Maud Karpeles collected, with various moves being modernised, e.g. Turn becomes Swing. The original Ladies' Chains would have been with an Allemande Left rather than a Courtesy Turn.

Generally "Circassian Circle" just referred to the formation, and therefore had the same meaning as "Sicilian Circle"; any moves would do.

For further reading see:
Library of Dance
Maud Karpeles notes

Original page from English Dance & Song, February 1948

Circassian Circle

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