The Rifleman

Source: Traditional, from Miss Cole, collected by Peter Kennedy and Pat Shaw; published in English Dance & Song, November 1949. Vol XIII. No. 6
Formation: Rifleman, now known as Becket

A1 Long Lines Forward & Back
Dance Forward, Pair Off: turn your back on your Partner and take your Neighbour in a Promenade Hold; Promenade back to the Man's side (the Man is turning left almost on the spot, leading the lady around him)
A2 Repeat to Places
B1 North Country Ladies' Chain x 2
B2 The Top Two Couples dance to the Bottom of the Set, everyone else Moves Up, clapping

Any 32 bar reel.

The longways formation of couple facing couple was rare in the early 20th century. The Country Dance Galopade (see below), which later became known as The Rifleman, is the best known example. I understand that the formation was known in the early 20th century as Rifleman Formation.

So the formation existed long before Herbie Gaudreau used it his Becket Reel. The Becket Reel was also published in Ralph Page's magazine "Northern Junket" Vol. 6, No. 10 (October, 1959) under the title "Criss Cross Reel" and in the Community Dances Manual 6 (1964) as Bucksaw Reel. The formation became so popular that there were over 120 dances in Becket Formation in the 2004 Give-and-Take contra dance manual. Herbie lived in Holbrook, Massachusetts and named many of his dances after Massachusetts towns. The Becket Reel is the most famous one and was probably named after Camp Becket, a dance camp near the town of Becket. Herbie wrote it circa 1958, and the formation became known univerally as Becket Formation.

Township Number Four, in Massachusetts, was named Becket after Beckett Hall, near Swindon, in England; so Becket is an English name after all!

The Galopade Country Dance was published in 1905 by James Skinner in "The People's Ball Room Guide":


The Rifleman was published in Community Dances Manual 3 in 1952, where it states, "The "polka" or Double-step is used throughout." However in the Revised Edition of 2005 it says, "Rant step throughout".I suspect that the rant step was added later since Northeners like doing rant steps. Of course, when you are travelling, the different between the travelling rant step and the Double-step can be quite subtle. Martin Kiff assures me that he has been ranting since the 1970s!

The Galopade Country Dance and The Rifleman are identical apart from the styling; the Galopade Ladies' Chain would have been an Open Ladies' Chain:
Ladies Pull By Right & Allemande Left the Man you Meet.

North Country Ladies' Chain: Important: The man does NOT turn at all. Ladies pull by right and offer left to the man. The man steps to the right and raises his left hand; the lady backs under it to end facing the same way as the man, slightly behind him, on his left. The man lowers his left hand and steps to his left, passing the lady's left hand from his left hand to his right hand behind his back. As he does this the lady steps to her right and forward to stand beside him. They end up as a couple with the man on the left, lady on the right.

James Skinner defines the step for the Galop as 1-2-3-pause. When danced more energetically there is naturally a small hop on the pause, so it is basically a polka or Double-step: 1-2-3-hop. So James Skinner's "galoping" for the Forward & Back is very similar to the Double step of The Rifleman. Likewise, when James Skinner says, "galop slowly down the centre" he may well mean what we would now call a polka.

Some pairs of couples like to make an Inside Basket (four dancers with their hands crossed, holding hands in a circle) and spin the basket to the bottom of the set.

Because two couples dance to the bottom each time, you retain the same neighbours throughout. A more progressive variant is to have the couples on the First Long Corners dance to the other end of their respective lines. That way you get new neighbours with whom to interact each time through the dance.

Original page from English Dance & Song, November 1949

The Rifleman

Original page from English Dance & Song, January 1950

The Rifleman

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