Oh! Susanna/O Susannah

Source: Traditional; provided by Keith Uttley; published in English Dance & Song, July/August 1956. Vol XX. No. 6
Formation: Square

A1 Head Couples go out to the Right, Circle Up Four
Head Men go Home Alone (leave Lines of Three at the Sides) (8)
Forward Six and Six Fall Back; Lonesome Men Go Forward & Back (8)
A2 Forward Six and Six Fall Back; Lonesome Men Cross Over (8) - Men check your new home
Corner Swing (8) - this is your New Partner
B1 Promenade to Menís New Home (16) - singing
B2 Partner Swing (8)
The Head Men have swapped places; Ladies have moved one place to the Right
Repeat for the Heads, then twice for the Sides

"Oh! Susanna" is a minstrel song by Stephen Foster (1826-1864), first published in 1848. It is among the most popular American songs ever written. So, of course there are multiple dances to this tune. The most common is a simple circle mixer with a Grand Chain.

The way I have written it above, the music is 32 beats for the Figure using the A Music twice, 16 beats for the Promenade, with everyone singing the chorus, using the B music, then an 8 beat bridge, repeating the last part of the B music, for the Swing. This is how it is often played for the song.

To fit in with the tune, as described above, the Circle to a Line needs to be done quickly, and the Forward & Backs done overlapped. This is my interpretation of the timings. If you have a live band who can adjust the number of As and Bs easily then there are other ways to do it.

Original page from English Dance & Song, July/August 1956

O Susannah

Back to Dance Index

I'd love to hear from you if you know anything more about this dance, its composer, its style, or its history.

Feedback is very welcome on any aspect of these dances or Web pages.

Please contact John Sweeney with your comments.