What are the formations you have the most trouble with? What about the tourbillon?
This beautiful figure was devised by Barry Priddey, who devised a lot of most excellent formations, including the tourbillon, and the lead change (‘dolphin’) reels, amongst others.
He has a wealth of dances some of which are very complex. He did not like leaving people standing in his dances. Some we did last year for the very experienced include The Whistler’s Glen
I devised a dance called Watchmaker, which has an explanation of where the name ‘tourbillon’ came from.
You can download the description of the tourbillon formation, scanned from the RSCDS Manual of Scottish Country Dancing, 3rd edition.
If you have someone at home to practice this with you should think of it more as ‘around the corners of the square’. Each turn has someone ‘going around the outside of the other’ who is doing most of the work. The other person is ‘enabling’ by making room for that person. The role changes each time.
On bars 1 and 2, for example, the first man is going ‘around his partner’, and is aiming for the ‘diagonally opposite position’. That is 1M is aiming for 2L position. The key is that the first lady does not come in too far and dances ‘slightly ‘ down to initiate the 2 hand turn.
As first couple ‘turn on 1 and release on 2’, first man’s ‘left ‘ hand is released, and he ‘draws ‘ his partner along the ladies side. Then they set on 3 and 4, and the process will continue, this time the first lady is going around the outside.
It is helpful if the first man dances forward into the set to initiate the turn, as he will remain on the spot this time. This time it is first lady who is aiming diagonally opposite, and will be releasing LH. The diagonally aiming person is the one who goes on the ‘outside ‘ and releases ‘Left hand’. The other person will turn and go back from whence they came.
So, first turn 1M diagonal, 1W remains; second turn 1M remains, 1M diagonal. The roles are reversed to the second couple, as 2M is diagonal around 2M first, then the roles reverse.
Unfortunately the formation lacks symmetry and having gone to the trouble of going around, the couples need to cross back on 7 and 8 as they are on the wrong sides at the end of 6. I have some dances where this is corrected, as I begin the formation on opposite sides.
You don’t need a partner who dances to practice this formation, only one who understands geography, as you need to ‘visualise’ where you are aiming each time. It is truly a cooperative formation as if e.g. 1W dances too far in on bar 1 or holds on longer than one bar, ‘things go bad’. In a technique class, I might teach without hands, as it is a ‘geographical’ formation, I think.
Kristin tells me she thinks about it as a clockwise figure, where you progress clockwise around the set. The person furthest back on the clock is always the one who leads out of the figure, progressing further round the clock. The other person stays where they are, then progresses round the clock the next time, as they start out as the trailing person the second time round.
Dances with a tourbillon
The following dances by Barry Priddey have tourbillons:
- Sands of Morar This beautiful demonstration video has turns in the middle of the set, but these are ‘very’ strong dancers.
- The Braes of Yarrow has a video of the Red Thistle Dancers an interesting group from the Bay area of San Francisco
- The Dark Mile starts with a tourbillon
7 April 2020