More experienced dancers 5

Our tutor Rod Downey explains strange entry reels

Standard reel on the side
The Montgomeries’ Rant
Sugar Candie
The Gentleman

One of the big problems people have with reels is that they don’t always begin in a straight line. This often results in people thinking they are giving the ‘other’ shoulder than what the reels are. Everyone has done it and has been confused.

Traditional dances usually (particularly at the end) involve first couple giving RS to second corner or LS to first corner. It’s easy enough to work out which shoulder you should give in a standard reel where everyone starts in a straight line. However, when the entry is non-standard, it’s not so easy to work out.

Standard reel on the side – right shoulder to second corner

For example, think about the situation where we have first lady on the men’s side between her corners, so she is in second man’s position, between 2M who is in 1M’s place, and 3M in his own place. Similarly 1M is between his corners on the ladies’ side.

See strange entry reels p1 below.

Now if I said dance right shoulder reels of three on the side giving right shoulder to second corners (so 1M RS to 2L who is in in 1L place, and 1L gives RS to 3M at the bottom diagram), this would be straightforward.

We have two straight lines of people, the 1M is going up and the 1L down so 1L is giving RS to 3M, and 2M is moving to his right. Typically these reels would be 6 bar reels with the corners home at the end of bar 6, and first couple crossing home on bars 7 and 8.

But these reels can often begin with 1C back to back in the middle, instead of on the sidelines. This is the case in a number of dances we do quite often at club, which I plan to work on when we can dance again.

This is your chance to learn all about the strange entry reels in:

  • The Montgomeries’ Rant (right shoulder to second corner)
  • Sugar Candie (left shoulder to first corner)
  • The Gentleman (half reel across)

The Montgomeries’ Rant – right shoulder to second corner

Look at the last 8 bars of  General Stuart’s Reel with video or The Montgomeries’ Rant with video.

Watch a video of the entry into The Montgomeries’ Rant reels danced by members of our club

These reels are the same as the standard reels on the side, but have strange entry, and the 2M and 3W really need to have their wits about them. Without the first couple standing in front of them to start the reel, there are no cues as to whether it is a left or right shoulder reel.

The active couples are dancing through the ends of the set, Man up, Lady down, but 3L and 2M must move to their right and pass the other corner left shoulder, which is counter-intuitive. See diagram – strange entry reels p1

Strictly speaking 3M and 2L should curve slightly to their left before giving this left shoulder in to the other corner, but this often confuses the second corners. (1C are the ‘middle’ couple of the reels.) The second corners must imagine that the 1C are in the middle.

Dancing Montgomerie’s Rant at the Wellington Region Hogmanay in 2016

Sugar Candie – left shoulder to first corner

Sugar Candie with video is a classic example of a strange entry reel giving left shoulder to first corner. People often find these reels quite difficult.

Watch a video of the entry into the Sugar Candie reels danced by members of our club

Here 2L in first lady’s place moves to her left, and similarly 3M moves to his left and will pass the other corner right shoulder. Again, you have to imagine that the reels are in a straight line with the active couple between their corners and facing first corners.

See diagram – strange entry reels p2 below.

Sugar Candie is a very nice dance with lovely music. Here is a video with some familiar faces and music, and you’ll see a lot of hilarity as dancers become confused about whether it’s a left or right shoulder reel, and lose track of their phrasing.

Remember the goal is to arrive only just in time on the ‘6,2,3’ before you cross or arriving home to your corner position at the end of ‘6,2,3’.

Dancing Sugar Candie at the Johnsonville 50 Golden Years Celebration in 2016

The Gentleman – half reel across

Another example of unusual entry reels comes from The Gentleman with video where there are half reels of three across the set on bars 21-24. 1M gives RS to 3L (who is in 3M’s place), and 1L gives RS to 2M who is in 1L’s place.

Watch a video of the entry into The Gentleman reels danced by members of our club

But the half reels start with 1M beside 3M and 1L beside 2L, so the half reels feel really weird for the first couple as they are doing a ‘hook’ into second place on own side, after beginning from second place on opposite side. See diagram – strange entry reels p1

And the people behaving as the third person in the half reel (the 1L who is in 1M’s place and the 3M who is in 3L’s place) have to imagine that they are behind the active couple. That is, they need to pretend that the half reels begin with 1M between the 3rd couple at the bottom and 1L between 2C who are in first couple’s place at the top.

The principle is always the same, but in this case, it is even trickier as the phrasing is quite hard. 3M and 2L have to ‘hold back’ waiting for the first couple to cross in front of them and then both they and the first couple must slow down. Always try to visualise the reels.


The summary is that when you are involved in these strange entry reels you must imagine the missing couple as being there, typically, but not always, imagine them as being between the corners. The trouble is almost always that you lack the cues you would typically get from the activity of the other dancers.

from Rod Downey
13 May 2020

Print Friendly, PDF & Email