The Virginia Reel, or Sir Roger de Coverley

It is customary to conclude the evening with some simple, jovial, spirit-stirring dance, in which all, young and old, slim and obese, may take a part. Any contre danse (country dance,) answers this purpose; but the prime favorite is Sir Roger de Coverley (or Virginia Reel) which has held its own, in spite of the lapse of time and the mutations of fashion, at the very least since the beginning of the last century. Six or seven couples range themselves in two lines down the room, ladies on the right, gentlemen on the left; partners facing each other.

The dance opens with the gentleman at the top of his line, and the lady at the bottom of hers, advancing to each other half-way, courtesying and bowing, and back to places. Same couple advance to center of line again, and turn with right hand, then with left hand, then with both hands; advancing fourth time and dos-a-dos. First gentleman then turns his partner, she turning each gentleman down the line with left hand, he turning each lady; upon each successive turn, turn partner; arriving at bottom of line, first couple passes to head; separating, lady passes outside of ladies' line, and gentleman outside of gentlemen's line; ladies and gentlemen follow their respective lines, meeting partners at bottom, and chassezing up the center; first couple then chassez down the middle, and take position at foot of line. The other couples follow as above, completing the figure with each line joining hands, turning partners and chassezing.

In some circles the Virginia Reel is danced in the following manner: The top couple advance to each other and bow, then the lady turns sharply off to the right and the gentleman to the left, and the respective lines follow them to the end of the room (much as in the 5th figure of the Lanciers). On reaching bottom of figure, top couple join hands and raise their arms, forming an arch, under which all the rest of the couples pass back to their own places, except the top couple, who remain where they are at the bottom. The second top couple (now become the top couple) now repeat these movements from the very beginning-lady at top of her line and gentleman at bottom of his advance, and so on, until the original top couple have worked their way back to their places at the top of the line, when the dance is finished, or may be all done over again as often as is found agreeable.


Beadle's dime ball-room companion and guide to dancing, 1868.
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