As we continue to draw in newcomers at our monthly dances, one concept we continue to teach at each dance is progression. If you only ever learn one thing about ECD, learn progression. Without fail at very dance we have a line of dancers thrown into utmost confusion because they didn’t pay attention to the short speech on progression. And if there’s one couple in the line who doesn’t get it, they’re going to mess everyone else up with them. So dancers, please, please, please pay attention and learn about progression!
I’ve been corresponding with Mr. King from the Santa Cruz English Country Dancers. It’s been very helpful to have his experienced advice on ECD. I asked him if he had any good information on progression, and this is what he sent me:
There are actually four different types of progression:
1. Standard progression in a three-couple dance: by the time the music
plays all the way through, the dancers will have “progressed,” meaning
they have changed places. The mechanism whereby everybody progresses
differs, but the result is the same: In a standard progression, the
couple in the top position will end up at the bottom, couple two moves
up to position one, and couple three moves up to position two. Then
the music starts all over again, and you perform the dance again with
a new partner. Do this three times total, and you will have danced
with everybody in the set.(Think “Stingo”)
2. “Mixer” progressions (in a three-couple dance, or in a circle)
For “mixer” progression, if the dance is configured in a three-couple
line, then the same pattern occurs, but there are two important
differences. Firstly, the change of positions outlined above happens
more frequently. For instance, in Ashford Anniversary, by the time the
music has played completely through, you’ve danced in all three
positions. Secondly, in addition to switching positions, you also
switch partners (hence the name “mixer”).
(“Row Well, ye Mariners” and “Ship’s Cook,” “Gay Gordon.” The main point is that you switch partners, which is why I like this kind of dance so much!)
3. Duple minor progressions (in dances longways for as many dances as care to join) are what we do most often. You can see a diagram of how it works here(“Duple minor, single progression”). You can also check out the Wikipedia page on progression for contra dance, which applies to ECD as well.
4. Triple minor progressions (also in longways dances for as many as will) I don’t believe we have ever done a triple minor dance.
So, come January 14th, we’ll be teaching progression again! I hope these references help to clarify just how it works.