Of all ballroom dances the barn dance is really the most modern. It is equally well known as the pas de quatre, or schottische, though the former long step forward with her right foot, the teacher with her left.
Fig. I. First Step. Beginning the barn dance. The pupil takes a each leaning towards the foot used name has absolutely no connection with the dance or step, but belongs solely to the music. When the dance was first introduced in England, about twenty years ago, it was performed to a tune played at the Gaiety Theatre in a burlesque. On the stage four young ladies did what is popularly called "high kicking" to a delightful tune composed by' Meyer Lutz, the musical director of that theatre.
The dance subsequently introduced into our ballrooms had no actual connection with the stage dance beyond the fact that the same fascinating, infectious tune was utilised. In its early stages the enormous popularity of the pas de quatre music had a lot to do with the success of the dance; but, as performed in ballrooms, the dance included no high kicking, nor was it ever danced by four people. It was always a dance for two. Therefore the title pas de quatre, by which it is still known, though the original music is seldom heard, will be seen to be quite a misnomer.
The name "schottische," as applied to the barn dance, is quite justified, for part of the dance comprises the schottische step, but why it is called the barn dance is doubtful. The probable explanation is that the name was an American designation. Of course, very many different dances take place in barns out West; among them several nearly resembling our barn dance in composition and step. In addition, this dance was very much danced in the country in England-at fairs, harvest festival gatherings, and so forth. Doubtless, the name has sprung from that fact, otherwise it is difficult to account for.
A short time after the pas de quatre made its first appearance in our ballrooms, every dance, whether polka, Berlin, or pas de quatre, was classified under the heading of the valse. The title was not quite unjustifiable, for in all these dances the dancer "voltes," or turns. In short, he valses. In the barn dance, in particular, the actual spring-valse soon took the place of the schottische hops, as far as grown-up dancers were concerned. At the present time, children who are able to valse are always taught to dance the spring-valse when turning in the barn dance.
The barn dance is the most cosmopolitan of dances. It owes something to so many nations. Part of its step comes from
Fig. 2. Second Step. The pupil draws her left foot to her right, the teacher her right foot to her left
Fig. 3. Third Step. The pupil takes a small step forward with her right foot and the teacher one with her left foot
Scotland, another part-the polka step-from Bohemia, and yet another-the spring-valse-from Germany and France. The title comes from America, the original music from the pen of a German; and altogether the barn dance is a conglomeration of various steps and effects culled from many nationalities. This probably accounts for its strange fascination and lasting charm. Lately it has dropped out of our ballroom programmes, and grown-up dancers have forgotten it more or less. But it is still taught to children, and is always one of their favourite dances. At any moment another revolution of the wheel of fashion may set us all swinging gaily round in the barn dance as we did only ten years ago. One of the principal characteristics of the barn dance may be found in the music. It is written in common time, four beats in a bar, just as is the polka. But it is quite impossible to dance the barn dance to polka music, or vice versa. The turning, or latter half of the dance, does not fit into the other rhythm. Most barn dance music is written in groups of triplets, four to a bar. This is the best type of music for such a dance; it seems to carry the dancers along irresistibly. The music may also be written in ordinary common time with an absence of triplets, or in six-eight time. The entire barn dance, turning and straight, occupies eight bars of common-time music. During four bars the dancers progress straight forward, dancing the lilt or polka step. On the fifth bar the gentleman places his arm round the lady's waist, and the couple turn during the next four bars, describing one complete circle to each bar of music.
The barn dance has been changed slightly since its original introduction. When going straight the Scottish lilt step has gradually given place to the polka step, and in turning the schottische hops have yielded to the spring-valse. The only difference between the lilt and the polka lies in the fact that in the lilt the dancer, on the fourth step, "cuts" the foot that is raised towards the knee of the other foot. In the polka this step simply becomes a spring, with the foot raised from the ground. The "cut" is both prettier and neater, but through carelessness it has dropped out of use. The difference between the hops and the spring-valse is simply a matter of fitting two small springing steps in between the hops, which are taken, with alternate feet, on beats one and three of each bar. These big hops correspond to the long steps in the valse; but, instead of being taken with a slide, are turned into a spring.
To teach a child the barn dance, hold her left hand and guide her down the room, making her dance the polka step forward. This she repeats four times, twice with each foot, and on reaching the fourth step, or spring, of the final repetition, make her turn slightly and face her partner. This preparation for turning is most necessary. When the dancers are standing squarely face to face, it is quite simple for the gentleman to slip the hand with which he has been holding his partner round her waist,
Fig. 4. Fourth Step. The pupil raises her left foot, the teacher her right foot forward, each giving a slight spring. This action completes the step with one foot start the circle. The pupil takes a spring on her right foot and
Fig. 5. Illustrates the position of the dancers when turning, as they places it well between the teacher's feet. The teacher does the same with her left fool and places it outside the pupil's feet and catch up her right hand in his left. Children are apt to make a fuss and muddle of this change of position, unless carefully told to prepare for it by turning towards each other.
In turning make the child count "two" to each hop she takes, starting with the right foot. Be sure she puts her right foot well between her partner's feet, as in the first step of the valse, or she will pull away from him and make the turning very difficult, if not impossible. Having hopped once on the right foot and once on the left foot, the pupil should have described a complete circle, this being the equivalent of the six steps in the valse. When the child is sufficiently proficient to attempt the spring-valse in place of the hops, make her continue hopping as before; but, instead of keeping her alternate feet in the air for one beat, make her fit two infinitesimal steps in between the big hops. These steps are exactly like steps two and three, five and six in the valse.
The following is the barn dance step in detail:
Step 1 (Fig. 1). The lady takes a long step forward with her right foot and the gentleman with his left, both leaning towards the feet used.
Step 2 (Fig. 2). The lady draws her left foot to her right, and the gentleman his right toot to his left.
Step 3 (Fig. 3). The lady takes a small step forward with her right foot, and the gentleman with his left foot.
Step 4 (Fig. 4). The lady raises her left and the gentleman his right foot forward, each giving a slight spring. if the lilt is danced, when springing the dancers " cut " their left and right feet respectively towards the knees of the opposite feet, afterwards extending the foot, as in the illustration. That completes the step with one foot, and it is then repeated from Step 1.
Fig. 5 illustrates the position when turning, and shows the dancers just starting the circle. The lady has taken a spring on her right foot, placing it well between her partner's feet. The gentleman has done the same with his left foot, placing it outside.
Fig. 6 illustrates the beginning of the second half of circle. The dancers are in opposite positions, having hopped on the reverse feet. Four complete circles danced in this manner, with either the original schottische hops or the spring-valse, are needed to finish the dance and the music.
There are many variations of the barn dance. A very charming example is that into which part of the actual schottische is introduced. The dancers progress forward, as directed, for two steps, then face each other and continue the step sideways, each going in the reverse direction to the other. This is repeated twice until they stand face to face again, when they link arms and turn, doing the schottische hops. This is a simple dance to teach children.
Though the barn dance is essentially a "children's" dance at the moment, it is by no means forgotten, especially by teachers, who recognise its sterling worth. There is no reason why it should not ultimately regain its old position in our ballrooms, and once more be included in programmes.
Dancers are in opposite positions, having hopped on the reverse
Fig. 6. The beginning of the second half of the circle. The feet. Four complete circles, danced thus, with the schottische hops, or spring-valse, are needed to finish the dance