Exchange of Partners

(Exchange of Ladies, Change of Ladies,
Le Changement De Dames)



Contemporary Description

Based on one of Cellarius' 1847 figures for the Cotillion (copied by many later sources), Exchange of Partners is a chaotic, free-form mixer that can be used in any dance.


The Formation

Begin with couples dancing at will around the room.


The Figure

As desired, couples approach each other and exchange partners, without losing the step or timing. They dance for a while with new partners, then repeat (either switching back to original partners, or continuing on to new partners).

Leads can conspire with each other to exchange their Follows, Follows can conspire with each other to exchange their Leads, or couples can conspire with each other to switch their partners.

Being entirely free-form, this mixer can also be performed privately by two or more couples who wish to change partners, while everyone else in the room is dancing normally.*

* Or sitting out, as specified in the original description (see below). As a cotillion figure, Exchange of Ladies was originally performed with only two couples on the floor, while everyone else sat and watched. In the 21st century, we find it's more fun when everyone gets to do it at the same time.

As another option, solo dancers can also cut in on couples, as in Cellarius' other cotillion figure, "La Pursuit." This is a useful adaptation when there is a significant gender/role imbalance.


The Music

Anything goes, as long as it's danceable.


© 2015 Nick Enge


(Click to expand)

Historical Descriptions


Le Changement De Dames (Cellarius, 1847, La Danse Des Salons):

Deux couples partent en valse ou en promenade. Après avoir décrit plusieurs circuits, ils doivent se rappocher: les cavaliers changent de dames sans perdre le pas ni la mesure: après avoir valsé ou dansé avec la dame l'un de l'autre, chacun reprend la sienne, et regagne sa place.


Le Changement De Dames - Exchange of Ladies (Cellarius, 1847, Fashionable Dancing):

Two couples lead off with the waltz or promenade. After having described several circuits, they should approach each other: the gentlemen exchange their ladies, without losing the step or time. After having danced or waltzed with each other's partner, each retakes his lady, and returns to his place.


The Change of Ladies - Le Changement De Dames (Cellarius, 1847, The Drawing Room Dances):

Two couples set out with the waltze or promenade. After having made sundry circuits, they ought to approach each other, the gentlemen changing the ladies without losing the step or the time. After having danced with each other's lady, each takes back his own and regains his place.


Le Changement De Dames (Cellarius, 1849, La Danse Des Salons):

[Same as Cellarius, 1847]


The Change of Ladies - Le Changement De Dames (Spencer, 1869):

Two couples set out with the waltz. After having made sundry circuits, they ought to approach each other, the gentlemen changing the ladies without losing the step or the time. After having danced with each other's lady, each takes back his own and regains his place.


The Change of Ladies (Dodworth, 1878):

Two couple. After having made sundry circuits, they ought to approach each other, the gentlemen changing the ladies without losing the step or the time. After having danced with each other's lady, each takes back his own and regains his place.


The Change of Ladies (Brown, 1891):

Two couples waltz round the room. They then approach one another change partners, all the while heeding the time of the music, and preserving the step. The couples, with changed partners, then waltz round, and the change is repeated, so that all regain original partners. Finished by waltzing to places.


The Change of Ladies (Witherspoon, 1894):

Two couples dance, gradually approach each other, and change partners, preserving both time and step. They then waltz round once more, again change partners, and waltz, to seats.

[This figure is first listed as #26 (above), then again as #37 (below).]

Two couples dance for a short time and then approach each other, and the gentlemen exchange ladies without losing step or time. The couples then dance about the room, ladies are again exchanged, and all waltz to seats. This is a very graceful and dainty figure.


The Change of Ladies (Dick & Fitzgerald, 1895):

Two Couples. They gradually approach, and change partners, preserving both time and step. They waltz around once more, and again change partners, and waltz to seats.


The Change of Ladies (Witherspoon, 1897):

[Same as Witherspoon, 1894]


Change of Ladies (Wilson, 1899):

The two couples waltz around, gradually approach each other, exchange partners without losing time or step, waltz around with changed partners, again approach, exchange partners, waltz around once more and then dance to seats.


For more, including descriptions of 25 different waltzes and hundreds of variations thereof, see Waltzing: A Manual for Dancing and Living a book by Richard Powers and Nick Enge.


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