The Circassian Circle

Contemporary Description

The Formation

Same as the Spanish Dance or Sicilian Circle.

A circle of couples, every other couple facing along and against line of dance, forming sets of two couples facing each other.

The Figures

Three sources below (Tousey & Small 1878, Schell 1890, and Elmwell 1892) are in agreement, proposing that the Circassian Circle is danced as follows.

Forward and Back (4 bars): Advance toward opposite, and retreat.

Four Hands Round (4 bars): Take hands four, and circle left 360°, ending where you started.

Ladies' Chain (8 bars): Ladies take right hands and cross over, giving left hands to their opposite, who turns them by the left to face in again (4 bars). Repeat to return home (4 bars).

Balance to Partners (4 bars): Advance toward partner, and retreat.

Turn Partners (4 bars): Advance to partner, turn partner, and retreat.

Right and Left (8 bars): Cross over to opposite places, with each Follow passing between the opposite couple. Each Lead touches right hands with the opposite Follow in passing (optional), then takes his partner's left hand in his left and turns her halfway around to face back toward their home place (4 bars). Repeat to return to home place (4 bars).

Forward and Back (4 bars): Advance toward opposite, and retreat.

Forward and Pass By/Through (4 bars): Advance to opposite, and pass by/through to the next couple.

Note the odd structure of five phrases of 8 bars (40 total).

The Circassian Circle #2, #3, etc.

If you read all of the descriptions below, you'll find that only about half of them are referring to the dance reconstructed above. The other half are describe different figures (or none at all).

Coulon 1844 (copied by Hazard 1849 and Kent & Co. 1850) doesn't describe any figures for the dance, writing only that: "The figures to this dance may be taken either from the country dance, or from the quadrille: the waltz figures may also be introduced with advantage." Half a century later, Skinner 1896 further explains: "The figures danced vary in different localities." As a result of this local variation, here are two other versions of the Circassian Circle, as described in the sources below:

Skinner 1896 proposes (no bars given, but likely 8 for each):

Right and Left Set
Turn Partners
Ladies Chain
Pousette Round Opposites, and Pass On

Ledgett-Byrne 1899 proposes:

Right Hand Star, Left Hand Star Back (8 bars)
Set to Partners and Turn (8 bars)
Ladies Chain (8 bars)
Galop 4 to Opposite, 4 Back to Place, then 8 to Progress (8 bars)

For a late 19th century Circassian Circle, any of these three versions of the dance may be considered appropriate.

The Music

Any energetic, walking-tempo tune will do.

"8 bars" above can be interpreted to mean 16 counts (or steps).

The Modern, Circular, Circassian Circle

If you search YouTube for "Circassian Circle," you'll find a totally different dance, a folk dance mixer, danced in one large circle, everyone facing into the center, alternating Leads and Follows:

All: In 4, Out 4 (8 bars)
Repeat (8 bars)
Follows Only: In 4 (with Clap on 4), Out 4 (8 bars)
Leads Only: In 4 (with Clap on 4), Out 4, Ending Facing Follow to Your Left (8 bars)
All: Balance in Place to One Side, to the Other Side, and Repeat (8 bars)
Swing Partner (8 bars)
Promenade with Partner Around the Room, Ending with Follow on the Right (16 bars)

It's also fun, but completely unrelated to the 19th century Circassian Circle.

© 2015 Nick Enge

(Click to expand)

Historical Descriptions

The Circassian Circle (Coulon, 1844):

This is a dance of modern introduction into this country: all the company may join in it; for which reason it is well adapted as a concluding dance.

The couples are arranged in a circle round the room, the ladies on the right hand of the gentlemen: the first and second couple commence the figure, facing each other; at the conclusion, the first couple with the fourth, and the second couple with the third couple, re-commence the figure, and so on until they go completely round the circle, meeting at the place from where they first started: the dance is then concluded.

The figures to this dance may be taken either from the country dance, or from the quadrille: the waltz figures may also be introduced with advantage.

The Circassian Circle (Hazard, 1849):

[Verbatim copy of Coulon, 1844]

The Circassian Circle (Kent & Co., 1850):

[Verbatim copy of Coulon, 1844, starting at "The couples are arranged..."]

Circassian Circle (Radestock, 1877):

This interesting dance is generally used at the commencement of evening parties or balls, and is very well adapted for that purpose, on account of its necessitating the meeting all the company during the dance. It is of modern composition, and the first figure of the Caledonian Quadrille is generally danced to any music of any first or last figure of quadrilles. It likewise can be danced in waltz time to any waltz, and becomes then exceedingly graceful. Any number of couples can join in it, forming a circle round the room; one couple to face the other.

Circassian Circle (Tousey & Small, 1878):

Form as for the Spanish Dance [which is not described in this source].

All balance, swing four hands, ladies chain; balance and turn partners; right and left; all forward and back, forward again and pass to next couple.

Circassian Circle (Schell, 1890):

Form as for Sicilian Circle.

All balance (4); four hands round (4); ladies' chain (8): all balance (4); turn partners (4); right and left (8); all forward and back (4); forward again, pass by to next couple.

Circassian Circle (Elmwell, 1892):

Form the same as for Sicilian Circle [which is not described in this source].

All balance (4); Four hands around (4); Ladies' chain (8); All balance (4); Turn partners (4); Right and left (8); All forward and back (4); Forward and pass through to next couple (4).

Circassian Circle (Skinner, 1896):

This is a delightful and easy dance. The couples are arranged opposite each other round the room. The figures danced vary in different localities. For the first one the first figure of a Quadrille is usually danced.

Right and left set; turn partners; ladies' chain; pousette round the couple which begins opposite you; then pass on to the next until you have danced opposite all the couples in the circle.

Music—The Circassian Circle, varied at times with other suitable tunes.

Circassian Circle (Ledgett-Byrne, 1899):

Eight bars introduction.

To get into position for above, stand in sets of 4 in a circle round the room.

Give right hand across and walk 4 steps to left, change hands, walk back 4 steps to right ... 8 bars

Set to partners and turn ... 8 bars

Ladies' Chain (described in Quadrille) [As described in Quadrille: Ladies Nos. 1 and 2 change places, giving right hand in passing each other, left hand to the opposite gentleman, and walk once round, ladies pass back again, giving right hand to each other and left to the own partners: in giving left to partner walk once round to own place] ... 8 bars

Partners cross hands and galop 4 steps to opposite place, 4 steps back, galop across again, and meet couple coming from other set ... 8 bars

Repeat until vis-à-vis is met.

For more dance descriptions, see our three books on dancing:
The Book of Mixers: 100 Easy-Teach Dances for Getting Acquainted (2022) by Richard Powers and Nick & Melissa Enge,
Cross-Step Waltz: A Dancer's Guide (2019) by Richard Powers and Nick & Melissa Enge, and
Waltzing: A Manual for Dancing and Living (2013) by Richard Powers and Nick Enge.

For full-length teaching videos, visit: University of Dance.

For help crafting a life you love, visit: Project Quartz.

Home     About     Dances     Manuals     Search