Form a circle of couples as illustrated below, every other couple facing along and against line of dance, forming sets of two couples facing each other, perhaps after a Grand March.
These figures are noted in the sources as having been taken from the first figure of the Plain Quadrille, which helps in the reconstruction.
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).
Balance to Partners and Turn* (8 bars): Advance to partner, retreat (4 bars). Advance to partner, turn partner, and retreat (4 bars).
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).
Forward and Back and Pass Through (8 bars): Advance toward opposites, retreat (4 bars). Advance to opposite and pass through to meet the next couple (4 bars). Wilson 1899 specifies that the second couple passes under an arch formed by the first couple, as in La Tempête. (Alternatively, several sources, including Hillgrove 1857, say that Part IV is a once-and-a-half promenade round opposites to face new partners - another reasonable option.)
In The Scholar's Companion & Ball-Room Vade-Mecum (1857), Thomas Hillgrove writes, "This dance was formerly a great favorite at all public balls, but is now very seldom danced, on account of the rude manner of performing it. For, instead of setting to their partners and turning in places, or passing ones and a half round in the promenade, the majority of our rude dancers rush off with a gallop, sometimes passing more than half the length of a ball room, and are frequently at a crowded ball unable to find the places where they left off. When properly danced, however, it is a very social dance."
While the stuffy dance master may find it rude, 19th as well as 21st century dancers may find it quite fun. As Hillgrove describes, galops anywhere in the room replace Parts II and IV. In place of the Balance to Partners and Turn, galop anywhere in the room and return to places. In place of the Promenade, galop anywhere in the room, and return to new places, having progressed one position to the next couple.
Any square, energetic, walking-tempo tune will do.
Several descriptions specify that the dance is in 2/4, so "8 bars" above can be interpreted to mean 16 counts.
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 describing a completely different dance (or rather, a related family of dances), which looks something like:
Four Hands Round (4 bars), then Turn Partners (4 bars)
Right and Left (8 bars)
Ladies Chain (8 bars)
Forward and Back and Pass By (or Through) (8 bars)
To this basic sequence, Schell 1890 adds a coda of:
Balance to Partners (4 bars) then Turn Partners (4 bars)
Promenade Around the Hall (8 bars)
© 2015 Nick Enge
(Click to expand)
Sicilian Circle (Hillgrove, 1857):
This dance is formed precisely the same as the Spanish Dance, and the figures are danced the same as the first number of a Quadrille, as follows:
Music - Four parts.
1. RIGHT AND LEFT. (8 bars.)
2. BALANCE TO PARTNERS, and turn. (8 bars.)
3. LADIES CHAIN. (8 bars.)
4. ALL PROMENADE - Passing once and a half round and finish facing the next couple, with whom the same figure is again repeated. (8 bars.)
Each time the figure is repeated the dancers will all face a new couple, and the dance is finished at the option of the master of ceremonies.
This dance was formerly a great favorite at all public balls, but is now very seldom danced, on account of the rude manner of performing it. For, instead of setting to their partners and turning in places, or passing ones and a half round in the promenade, the majority of our rude dancers rush off with a gallop, sometimes passing more than half the length of a ball room, and are frequently at a crowded ball unable to find the places where they left off. When properly danced, however, it is a very social dance.
Sicilian Circle (Tousey & Small, 1878):
[Nearly verbatim copy of Hillgrove, 1857, with minor differences]
The Sicilian Circle (Cartier & Baron, 1879):
CALL AS FOLLOWS:
Two Couples: Right and Left Across.
Return to Positions.
Balance and Turn Partners.
Forward and Back.
Forward and Through to
Sicilian Circle (Schell, 1890):
Balls are generally opened with a Grand March, which is led by the floor director and aids, followed by the rest of the company. As a rule, after the Grand March the Sicilian Circle is formed, thus:
The Sicilian Circle is formed in couples facing in a circle around the hall. The first call is given before playing.
Four hands round (4) ; turn partners (4) ; right and left (8) ; ladies' chain (8) ; all forward (4) ; pass by (4).
Repeat these calls ten or twelve times, according to the number in the party, then call:
All balance partners (4) ; turn partners (4) ; promenade round the hall (8).
Sicilian Circle (French, 1893):
On an engagement the Grand March will probably be the first number on the programme. The floor manager will generally give you the signal when to start and finish. The march should be played moderately slow. If the Sicilian Circle follows, at the finish of the march, say "Please form for the Sicilian Circle; every other couple face about." After they are formed upon the floor properly, call the following changes, the music and dancers starting together. The figures denote the number of measures required to execute each change.
Circle four hands around ; turn partner ; right and left ; ladies chain ; all forward and back ; pass through .
The above completes the figure, and, after "Passing through," the dancers all face new couples. Repeat this order of changes several times. Variety may be afforded by adding to "Turn partners" the other way , and at the finish, call "All balance partner" ; turn partner ; promenade around the hall for the last eight measures.
After considerable experience the prompter may vary the changes as follows: All cross right hands half around ; left hand back ; ladies' chain ; all chasse to the centre of the hall and back ; forward and back ; pass through ; thus giving a new figure entire, at which point the original figure can be resumed.
The Sicilian Circle (Link, 1893):
Right & left, 8
Balance to partners. 4
Ladies chain. 8
Promenade one & one-half around 4
The Sicilian Circle (Kopp, 1896):
Formation - Two couples facing all around the room.
The first call when music begins.
All forward (and back) ; circle (four hands) around ; ladies' chain ; right and left ; forward and back ; pass through (face next couple) .
Repeat as often as desired.
Note - Second and fourth times, etc., all balance to center of the room, instead of forward and back and circle around.
The Sicilian Circle (Wilson, 1899):
In this dance the sets are arranged exactly as in the Spanish Dance.
The movements are adapted from the Plain Quadrille, and the music is in 2-4 time. For full description of movement see first figure of Plain Quadrille.
DESCRIPTION OF THE DANCE CALLS
Two Couples: Right and Left - 8 measures
Balance and turn Partners - 8 measures
[Wilson omits the Ladies Chain, which seems odd, as it makes the dance un-square.]
Forward and Back - 4 measures
Forward and through to next set (as in La Tempete) [i.e., In passing through the Head Couples raise their joined hands and the other couples pass under them. In this way the sets are continually changing, each dancer having a new vis-a-vis each time.]
For more, see our two books on dancing:
Waltzing: A Manual for Dancing and Living (2013) by Richard Powers and Nick Enge,
and Cross-Step Waltz: A Dancer's Guide (2019) by Richard Powers and Nick & Melissa Enge.
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