In a minor-set dance the figures are performed simultaneously by subsidiary sets or groups or two, or sometimes three, adjacent couples. There are, therefore, no figures in minor-set dances which cannot be danced by two, or at most, three couples. The progressive figure is invariably performed by the first and second of these couples, and result in the transposition of their respective positions.

These subsidiary groups of dancers are called minor-setsduple or triple according to the number of couples they contain. The several couples of a minor set are called, counting from the top, first, second and third respectively.

Of these, the first is the chief one. It moves one step down the General Set every round, and becomes the first couple of a new minor-set in the following round. The function of the second and third couples is to aid the first one in the performance of the several figures. This they may do by remaining stationary, in which case they are called passive; or by actively co-operating in the performance of one or more of the figures, when they are said to be active. The third couple is always passive in the progressive figure.

A couple that is superfluous, that is one that is not attached to any minor-set throughout a complete round, is called a neutral couple. Every couple on reaching the top or bottom of the General Set remains neutral during the next round, and sometimes the following one as well.

We are now in a position to describe the progressive movements of a dance of this description. We will begin with one divided into duple minor-sets.


The top minor-set, headed by the leading couple, opens the dance by performing the complete figure, the rest of the couples being neutral. This results in the exchange of positions between the leading and second couple.

The second round is now danced by the minor-set composed of the second and third couples, of which the second one is the leading couple. The rest of the dancers, including the top one, remain neutral. This brings the leading couple down to third place from the top of the General Set.

In the third round two minor-sets will now participate, namely those consisting, respectively, of the two couples at the top (the second and third of the original set), and of the the third and fourth couples (originally the first and fourth).

The dance proceeds in this way, the leading couple gradually moving down the General Set and bringing into action after each round one new couple, and after every second round a fresh minor-set. When, therefore, the leading couple has reached the second place from the bottom of the General Set, all the couples (with the possible exception of the top one) will be actively engaged, and will continue to do so until the dance is concluded.

The progressive movement above described is shown in the following diagram.

Neutral couples are placed within parentheses, and minor-sets within square brackets.

  1.   [A     B]   (C)   (D)   (E)   (F)   (G)
  2.   (B)   [A     C]   (D)   (E)   (F)   (G)
  3.   [B     C]   [A     D]   (E)   (F)   (G)
  4.   (C)   [B     D]   [A     E]   (F)   (G)
  5.   [C     D]   [B     E]   [A     F]   (G)
  6.   (D)   [C     E]   [B     F]   [A     G]
  7.   [D     E]   [C     F]   [B     G]   (A)
  8.   (E)   [D     F]   [C     G]   [B     A]
  9.   [E     F]   [D     G]   [C     A]   (B)

From the above diagram it will be seen that each couple, on arriving at either end of the General Set, remains neutral during the following round. When, therefore, as in the above example, the number of couples is uneven, there will always be one neutral couple in every round, alternately at the top and bottom of the General Set.

If, however, the number of couples be even, there will be alternately (1) no neutral couple, and (2) two neutral couples (one at each end). This is shown in the following diagram:-

  7.   [D     E]   [C     F]   [B     G]   [A     H]
  8.   (E)   [D     F]   [C     G]   [B     H]   (A)
  9.   [E     F]   [D     G]   [C     H]   [B     A]
 10.   (F)   [E     G]   [D     H]   [C     A]   (B)


The progression of the couples in a triple minor-set dance, although governed by the same principle, is both in theory and practice rather more complicated. The movement is shown in the following diagram:-

  1.   [A     B     C]   (D)   (E)   (F)   (G)   (H)
  2.   (B)   [A     C     D]   (E)   (F)   (G)   (H)
  3.   (B)   (C)   [A     D     E]   (F)   (G)   (H)
  4.   [B     C     D]   [A     E     F]   (G)   (H)
  5.   (C)   [B     D     E]   [A     F     G]   (H)
  6.   (C)   (D)   [B     E     F]   [A     G     H]
  7.   [C     D     E]   [B     F     G]   [A     H]
  8.   (D)   [C     E     F]   [B     G     H]   (A)
  9.   (D)   (E)   [C     F     G]   [B     H     A]
 10.   [D     E     F]   [C     G     H]   [B     A]
 11.   (E)   [D     F     G]   [C     H     A]   (B)
 12.   (E)   (F)   [D     G     H]   [C     A     B]
 13.   [E     F     G]   [D     H     A]   [C     B]
 14.   (F)   [E     G     H]   [D     A     B]   (C)

Attention is directed to the following points:-

  1. A couple going down the dance moves a step each round.
  2. A couple going up moves a step in every alternate round only. It therefore takes twice as long to go up as to go down the General Set.
  3. Each couple takes the last step to the bottom as the first couple of a duple instead of a triple minor-set (see rounds 7, 10, 13). The two couples of this incomplete minor-set will, of course, be unable to perform, without modification, those figures which require co-operation of three couples; but they will always be able to execute the progressive figure, which is the essential one.
  4. Each couple upon reaching the top of the General Set remains there as a neutral couple for the two following rounds.
  5. Each couple upon reaching the bottom of the General Set remains neutral for the next round only.
The number of neutral couples, and their disposition in the successive rounds, depend upon the total number of couples engaged in the dance. If, as in the above example, this number when divided by three leaves a remainder of two couples, then, as we have seen, the neutral couples will be successively (1) none, (2) two) (one at each end), and (3) two (both at the top).

On the other hand, if the total number of couples is exactly divisible by three, the numbers of neutral couples will be (1) none, (2) one (at the top), and (3) three (one at the lower end and two at the upper), as shown in the following diagram:-

  7.   [C     D     E]   [B     F     G]   [A     H     L]
  8.   (D)   [C     E     F]   [B     G     H]   [A     L]
  9.   (D)   (E)   [C     F     G]   [B     H     L]   (A)
 10.   [D     E     F]   [C     G     H]   [B     L     A]

And lastly, when there is only one odd couple, the neutral couples work out as follows:- (1) one (at the top), (2) two (both at the top), and (3) one (at the bottom). This is shown in the following diagram:-

  5.   (C)   [B     D     E]   [A     F     G]
  6.   (C)   (D)   [B     E     F]   [A     G]
  7.   [C     D     E]   [B     F     G]   (A)
  8.   (D)   [C     E     F]   [B     G     A]

A minor-set dance is, of course, much more difficult to perform neatly than a whole-set dance. To avoid confusion each couple must, at the beginning of every round, be quite clear at to which minor-set it belongs, and its position in that set. Active couples, moreover, should be very careful to confine their movements within the limits of their own minor-set, and thus avoid encroaching upon the space occupied by the minor-sets on either side. If these two recommendations are scrupulously observed, a smooth and orderly performance will be ensured.

Expert dancers will sometimes constitute themselves into minor-sets for the performance of the first round, and thus avoid the gradual and somewhat tedious opening as above described; that is to say, they will omit the first six rounds in our first illustration and begin with the seventh round.

Page transcribed by Hugh Stewart