Dorset Four-Hand Reel
Source: Traditional; published in English Dance & Song, Summer/Autumn 1982 Volume 44 Number 2
Formation: Four Dancers in a Line: Man #1, Lady #1, Lady #2, Man #2 - facing partner
||Hey for Four 1 & 3/4 finishing with Men facing in the Middle, Partner behind
||Men step to each other, turn to face Partner
||Partners step to each other
||Hey - walked, no hands; Stepping starting with Men in the Middle
Hey - walked, with hands; Stepping starting with Ladies in the Middle
Hey - danced, no hands; Stepping starting with Men in the Middle
Hey - danced, with hands; Stepping starting with Ladies in the Middle
Partner Swing or Basket
Own tune, or any suitable 32 bar tune. An extra B music is needed if the final Swing/Basket is included.
The basic concept of this dance goes all the way back to Orchésographie, published in 1589 by Thoinot Arbeau. In "Branle de la Haye" he says, "The dancers alone, and one after the other, first dance the air in the fashion of the Courante, and at the end intertwine, and make the haye one by the other." Detailed footwork is given for the Courante. So we have stepping and heys alternating.
Thoinot goes on to discuss how to do the dance with more than three dancers and describes a progressive hey for seven. The Hey starts with the leader, at the end of the line, passing the second person, then everyone joining in as the leader gets to them.
250 years later, item 6 about Real Regency Dancers shows that the same concept of alternating stepping and heys was again popular.
As can be seen in the article below, using the basic concept of alternating stepping and heys, the dancers danced whatever they wanted, with whatever stepping the wanted.
The Dorest Four-Hand Reel was published in Community Dances Manual 5 in 1957, wherein it stated, "It would be quite untraditional to attempt to standardise length of dance, type of stepping, use of hands, etc.". Despite this the reprinted CDM does indeed specify the standard sequence that I have shown above.
Sometime in the 1950s or 1960s the Rant Step became the stepping used most commonly; that is how I learnt it in the late 1960s. You can see it danced this way at 3:22 in this video.
See also Three-Hand Reel and Five-Hand Reel.