Baskets, Inside Baskets, Big Baskets and Lots More!

The Basket

The standard Basket for English traditional dances is for two couples. Teaching: "Ladies, put your arms in the air; men put your arms around the ladiesí waists and one of you hold the other oneís wrists; ladies, drop your hands onto the nearest shoulder; everyone, put your right foot in the middle, pretend you are on a scooter; Spin the Top! Donít look at your feet!"

Here is a video of me teaching the Inside Basket and the standard Basket:

For a role-free Basket see Little Christmas below.

If the ladies consent and the men have their arms very high on the ladies' backs then it is possible to achieve this:

Flying Basket
The cover of the first issue of the American square dance magazine "Sets in Order" November 1948.

David Millstone says, "The dancers on the cover of Sets in Order are members of the Cheyenne Mountain Dancers, Lloyd Shaw's demonstration team. They traveled around the country and played a major role in getting folks excited about square dancing. If I recall correctly, Bob Osgood put them on the cover of that first issue in part as a way to promote an upcoming tour by the group to southern California, where Sets in Order originated."

You can see some of Lloyd Shaw's demonstration figures in the Oxbow Loop video below.

Please be aware that Flying Baskets can be dangerous. Only do it if there is plenty of room, you have good technique, and everyone consents.

Colin Hume says, "I teach it the standard way, with the women's hands on the men's NEARER shoulder - I point out that if they're on the other shoulder his head is likely to fall off - but I also say that if the women feel there's any danger of flying they need to push down with their elbows - the men find this painful and they'll soon stop trying. But it has to be said that some women request Cumberland Square Eight at a barn dance in England because they like the flying part!"

Cumberland Square Eight is one of the most popular English traditional dances with a Basket. That page also includes a video of Douglas Kennedy teaching the whole dance, including the Basket.

There are other ways to make the Basket.

Alan Winston said, "I'm in California, so it seems to work well if I teach a basket as "group hug"; feel around until you can grab a wrist, stick your right foot in and push off with the left". This is known in Ireland as Little Christmas, but they do specify who holds whom.

Little Christmas
In Irish Set Dancing they call the Basket "Little Christmas". Everyone places their right arm around the back of the person on their right; everyone uses their left hand to take the wrist of the hand behind the person on their left; the left arm goes above the nearest person's right arm. It looks like this:

Flying Basket

See under "Big Baskets" below for "Big Christmas" for eight dancers, using the same technique.

All four dancers do exactly the same thing, so this is a great Basket for gender-free dancing.

California Show Basket
This is a figure from Appalachian Big Set/Kentucky Running Set.

Circle left; drop hands (but keep circling); the ladies take a two-hand hold with each other, then the men take a two-hand hold above the ladies' hands; the men raise arms over ladies' heads and bring them down to waist level (the call is, "ladies bow"); the ladies lift their arms over the men's heads and drop them onto the men's shoulders, or keep hold behind the menís backs (the call is, "men bow"); Spin the Top. Some dancers keep a smooth walk going, rather than a buzz-step

Here is a video of it:

The Inside Basket

This is a great figure in its own right and also provides an alternative for those dancers who do not enjoy the standard Basket.

In its simplest form, the four dancers cross their hands and take hands with the dancers on either side of them. They put their right foot in and do a buzz-step to Spin the Top.

You can see this being taught in my video above.

There are other ways to make the Inside Basket:

Four Leaf Clover
This is a figure from Appalachian Big Set/Kentucky Running Set.

Circle left; without letting go #2s arch, #1s go under and, raising your joined hands, turn away from each other and go backwards under your own arch (keep your shoulder close together; let go if it hurts); then lower your hands into a Four Leaf Clover; circle left or Buzz-Step to Spin the Top; #1s arch and pull #2s through to unwind; circle left

You can see the Four Leaf Clover at 1:43 in this video:

Harlem Rosette
This is a figure from Appalachian Big Set/Kentucky Running Set with a different set of hand connections..

Circle left; the men hook their left elbows and go once around; the men pick up their partners in a Star Promenade; the men slide away to make an arch in the middle with their left hands and the ladies (passing right shoulders) duck to the other side, their left hand sliding down to take the man's right hand; the ladies turn left on the spot (NOT going around their man) and take right hands as the men lower their left hands; make that top, make it spin; men drop out and the ladies keep turning so that they can do a Ladies' Chain to their partner; the ladies Dosido; partner Swing

You can see the Harlem Rosette at 1:08 in this video:

"The Crested Hen" from Thy
The Danish have a version for six dancers where everyone reaches out to either side, right arm high and left arm low, to take the hand of the second person on either side. The men are holding hands in a circle of three and so are the ladies, with all the arms interlocked. Here is a video of it:

Eight Dancer Inside Basket
There is an interesting Square Dance Basket variant for eight dancers at 4:11 in this video:

Oxbow Loop
Lloyd Shaw had a demonstration figure with the men diving under and backing out to their left to make an eight-person Inside Basket, a bit later the men dive again to make a men's basket with the ladies flying around behind them:

Mexican Star
This is a really well-connected Inside Basket. Make a Right Hand Wrist-Lock Star, then with the palm up, and the thumb tucked in beside the fingers, hook your left hand just above the elbow of the person on your left. Do a Buzz-Step for a great spin.

Five Dancer Inside Basket
If you fancy a challenge, then try these two ways of getting five people from a circle into a basket without letting go in Dummer's Five Hand Reel.

For a simpler Five-Dancer Inside Basket, with only one hand release, try F-Lock.

Big Baskets

Swing Like Thunder is a Square Dance which has four, six and eight person Baskets. At 2:58 in this video you can see them making the eight-person Basket, basically using the same laides-bow-men-bow technique as the California Show Basket:

Big Christmas
In Irish Set Dancing they call the eight-person Basket "Big Christmas". Everyone places their right arm around the back of the person on their right; everyone uses their left hand to take the wrist of the hand behind the person on their left; the left arm goes above the nearest person's right arm. It looks like this (at 0:55):

I understand that this is the normal way to do Big Christmas, although some dancers use the method where the ladies put their hands on the men's shoulders, as at 0:58 in this video:

Note the reverse Big Christmas, with the left foot in, in this dance.

For a much Bigger Basket look at this video at 2:27. They just do a high-speed Men Bow:

In this video, at 7:05, you can see Ladies Bow to an Inside Big Basket, then Men Bow to reverse the Basket, making it a standard Basket going anti-clockwise:

Many thanks to all those who have helped to make this a better page.

Please let me know of any other Basket variations. Have fun!

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Please contact John Sweeney with your comments.