La Russe Quadrille

Source: Peter Kennedy; published in English Dance & Song, June 1948, Volume XII, No. 3.
Formation: Square

A1 Pass your Partner by the Left Shoulder (4); Set to the one you meet (4); Swing (8)
A2 Pass your Partner by the Right Shoulder (4); Set to your Partner (4); Partner Swing (8)
B1 #1s keep Swinging (16) (second time through #2s, etc.) - time to show your skills!
B2 #1s Promenade AC inside the Set visiting the other couples then returning Home (16)
A3 #1s & #3s: Cross Over, #1s between #3s (8); Cross Back; #3s between #1s(8)
A4 Repeat
B3 All Eight: Circle Left (16)
B4 Promenade Home (16)

64 bars - repeated 32 bar tune. The original tune is often used in medley with other tunes.

There are lots and lots of grace notes in the version of the tune printed with the article. Peter Kennedy put them in intentionally to draw people's attention to the fact that musicians in earlier centuries did not play the tune straight, but embellished it in many ways. His article on this subject is below: The "Drops and Raises" in Folk Music.

The description above is very much how it is danced today in England. The arch that is mentioned in the article is probably the most common way of crossing these days, Variations include: La Russe was very popular in the 1950s as you can see from this clip from English Dance & Song September 1950:

La Russe

Was it ever really called "the English Quadrille"? I suspect it is more likely that the reporter was told that it was AN English Quadrille, but wrote whatever they wanted, as all good reporters do.

You can see it being danced beautifully at a 1950 EFDSS festival in this video from "Wake Up and Dance" which is on the "Here's a Health to the Barley Mow" DVD. In this version, in A3, the leading couple promenades between the opposite couple then wheels around and separates, while the opposite couple pass individually on the outside of the leading couple, take promenade hold, then wheel around - no arches to be seen!

(Please note: The music is not synchronised with the dancing and it is not the original La Russe tune; it is a medley of traditional tunes, presumably added during the editting.)

As you can see in the article, La Russe was collected in the North-East of England, and it is still danced there, with many people claiming it to be a local dance. You can see Burt Hunter calling it in this video, with lots of rant steps, and admitting that it goes back to the 19th century.

Note that the couples cross the set with arches. This is how I encountered it when I first danced it in the lates 1960s. It is common for the inactive couples to join in and interleave their crossings with the active couples' crossings. This is how I learnt it in the 1960s and still call it today:

The first publication of La Russe that I know of is by H.D. Willock in his "Manual of Dancing" published in Glasgow, c.1847, 61 pages "Calls are given for eight sets of quadrilles and two single quadrilles, La Russe and the Waltz Cotillion. There are also descriptions of fourteen couple dances, four reels and twenty-nine country dances, ten of them to Scottish tunes." There is no music provided in this manual.

I couldn't find Willock's book anywhere online, so many thanks to Susan de Guardiola for the words: Willcock's description of "La Russe Polish Dance", in a revised edition of his manual, is:
  1. All eight chasse across, set at the corners, and turn
  2. The same back to places, set and turn
  3. First couple promenade round inside the figure
  4. Same couple poussette round
  5. First couple cross to second couple's place; second couple at same time, passing on, outside, to first couple's place: the same reversed to places
  6. Repeat No. 5
  7. Double ladies' chain, or hands round
  8. All promenade
Each line is eight bars.

You can see a detailed interpretation of this, and the words from a slightly later version, on Colin Hume's page, plus a discussion of what "poussette round" could mean.

The modern Scottish Version is closer to these original words than to the modern English version.

This dance was presented with The Spanish Waltz under the title "Two Simple Quadrilles from the Border"; the article is included below.

Original pages from English Dance & Song, June 1948

La Russe

La Russe

Original page from English Dance & Song, July 1949

La Russe

The text from the images above is available here.

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