Author's Notes

The Devil's Backbone
by William Watson
composed 12/1998


A1: Lines of Four Go Forward & Back
Ladies Chain [with the couple you're facing]
A2: Left Hand Star [the same two couples]
Lead Ladies Unroll the Star, Passing Right, Cross the Set, Gather a Circle
B1: Circle Left [1x]
Neighbor Swing
B2: Men Allemande Left 1 1/2
Partner Swing

(1) The Ladies on the right end of each line of four in A1A lead the figure in A2B. I call them the "Lead Ladies." Note that due to the alternation of roles, the ladies who don't lead the first time through will lead the next time through.

(2) Have everyone make note of the direction they face at the start of the dance. The men end *every* swing facing this direction. That's easier to explain than the direction the ladies need to face.

(3) The figure in A2B is somewhat difficult to explain in words, but flows smoothly. The Lead Ladies start pretty much facing each other from their respective stars. They pass right shoulders, with everyone in their stars following in single-file lines. Everyone in each line passes all the people in the other line by the right shoulder. After passing right shoulders, the Lead Ladies curl around the tail of the other single file line to walk the path of a circle left. (I'm told that Kathy Anderson has the lead ladies start forming a circle immediately, by taking the hand of their neighbor.) The A2B figure ends when the trailing man crosses the set to take his place completing the circle of four people. At that moment, the Lead Ladies will have just completed walking about 3/4 of a circular path and be near each other again.

(4) In B1A, everyone must walk a full circle. The Lead Ladies may be tempted to circle only half-way, as they feel like they've already circled at least half-way. The men must ensure that the circle turns far enough so that they can swing in their original lines of four. It might make it easier to say that the men end every move in their original lines through B1. Only their last swing takes place in their progressed lines.

(5) I lifted the main figure from a four-couple English set dance called by Mike Richardson (The Short and the Tall, by Ron Coxall). It had the stars unroll, cross the set, form stars with the opposite hands, star, and unroll to cross back, and called that figure The Devil's Elbow. I immediately saw a need to cast that figure into a four-face-four formation. It "only" took me 3 years to get the inspiration of forming a circle on the other side of the set instead of a second star. The rest of the dance fell into place easily. I had in mind to name dances after places near where I live, so I chose the obvious feature near Austin, a ridge of hills just north of the town of New Braunfels. I've since discovered that many places share the name.

For my own amusement, and perhaps your clarification, here's an ASCII-art rendering of the positions after each move during the dance:
Start, ........| A1B, .| A2B, .| B1B: .| B2A: .| B2B:
A1A: ..........| A2A: .| B1A: .|.......|.......|
---down the hall -->...|.......|.......|.......|
M1 W3..M5 W7...| M1 W1 | W4 M4 | M2 W2 | M4 W1 | W4. M2 W8. .M6 W12
W1 M3..W5 M7...| W3 M3 | M2 W2 | W4 M4 | W4 M1 | M4. W2 M8. .W6 M12
M2 W4..M6 W8...| M2 W2 | W3 M3 | M1 W1 | M3 W2 | W3. M1 W7. .M5 W11
W2 M4..W6 M8...| W4 M4 | M1 W1 | M3 M3 | W3 M2 | M3. W1 M7. .W5 M11
\-v-/..\-v-/ .. .\-v-/. .\-v-/. .\-v-/. .\-v-/. .-/..\-v-/. .\-v-/
minor sets

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