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The Virginia Reel

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Virginia Reel ! (vur'jin-ya-real)

               This dance comes from a pre-Christian Irish dance called "Rinnce Fadha," which evolved into the English Country dance called the Sir Roger de Coverly ... which was the original name of the Virginia Reel (Addisons Song) while the dance named "Dance after the Husking " was the predecessor to the Virginia Reel.

     The Virginia Reel was a country folk or Barn Dance and later Square Dance, which was also considered a Contre-Dance in England, it was mainly danced in Colonial Barns and schoolhouses. The Reel may be from Scotland, but is considered Colonial

        Sir Roger de Coverly was born in Worcestershire, England and passed away on October 23, 1712. His great Grandfather was who the dance was named after. This dance is formed in sets of six or eight couples, in two lines, the ladies on one side and their partners directly opposite. The lady at the top and the gentlemen at the bottom of the line forward and back ... 4 Bars.

    There are many variations of this dance, some are very simple and some become more complicated. The Virginia Reel is a weaving type dance with the reel being the second of the three parts of the Virginia Reel. The Reel was done in 4/4 time. The step used in the Virginia reel is an easy, a sort of swinging trot, and exact time should be kept with the music. The top and bottom couples dance together, the lady of the top couple dancing with the gentleman of the bottom couple, and vice versa. The Virginia reel was danced by eight or more couples. The dancers formed two lines down the middle of the room with the gentlemen on one side and the ladies being on the other, facing one another. The lines should not be too close together, as nearly all the dancing is done between them and crowding was to be avoided. The couples may be designated as first, second, third, and so on to the last couple; and the top and bottom couples are obviously those at the head and foot of the column. Every couple in turn became top or bottom at least once during the dance.


Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

England (but considered American) c.1680s n/a Country Dance

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Music Titles

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Durang's Hornpipe
$ Money Musk
Old Zip Coon
$ The Irish Washerwoman
n/a Chicken Reel (1906) $ Turkey In The Straw
      Roger de Coverly      

Night Clubs



New Eldorado-Leadville, CO. n/a n/a
The Hurdy-Gurdy House-Virginia City-MO.        

Films / Movies


Ballets / Stage

Streetswings got you hooked up with

n/a n/a
1898 - Clog Dancing  
1898 - Irish Jig    
1898 - Sailor's Hornpipe        
1898 - Scotch Reel      


$1939 - Destry Rides Again       Harpers Weekly - 1858

Other Related Dances of the time...

Barn Dances Clog Jig/ Gigue Round Dance
Bonfire Dance, the Country Dances (Contre) Juba Dance Rustic Reel
Breakdown Cumberland Reel Jump Jim Crow Square Dance
Buck & Wing Dance After the Husking Miteritsa (Greek)  
Ceilidh Folk Dance Pigeon Wing  
Chicken Reel Horn Pipe Roger De Coverly  

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


Dan Rice Marlene Dietrich n/a
James Stewart Master Juba  

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...

Title Author Date Publisher
The English Dancing Master Playford, John 1650's n/a
Analysis Of Country Dancing Wilson, Thomas 1700's n/a
Cartier and Barons Illust. Waltz and Cartier, Valleau P. 1789 DiWitt
The Ballroom Monitor Brookes, Professor 1866 J.H. Johnson
Down Memory Lane Murray, Arthur 1954 Greenberg




Poets / Writers

Addison n/a n/a John Playford
Merry Feet ?         Mark Twain

Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searches

Barn Dance Irish Fiddle Wild West Longways
Hurdy Gurdy Mining Town (s) Do-Si-Do Sets  


Basic Step:
For this dance form two lines, ladies on one side, gents on the other, facing each other.
Basic Figure ...
Top lady and bottom gentleman move forward to center, bow, and return to places: their partners do the same: forward again and turn with right hands: partners the same: forward again and turn with both hands: partners the same; the top couples, separate and lead outside to bottom, (followed by the others,) join hands at bottom and lead up to places:

Then all join right hands, raising them so as to form an arch, and the top couple join hands and run down the middle, the first couple down the middle to bottom and remain there. All follow and join partners at bottom of line and chassé to places, taking their places at the bottom of the line, thus becoming the bottom couple. The second couple now becomes the top couple, and the figure is repeated. After all have gone through the figure, they all forward and back, forward again and turn partners, thus ending the dance. Repeat until all get through. Any lively music will answer.

Note. -- The above can be danced in waltz time, which makes a very pleasing change.
January 2, 2013