Cotswold Notes: Cotswold Morris General Instructions: Common Steps

Which Foot?

There is a notorious ambiguity when something like “start with the left foot” is called. Some people consider it to mean “start by moving the left foot”, others “start with weight on the left foot moving the right”. There is also the problem of whether or not the preparatory hop [see below] counts or not. In these notes I have consistently, but arbitrarily, used “start with the left foot” to mean “start by moving, not including any preparatory hop, the left foot”.

To save repetition, I’ve only described left foot versions of the asymmetrical steps below. Right foot versions are, of course, the same but with R & L and cw & acw switched. When steps are done in a sequence L & R steps usually alternate.

Preparatory Hop

Before setting off from stationary, it is normal to first do a small hop on opposite foot to which one will start off on. This is done just before the start of the phrase of music for the explicit steps.

Strangely, this is almost never mentioned! This is despite [or maybe because] it being so ubiquitous in almost all figures of almost all Cotswold dances. Missing it out of verbal & written instructions is very confusing because it explains why the foot dancers are seen to move first is not the one they say they move, why steps appear to start momentarily before the musical phrasing and how dancers are already well moving when the figure proper starts.

These notes also miss out explicit preparatory hops but that is because they described here in the general section and so apply to all figures, dances & traditions unless otherwise stated.

Single Step [= step-hop = Drop Step = Skipping]

A left single step forward is LF + hopLF and takes two beats, one beat on each part. The are 2 singlesteps per bar.

L & R single steps alternate when done in sequence.

When started from stationary on the first beat of a bar, [usually] hop on the last beat of the previous bar to start the stepping.

Triple Step [= 1-2-3-hop = 123-step-hop = left-right-left-hop]

A left triple step forward is LF + RF + LF + hopLF and takes four beats, one beat on each part. The is one triple step per bar.

L & R triple steps alternate when done in sequence.


A sidestep is a triple step but done sideways facing forwards so it a left sidestep becomes LS + RC + LS + hopLI. An optional variation is to cross the Rft slightly behind the Lft, i.e. LS + RBA + LS + hopLI.

If using hankies, then salute with the L one during a L sidestep.

Closed Sidestep

Just like a sidestep except that the foot that would have gone to the side stays in place and the other one crosses over infront of it [i.e. LI + RFA + LI + Lhop]. If saluting, face slightly L & do the salute down across the body to the L.

This is often fudged to be done starting on the wrong foot for the direction by stepping across first [i.e. if starting on the Lft, it becomes RFA + LI + RC + Rhop].


A caper is a leap from one foot to the other. The foot leapt from should ideally reach up behind to the buttock during the leap and end up kicking out forwards; the leap should be as high as possible; emphasise the kick up at the back not the one out the front [otherwise it looks unbalanced].

If using hankies swing them in circles at the sides [arms approx. theta = 135 deg, phi = ±90 deg for the [resting] low point of the circle] for balance & to emphasise the leaps. The swinging is done mainly with the forearms [doing it with the whole arms will cause unbalance the other way].

L & R capers alternate when done in sequence.

One caper usually takes two beats but in a few rare cases, a small caper is done to one beat in a slow bit of music.

Foot-together-jump [= FTJ]

Close the free foot to the other one then jump from both feet to land on both feet. Hands gather into chest for the jump. Usually it takes a whole bar [but some traditions do it in just the 2nd half of a bar].

If immediately setting off stepping again after a FTJ, a Preparatory Hop is inserted as when starting off from rest.


To Galley R, step onto Rft and raise Lft [at least to shin height &, for some traditions, preferably until L upper leg is horizontal] with L foreleg pointing forwards and about 45 deg below horizontal with L heel pointing downwards. The L foot moves in a circular path cw in a horizontal plane like running a foot around a toilet seat.

If hankies are used, hold them out with straight arms [theta = 90 deg, phi = ±90 deg] during this.

Galley Round

Use a Galley to turn round on the spot on the other foot. If the Rft is raised, the turn will be acw [it is possible to turn the other way but it is awkward to do, looks awkward & is not supposed to be not done so plan in advance to get on the correct foot].

It is easier, smoother & far less strain on the supporting knee if most of the turning is actually done on the step into the Galley Round instead of relying on the reaction from the leg gyration.

‘Galley Round Left’ (and ditto ‘Right’) is ambiguous because it could be using Lft to do the galleying cw or starting the Galley Round by stepping onto Lft to go acw. It usually means the latter.


With weight on ball of Rft, slide Lft back foot whilst turning R heel inwards [takes 2 beats]. [A way of learning slipbacks is to pretend to kick a football sideways whilst slipping the other foot back.]

Slipbacks can be done without either foot leaving the ground much or with a slight raise of Lft on the second beat.

Star Jump

Start with feet together and hands down or at chest level. Jump high with arms and legs spread out like a vertical Saltire. Land with feet together and hands down again sides.

Split Caper [= Bounce Caper]

A R Split Caper is gently leap to RS + LFAww [swing Lft across in the air, don't put it on the floor] then ditto LS + RFAww [total 2 beats]. Feet together on the floor [1 beat] bending knees preparing for the jump. Jump [1 beat lengthened beat] with L leg out front and R leg out behind. Hankies are held out theta = 90 deg, phi = ±90 deg for the first two bars, are brought into infront of the stomach for beat 3 and up high vertically together up for the jump.

It looks more dramatic if faked by one hooking ones back leg up as if kicking one's own buttocks instead of trying to extend it straight back because it increases the gap between the feet and the ground. Keep back vertical and straight.

Alternate Split Capers are done with L & R interchanged.

Up-2-3 [= Upright Caper]

A Rft Up-2-3 is a leap or caper onto the Rft [2 beat] followed two steps or small leaps LI + RI [1 beat each]. The style of the first leap is more vertical than a caper [R leg sort of bicycles infront with foreleg remaining pointing down and the Lft ends up nearer the ground than in a caper] and in the other two, the legs alternately point out straight a bit infront [like in a party Can-can without the hop]. Hands go vertically up high infront in the caper bit.

RTB & LTB [= Right Toe Back & Left Toe Back]

An RTB is a leap or jump landing on Lft [foot flat on floor, foreleg vertical, upper leg horizontal] with R leg stretched out behind [knee close to floor, toe on floor], arms out sideways [theta = 09 deg, phi = ± 90 deg] and back verticallish. An LTB is the same thing with L & R swapped. A sequence of RTBs and LTBs, is usually just called ‘RTBs’.

Warning: I have seen a dancer get a strained knee from doing RTBs over enthusiastically.


This is just a walk.

Swagger Step

An exaggerated walking step taking large steps with lots of body swaying and arm swinging. If carrying a long stick two handed, swing it side to side whilst walking. If holding hankies, swing the hands alternately behind and infront of the torso at waist level [Lh infront & Rh behind when Rft goes forwards].

Standing Still

The easiest step of all! Usually dancers don't move their feet when doing a sticking pattern in a chorus or whilst being inactive corners in the corners part of a corner dance.

[Cotswold Morris General Instructions] [Different Traditions] [Abbreviations]