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The Hey is a dance step that involves two rows of dancers moving in opposite directions and alternating between passing on the right shoulder and the left shoulder. Heys are most prominent in english country dance but also appear rarely in some renaisance dance forms. Some dance groups will lightly touch hands in passing (left hand as passing left shoulder, right hand, left hand, etc), a formation which is often easier for beginners to learn. Others find little evidence for any hand movement in the original manuscripts, and keep their hands by their sides.

This figure is generally not described as a 'hey' in period dance choregraphies, but instead instructions on how to carry out this figure (which appear to presume some familiarity with the form) are given for the particular dance.

Several variations on the footprint of the hey occur:

  • 'linear heys' involve a line of people (for example all the women) who are arranged in a line, passing shoulders with each other. When they reach the end of the line, dancers turn around an imaginary pole (turning a hand or shoulder to the pole) and return, passing the first dancer they meet on the same shoulder as the last dancer they met. Such heys generally proceed until the dancer has returned to their orignal place, facing in the same direction as they started in (imagine a figure 8 rather than a o). Occasionally this figure will pause halfway through the hey, but will resume after annother dance movement is performed. Both lines of a partnered linear dance may perform this move at once (eg Grimstock) or in turn (eg Godesses
  • 'circular heys' generally take place in a circle dance or involve both lines of a partnered linear dance. In this variation, dancers proceed in a single direction until they return to their place, their feet having described a large circle. In a circle dance, dancers turn to their partners and pass by their shoulder before passing the next person of the opposite gender. In a linear set, middle dancers will generally turn as for a linear hey, but instead of turning around an imaginary pole at the end, will cross to the other side of the line, and ontinue in a circular pattern. The end dancers in a set may begin in a linear fashion or by facing across the line as requred by the individual dance.
  • U shaped heys - a sort of mix between circular and linear heys.

Variations in the practise of the hey also occur, the dance Grimstock giving 3 variations with very similar footprints.

tips for dancing heys:

  • put the experienced couple at the top, and the inexperienced dancers will generally correct which side they are on according to which shoulder the expereinced dancers present.
  • practise
  • If you have learnt to dance with hand touching, and must suddenly dance without, imagine you are still touching hands - cup your hand or some similar movement to remind yourself which shoulder to present next
  • Neither too fast nor too slow. For english country dances, a phrase of music is often played twice, the end of the first phrase denotes when you should be at your halfway point and gives you a chance to speed up of slow down.