Soldier’s Joy

This triple-minor dance has the first and third couples moving around the second couple. This dance keeps most of the dancers moving most of the time, and is fun both to dance and to watch.

There are many surviving eighteenth century texts, from both England and America, that contain versions of dances to this tune.  Our reconstruction is based on versions from four sources.

We talk about those sources, and the differences and similarities between the versions, farther down the page.

We have reconstructed this dance as follows:

Soldier’s Joy (Triple minor longways)

  • A1: First couple chassee down the outside of the set, ‘foot it’ (we usually use a beaten step or setting step), chassee back to place, set to partner.
  • A2: First and third couples  ‘draw‘ counterclockwise around the second couple with four pas de bourrees.
  • B1: All allemande right with their partner, first couple cross over one couple (cross over and go down below one couple) and right hand turn halfway in the original second couple’s position.  (The right hand turn is very quick.)
  • B2: Couples at the top (the original second couple at the top, the original first couple below them), do four changes of rights and lefts.

We use pas de bourrees in this dance, because of the difficulty of doing a skip-change step backwards in the draw figure.  An alternative would be to use pas de bourrees for the draw and allemande, and use a skip-change step for the first couple cross over one couple in B1 and the rights and lefts in B2.

Below are five different versions of the country dance to this tune, from four sources, written down in North America in the latter part of the 18th century.  These five versions are similar to each other (unlike many other dances which were published to go with the tune Soldier’s Joy.)

  • George Bush was an officer in the Continental Army beginning in 1776, and not an ancestor of the presidents.  He wrote down tunes and dance figures in his pocket notebook.  His two versions of Soldier’s Joy are included in Social Dances from the American Revolution by Charles Cyril Hendrickson and Kate Van Winkle Keller, published in Sandy Hook, Connecticut in 1992.
  • Nancy Shepley wrote a manuscript of dance figures in Pepperell, Massachusetts, which has been dated to circa 1794.  Her manuscript was provided courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society of Worcester, Massachusetts, and we wish to thank them for their assistance.
  • Clement Weeks was from Greenland, New Hampshire and put together a manuscript collection of dances.  His dance instructions can be found in George Fogg and Kate Van Winkle Keller’s work Contra Dances from New Hampshire 1783, published in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2012.  The instructions from Weeks are also in an article by Abbot Lowell Cummings, “An Eighteenth-century Collection of Contra Dances,”  published in Old-TimeNew England, 47(1957), pp. 108-111.
  • Asa Wilcox’s Book of Figures was written down by Wilcox in 1783.  It was found in Connecticut and typed up in 1918.  The Library of Congress’ copy of the typed version of the book is available online at ​  and we thank the Library of Congress for digitizing so many valuable dance manuals.
George Bush instructions,  two versions

First & third seesaw alias draw, allimand down the / middle, up again, cast off one Couple, Right & Left/at Top.

Dance down two Cu: outside, up again, first & third Cu:/draw, first second & Third Cu: allimand, cross over one/Cu: right & Left.

Nancy Shepley’s instructions, 1794 manuscript
Cast off 2 coup. back again, 1st & 3d coup. draw once round the 2d; allemand cross over one coup. right & left at top.

Clement Weeks instructions, 1783 manuscript
Cast down 2 Cou. up again/Cast in & out 1st and 3d Cou/Allez man 1st and 3d Cou/Cross over one Couple right & left at Top.

Asa Wilcox Book of Figures, 1793
Cast down two Couple back again first & third Couple Draw.  first second & third Couple alamand one round crss over one Couple. right & left at top –

Our reconstruction of the dance is consistent with Bush’s second version, and the versions of Shepley and Wilcox: First couple cast down and return, first and third couples draw, allemande, first couple cross over one couple (in modern terms, cross over and go below one) with an extra half turn thrown in to get proper, and right and left.  However, there are some points where other interpretations are possible.  In particular, there is the question of what is meant by allimand/allemand/allez man/alamand?  The term seems to have had many different meanings in this period (as well as many different spellings.)  Hendrickson and Keller, in the book Social Dances from the American Revolution, interpret “first second & Third Cu: allimand” in Bush’s second version to mean that the three couples promenade around in a circle, and they conclude that version of the dance must take 40 bars of music, which would require changing the tune from the 32 bar version which is usually played. While our interpretation is not the only possible one, we believe it is justified by the manuscript versions above.

The tune can be found at

The tune (with lyrics) was published in London in 1775 in Vocal  Music, or the Songster’s Companion.  You can see the tune as published in that work at on page 240.

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