The Convention (cotillion)

The Convention is  found in John Griffiths’ publication Collection of the Newest Cotillions and Country Dances Principally Composed by John Griffiths, Dancing Master. To Which is Added Instances of Ill Manners, to be carefully avoided by Youth of both sexes, Northampton, Massachusetts, 1794. *

The Convention is a cotillion.  Cotillions were danced by an even number of couples, usually by four couples standing in a square set.    The same “changes” were danced for every cotillion, and the dance’s “figure”, which was specific to that dance,  was danced after every “change”.   As many as ten (or more) changes were danced in cotillions.**

In our description below, we’ve used the modern square dance term “Heads” to refer to the couples with their backs to the music and facing the music, who would have been called the first and second couples in the eighteenth century.  The term “Sides” is used to refer to the other two couples, who would have been called the third and fourth couples.  In each couple the woman stands to the man’s right.

We are indebted to Kate Van Winkle Keller and Charles Cyril Hendrickson for their interpretation of this dance in the book George Washington: A Biography in Social Dance, 1998.

The Wayside Inn Steppers do this dance as follows:

The Convention
(A Cotillion)


  • All Round – Double set holding your partner’s hand, then all eight take hands and go halfway round the set to the left, double set again and all eight return to the right back to place
  • Figure (see below for description)
  • Women double set and right hand star halfway to opposite side, then double set and left  hand star back to place
  • Figure
  • Gents double set and chasse halfway left; gents double set and chasse halfway to the right, back to place
  • Figure
  • Double set to partner and allemande right with partner; double set and allemande reverse (left) with partner
  • Figure
  • Le Grand Chain – Right hand to partner and pull by, alternating hands to each person coming towards you.  Single set when you meet your partner across the set, give right to partner then return home in the same manner
  • Figure
  • All round (as above)
  • Figure

(NOTE: We double set before EVERY figure except for Le Grand Chain)

Heads set twice, moving forward, two hand turn to the left with opposite person all the way around, each returning to their original place
Sides meet, set & circle left with opposite all the way round back to place (same as above)
All chasse – Women Left in front of partner, Men Right behind partner
With new person (gent with his original right-hand lady) set and two-hand turn
Re-chasse to original corner person
Set and two-hand turn to line of four at the sides with WOMEN ON MEN’S LEFT
To the couple in front of you, double set and star right halfway across (to opposite line)
Same back – double set across and star left to home position

Other than the specified chasse and balance steps, we use a skip-change step as the traveling step for this dance.

Directions from Griffiths:

The Convention
[May be danced with the tune of York Fusiliers]
All round, first and opposite couples, balance in the middle, set, and turn contrary partners, and retreat to your places, the other two couples do the same, chasse all eight and turn the lady to your right quite round chasse back to your places and turn the lady to your left, then form two lines long way four each side balance, cross hands four, each corners, balance again, and cross hands back, and come to  your former places.


Sheet music for the tune “York Fusiliers” (which is the tune specified by Griffiths to be used for this cotillion) can be found here:

A Midi file of the tune can be downloaded here:


*We wish to thank the Milne Special Collections, University of New Hampshire in Durham,  New Hampshire, for sharing the Griffiths manual with us.

**Saltator, A Treatise on Dancing, Boston: 1802, lists ten changes [pp. 79-80].  Buckingham, A Selection of Cotillons & Country-Dances, Boston: 1808, lists seven changes [p. 4], and says “The figures of the preceding cotillions may be repeated as  many times as the performers wish, by introducing a change before every repetition [p. 8]”.



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