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Dance Technique

The Rant Step
The Rant Step

The single most striking factor which sets Northumbrian traditional dance aside from those traditional dances known in Southern England, Scotland and other parts of the British Isles is the number of dances which feature vigorous stepping throughout, or as their main feature. The most common step being the rant step, this being found in such dances as The Morpeth Rant, The Quaker's Wife, The Rifleman, Roxburgh Castle, Soldier's Joy and The Triumph.

It is not an easy thing to describe dance in text form, there really is no substitute for watching other dancers and copying what they do. To learn the rant step you start by doing “Hop, hop, change (pause), hop, hop, change (pause)”. That's two hops on (say) the right foot, one on the left foot and hold it there, then do the same starting on the left foot. Make sure you can do that before moving on to stage two. When it seems to be coming naturally, between the two hops on the same foot you just tap the ground gently with your spare foot. So the rhythm becomes “Hop-tap, hop, change (pause), hop-tap, hop, change (pause)”. It is important to note that when stepping on the spot you're not putting your weight on the front foot - it just happens to touch the ground. Some people make a big thing of crossing the front foot over, but really that's not important. You're bound to lose the step occasionally while you're learning it, but just drop back to the “hop, hop, change” until you've got the rhythm back and then try it again. The step can be varied to make a traveling step and for use in dancing round figures.

For those of you with an energetic disposition, we have included instructions for three Northumbrian dances, all of which use the rant step.


notation for tune - The Triumph

Music: 'The Triumph' or any similar tune.

Steps: rant step throughout.

  1. Right and left hand star (8 bars)
  2. Follow your lovers. 2nd man gives left hand to first woman and leads her down the middle. Her partner follows (also down the middle) and draws up level on the far side of his partner so that she is between the two men. The 2nd man turns the 1st lady round and, to return up the middle, gives his right hand to the 1st man's left to make an arch behind her head. They return in triumph to places. (8 bars)
  3. Dance round. Both couples dance round each other, ballroom direction (ballroom hold). (8 bars)


notation for tune - Soldier's Joy

Music: 'Soldiers Joy' or any other rant tune.

Form: Longways duple proper

  1. First couple down outside and back to form a line of four with second couple, who face outward.
  2. Reel of four and return to original places.
  3. First couple down centre and back. second couple move up.
  4. Couples polka swing around each other.


notation for tune - Morpeth Rant

The tune given above is the most common modern version of the tune. There are many other, older versions of the tune, one which is given bellow. This melody is taken from the playing of border fiddler Tom Hughes.

notation for tune - Morpeth Rant as played by Tom Hughes

Music: 'Morpeth Rant' or any other rant tune.

Form: Longways duple proper.

Step: 1st and 4th figures usually ranted, it is traditional to turn out after the right hand star, and it feels and fits better if you rant this figure

  1. First man turns contrary with right, gives left to her partner, facing up between second couple who face down. Stepping, three-in-a-line, whilst first woman dances under both arches, passing round her partner.
  2. Right hands across and left hands back. (turning outward to change hands.)
  3. First couple down centre and back. Second couple move up.
  4. Couples polka swing around each other.

For further reading on stepping click the link to the right to download our article.



19th Century influences
19th Century influences
Ballroom dances

Dance Technique
Dance Technique
The Rant Step

The Dancing-Master
The Dancing-Master
learning to dance

Social dance
Social dance
traditional dancing in Northumbria

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