The Rainbow Revealed


The dance "The Rainbow" was published around 1780 as dance 26 in:

THOMPSON'S Compleat Collection of
perform'd at Court, Bath, Tunbridge &
all Public Assemblies
with proper Figures or Directions to each Tune

Pr. 3s. 6d

A modern interpretation of The Rainbow has been given by Ken Sheffield in "From Two Barns (Vol 2)" and the same version appears in the booklet that accompanies the CD by the Assembly Players (see Music section below). However, the final figure in Ken's interpretation uses 8 steps for a leasurely progression, then requires, in 8 steps, the two men to change places on the diagonal, the two ladies change places, the two men to change back to progressed places and the two ladies to change back. It can be done, and is good for showing-off how agile and alert you are, but unfortunately it often means that the ladies are delayed and do not finish in time to start the next turn through the dance.

The variation given below avoids this scurrying around.


Duple minor with 2nd couples improper


There is an excellent recording of the tune "The Rainbow" on the CD "Dance and Danceability" by the Assembly Players. See Nicolas Broadbridge's web site. The music player on that page can be clicked forward ▸| to sample track 9. Note that this needs a Flash player, and controls to play tracks may not even be displayed (immediately below the price) if one is not available.

Here is an alternative track which features a second tune:

A score and midi version of The Rainbow is available at abcnotation. There is also a score in "From Two Barns (Vol 2)".

The music is in 2/2 time, with dancers taking 4 steps to each bar.


Counts are given here in steps, rather than the usual bars, because some of the movements do not fit within a four-step bar.

A1 1‑8Face neighbour, set right & left, and turn single to face partner;
9‑16Take nearest hand with neighbour, all cross over the longways set with 1st man & 2nd lady making arch for other pair to duck under, both pairs California twirl to face partner (California twirl is a way to turn round neatly as a couple: keep hold of neighbour's hand, man walks a half circle to his right, while lady walks a smaller half circle to her left ducking under joined hands).
A2 1‑8Set right & left, to partner and turn single;
9‑16Again take nearest hand with same neighbour, all cross back with 1st lady & 2nd man making arch for other pair to duck under, California twirl with neighbour to face partner.
B 1‑6Right-hand star, Note that this star is only 6 steps there and 6 back, so it is shorter than the usual star which has 8 steps in each direction.
7‑12left-hand star,
13‑16half left-hand turn with neighbour.
All are now in progressed places.
17‑20Men change places on diagonal (in original duple minor set of four people, so M1 changes diagonally up, M2 down),
21‑24ladies change places on diagonal,
25‑28men change back to progressed places,
29‑32ladies change back to progressed places, and all face new neighbour.