Allemande Left – Definition

Teaching Resource for ALLEMANDE LEFT

Links:   Standard Analyze Module Teach Other Extend

CALLERLAB Program: Basic Part 1
Teaching Order: After Promenade and before Arm Turns
Recently Taught Calls: Circle, Forward and Back, Dosado, Swing


There are many possible origins for the name Allemande. In French the words “A la main” mean “by the hand”. The cowboy callers used to say “All the men left” and this degenerated to “allemande left”. During the Renaissance in the 16th century there was a sprightly German dance called “The Allemande”, which was full of turns. It is likely that our “Allemande Left” simply means do a left turn as they used to do in the old Allemande dance.

Over the years many different arm or hand holds have been used. It is currently the case that contra dancers use a different hold from modern square dancers. The contra dance hold is sometimes called a “pigeon wing”. Rather than our forearm hold, dancers join their hands in a finger hook hold around the base of the other dancer’s thumb and hold their elbows down and bent in order to provide positive tension and some spring while keeping the dancers close together.


In its most general form, an Allemande Left is simply an Arm Turn by the left (plus a Step Thru as the dancers head towards their next dancer interaction).

While Arm Turns are used for general arm turns, Allemande Left is mostly reserved for an Arm Turn with your corner.

The large number of formations from which an Allemande Left is possible will be described in two cases. The Command Examples, Timing, Styling, and Comments sections apply to both cases.

Minimum number of dancers needed: Two act together, but usually called for all eight dancers

Starting formation for the minimum number needed: Two dancers who can comfortably turn to join left arms or who are already holding left arms.

Command examples:
— Allemande Left
— Left Allemande
— Allemande Left Your Corner
— With The Corner, Allemande Left
— Allemande Left Your Corner; Dosado Your Partner; Allemande Left Your Corner
— Allemande Left Your Corner; Allemande Right Your Partner
— Allemande Left A Full Turn Around

6.a. Case 1

Starting formations: Eight Chain Thru, Left-Hand Ocean Waves, Right And Left Grand Circle, Thar, Alamo Ring (men facing in), Trade By plus ends face each other

Dance action: Dancers holding left arms or facing dancers Arm Turn by the left at least 180 degrees until the men are facing promenade direction and the women are facing wrong way promenade direction. Step Thru.

Ending formation: Right and Left Grand Circle, men facing promenade direction, women facing wrong way promenade direction. While the dance action of Allemande Left might not cause the dancers to end in this formation, the next call should be given as if this were the ending formation. From an Eight Chain Thru, it would not be proper to call Allemande Left; Trade By, as the dancers are logically in a Right and Left Grand Circle, not a Trade By formation.

6.b. Case 2
Starting formations: Squared Set, Infacing Circle Of 8, Trade By, Left-Hand 3/4 Tag, Facing Lines, Lines Back-To-Back, Inverted Lines with Ends Facing

Dance action: If necessary, dancers individually turn in place up to 90 degrees, so that the men are facing wrong way promenade direction and the women are facing promenade direction. Continue with the dance action in Case 1.

Timing: 1/2 arm turn: 4-6; 3/4 arm turn: 6-8; Full arm turn: 8

Styling: Forearm handhold

Comments: The variation in the timing numbers is due to the adjustments which may be required before the Allemande Left (e.g., turning to face your corner, stepping to a left forearm).

Choreography like “Allemande Left Your Corner; Dosado Your Partner; Allemande Left Your Corner” is acceptable. The command “Allemande Left Your Corner” can be a shorthand for “Face Your Corner; Allemande Left”.

Choreography like “Allemande Left Your Corner; Allemande Right Your Partner” is acceptable. It uses the dancers’ knowledge of Allemande as an arm turn and is danced as Face Your Corner; Left Arm Turn until you can go to your partner; Right Arm Turn with Your Partner. The next call will determine when to stop the final arm turn.

Square dancing has had a long history of occasionally requiring dancers to search out and locate their corner (often by individually turning in place in flow direction, or continuing the last command a little longer) before doing the Allemande Left. See “Additional Detail: Commands: Gimmicks”.

Allemande Lefts that require other than a 180-degree arm turn are less frequently used and are moving towards the Gimmick category. Callers may assist on an Allemande Left that requires some or all of the dancers to turn 360 degrees by calling, for example, “Allemande Left A Full Turn Around” or “Allemande Left all the way around to your partner”.

Allemande Lefts that require dancers to turn in place more than 90 degrees to find their corner are less frequently used, and are in the Gimmick category.

From a Squared Set plus everyone Half Sashay, Allemande Left would have dancers face their original partner and then do the Allemande Left (180 degrees). This would be very unusual calling.
While Allemande Left is intimately associated with Allemande Left Your Corner, the dance actions were written without reference to Corner. The caller who says, “Allemande Left Your Corner” is both helping the dancers, in case they are confused with whom to do the Allemande Left, and asserting to the dancers, “Yes, this person is your corner”.

A phrase like “Allemande Left Wrong Corner; Promenade, Keep Walking” or “Allemande Left This Corner” is occasionally used as a way for the caller to clarify to the dancers that an Allemande Left is desired, and that the caller understands that the dancers don’t all have their original corners and partners.

As a gimmick, some callers will call “Allemande Left; Right and Left Grand … On The Third Hand, Promenade”. This causes the dancers to first believe the caller has made a mistake (wrong corner) and then be surprised by the quick fix.

Facing Couple or Ocean Wave Rule: Allemande Left is defined to begin from either facing dancers or Left-hand Ocean Waves.

Link to Taminations: Taminations Allemande Left