This is one of the most popular dances of the Southern Highlands. One good source for the dance is Traditional American Dance Book by Rick Meyers, 1983. Directions from the traditional dance community in Norfolk, Virginia, were found on the Seven Cities of Southeastern Virginia Folk Dance Connection web site and are included below.
This dance is performed in long lines, up and down the hall. Imagine clearing the cabin of furniture and rolling up the carpet in order to have a dance! The fiddlers stood in the doorways to take up less space and to be heard equally well in both rooms of the cabin. “Stay all night, stay a little longer…“
Instructions for Dancing the Virginia Reel ------------------------------------------ Longways dance in sets of 5 or 6 couples. All the men on the "right" when looking down the hall, all the ladies on the left. ( Stand across from your partner) Join hands in long lines, Go forward and back 8 beats of music Right hand turn your partner 8 beats Left Hand turn your partner 8 beats Do-si-do (back to back) with partner 8 beats Top couple take two hands, Sashay 16 beats down the center of the set and back Top couple "reel the set" (top couple only) -- hook right elbows with partner, turn 1-1/2 times. Top gent then goes to the first lady in the ladies line, top lady goes to the first man in the man's line and they turn left elbows once around. Top man and woman then meet again in the middle, turn right elbow once around with each other, then left elbow with the next person in line, etc. Continue "right to your partner, left to the next" until the top couple has "reeled" all the way down the line. This takes about... 48 beats (or so...) Top couple then sashays back up the middle to the top, and separate from each other. They "peel off " down the respective outside of the lines, (men down the men's side, lady down the ladies side) go to the bottom and make a two-handed arch. All the other couples follow them down to the bottom and up through the arch, leaving the top couple at the bottom, and the second couple at the top ready to start the dance over!! That takes about 32 beats (or so) *************************************** A line of 5 (or 6) couples can make it one time through the whole dance in two repetitions of a 64-beat tune. (Notice all of the above figures "add up" to 128 beats. It will not always match the music exactly, though. The more important part is to keep smiling and have fun!!