English Country Dance – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Dance Styles Glossary

I. What is English Country Dance?

English Country Dance is a traditional form of folk dance that originated in England in the 17th century. It is a social dance where couples dance in sets or formations, typically in long lines or circles. The dance is characterized by its lively and elegant movements, as well as its emphasis on community and interaction between dancers. English Country Dance is often performed to live music, with musicians playing traditional folk tunes on instruments such as the fiddle, flute, and accordion.

II. History of English Country Dance

English Country Dance has a long and rich history that dates back to the Renaissance period in England. It was originally danced in the courts of the English nobility, but eventually spread to the common people and became a popular pastime at village gatherings and social events. In the 17th and 18th centuries, English Country Dance reached its peak of popularity, with dance manuals and instruction books being published to teach the various dance steps and formations.

During the 19th century, English Country Dance fell out of favor as other dance styles such as waltz and polka became more popular. However, in the early 20th century, a revival of interest in traditional folk dances led to a resurgence of English Country Dance. Today, English Country Dance is enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds, and is often performed at folk festivals, community events, and dance clubs around the world.

III. Characteristics of English Country Dance

English Country Dance is known for its graceful and flowing movements, as well as its intricate footwork and patterns. Dancers often move in a series of figures or formations, such as circles, squares, and lines, with each dance consisting of a set of specific steps and movements. The dance is typically performed in pairs, with couples interacting and exchanging partners throughout the dance.

One of the key characteristics of English Country Dance is its emphasis on social interaction and community. Dancers often form long lines or circles, with each dancer having the opportunity to interact with multiple partners throughout the dance. This creates a sense of camaraderie and connection among the dancers, making English Country Dance a fun and engaging social activity.

IV. Music and Instruments used in English Country Dance

Music plays a central role in English Country Dance, with traditional folk tunes providing the lively and energetic soundtrack for the dancers. Common instruments used in English Country Dance music include the fiddle, flute, accordion, and guitar, with musicians often playing in small bands or ensembles to accompany the dancers.

The music for English Country Dance is typically in a 4/4 time signature, with a lively and upbeat tempo that encourages dancers to move and groove to the rhythm. The melodies are often simple and catchy, making it easy for dancers to follow along and stay in time with the music.

V. Popular English Country Dances

There are many different English Country Dances, each with its own unique steps, formations, and music. Some of the most popular English Country Dances include “The Duke of Kent’s Waltz,” “The Hole in the Wall,” and “Gathering Peascods.” These dances are often performed at folk festivals, dance clubs, and community events, where dancers of all skill levels can come together to enjoy the lively and elegant movements of English Country Dance.

One of the most well-known English Country Dances is “Strip the Willow,” a lively and energetic dance that involves couples weaving in and out of a line formation, exchanging partners as they go. Another popular dance is “Sellenger’s Round,” a stately and elegant dance that features intricate footwork and patterns.

VI. Modern Revival of English Country Dance

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in traditional folk dances such as English Country Dance, with many people rediscovering the joy and camaraderie of dancing in a social setting. Modern dance clubs and organizations dedicated to English Country Dance have sprung up around the world, offering classes, workshops, and social events for dancers of all ages and skill levels.

The modern revival of English Country Dance has also been fueled by the popularity of period dramas and historical reenactments, which often feature traditional folk dances as part of their cultural heritage. This has helped to introduce a new generation of dancers to the beauty and elegance of English Country Dance, ensuring that this timeless art form will continue to thrive for years to come.