Dance and Music Resources

Terminology, Technique and Etiquette

  • What are ‘Playford’ dances? Includes a Playford family tree.

  • English country dancing is made up of many figures such as stars and circles. Like most other activities it has its own jargon, in which ordinary English words like “top” and “cast” and “side” mean something quite different from what you might expect. Elements of English Country Dance by Hugh Stewart contains comprehensive explanations of these figures and terms. It is available in hardcopy at the Round meetings and elsewhere.

  • Hugh has also written a note explaining why siding has not one but two meanings and is probably the most confusing move in English country dancing.

  • The Round has a guide to etiquette for dancers at the Round. It is mostly common-sense, but it may help you to avoid embarrassing yourself or annoying others, and it also explains our policy about dealing with anyone who may annoy you.

  • Dancing well is more fun. Anthony Stone explains how attention to some simple technical points can make the dancing much more enjoyable for you and the people you dance with.

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Finding instructions for dances

If you want to call dances, or even if you just want to find out a bit more about a dance that you enjoyed, you may want to find the instructions (notation) for dances. Some possible sources are listed here:

  • A previous President of The Round, William Palmer, wrote a booklet entitled Palmer's Pocket Playford. This is a very useful reference for callers of Playford dances. Paper copies can be obtained at meetings of The Round.

  • The Round regularly dance a style of dance known as Kentucky Running Set (KRS). Hugh has written a book on the subject, available here online or at meetings of The Round.

  • The Country Dance Book, by Cecil Sharp et al., which started it all. Original material from the man who revived English Country Dancing. Some sections which are still in copyright are omitted.

  • Hugh Stewart has a very big dance index of published dances, searchable on title, publication and author. It doesn't give the instructions for any of the dances, but gives information that may help you track them down.

  • Hugh has also written The Country Dance Club Book, which contains everything in his Elements of English Country Dance but also instructions for 100 popular dances, along with other useful information.

  • There are instructions for many more English country dances at http://ottawaenglishdance.org/playford/doku.php?id=dance_instructions_index

  • and a few at http://terpconnect.umd.edu/~eowyn/3LF/duple.minor.html.

  • Childgrove has good videos and descriptions for many popular English country dances, and contra, square and morris dances too.

  • This catalogue of dance videos is very extensive, but be aware that in many of them the figures of the dance are wrong, or fitted to the music incorrectly, or danced badly.

  • Thomas Green has a collection of English Barn Dances (Ceilidh dances).

  • Here’s another useful list of ceilidh dances.

  • Cambridge Contra has a list of contra dances with descriptions.

  • Michael Dyck also has a database of contra dances.

  • Contra choreographers often put their dances on their websites e.g. http://ravitz.us/dance/, which also has many links to other contra-dance choreographers.

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The Round’s dance history

The Round’s dance history pages list all the dances called at the weekly meetings, over the last 10 years or so, and are a useful resource for callers.

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Information for Callers

  • Anthony Stone has some Notes on Calling which are an excellent introduction to the subject.

  • Hilary Johnson has written a description of what The Perfect Caller would be, if such a thing were possible.

  • The Round has a core repertoire of dances that we aim to dance fairly often so that they become familiar to most members of the Round. Callers are requested to include dances from this list in their programmes.

  • Here are some teaching points that callers can mention while they are teaching and calling dances:

    • Casting, short and long
    • Giving weight (in allemandes, swings, ladies' chains, etc.); linking hands across in a star; recognising that there is a person attached to the hand you are taking (dancing with people, not shopping trolleys)
    • Heys
    • Phrasing, especially taking all the music e.g. in Fandango casts
    • Anticipation; recognising flow between figures; anacrusis
    • Playford skipping and skip-change vs. Contra "walking with style"
    • Polka
    • Ranting when necessary
    • Recovery from mistakes
    • Setting; standard Playford introductions
    • Standing up straight and giving eye contact to partners
    • Swinging technique (buzz-step)
    • Waltzing vs. triple-time (3/4 vs. 6/4 and 3/2)

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The Big Round Band

This means you. We've got plenty of talent in Cambridge, and want to encourage more, so many of our ceilidhs feature our own musicians. We hold several informal practices during the term to make sure everyone is ready for the big night. More details here, including sheet music for lots of dances.

Music for English country dancing