The Round Cambridge - Dance and Music Resources


  • What are “Playford dances”? This explanation includes a Playford family tree.

  • Like most other activities, English country dancing has its own jargon, in which ordinary English words like “top” and “cast” and “side” mean something quite different from what you might expect. A dance is made up of many figures such as stars and circles. 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. There’s more on this controversial topic on one of Colin Hume’s pages.

Etiquette and Technique

  • 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.

Back to top

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:

Back to top

The Round’s dance history

The Round’s dance history pages list all the dances called at the weekly meetings, over the last 15 years or so, and are a useful resource for callers. There are also search procedures that can list all the times that a specified dance has been called in specified years, or list all the dances that a specified caller has called, or list the most frequently called dances over a number of years.

Back to top

Information for Callers

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

  • This extensive account of a callers’ class and discussion contains many useful suggestions.

  • 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)

Back to top

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 notation for English country dancing

  • The Round Band Book of Playford. Including music for all the dances in Palmer’s Pocket Playford.

  • The Barnes Books of English Country Dance Tunes (vols. 1, 2 and 3) give the music notation for more than 1200 popular dances. Strongly recommended (some would say essential) if you’re a serious English Country Dance musician.