FAQs for Teachers

Country Dance is one of the allowed options in the English National Curriculum, so from time to time teachers try to track down dance information. I hope this page helps answer some of their questions.

If you are looking for books or music for Junior school dancing then you probably want the English Folk Dance and Song Society's education department, or the books and CDs that they sell. If you are old you may feel that their music is perfect; if you are young you may feel it is a bit staid, and you may prefer to rummage through the various ceilidh bands' more recent CDs (eg The Committee Band, Stömp)

If you are looking for instructions for suitable dances then you can either chase EFDSS (see above) or try the following sites that give dance descriptions

  • Thomas Green's site
  • John Brown's site

In many ways the best advice is to locate a local folk dance club (eg see The Set and Turn Single directory or do a search on folk dance and your local town) or a local ceilidh band (try Webfeet) and ask them for advice. The chances are that they will have a collection of CDs you can listen to and can give advice on suitable dances. Be aware that there are basically two sorts of English dances -- the ones you see in Jane Austen films which were taught to Society people planning to go to balls, and the simple "Country Dances" people do at ceilidhs and barn dances. The former tend to be complicated and hard to teach in a short lesson, but are popular in dance clubs; the latter are intended for people who might go to a dance once a year, and should be easy to teach (and often get looked down on in dance clubs as being "too easy"). (If you are desperate for history then the "Jane Austen" dances were England's contribution to European culture for a couple of hundred years.)

If you are in the United States then the EFDSS equivalent is the Country Dance and Song Society who don't have a section aimed at schools, but do have a Youth Development officer, sell a range of books and CDs and are generally knowledgeable. New England Dancing Masters have a set of CDs and books specifically aimed at US schools. If you track down a local dance group be aware that in the US there are roughly three distinct dance groups:

  • English Country Dance (or "Playford")
    These dance the "Jane Austen" style dances and tend to be slow and stately dances
  • Contra
    These are energetic longways dances that have a standardized structure that makes them simple if half the dancers know what they are doing, but complicated to explain to a room full of beginners
  • Square
    This is a derivative of the traditional American Square Dance, and varies from fairly simple to extremely complicated - square dance clubs tend to the complicated end of the spectrum.

All the people running these groups should be well aware of the fact that the dances that they do on a weekly basis will be too complicated for a one-off lesson - though there are home-school groups that do these dances on a weekly basis - but they should be able to offer you local advice and put you in touch with local musicians and dancers.