- Etiquette and Technique
- Finding instructions for individual dances
- Dance history of dances recently done at the Round
- Information for callers
- The Big Round Band
- Music for dances
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.
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.
Scott Pfitzinger has produced a full catalogue and indexes for all 18 editions of Playford’s Dancing Master, with transcriptions of all the dance notations and tunes, available at http://playforddances.com.
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.
Antony Heywood, a former member of the Round, has developed over many years a database of more than 20,000 dances, accessible at https://barndances.org.uk/Antony/. The main purposes of the database are to find the published source of a given dance, to find suitable recorded music for it, and to provide a link to on-line instructions for it, if available. It lists the figures occurring in each dance, but doesn't give the full instructions. It’s also possible to look for other dances by the same author or in the same publication. A very useful feature is that you can search for a dance by specifying figures that it contains.
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 to 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 a wide variety of popular dances on Colin Hume's website
... and for many 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.
John Sweeney's site at http://www.contrafusion.co.uk/ has a great deal of useful information about English country dancing, including notation for all the dances published in English Dance and Song over the years.
The instructions for all of Pat Shaw’s dances are online at http://www.patshaw.info/dances/.
Childgrove has good videos and descriptions for many popular English country dances, and contra, square and morris dances too.
The Lambertville 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 or recorded badly. The better ones, suitable for learning the dance, are marked with an asterisk.
Thomas Green has a collection of English Barn Dances (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.
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.
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)
- 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”
- 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)
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 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.