English Country Dancing- What is it?
If you have watched Jane Austen movies such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, you have seen English country dancing. It was popular in English courts and villages in the 17th, 18th, and beginning of the 19th century until couple dancing became more popular. It was revived in the 20th century and is now a living tradition with new dances being choreographed in this style and new music being composed for them. Sometimes music by old composers such as Handel may also be used.
If you can walk, skip, and slip sideways, you can do these dances; no fancy footwork is required. Although many people dress in period-appropriate costume for balls, everyday clothing is worn at other times along with soft-soled flat shoes. No partner is required as it is the custom for people to change partners after each dance. (In England, however, this is not done.)
Most dances are done in long lines with two couples dancing with each other and moving up or down the set to dance with a new couple for each repetition. Other formations include three or four couple longways, and circle dances. Eye contact is very important because you will be interacting with your partner, others in your group of four, and sometimes with the whole group. It is also used as an opportunity to flirt.
Dances will be taught with a walk through, then prompted as you dance to the music. They are done with various rhythms including quick jigs, slow, elegant marches, and romantic waltzes. A variety of figures are used including hands across (stars), heys (figure 8’s), and walking up or down the hall.
It is a tradition to welcome newcomers to experience the joy of moving to music as you interact with other dancers.