What is English Country dancing like?
English Country dancing, ECD for short, is done by executing a pattern of easy walking steps. Each piece of the pattern is called a “figure”. The familiar ballroom hold is not used. Rather, dancers will be in a formation called a set. Most of the time this consists of two long lines of people facing one another, but there are variations. The dancers will perform the beautiful patterns by weaving through the figures of the dance.
English Country dancing has been done for centuries and continues to thrive – new dances are still being written today. If you’ve ever seen a Jane Austen movie like Pride and Prejudice, you’ve seen English Country dancing. Click here for an example.
At our dances here in Rochester, there will be roughly a dozen individual dances done each night, with a break in the middle for refreshments. A caller will teach us and guide us through each individual dance. Music will be provided by a live band.
The music is unique. Some dance tunes are taken from old ballads, traditional tunes, classical music, or even opera. Some dance tunes are entirely original. The extraordinarily broad scope of source material results in a variety of tunes rarely heard in a single genre of music. The music can be lively or elegant, fast or slow, depending on the dance. Sometimes sweet and melodic, sometimes melancholy, hauntingly beautiful, heart swelling, and sometimes absolutely driven with a pulsating beat.
Are there special steps?
No. The emphasis is on simple, flowing patterns of movement rather than elaborate footwork. Most dances are done with a walking step; occasionally the caller may suggest skipping during a figure.
How will I know what to do?
The caller will tell us what to do. The caller will teach each individual dance before it starts and call out prompts during the course of the dance to remind us of the next figure. During the dance, it is a great help to notice what your partner and the other dancers are doing. Dancing with an experienced partner also helps. Don’t hesitate to ask an experienced dancer to be your partner! They will be glad to dance with you and help you out. Come early, around 6:10, for an introductory lesson.
What if I make a mistake?
It will be OK. Even the most experienced dancers make mistakes. The most important thing is to have fun.
Do I need to bring a partner?
No. English Country dancing is done with a partner, but it is our tradition to change partners with every dance so no need to bring anyone. You can come with friends or you can come by yourself. You will be asked to dance!
Will I be expected to dance every dance?
No. You can dance or simply watch as you choose.
What if there are more women than men, or vice versa?
It’s OK if there aren’t even numbers of men and women. We all dance with one another, though Rochester ECD does use traditional terminology such as “the men’s line” and “the women’s line.”
How do I get started?
Just come to a dance and we’ll show you how. Be there at 6:10 for an introductory lesson before the dance starts. The easier dances are usually done at the beginning of the evening. If you aren’t sure and would like to just watch for a bit and see what it’s like, feel free to drop in and check it out at no charge.
When and where are the dances?
Dances are held almost every Sunday night from 6:30-9:30pm at First Baptist Church of Rochester, 175 Allens Creek Road, Rochester, NY 14618. Sometimes the schedule needs to change, so check the event calendar.
What if I can’t get there right at 6:30?
That’s OK. Arrive when you can.
How much does it cost?
Admission is $9, $8 for students and members of the Country Dancers of Rochester, and free for ages 17 & under.
What should I wear?
Wear casual, comfortable clothing you can move around in. Comfortable, low-heeled shoes are suggested. Sneakers are OK. High heels are not recommended. Spike heels may damage the floor so please avoid those.
Can I bring my kids?
English Country dance is suitable for a wide age range. So much depends on the individual child’s ability to pay attention, follow the caller’s instructions, and keep up. Non-dancing children are welcome to play quietly at the tables at the back of the hall.
Anything else I need to know?
Our events are alcohol-free, smoke-free, and open to all. Please do not wear strong fragrances.