Types of dance

Historical English Country Dances

English Country Dances are often danced in long sets of couples all the way down a hall, or maybe as squares, large circles, or short sets of three or four couples. Some dances date back to the 1600s and look similar to the dances shown in films of the Jane Austin era, but of course when we dance them these days, we wear normal everyday clothes. In the long sets, two couples dance together for once through the dance and then they progress down the set dancing with each couple in turn as the music is repeated. The moves include ‘hands four to the left or right’ (circles), ‘hands across’ (right and left hand stars) and ‘back to back’ (do-si-do), ‘setting’, ‘turn single’ etc, etc. These moves are all taught by the caller, as he or she walks you through the moves, and then when the music starts, keeps calling to remind everyone of the moves as they dance.

Traditional English Dances

Traditional Dances collected together in books called ‘Community Dance Manuals’ by the English Folk Dance and Song Society are similar to Ceilidh dances but explore more moves and steps. As English Country Dances above they too can be danced in many different shapes of sets and in different tempos of music for example Jigs, Reels, Waltzes, Polkas, Hornpipes, and Three-time. They are great fun to dance. In the last twenty to thirty years more and more callers are writing new dances to add to the collection.

Contra Dances

Contra Dances are high energy, very sociable dances developed in the USA from British roots and have a lot of pivot swings and spins in them. The dances can go on for a long time if you are at a large contra gathering or in the US, often dancing through each turn of the dance about fifteen times, twice the length of a normal traditional dance, but at club level we tend to do them about seven, or so, times through.
The form of the dance is usually a longways sets, in groups of two couples.

Ceilidh Dances

Ceilidhs are a very sociable gathering of people who have a good time whilst they dance to the music of a band of musicians. There is a caller who walks you through the dances first and then keeps calling whilst you dance, to remind you of the moves. Typically, you would find these gatherings at weddings, anniversaries, fund raisers or birthday parties.
The dances can be in many different forms but more usually in big circles, or short sets of three to five couples.