ENGLISH COUNTRY DANCE FOR FUN

The series which was held on Sunday afternoon in the Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo Park has ended. English Country Dance For Fun will resume in Phoenix, AZ some time in 2014. Watch this space or sign up for my newsletter (see below) to get an announcement.

"I just wanted to say thank-you for holding the classes on Sunday. I am a rather clumsy person, and I have tried dancing before and was very discouraged afterwards that I would be able to ever dance at all. Your welcoming attitude to very awkward beginners like myself helped me to see that while I will never be Ginger Rogers, I could still get out on the dance floor and have some fun. Thanks for that. It means more than you might imagine."

Maura F

Michael calling the English Ceilidh at Pinewoods English American Week 2008          Late C18/C19 English Country Dancing

New dancers are welcome

The dances are all taught and called

You don’t need to bring a partner, just a pleasant attitude

Wear ordinary casual clothes – layers are good as you can get warm, even with the climate control

Please wear comfortable, clean soft-soled shoes to protect the floor



ENGLISH COUNTRY DANCE (ECD) -  All you (n)ever wanted to know!!

Jane Austen did it.  George Washington did it.  So can you! 

Providing gentle mental and physical exercise, ECD is now considered to be one of the best alternative health solutions there is.  The monthly series is intended to be light-hearted and fun and is specifically geared towards new dancers and dancers of other dance forms such as contra or swing.  Michael Barraclough will teach and call the dances.  In addition to his 4 years of calling in the US, he has 40 years of ECD dancing, teaching and calling experience in England.

ECD is the predecessor of Irish, Scottish, square and contra dances.  If you are familiar with any of these, you will find ECD easy to pick up.  Of all these, English has the greatest variety of shapes, figures, moods and music, making for a very pleasant and sociable form of exercise.  The pace varies from slow and elegant to lively and vigorous.  The movement style is the dance walk (walking in time to the music, with a light step and elevated carriage).  So, if you can walk and know the difference between right and left, you have much of the basic knowledge you'll need to do English Country Dancing!

ECD is a social and interactive form of dance – we are all dancing with each other, and there is a warm level of acceptance and relaxation because there is flexibility about personal expression and style. It lets us dance without some of the problems or constraints of other forms of dancing and is a wonderful way to ease into dancing if you think you can’t dance.  It's also a great alternative for people who don’t have a regular dance partner or who don’t want the pressure of typical couples dancing.  You are encouraged to dance with lots of different partners and newcomers can be paired with experienced dancers so they can rapidly gain skills and confidence. 

People enjoy ECD for many reasons - romantic, sumptuous, flowing music - easy steps & satisfying figures - the joy of dancing together - dignified flirtation - a genuine community connection - stimulation & relaxation at the same time - the grace and elegance with which you glide as you dance - and lots more.  At times, you simply get swept away as you become one with the music. Many people love the beautiful patterns created as you dance and weave.  Some people describe it as a meditation in motion.  You will also find a pleasant camaraderie, interacting with a variety of people of all age groups, various personalities, backgrounds, etc.  There's an indefinable quality to English Country Dance that makes it energizing, mesmerizing, and just plain fun.

The music is beautiful - haunting tunes that make the heart swell. Some dance tunes are taken from old ballads and political satire; others come from classical music and operas. This gives English country music tremendous variety; sometimes sweet and melodic, sometimes melancholy, and sometimes absolutely driven with a pulsating beat. 

The leader, or 'caller', teaches each individual dance.  Before each dance, dancers learn the dance by walking through the steps and formations, following the caller's instructions.  These are sometimes augmented with demonstrations by experienced dancers in the group.  After the walk-through, the music begins and the dance is prompted by the caller, so that each figure and movement is called in time to the music - you don't need to rely on your memory alone to know what to do.  Some dances can be as short as 1 minute.  Others can last up to 10 minutes.  No special clothing is needed, other than clean shoes that won't skid or stick on a wood floor and women usually prefer to wear skirts or dresses.

ECD has its origin in the 16th Century English court and was popular in England and America in the 1600's, 1700's and early 1800's.  If you've seen any of the recent Jane Austen movies then you've seen this sort of dance.  However, ECD is not the obscure relic you might think it to be. This traditional form of dance has been around for four hundred years and it's still thriving today.  These days ECD is danced by all manner of people, from royalty to the man in the street; to all manner of music, from string quartets to electric rock bands! 


[Thanks to all the many internet authors whose words I have 'stolen' and crafted together.  I hope that I have not given any offense.  Please let me know if you would rather I did not use your words.  MAB]