Country Dance ‘Calling’ Notes

Last updated: October, 2021

This site, comprising a web-based copy of my country dance ‘calling’ aide-memoir, is intended as a reference resource - particularly for those occasions when I don't have a hard copy to-hand - but I do have access to the web (usually via a ‘tablet’).

This document details a variety of country dances (English, American, Gaelic - but not ‘Scottish’).  Dances are categorised by formation e.g. longways, circle etc., then by title - roughly alphabetically.

Listed dances originate from a number of different sources (hence their inconsistent presentation) - but often they're simply documented after having actually done the dance…  and not only do dances evolve, often their precise interpretation can ‘flex’ - to accommodate local conditions.

Dance terminology/conventions:  your ‘set’ is the particular sub-group of people with whom you’re dancing – often multiples of four people.  Formations can be:  longways (‘proper’, ‘improper’ or ‘Becket’), crossways, circular or square.  Square dance sets comprise four-couples.

‘Partner’ is the person - usually of the opposite gender - with whom you commenced dancing the current figure.  When a couple are side-by-side, the man is on the lady’s left.  Also explain:  ‘neighbour’, ‘opposite’ and ‘corner’, …  ‘galop’ c.f. ‘gallop’.

Typical ‘figures’/elements of a dance: promenade (two styles), ladies’ chain, grand chain, ‘balance and kick’, do-si-do, star (tidiest if, first, men can link hands across), hey, ‘right and left through’, swing partner (several different styles: buzz step [ballroom hold], cross-hands, ceilidh-hold, etc.), turn partner (several styles:  Allemande, hooked-elbow, cupped-elbow, short-arm etc.).

Country Dance accompaniment categories are:  jig (“didily-dee” - encourages a bouncy, skipping-step), reel (supports a smooth walk), polka (step-step, step, pause/hop)…  occasionally hornpipe (step-hop) and double-reel (rant step).  Normally, tunes last (repeat after… ) 32 bars (usually equating to 64 beats - or steps) - comprising four, 8-bar phrases, designated A1, A2, B1 and B2, i.e. four groups of 16 beats (usually) = 64 beats in total.  Slip jigs are unusual, their bars comprise three beats ("didily-didily-didily" - 9/8 time) and encourage three running steps to the bar.  Occasionally, dances are other multiples of 8 bars long - say, 16 bars or 48 bars.

Dance tempos are roughly 120 beats per minute (bpm) (except for hornpipes and slip-jigs) i.e. two beats - or steps - per second, so a single revolution (‘once through’) of a 32-bar dance could last about 32 seconds.

A selection of recorded accompaniment is suggested, but for an event, the flexibility and atmosphere provided by live music is unsurpassable.

Tune titles are shown in italicised text.  (‘Welcome to the Dance’, WttD, is a compilation Compact Disc set by the English Folk Dance and Song Society, EFDSS.)

Col,  December 2018