Country Dance ‘Calling’ Notes

Last updated: March, 2022

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 - often they're simply documented after having actually done the dance…  and not only do dances evolve, but their precise interpretation can ‘flex’ to accommodate local conditions.

Dance terminology/conventions:  your (minor) ‘set’ is the particular sub-group of people with whom you’re dancing – often multiples of two couples.  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 lady's on the right.  Also explain:  ‘corner’, ‘neighbour’ and ‘opposite’ …  ‘galop’ c.f. ‘gallop’.

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 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.  A few dances have revolutions (‘once through’) which are different multiple of 8 bars long - says, 16 bars or 48 bars.

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

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

Col,  December 2018