Houston Area Traditional Dance Society

English Country Dance

English Country Dance Caricature English Country Dance Caricature

Overview

English Country Dancing is the direct ancestor of contra dance and is still very much alive today, with newly composed dances entering the repertoire all the time.

Compared to contra, ECD offers much greater variety in musical styles, dance formations, and dance styling. It can also be more challenging than contra, and dancers who dance both ECD and contra find that their contra dance skills improve, thanks to the skills practiced in ECD.

The Dancing Master, cover of the first edition The Dancing Master, cover of the 12th edition
Click on the image to read a short history of English Country Dancing.

The music for English Country Dance is as varied as the dances. For many of us who love ECD, the music is an important reason why. You'll hear some of the same jigs, reels, and waltzes that you hear at a contra dance plus many more, ranging from classical compositions of Purcell and Handel to bawdy pub tunes.

There are three ECD groups in the Houston area; see the group listings below.

Media

There are many videos of English Country dance on the web. You might start with the Introduction to ECD video made by a station in Vancouver. Paul Ross's Childgrove channel on YouTube has many excellent videos, and the Lambertville Country Dancers maintain a long page with links to hundreds of videos; just scroll down the page, click on one, and go from there!

Keith Wood of Brisbane, Australia has created animations of many English Country dances (and a few contras) at the Dance Kaleidoscope website. Use the dropdown menus to find a dance.

ECD Groups

There are three groups in the Houston area doing English Country dance. For each group

HATDS Dance

Led by John Bloom, the HATDS-sponsored dance takes place on the first and third Thursdays of each month from 7:15 to 9:15 pm.

The dances will be held at St. Andrews through December; the cost is $5 per person. In January, they will move to First Unitarian-Universalist Church, 5200 Fannin at Southmore, and the cost will be $7.50 per person.

Dancers from Heights ECD before a performance at the Cinco Ranch Public Library.
Dancers from HATDS ECD before a demonstration at the Cinco Ranch Public Library.

Clear Lake Dance

Meets at Clear Lake United Methodist Church, 16335 El Camino Real, usually every 1st and 3rd Friday from 7:00 to 9:00 PM. Email clearlakeecd@gmail.com or see their Facebook page for details.

Clear Lake ECD is led by Caroline Lopez.

SCA Dance

The Society for Creative Anachronism sponsors a free dance on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays from 7:00-9:00 pm at the Trini Mendenhall Community Center, 1414 Wirt Road, Houston, 77055.

Dances include early English Country Dances, 16th Century French branles (round dances), and 15th and 16th Century Italian dances.

For more information or to be added to the reminders email list, contact Charlene Charette at charlene281@gmail.com

Set for Spring


Set for Spring Set for Spring

Set for Spring is the English Country Dance weekend that rotates between Austin, Dallas, Houston, Oklahoma City, and in 2018, San Antonio. It usually takes place in March. For the web site of the next or most recent event, go to SetForSpring.org. For the most recent HATDS-produced event, including a history of SFS festivals, click here.

Houston dancers at Set for Spring 2016 in Dallas
Houston dancers at the Saturday evening dance at Set for Spring 2016 in Dallas. Photo by Paul Williams.

I know of no better image for the ideal of a beautiful society than a well executed English dance, composed of many complicated figures and turns. A spectator located on the balcony observes an infinite variety of criss-crossing motions which keep decisively but arbitrarily changing directions without ever colliding with each other. Everything has been arranged in such a manner that each dancer has already vacated his position by the time the other arrives. Everything fits so skillfully, yet so spontaneously, that everyone seems to be following his own lead, without ever getting in anyone’s way. Such a dance is the perfect symbol of one’s own individually asserted freedom as well as of one’s respect for the freedom of the other.
~ Friedrich Schiller, from Kallias, or On the Beautiful.