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 be lively and raucous, it can be elegant and beautiful, and it can be everything in between. 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 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 two ECD groups in the area, one in the Heights and the other in Clear Lake.
Click to listen to Houston Public Media's Amy Bishop interview John Bloom about English Country Dancing.
There are many videos of English Country Dances, as we currently dance them, 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. You can target a particular dance directly by including its name as the hash tag, e.g. http://www.dancekaleidoscope.org.au/dance.html#LeviJacksonRag, or use the dropdown menus to find a dance.