Friday, February 20, 2009

English Country Dance, Part II

[Stephanie Johanesen, Founder and President of the Oregon Regency Society, continues her introduction to English Country Dance (ECD). Don't forget to check out her group at We're all feet, er, ears, Stephanie!]

A piece of ECD music can be strung together into infinity. Most pieces you buy on CD are repeated seven times. At a ball, the musicians can decide when they will end it based on how long the sets are.

Here is a link to the Duke of Kent’s Waltz (this is one of my favorite dances). It’s an mp3. It is repeated four times. Listen to it. It is simply the same piece played over and over. What gives it variety is the way each set is played by the musicians. Just listening to this music, I can tell what I am supposed to do in the dance. It has a waltz tempo. One-two-three, Two-two-three…
I made a little diagram for each group of movements that go with the dance.

Ones and Twos:
Right Hand Star (4 beats)

(First gentleman takes second lady’s hand; first lady takes second gentleman’s hand beneath)
Left Hand Star (4 beats)

(You should be back in your places).

Ones (first couple) Chassée between the twos and return (4)
(Chassée = slide step waltz while holding hands)

Ones Cast Down (4)
(Turn away over your right shoulder, outside the set and fall into the place of the twos)
Twos lead up (2)
(The twos should wait two beats after the ones cast, and then take hands and dance up into the place of the ones.)

(Note: This is where you have progressed. Note that the ones and twos have switched places.)

(Here comes the best part – balancing is a waltzy step where you take right hands and dance towards each other and back.)

Balance forward on right hand
Back (2)
Balance forward
Spin under the gentleman’s hand,
And back (2)

(You are now improper) [Editor’s Note: How delightful!]

Repeat with left hand to remedy the improper position.

Balance forward on left hand
Back (2)
Balance forward
Spin under the gentleman’s hand,
And back (2)

(You should now be proper again) [Editor’s Note: Aw, shucks!]

Gentlemen take right hand of your lady’s lower neighbor (diagonal down) and perform a right-hand turn.
(Everyone should be turning except the top right lady and the bottom left gentleman.)

Left hand turn with partner.

And begin again with new set. The configuration will have changed obviously.

Here are some videos of the dance being performed by a variety of groups. When you watch them, note how people are ‘out’ at the ends. Here is the Duke of Kent’s Waltz being performed by Oregon Regency Society members last May:

A nice long movie of a civil war reenactment group performing the Duke of Kent’s Waltz:

Our mentors the Hampshire Regency Dancers perform a suite of dances that include Duple minors, Triple Minors, and Quadrilles. Can you find the Duke of Kent’s Waltz in there?

Now, gather at least six friends and give it a whirl yourself. Once you’ve got the hard bits down, you can learn more steps, and you will find that English Country Dancing is really not difficult at all!

[Thanks, Stephanie, for making it look easy! Come back next week, my dears, when we stand out for a moment on our dancing, and Marissa introduces some special posts by a new author of nineteenth century YA fiction.]


Christina Farley said...

This is so great! To see how the dance actually works. Next time my school does a production of Jane Austen's books, I'm sending them your way.

Regina Scott said...

Send them Stephanie's way, Christina. I am only the humble messenger. She gave us some great info!

Anonymous said...

This really makes me want to find a dancing society! I don't know if there are any in my area though...

The one dance in the last video, (Anna Maria, I believe) looked very similar to a dance that they did in the film Sense and Sensibility with Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson. I don't know if it was the same, but it definitely resembled it.

Oregon Regency Society said...

Where are you located Dara, we can see if there's and ECD group nearby you can join. :)

As for Emma and various adaptations, I've begun to recognize many of the dances, the more I learn about ECD--and you will too. The one I'd like to learn most is "Mr. Beveridge's Maggot", performed both in P&P '95 and in Emma. It's the one where they lead up towards the camera 4 abreast (where Lizzie & Darcy partake in a little verbal jousting).

Garth said...

Hi - I have just see that your link to the Hamphire Regency Dancers performing the suite of three dances is out of date. The more recent version (that we danced a year later and with more research) is at - you might like to update the link. There are a few more videos here