By Linda Repasky

You say you’ve never heard of English country dancing? You’re in good company, since many people are unfamiliar with it. But if you’ve watched Pride and Prejudice on TV or seen Sense and Sensibility or Emma at the movies, you have indeed seen it. But fear not – English country dancing is not the obscure relic you might think it to be! This traditional form of dance has been around for several hundred years, and it’s still thriving today. There are dances all over the United States.

People love English country dancing for a variety of reasons. For many, it’s the music – hauntingly beautiful tunes that make the heart swell. Some dance tunes are taken from old ballads and political satire; others come from classical music and operas. This gives the music tremendous variety: sometimes sweet and melodic, sometimes melancholy, and sometimes absolutely driven with a pulsating beat. Others love it for the grace and elegance with which you glide as you dance. At times, you simply get swept away as you become one with the music. Many people love the beautiful patterns that you create as you dance and weave. Through it all, there’s an indefinable quality to English country dance that makes it energizing, mesmerizing, and just plain fun.

English country dancing is not hard to learn. If you can walk and know the difference between left and right, you already have much of the basic knowledge you’ll need. As we do it in the United States, most of the movements are based simply on a walking or skipping step. Dancers move in a number of specific figures, sometimes holding hands, sometimes by themselves. Each dance is prompted by a caller so that each figure and movement is called in time to the music; you don’t need to rely on your memory alone to know what to do.

Beginners are welcome and encouraged at all the regular local dances. Partners are not necessary; you can come by yourself and be assured of dancing throughout the evening, since our tradition is to change partners for each dance. Local dances are social and friendly, and the atmosphere is informal. No special clothing is needed, other than clean, soft-soled shoes or sneakers. Interested in coming to try a bit of dancing, or simply to watch before you take the plunge?

For a schedule of English country dances in the area, check folkworks.org/folk-happenings/ongoing-dance - englishCountry.

Taken from text by Linda Repasky, who dances in Amherst, Massachusetts. This article was first modified by Alan Winston, and then by FolkWorks to fit the Los Angeles community. Reprinted with permission of author.