Folk dancing

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Graham Foster holding microphone Introduction

I am Graham Foster, a folk dancer and folk dance caller from Bedford, England, UK.

I am mainly involved with the following types of dancing:

# Playford
(known as English country dances in the USA)
Nonesuch, The Bishop
# Contra dances Devil's Dream, Bucksaw Reel
# Square dances (traditional) Knave's Quadrille, Redwing
# English traditional Morpeth Rant, Dorset Four Hand Reel
# Barn dances Cumberland Square Eight, Balance the Star
# Other types occasionally get included such as
international folk dances and Scottish country dances

Unlike Morris and clogging which are display dances, all of these are social dances. So they are for joining-in, not for watching! This partly explains why this type of dancing is almost igorned by the visual media. The notable exception is for Playford balls in "Jane Austen" era costume drama.

Walking-through and dancing
a progressive folk dance

There are a few points that are worth noting if you are not familiar with this type of dancing:

  1. These are all danced with a partner in "sets", the most familiar of which is probably the "square set" of four couples. However, there are other formations for sets with 2, 3, 4 or more couples.
  2. Every dance is always walked through immediately before it is danced. The movements and progression within the set (so you dance in different positions and with other couples during the dance) will be explained during the walk through. Therefore you are not expected to know the dances. This is true at club evenings, private events, and at public dances.
  3. Every dance is called. That is the caller will remind you of the movements during the dance.
  4. You will usually be moving on your own, or just holding hands with your partner (or someone else). Only occasional dances involve moving as a couple in ballroom hold and, even when this does occur, it is very brief.
  5. There are only a few dances that have special steps. As long as you can move in time to the music, that is all that is needed. Indeed, even if you can't do that, you can still take part; this can been seen in some of the videos!

All of the above promote the idea that everyone can join in. This is certainly not dancing just for the knowledgable and the trained, although clearly some experience and expertise makes it even more enjoyable.