The Art of English Country Dancing
English country dances have been
practiced, as collective dances with figures, since the 16th century. They are a social dance form where each
couple dances with the others in line, in a circle or in square sets. They are very numerous, some of them
extremely difficult. They range from serious to amusing forms but their style
remains sober and elegant throughout.
In 1651 John Playford, a London music publisher, brought
out a collection of 104 country dances. This book and many later ones are the
research basis for specialists of old dances.
Country dances seem to have been devised
to free dancers from the restraints implied by court behaviour. They are meant for
fun and range from quite simple to very elaborate constructions. They have been danced through four
centuries, not as a historical reconstruction but as a present, live form of
folk dance. The earliest ones we know about may date back to 1651 but new
country dances have been created ever since, by highly talented choreographers
and music writers in the 20th century in particular.
CÚcile LAYE has worked on many country
dances and teaches them in workshops but also tries to have them danced in France
as they are in present days across the Channel.
A word about Playford Hall