Skip to Content

Houston Area Traditional Dance Society

Houston Area Traditional Dance Society

English Country Dance

English Country Dance Caricature
English Country Dance Caricature

Overview

English Country dancing is the direct ancestor of contra dance and is still very much alive today, with newly composed dances entering the repertoire almost weekly.

Compared to contra, ECD offers much greater variety in musical styles, dance formations, and dance styling. 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 Dancing Master, cover of the first edition
The Dancing Master, cover of the 12th edition
Click on the image to read a short history of English Country dancing.

For many of us who love ECD, the music is an important reason why. You'll dance to popular tunes from the 1500s to tunes written by today's tunesmiths .

There are three ECD groups in the Houston area; see the group listings below.

Dance Videos

There are many videos of modern English Country dance 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.

Experienced English dancers might enjoy this bit of ECD humor: A Reading from the Books of Barnes, a skit performed at Pinewoods English Week in 2002. (The Barnes books are collections of ECD tunes.) How many dance names can you recognize?

Where to Dance

We know of three groups in the Houston area sponsoring public English country dances. For each group

  • no group membership is required,
  • no prior dance experience is required,
  • no partner is required, and
  • all dances are taught and called.

In all cases, the schedule may change due to holidays, pandemics, and other conflicts, so double check before driving.

HATDS English Country Dance

HATDS English dances are held on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Sundays from 2:45-5:20 pm at Dauntless Dance Studio, 3221 Houston Ave, 77009. There are some exceptions; see the schedule on our Google calendar. You can also subscribe to the HATDS ECD mailing list to stay up to date.

The 1st and 3rd Sunday dances are open to all. The 5th Sunday dances are usually, but not always, for advanced dancers.

All dances are taught and prompted and are done to recorded music.

The $10 admission is used to pay the rent. Cash, credit cards, and digital wallets are accepted.

HATDS membership is not required. However, please consider becoming a member. Membership dues support our general administrative and operating expenses.

Policies

Masks are welcomed but not required.

Do not attend our dances smelling of alcohol, smoke, or fragrances .

To protect the floor and keep the space clean:

  • Do not wear street shoes for dancing. Bring clean, low-heel shoes that will not scuff or damage the floor, or dance in stocking feet.
  • You may bring water in closed containers—there's no water fountain. No other beverages are allowed.
  • You may bring snacks but they must be consumed outside.

Clear Lake Dance

Meets at Serenity Movement Studio, 1314 FM 646 #5, Dickinson, TX 77539, usually every 1st and 3rd Saturday from 7:00 to 9:00 PM. Email clearlakeecd@gmail.com or see their Facebook page for details and to check their schedule.

Clear Lake ECD is led by Caroline Lopez.

SCA Dance

The Society for Creative Anachronism sponsors a free dance on most 2nd and 4th Thursdays from 6:00-8:00 pm at the Trini Mendenhall Community Center, 1414 Wirt Road, Houston, 77055.

Dances include early English Country dances, 16th Century French branles (round dances), and 15th and 16th Century Italian dances.

For more information or to be added to the email list, contact Charlene Charette at charlene281@gmail.com

National Groups & Events

All of these listings are crowdsourced and may not be complete.

Community Calendar at CDSS new-tab

A Google spreadsheet new-tab with a list of ECD groups around the country.

A Google spreadsheet new-tab for a list of ECD special events across the country and across the pond.


Set for Spring is the English Country dance weekend that rotates between cities in Texas and Oklahoma. It usually takes place in March.

For the web site of the next or most recent event, go to SetForSpring.org. For a history of Set for Spring, click here.

Houston dancers at Set for Spring 2016 in Dallas
Houston dancers at the Saturday evening dance at Set for Spring 2016 in Dallas. Photo by Paul Williams.

I know of no better image for the ideal of a beautiful society than a well executed English dance, composed of many complicated figures and turns. A spectator located on the balcony observes an infinite variety of criss-crossing motions which keep decisively but arbitrarily changing directions without ever colliding with each other. Everything has been arranged in such a manner that each dancer has already vacated his position by the time the other arrives. Everything fits so skillfully, yet so spontaneously, that everyone seems to be following his own lead, without ever getting in anyone’s way. Such a dance is the perfect symbol of one’s own individually asserted freedom as well as of one’s respect for the freedom of the other.
~ Friedrich Schiller, from Kallias, or On the Beautiful.