Charlottesville English Country Dance

English Country dancing is the precurser to modern contra dancing and Scottish Country dancing. All three forms share a common set of formations (longways, square, and round sets) and figures (circle, rights and lefts, figure eight, hey, etc.). The movement style is the dance walk, i.e., walking in time to the music, with a light step and elevated carriage.

Brief History

First collection of English Country Dances,The English Dancing Master, published by John Playford in London in 1651. (Some of same figures described in Italian dance manuals from late 1500s.) Dances were done primarily by gentry and at court; dancing taught to children and youth as part of well rounded education. Remained popular through early 19th century in England, Scotland, and America. Waltz, mazurka, polka, and other couple dances of the ballroom largely displaced country dancing in 19th century. Survived in simplified form in villages. Cecil Sharp collected surviving dances in early 20th century, then through research as a folklorist discovered and revived earlier dances from Playford and successors. Modern era dates from Sharp’s reconstructions. Keeper of Sharp’s legacy in U.S. is Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS) in Easthampton, near Amherst, Massachusetts. New dances continue to be written in the style of the earlier dances.

Recent History in Charlottesville


Brad Sayler managed the dance series from 1993 through the 2007 spring season. He then stepped down and handed the reins to the current committee.

Callers in recent years have included Brad Sayler, Jim Morrison, Nick Kuhn, Jenna Simpson, Katie Kellett, John Wheeler, Ron Lehmkuhl, Dale Mantautas, Pat Ruggiero, Howard Markham, Tom Hinds. Musicians have included Dave Wiesler, Jim Morrison, Mike Dunn, Janet Muse, Rya Martin, Lynn Mackey, Jennifer Myer, Nick and Beth Kuhn, Connie Muscenti, Colin Ramirez, Robert LaRue, Howard Markham, Jim Harrington, Laura Light, George Paul, Lesslie Crowell, Martha Maclay, Dave Edwards, Kathy Boyer, Rahina Wagner, and occasional others.