English Country Dance
Please click the Calendar link above to see upcoming events.
The spring series of English Dance classes will be held on the five Wednesdays in May, 7:30-9:30 p.m. at Christ Church, with a year-end potluck/dance party starting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday May 31, all at Christ Church, corner of Water and Henry streets, Binghamton. $25 for the series, payable at the first class. All dances taught; live music. For information, call Lee Shepherd, 722-9327.
The 2017 Binghamton/Ball and Brunch will be on Saturday April 8-9 in a new location, the beautiful Victorian Phelps Mansion on Court Street in Binghamton, with calling by Dave Smukler and Bob Nicholson. Music is by Karen Axelrod, Rachel Bell and Eric Martin. We will have two ball prep sessions, on Sat., April 1, 2-5 p.m. and Friday, April 7, 7:30-9:30 p.m., both at Christ Church. A small admission fee will be collected for the prep sessions. E-mail email@example.com with questions.
The post-Ball Sunday Brunch on April 9 will be at the Highlands on Lee Circle Drive in Johnson City, beginning at 10 a.m. 'til ??. Dancing, eating, jamming. A great wind-down to the weekend.
What is English Country Dancing and Music? If you've seen Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility or Emma, you are indeed familiar with it!
While this traditional form of dance has been around for several hundred years, and evolved into square and contra dancing, it still thrives today in its own right. English Country Dancing (ECD) is done all over the US, Canada, England and on the Continent.
Some love ECD for the beautiful tunes that make the heart swell. Some come from old ballads and satires, others come from classical music and opera. This gives ECD tremendous variety, sometimes sweet and melodic, sometimes melancholy, sometimes driven with a pulsating beat. At times, dancers are simply swept away as they become one with the music.
Others love ECD for the grace and elegance of the movements. Many people love the beautiful patterns that are created as they dance and weave. Popular in villages and courts in the 17th and 18th centuries, ECD is similar in many ways to its descendents contra and square dance, but more graceful, elegant and playful.
Typically, the dances are called but in the more experienced groups, the dances are memorized and done with minimal or no calling. Each tune has a specific dance that goes with it, so you can travel city to city, recognize a tune and know what's expected of you. For the musicians, the melody lines are written out, but they're free to improvise extensively.
In the 1600s, hundreds of dance tunes were published and circulated as The Playford Dancing Masters. But the dances and tunes had been forgotten in England by the latter part of the 19th century. Fortunately, Cecil Sharp, a British musicologist, discovered that both had been preserved for nearly 200 years by the hill folk of Appalachia. He traveled throughout Appalachia, painstakingly recording them, and contributed greatly to their preservation and resurrection of their popularity around the world. Playford dances continue to be reconstructed by country dance experts, like Jacqueline Schwab, featured pianist on many of Ken Burn's PBS documentaries.
Today, ECD is kept alive within dance groups all over the country, at camps like Pinewoods near Cape Cod, and the art form continues to evolve as new choreographers and composers add to the repertoire.
We're fortunate in this area to have live music for English Country Dance classes. The musicians are Lee Shepherd, violin or piano, Julian Shepherd, cello, and Charlene Thomson, piano and accordion, with friends occasionally joining in.
Call Lee or Julian Shepherd (722-9327) for more information.