English Country Dance, sometimes abbreviated ECD, is a form of folk dance. It is a social dance form, which dates from the late sixteenth century. Queen Elizabeth I of England is noted to have been entertained by "Country Dancing". Although her time was the late Renaissance, ECD was popular well into the Baroque and Regency eras. The term Country Dance later evolved to include more dance forms.

In the early 20th century, ECD was revived in England by Cecil Sharp, who also was known for collecting folksongs. ECD continues today as a social dancing form, in Britain, the United States, and around the world. There are also descendants of ECD, such as Scottish country dance, contradance, and perhaps square dance. There is also English Ceilidh which uses many simpler ECD dances but is definitely danced rather than walked.

The first published instructions for English Country Dance is John Playford's The English Dancing Master, which was first published in 1651 and was reprinted and enlarged many times, with a final edition published sometime around 1728. It can be found online:

Despite the title, English Country Dance was also popular in France. Feuillet visited the English Court in the late 17th century and published a book, Orchesography, with instructions for English Country Dances, in 1705. This book used a novel system for notating the dances and contained some dances invented by the author. It was subsequently translated into English and printed in England. Copies of these books may be found online at:

Some (modern) English Country Dance terms

Arm right (or left) - couples link arms and turn half way.

Back to back - facing another person, move forward passing right shoulders and fall back to place passing left. May also start by passing left and falling back right. Called a do si do in other dance forms.

Balance back - a single backward.

Both hands - two dancers face each other and give hands right to left and left to right.

Cast off - turn outward and dance outside the set.

Cast up (or down) - turn outward and dance up (or down) outside the set.

Chassé - slipping step to right or left as directed.

Circular hey - dancers face partners or along the line and pass right and left alternating a stated number of changes. Usually done without hands, the circular hey may also be done by more than two couples facing alternately and moving in opposite directions - usually to their original places. This name for the figure is apparently modern, since "hey" also means certain long, and not circular, objects (e. g. fences). Nonetheless, some early dances calling for heys have been interpreted in modern times using circular heys.

Clockwise - in a ring, move to one's left. In a turn single turn to the right.

Contrary - your contrary is not your partner. In Playford's original notation, this term meant the same thing that Corner (or sometimes Opposite) means today.

Corner - in a two-couple set, the dancer diagonally opposite, i.e., the first man and the second woman, first woman and second man.

Counter-clockwise - the opposite of clockwise - in a ring, move right. In a turn single, turn to the left.

Cross hands - face and give left to left and right to right.

Cross over - cross with another dancer passing right.

Cross over one couple - cross as above and go outside below one couple ending improper.

Double - four steps forward (or back) closing the feet on the 4th step.

Fall (back) - dance backwards.

Figure of 8 - a weaving figure in which dancers pass between two standing people and move around them in a figure 8 pattern. A full figure of 8 returns the dancer to original position; a half figure of 8 leaves the dancer on the opposite side of the set from original position. In doing this figure, the man lets his partner pass in front of him.

Forward - lead or move in the direction you are facing.

Gip or Gypsy - two dancers move around each other in a circular path facing outward or towards the center as directed (4 bars).

Hands across - right or left hands are given to corners, and dancers move in the direction they face.

Hands three, four etc. - the designated number of dancers form a ring and move around in the direction indicated, usually first to the left and back to the right.

Hey - a weaving figure in which two groups of dancers move in single file and in opposite directions (see circular hey and straight hey).

Honor - couples step forward and right, close, shift weight, and curtsey or bow, then repeat to their left. In the time of Playford's original manual, a woman's curtsey was similar to the modern one, but a man's honor (or reverence) kept the upper body upright and involved sliding the left leg forward while bending the right knee.

Lead - couples join inside hands and walk up or down the set.

Neighbour - the person you are standing beside, but not your partner.

Opposite - the person you are facing.

Pass - change places with another dancer moving forward and passing by the right shoulder, unless otherwise directed.

Pousette - two dancers face, give both hands and change places as a couple with two adjacent dancers. One pair moves a double toward the right wall, the other toward the left wall. In this half-pousette, couples pass around each other diagonally. To complete the pousette, move in the opposite direction. Dancers end in their original places.

Right & left - like the circular hey, but dancers give hands as they pass (handing hey).

Single - two steps in any direction closing feet on the second step.

Straight hey for four - dancers face alternately, the two in the middle facing out. Dancers pass right shoulders on either end and weave to the end opposite. If the last pass at the end is by the right. the dancer turns right and reenters the line by the same shoulder; vice versa if the last pass was to the left. Dancers end in their original places.

Straight hey for three - the first dancer faces the other two and passes right shoulders with the second dancer, left shoulder with the third - the other dancers moving and passing the indicated shoulder. On making the last pass, each dancer makes a whole turn on the end, bearing right if the last pass was by the right shoulder or left if last pass was by the left, and reenters the figure returning to place. Each dancer describes a figure of eight pattern.

Swing - a turn with two hands, but moving faster and making more than one revolution.

Three hands across - two dancers join right or left hands. Third dancer places right or left hand on top. Dancers move in the direction they face.

Turn - face, give both hands, and make a complete circular, clockwise turn to place.

Turn by right or left - dancers join right (or left) hands and turn around, separate, and fall to places.

Turn single - dancers turn in four steps clockwise.

The Society for Creative Anachronism practices many English Country Dances. http://www.sca.org