Old Country Dance
The term Country Dance conjures up rustic scenes of flaxen-haired ploughboys cavorting with winsome milkmaids in the meadows to the music of the hurdy-gurdy man , while other villagers gather around the maypole adjusting their smocks and bells. Although such scenes were out of date long before the days of dating sites and robotic milking parlours, dancing was really part of rural life.
When the first Queen Elizabeth travelling through England saw villagers performing similar dances on the common grounds, she was so impressed that she had them introduced to her court. Her "dancing masters", then turned them into new dances that became true royal court dances, which now form the basis of country dance today.
New Country Dance
What is known as "New Country Dance", was developed during the Restoration of the monarchy in England and really flourished towards the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th century. We know that Charles 1st as well as Charles 2nd danced these figures that formed spacious patterns on the dance floor, and often had a special meaning. These patterns might look complicated but in those days dancing was an essential part of the cultural scene and dancing was commonplace. There were many "dancing masters" who taught dance and some people even had private lessons at their homes. There is a nice anecdote in Samuel Pepys’ diary . Getting suspicious of the many visits that the Dance Master paid to his wife, after one such dance lesson Pepys hurried to the bedroom to feel if the bed was warm.
English Country Dance is one of the major contributors to Western European Dance. From France came the Baroque form which was mainly practised in Versailles; Although Baroque was introduced to Britain but never became very popular. The French royal court situated in Versailles, served as the trend setter for the rest of French society, but in Britain social fashions followed a different route. The landed gentry held local social events on their own country estates and from these English Country Dance spread to the rest of the population.
We have a folder with more information about these matters, and you can also follow some of the links on this site.