Country Dance Calling Notes

Last updated: 13 August, 2019


This site, comprising a web-based copy of my country dance (Celtic, Gaelic, American) 'calling' aide-memoir, is intended as a reference for those occasions when I haven't got a paper copy to-hand - but I do have access to internet browsing.

Col -

Dance terminology/conventions

Your 'set' is the particular sub-group of people with whom you're dancing – often multiples of four people. Formations can be: longways ('proper' or 'improper'), crossways, circular or square. Square dances comprise four-couple 'sets'.

'Partner' is the person with whom you commenced the dance. If couples are standing side-by-side, the man is on the left, his partner, the lady, is on his right. Also: 'neighbour', 'opposite', and 'corner'.

Typical 'figures'/elements of a dance: do-si-do, star (tidiest if men link hands before the ladies join-in), promenade (two styles), reel, Ladies' Chain, Grand Chain, 'balance and kick', 'right and left through', cast, swing partner (several different styles: ballroom, cross-hands, ceilidh-hold, etc.), turn partner (several ways: Allemande, hooked-elbow, cupped-elbow, short-arm etc.).

The basics of ceilidh/barn dance music

Music: jig (“didley-dee”), reel, hornpipe (step-hop)… occasionally polka (triple-step, hop).

Often 32-bar (equating to 64 beats for most ceilidh music). So four, 8-bar phrases, designated A1, A2, B1 and B2, i.e. four groups of 16 beats = 64 beats in total.

Dance tempos are roughly 32 bars in 32 seconds - implying a bar a second or two beats or steps per second - corresponding to a brisk walking pace.

For most dances, I've made a few suggestions for recorded accompaniment - together with its tempo (or repeat period) - but, because of its flexibility and atmosphere, live accompaniment is better.