Country Dance

‘Calling’ Notes

Last updated: March 2022


This site, comprising a web-based copy of my country dance (English, Celtic - but not ‘Scottish’, Gaelic, American) ‘calling’ aide-memoir, is intended as a reference resource for those occasions when I don't have a hard copy to-hand - but I do have access to the web (usually via a ‘tablet’).

Dances are categorised by formation e.g. longways, circle etc., then by their title - roughly alphabetically. Dance descriptions originate from a number of different sources (hence their inconsistent presentation) - often they’re documented after actually doing the dance. Usually their precise interpretation can 'flex’ to accommodate local conditions.

For most dances, some appropriate, recorded tunes are suggested (titles are shown in italicised text), categorised by type and tempo - expressed as duration for 'once through' - usually 32 bars. ('Welcome to the Dance’, WttD, is a compilation Compact Disc set, by the English Folk Dance and Song Society, EFDSS.)

Col -

Dance terminology/conventions

Your (minor) ‘set’ is the particular sub-group of people with whom you’re dancing – usually multiples of two couples. Formations can be: longways (‘proper’, ‘improper’ or Becket), crossways, circular or square. Square dance sets comprise four couples.

‘Partner’ is the person - usually of the opposite gender - with whom you commenced dancing the current figure. When a couple are side-by-side, the lady is on the right. Also explain: ‘corner’, ‘neighbour’ and ‘opposites’.


Country dance accompaniment categories are: jig (“didily-dee” - supports a bouncy, skipping step), reel (encourages a smooth walk), hornpipe (step-hop) … occasionally polka (step-step, step, hop/pause), and double-reel (rant step).

Normally, tunes repeat after 32 bars (usually equating to 64 beats - or steps) - comprising four, 8-bar phrases, designated A1, A2, B1 and B2, i.e. four groups of 16 beats (usually) = 64 beats in total before repeating. Slip jigs are unusual, their bars comprise three beats and encourage three running steps to the bar ("didily-didily-didily" - 9/8 time). A few dances have revolutions (‘once through’) which are different multiple of 8 bars long - say, 16 bars or 48 bars.

Dance tempos are roughly 120 beats per minute (bpm) (except for step-hop hornpipes) i.e. two beats - or steps - per second, so a single revolution of a 32-bar dance could last about 32 seconds (except for hornpipes and slip-jigs).

A page of suitable, recorded accompaniment is included - but for an event, the flexibility and atmosphere provided by live music is unsurpassable.

Col, 2018

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