Country Dance

‘Calling’ Notes


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

The choreography for a number of country dances (English, American, Gaelic) is documented.  They're the sort of dances that could feature at barn dances, ceilidhs and Contra events.

Dances are presented by formation e.g. longways, circle etc., then by title - roughly alphabetically.

Dance descriptions can originate from a number of different sources, but usually they’re just documented after having actually done the dance…  However, not only do dances evolve, but their precise interpretation can 'flex’ to accommodate local conditions.

Dance terminology/conventions

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

For ease of interpretation, terminology expressed on this site is consistent with heteronormative convention.

‘Partner’ is the person - usually of the opposite gender - with whom you commenced dancing the current ‘revolution’.   When a couple are side-by-side, the lady is on her partner’s right.  Also explain:  ‘corner’, ‘neighbour’ and ‘opposite’ ‘galop’ v. ‘gallop’.


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

Normally, dances have a revolution (repeat period) of 32 bars (usually equating to 64 beats - or steps) - comprising four, 8-bar figures (aligning with four, 8-bar musical phrases), designated A1, A2, B1 and B2,  i.e. four phrases  (usually) of 16 beats = 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 metre).  A few dances have revolutions which are other multiples of 8 bars long - say, 16 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).

Suitable, recorded tunes for each category of accompaniment are suggested, but for an event, the flexibility and atmosphere afforded by live music is incomparable.

Col -  2018

If, for any reason, it proves impossible to update this Google-hosted site, a reliable mirror site with the latest content is: .  That site may also offer nicer access for visitors with small displays.