Recording / Instruction Review

[ This article appeared in volume 2 of the Letter of Dance. ]

I have been the recipient of two dancing tapes/instruction booklets which might be of interest to other dance groups.

The first is from the Oregon Shakespearean Festival, the second from Ontario. Popular Dances of the Renaissance -- a dance lesson with written and vocal instructions by Judith Kennedy (no address given, but the festival is at Ashland, Oregon).

A 24-page booklet explains each dance in clear modern English, and includes the basic musical notation as well for 13 dances, from double and single bransles to Goddesses. The rest of the dances are Pease Bransle, Washerwomen's Bransle, Bransle of Burgundy, Pavan, Gal liard and variations, Alaman (Allemande), Black Almain, Woodicock and Gathering Peas cods.

There is also a bibliography.

The supplied tape is also interesting in that one side consists of all the dances with the instructor `calling' the dance, overtop of the music; while the other side of the tape is the music `clean'.

This is an excellent set of instructions and music for almost any group, especially those who are starting a dance program from scratch, containing as it does all the necessary elements: music, instructions and movement explanations.

English Playford Dances -- Hit and Misse -- with music by the Passamezzo Players and dance notes by Dale Hyde (Ed. Media Ltd., 185 Spadina Ave., Toronto, Ontario M5T 2C6, Canada -- $10.00 with 12" LP. Probably about $12.00 with tape.)

The 28-page booklet that accompanies the music includes a brief explanations of steps and an introduction to English Country Dance.

The 15 dances are broken down by measure count and pattern, using Cecil Sharp's basic system; not as clear as Judith Kennedy's, but quite understandable nevertheless. The dances are mostly for smaller groups: 4, 6, and 8, plus 3 line dances and 2 circle dances.

The music is on period instruments.

For those groups, especially smaller ones, wishing to take on the excitement and energy of English Country Dance, this is a good booklet and record, especially as a follow-up to the Kennedy set.


My lady wife, Baroness Amanda, recently gave me a near--complete set of Cecil Sharp's "The Country Dance Book"; the third edition, published by Novello and Company in England in 1927.

Cecil Sharp is considered to be the father of English Country Dance, and in fact the Folk dance and folk song headquarters in England is called "Cecil Sharp House".

The country dance book is in six parts, of which Part V doesn't count, since it is running set dances collected in Kentucky. However, Sharp and his associate Maud Karpele, feel that the running set is a stage of development of the English Country Dance that is earlier than Playford's English Dancing Master published in 1651. "Up Tails All" is the only Playford dance which in its construction, bears any resemblance to the Running Set. We hope to try some of the running set in the new year.

The other five volumes include the steps for 178 dances from the various editions of Playford. Each volume also includes explanations of the steps which are then covered in the individual dance instructions.

The books contain no music, and this is one of the frustrating facets. However, there is succor, at least partially. Cecil Sharp also brought out a series of booklets called "The English Country Dance, Graded Series" which contains both steps and music. There are 9 volumes with a total of 54 dances.

As mentioned, the big problem with the small books, "The Country Dance Book", is the lack of music. Reading through a volume, one sees an interesting dance, works it out in the head or on paper, then looks through the tape collection for music... and there is none! (Of course, equally frustrating is getting a new tape or disc of country dance tunes, then looking through Sharp and not finding the steps! Someday I hope to own all of Playford's volumes and this won't be a problem any more.

However, either of these sets is a joy to own, and if you can find them, even a photocopy is excellent reference for anyone teaching (or learning) English Country Dancing.

Gerhard Kendal

[ Construction note: Place Marshall's ad here ]

Webbed by Gregory Blount of Isenfir (Greg Lindahl) (