Binghamton Community Dance

English Country Dance

Please click the Calendar link above to see upcoming events.

We will have dances on two Saturdays this spring, May 13 and May 27 (2-5 pm). The first will be at Trinity Memorial Church, Main & Oak Streets, across from Binghamton High School. The second is at Christ Church, Henry Street, in downtown Binghamton. We would like to gauge your interest by asking you to register in advance for one or both dates. The programs will be easy, for those of us who may not have danced in some time or are new to the genre. All dances will be taught. Hilton Baxter will call; music will be by the Playford Gang. Admission fee is $10. Covid requirements will be observed, with proof of full vaccination and bivalent booster required. Masking will be strongly encouraged, but not required, if Broome County is still at the CDC rating of Medium risk. If you would like to attend, please promptly email hiltonb [at] binghamton [.] edu

What is English Country Dancing and Music? If you've seen Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility or Emma, you are indeed familiar with it!

While this traditional form of dance has been around for several hundred years, and evolved into square and contra dancing, it still thrives today in its own right. English Country Dancing (ECD) is done all over the US, Canada, England and on the Continent.

Some love ECD for the beautiful tunes that make the heart swell. Some come from old ballads and satires, others come from classical music and opera. This gives ECD tremendous variety, sometimes sweet and melodic, sometimes melancholy, sometimes driven with a pulsating beat. At times, dancers are simply swept away as they become one with the music.

Others love ECD for the grace and elegance of the movements. Many people love the beautiful patterns that are created as they dance and weave. Popular in villages and courts in the 17th and 18th centuries, ECD is similar in many ways to its descendents contra and square dance, but more graceful, elegant and playful.

Typically, the dances are called but in the more experienced groups, the dances are memorized and done with minimal or no calling. Each tune has a specific dance that goes with it, so you can travel city to city, recognize a tune and know what's expected of you. For the musicians, the melody lines are written out, but they're free to improvise extensively.

In the 1600s, hundreds of dance tunes were published and circulated as The Playford Dancing Masters. But the dances and tunes had been forgotten in England by the latter part of the 19th century. Fortunately, Cecil Sharp, a British musicologist, discovered that both had been preserved for nearly 200 years by the hill folk of Appalachia. He traveled throughout Appalachia, painstakingly recording them, and contributed greatly to their preservation and resurrection of their popularity around the world. Playford dances continue to be reconstructed by country dance experts, like Jacqueline Schwab, featured pianist on many of Ken Burn's PBS documentaries.

Today, ECD is kept alive within dance groups all over the country, at camps like Pinewoods near Cape Cod, and the art form continues to evolve as new choreographers and composers add to the repertoire.

We're fortunate in this area to have live music for English Country Dance classes. The musicians are Lee Shepherd (violin or piano), Julian Shepherd (cello), Allen Lutins (woodwinds and percussion), with Charlene Thomson, (piano or accordion) and other friends occasionally joining in.

Call Lee or Julian Shepherd (607-206-1437) for more information.