At Jade Harrison School of Dance, we love to dance and take inspiration from all types of dancing. While we focus on ballet and more modern styles of dance and movement such as Acrobatic Arts we also love to discover and are inspired by all types of dance.
How much do you know about England’s traditional dances? Could you name them and what they are all about? Let’s have some fun and get to know them better;
English Country Dancing
If you love a good period drama, there’s a strong chance you are familiar with this type of dance. You know, the one that they all seem to get together to enjoy that’s a bit format but not overly complex - ideal for those characters who are a bit clumsy or awkward to show themselves in a new light!
The historic basis for the dance goes back as far as the 16th century when Queen Elizabeth 1st was on the throne. She saw people dancing a country dance and was very taken with it, so people started to take it up across the country, keen to impress the queen. Today it is almost more popular in the US than here in England.
If you mention traditional dances, Morris dancing is the one most of us would think of. This is a dance with real history, the first known mention of it being in the mid-1440s and it was probably old even then. It now danced around the world.
The dance involves a group of people and can include a number of accessories such as handkerchiefs or even swords. The dance takes place across a pair of tobacco pipes made from clay that are placed on the ground in a cross shape.
Rapper Sword Dance
This dance originated in the north-east of England and involves five people dancing with a short sword each. Sword dances in different styles are found around the world and this one requires mental and physical agility to pull off. It has also evolved to include modern formations and styles as well as more than five people.
Square dances are found across Europe and involve four couples dancing in a square formation. They were popular in barn dances, which was where people gathered to enjoy dancing and socialising in the days before pubs, community centres or dance halls!
Everyone would gather in someone’s barn and there would be lots of dancing including the square dance. They were a little chaotic and not really organised, but people loved them. There was probably some kind of alcohol involved too…
The Ceilidh is more associated with Scotland and Ireland but there’s a tradition in England now that is based on it. They are social gatherings with Celtic music and dance that celebrate the Celtic heritage of the country. They tend to be a little slower in the dances than the traditional versions but still great fun.
These are just a few of the many English traditions around dancing. Our ancestors have always loved to dance and are quick to take up traditions from other areas and make them our own. So, when you study dance in any form, you are just following your ancestors!