In some English Villages old dances which were popular many years ago have survived up to recent times or to the present day. These dances are often regarded as a local tradition although they may have been danced in many more places in the past (including towns and cities).

Some of these old dances are couple dances but many of them are for groups of people arranged in circles (circle dances), lines (longways dances), or squares (square dances or quadrilles). The dancers weave in and out, move forwards and back, or dance in other set patterns, using any stepping which suits the rhythm of the tune. There is a sequence of movements or 'figures', each figure belonging to a particular part or phrase of the tune. Sometimes the movements include stepping on the spot (footing) or rhythmic hand clapping.

Several figure dances have survived in English villages including the villages of the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors where they were danced on special occasions such as weddings, market days, or the annual village feast. This page introduces you to the dance Butter'd Peas from the village of Buckden in Upper Wharfedale and a Square Dance from the village of Goathland in the North Yorkshire Moors. When you watch the videos of these two dances (below) see if you can recognise which figures or movements go with which part, or phrase, of the tune. Click on the titles above the videos to go to additional pages which explain the dance figures and music in detail.

Today people who enjoy this kind of dancing arrange for special events which include old dances from many different villages and newer dances in the same style. The event is often called a barn dance (because in the past the village dances often took place in a barn) or a ceilidh (pronounced kaylee) which is a word from the Celtic or Gaelic languages of Ireland and Scotland. The word means a social gathering with music, singing, dancing and storytelling. The tunes at these events are usually a mix of traditional English, Scottish and Irish music. The music is usually played on instruments such as fiddles, squeeze boxes, bagpipes, flutes and whistles, with accompaniment on guitar and sometimes bass and drums.

In recent years it has become popular again for people to do this kind of dancing at wedding celebrations, since guests of all ages, old and young, can join in. Because few people know the dances today it is usual for a 'caller' to walk the dancers through the sequence of figures first and then during the dance to call out a prompt to remind them which figure comes next. This is similar to the way in which figures are 'called' by Cotswold Morris dancers.

Click on the title above the video to learn more about this dance
Click on the title above the video to learn more about this dance

More about village dances
Help with learning and teaching them
Notes for musicians
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