What is English Country Dancing?

English Country Dancing is a form of folk dancing from England that can be dated as far back as 1480.  The most common form of English Country Dancing is in “longways sets” where men and women face one another in long, straight lines and perform figures.  They were more complex than simple peasant dances, but weren’t so complicated that only the idle aristocracy would have the time to learn them.

John Playford's Dancing Master
English Dancing Master by John Playford, c. 1651


The oldest instructional book of English country dances was written by John Playford in 1648.  Some of the dances from Playford’s “English Country Dancing Master” are still danced today.

The Regency Era & Jane Austen

Georgian Era

Regency Era

Victorian Era

Jane Austen’s novels were set in the regency time period of English history (between the Georgian and Victorian eras.)  At this time, English Country Dancing was at its height amongst the landed gentry and balls were of common occurrence.

Jane Austen

In recent years, films originating from Jane Austen’s novels have reintroduced the dances of the Regency Era to popular culture.

Publication Dates

Sense & Sensibility

Pride & Prejudice


Expansion to America

With the rise of immigration to the New World, English Country Dancing was brought to America amongst the settlers and were popular in the colonies.

English Country Dancing gradually faded during the 19th Century with the introduction of cotillions, quadrilles, polkas, and waltzes to America’s ballrooms.

Cecil Sharpe

English Country Dancing probably would have faded away into the forgotten past but for the work of Cecil Sharpe.  Thanks to his efforts, the dances and tunes of the past were recorded, preserved, and republished for the future generations of dancers.

Modern English Country Dancing

In the 1970s, English Country Dancing continued its resurgence with the preparations for America’s bicentennial.  Local dancing groups sprung up all over New England.  Since then, groups like the Country Dance and Song Society have continued to provide resources for an ever-growing ECD Community.  Local dancing groups are springing up all over – there may even be one in your own backyard.


What Are YOU Waiting For?

English Country Dancing is for all ages and skill levels!

Learn Some Dances

Our “Regency Era” DVD is a great place to start for beginners!

Connect With Other Dancers

Find a local group or start your own!

Read our guide on ‘What to Expect at Your First Dance’

Continue Learning!

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