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Monday, August 22, 2016

English Country Dancing

by Guest Author, Jenna Jaxon

English Country Dance

One of the standards in English ballrooms, known as early as 15th century is the country dance, or “contra dance” that you will find mentioned very often in literature through the 19th and into the 20th century, and especially during the Regency period. A country dance is performed often in longways sets, and danced in sets of two or three couples, but may be danced by as many as four, although rarely with five or six couples. In Pride and Prejudice, you may remember, Mr. Bingley vows that he loves nothing so much as a country dance.
In the usual make-up of two couple sets, partners will dance with each other, and with each of the other couples in their set. Through the various figures of each dance (almost every piece of music had its own dance associated with it), the first couple progresses down the line, changing or progressing to the next set of couples. When they reached the end of the lines, they are usually left out for one full completion (during which they can actually converse together for a time!) before being progressed back into the set, now as the second couple. “Sir Roger de Coverly,” “Mad Robin,” and “Jamaica” ae all longways sets, although one list has some 550 different country dances in it, the majority longways sets.
Fortunately, today, in English Country Dances, the different figures are called by a caller, just as in square dancing, at least until you get the hang of the steps. During the 18th and 19th centuries, they didn’t often call the dances, however, a list of the dances to be performed were usually given ahead of time, so the dancers could familiarize themselves with the dances.
If a lady is engaged to dance with a gentleman, they are partners. In the set, you also have a neighbor, the person standing next to you (if a lady, the lady next to you), and you have a corner, the person on the diagonal to you. Most dances are done with a walking step or a skipping step. (And believe it or not, this gives you quite a workout!) Usually the dance begins with an “honor,” a bow or curtsey, and often a dance movement called “set to” as in “set to your partner.” This is a small sideways moving step, first right, then left. After this, it all depends on the dance itself. Dancers may be called on to “circle” (usually left then right), to “cast,” meaning to turn away from your partner and move down one place along the outside of the set, to “star” (a circle in which corners hold hands creating a star formation), or “hey,” a weaving figure in which you take hands and weave all the way around your set.
English Country Dancing is a major component in my newest series, Handful of Hearts. Each book of the series begins on the same night, at Lady Hamilton’s ball. So almost all of my couples dance during that night or others during their time of courtship. Heart of Desire, Book 2 of the series, has several dancing sequences using these and other country dance figures. I hope you enjoy them!

Follow your heart to find your desire

Miss Katherine Locke is irked to start her third season dancing with the disagreeable Lord Haversham, her brother’s friend and her own arch enemy. After three years out, however, she’s finally interested in the dashing Lord Finley—only to find out her cousin has set her cap for him too. To make the man jealous, Kate feigns interest in Lord Haversham, only to be shocked to find the handsome lord apparently falling for her. With time running out, should she accept his suit and risk falling in love despite herself?

Marcus, Lord Haversham, is in a tight pinch. His estates are failing and worse, he’s just lost three thousand pounds to his best friend, Lord Ainsley. Ainsley’s solution: have Marcus marry his shrewish sister and he’ll cancel his gambling debt plus give him ten thousand more pounds for her dowry. With nowhere to turn, Marcus agrees, praying he can keep word of the wager from Miss Locke long enough to charm her into marrying him. But can he avoid falling in love himself?

The music had a lively air and Miss Katherine Locke would’ve thought herself fortunate to be out again in Society after a long, cold, dull winter in Somerset save that her partner, Lord Haversham, was the rudest man in London. Well, his lordship was about to discover that Kate Locke was not one to suffer fools lightly.
“So you refuse to allow your sister to waltz, yet you are quite willing to stand up with me and dance this, according to you, most scandalous of dances.” Kate smiled into the odious wretch’s face. “My lord, I should say that smacks of hypocrisy.”
“Indeed.” Lord Haversham turned them skillfully at the end of the floor. “I would say it showed a want of character in your brother for allowing you to dance it with me. The waltz should be danced by married couples and no one else.” He pulled her close against him, so their bodies almost touched.
She gasped at her proximity to the rogue. How dare he make a spectacle of them on this crowded dance floor?
“You see?” he whispered, peering into her face, his gaze intent upon her mouth.
All she could see were his cool gray eyes, as the crisp scent of his sandalwood cologne filled her nose.
“Ainsley should be horsewhipped for allowing it.”
“I’ll see to it he horsewhips you if you don’t let me go.” Kate gave a hopping step and smashed her foot down on top of his.
Lord Haversham lurched forward, actually falling onto her.
For the briefest moment, they stood pressed together in a warm embrace that made Kate tingle all over. Then outrage swept through her, and she pushed him away. “How dare you,” she seethed, trying to pull away from him.
“That was your fault, and you know it. And if you make a scene that results in me having to marry you, I swear I will lock you in the tower at my grandfather’s castle and throw away the key.” Lord Haversham righted himself and smiled at her with clenched teeth.

Jenna Jaxon is a best-selling, multi-published author of historical romance in periods ranging from medieval to Victorian.  She has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager.  A romantic herself, she has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise.  She tries to incorporate all of these elements into her own stories. She lives in Virginia with her family and two rambunctious cats, Marmalade and Suger.  When not reading or writing, she indulges her passion for the theatre, working with local theatres as a director.  She often feels she is directing her characters on their own private stage.

Jenna is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America and is very active in Chesapeake Romance Writers, her local chapter of RWA.

She has equated her writing to an addiction to chocolate because once she starts she just can’t stop.




Jenna said...

Donna, thank you so much for hosting me on Historical Hussies. I love your blog and have used it in the past while doing research. So happy to now be a part of it!

Beppie Harrison said...

Sounds absolutely fascinating and brings back lovely memories of watching the dancers at the Beau Monde Soiree in San Diego. Jenna, I am acquiring the book forthwith!