What We Do

What Do the Williamsburg Heritage Dancers Do?


We are a club meeting weekly to learn and enjoy a style of social dance commonly known as “English Country Dancing.” Our roots run deep in English and American history, but we’re also part of a living and ever-evolving tradition.

English Country Dancing (ECD) is, at its heart, social: you’re not just interacting with your partner, but with everyone in the room. In the most common type of ECD, the “longways set”, you and your partner face each other in a long line of dancers; each time through the dance, couples move one place either “up” or “down” the line, so that you interact with all of the other people in the set. In other dances, you may find yourself in a circle, square, or short (3 or 4 couple) line. Typically, we choose different partners for each dance.

The dances are made up of a series of basic figures – such as circles, stars, turning your partner, etc. – that are set to unique pieces of music. Instructors (“callers”) teach the figures for each dance before starting the music. They usually prompt the dancers a number of times through and then drop out to allow dancers to enjoy the pleasure of listening to the music and moving through the figures.

Our repertoire includes both reconstructions of historic dances (some of which date as far back as Shakespeare’s time) and modern dances written using similar patterns and figures. The music comes from popular tunes of the 14th-19th centuries as well as new songs written by modern composers. ECD is very much a living tradition!

We dress casually for our weekly dances – t-shirts and jeans with comfortable shoes for dancing are just fine! – but we do like to dress up for special events such as our annual George Washington Ball.

All are welcome to join us – ECD is an activity for young and old, experienced dancers and newcomers alike!

Dancing “Fop’s Fancy” on a Tuesday Night at Newport House