My animations are mostly 720p, and those without music usually play at 120 counts per minute, while those with music will play at whatever tempo the music suggests.
Most of my animations have no music, but I have secured permission from four sources to include their music in my animations:
In most dances with progression, the first set of the dance will be slowed down (and no music will play for those dances with music), this is to make it easier to understand and learn the dance. Subsequent iterations will be at dance pace.
The dancers taking the men's roles are drawn as rectangles (with a circle poking out to show which way he is facing), those taking the women's roles are drawn as elipses (again with a circle poking out for a head). . Each couple is drawn in its own color and the main color of the dancer remains unchanged through the dance. However the border color indicates what role the dancer is currently playing and this may change during the course of the dance. Dancers waiting out at the ends (in a minor set dance) have a black border, those playing the 1s have a red border, those playing the 2s have greenish border, those the 3s have a blueish, and so forth.
The band (or the "presence") orients the set. Following Playford's conventions I usually place the band to the left of the animation. Toward the band is "up" the set. The 1s are the couple closest to the band.
The site has two main componants: The index page, which displays a list of all my animations with some metadata on each, and the dance page which displays the animation of a single dance with more metadata.
The list of the index page may be sorted by various criteria,
Once an ordering has been established it may be useful to apply a secondary ordering. For instance, if you sort dances by formation, well there are a lot of duple minor dances. Do you want them sorted by name or by creation date?
It is also possible to restrict the list so only certain dances are displayed (to search for them, if you wish).
The behavior of this menu is perhaps slightly unexpected. If you select one restriction and then another both will be applied (so you can restrict the list to display all duple minor dances which contain "Skipper" in their title). If you wish to get rid of a restriction, select "Unrestricted" from the menu.
You may restrict the list
This displays the animation for a single dance and some information about the dance (like who devised it, when, what formation the dance is in, how many bars of music needed, etc.).
Some dances have more than one animation: for instance the same dance may have a longways animation and one in a Sicilian Circle. Triple progression triple minors usually have three different animations to display the three different end effects that occur with different numbers of starting couples. If a dance as several animations there will be a list of radio buttons underneath the animation to display the choices.
Some old dances are described so obsurely in Playford (or Walsh or whoever) that there may be several different modern interpretations of what the original instructions meant. If a dance has multiple interpretations I will provide a set of buttons pointing to other versions.
At the bottom of the page are three buttons: Prev, Top, and Next. The Top button will take you back to the index page close to where you started from. The Next and Prev buttons will select the next (or previous) dance as currently ordered on the index page. So if the dances are ordered alphabetically then the next dance in alphabetical order will be selected, but if they are ordered by creation date then the dance written after this one will be selected. If there are no more dances then the button returns you to the index page.
Playford's dance descriptions are frequently missing essential features. Or simply wrong. Consider the description of Row Well Ye Mariners (1651):
Lead up a D. forwards and back · That again : First man two slips cross the Room one way, the woman the other · Back again to your places : Fall back both · Meet again : Clap both your own hands, then clap each other's right-hands against one another's; clap both your own hands again, then clap left-hands, then clap both hands again, then clap your breasts, then meet both your hands against one-another · The same again, only clap left-hands first :
First man sides with the next wo. and his wo. with the next man, doing the like till you come to your own places, the rest following and doing the same.
This is a two part dance, and the music for each part is 16 bars. The first part is non-progressive and intended to be danced once as an introduction, the second is, according to Playford, progressive. The first part is well defined, with clear descriptions of movements to fit every 4 bar sub-section. But the second part contains only: First man sides with the next wo. and his wo. with the next man, doing the like till you come to your own places, the rest following and doing the same. The only clear instruction is that the active couple sides with their neighbors, something that takes 4 bars (and is not progressive), and that somehow the actives should progress. Anyone trying to interpret this must make up three quarters of the part out of thin air. It is little wonder that the two interpretations I know of have wildly different movements.
My example is from Playford, but most other publishers in the 17th and 18th centuries are almost as obscure.
I have become fascinated by seeing the different ways people can interpret the same text, and am now actively seeking out as many variants as I can find.
I have also become leery of believing that the so called old dances are anything like what people were dancing back in 1650.
And there was variation back in 1650 as well. If you look at Lovelace's description of Jack Pudding it is rather different from Playford's.
There is probably no one right answer to the question of what was danced then.
To see some of this diversity I have a list of dances with multiple interpretations or variants.
These dances are subject to copyright law.
The first copyright law in England was the Licensing of the Press Act 1662. The first copyright law of Great Britain was the Statute of Anne, 1710. The US Constitution grants Congress the right to create copyright laws and the first such law in the US was in 1790.
Currently, my understanding is, that in the US for works created before 1978 copyright lasts for 95 years from the publication of the work. While in the UK copyright lasts for 70 years from the end of the year in which the creator died.
Note, in the US, and in other signatories to the Berne Convention, there is no need to claim or register copyright. Copyright is automatically granted by the act of publication.
Copyright holders may waive certain of their rights by printing licenses which specify what uses are permitted. In the dance world the most common licenses are the Creative Commons ones.
Playford's works are out of copyright in both the US and the UK. BUT... Playford's dance descriptions are so obscure to the modern reader that they generally need to be reinterpreted for the modern dancer, and these interpretations are probably still in copyright.
Cecil Sharp printed the last part (part 6) of the Country Dance Book in 1922 and he died in 1924 so his works are out of copyright in both the US and the UK. BUT... the fifth part of the Country Dance Book (1918) was coauthored with Maud Karpeles who died in 1976, so the fifth part is out of copyright in the US (because it was published more than 95 years ago), but not in the UK (because it has not been 70 years since Maud Karpales's death).
Some devisors and interpreters (for instance Charles Bolton) have released their dances under a Creative Commons license which allows non-commercial use as long as attribution is given.
The whole thing is very complex. I only print a list of calls on the dance page in cases where I believe the dance to be out of copyright in the US, or where the devisor has specifically waived the protection.
Note that simply publishing a dance on the web without a copyright notice does not waive copyright (at least in the US), on the contrary according to the Berne Convention it establishes copyright.
I have talked mostly about choreographies here, because that is what this website focusses on, but the same applies to the music for the dances - the composer holds a copyright (and any modern interpretations of old music also imply a copyright), and performers of that music hold an additional copyright.
I hope I have not infringed on anyone's copyright on this site. If you are a copyright holder and believe I have infringed your rights please contact me by leaving a comment on the youtube animation, asking me either to remove your dance(s) or correct some mistake(s) in attribution.
I include dances from several different styles in my lists, I use little flags to distinguish these styles:
I make more errors than I would like.
Unfortunately I have no one to proof-read my animations, and my own proof-reading often only shows me what I expect to see.
If you find an error, please leave a youtube comment, and if I agree with you I shall do my best to fix the problem.
In 2018 we were unable to find videos for all of the dances to be danced at the Santa Barbara Winter Dreams Ball of 2019 so I began making animations to cover that lack.
I designed an xml for describing dances and wrote a program to convert that into animations (at first using ffmpeg, and later libav directly). I was inspired by the style of the Taminations website (which provides animations of all Modern Western Square Dance calls). I liked their style better than others I had seen because it showed both the dancer's orientation and hand clasps. Things which some other animations omitted.
After having created the program and animating all dances for the ball, I started making animations of those dances which struck my fancy after dancing them in one of our local dance groups.
Then COVID-19 struck and I couldn't dance any more, and making animations seemed like an entertaining way to pass the time. I started working my way through the dances in The Playford Assembly.
I also went through all the dances I had animated so far, looking for errors (and sadly finding many), and then correcting them. There are doubtless many uncorrected errors still to find.
Gary Shapiro (one of the local ECD leaders) gave me copies of the music performed by a few local artists for our dances and I rewrote my program so that it could fit the music and the animation together.
Gary Roodman expressed interest in my animations so I started working my way through his books. I asked if I might use the music from some of his CDs and he gave me permission to do so, and then he gave me the CDs which I did not already have.
I then worked my way through The Playford Ball, and started on Cecil Sharp's The Country Dance Book. The dances in Part 1 of that work are quite different from any other Country Dances I'd run across. It is clear that Sharp did not care for them, but I think some have a certain charm...
I contacted the Country Dance Society, Boston Centre, Inc. and got permission to use the music of Bare Necessities for my animations.
When I started work on this project I had no expectation of having music for the animations (musical performances tend to be under copyright) and I made a decision then which hampers fitting music to the animations. I decided that a bar of music would have an integral number of frames, this simplified creating animations, but means that my format only allows a few specific values for music tempi.
Film historically had a frame rate of 24 frames per second. Television, ignoring interlace, in the US used 30, and in Europe 25 (the difference between NTSC and PAL).
When fitting music I calculate the music's desired counts per minute, then I look at the three frame rates above and find a frame per bar that produces the closest counts per minute to that specified by the music -- that is, I fit the video to the music as well as I can, and then I change the speed of the music to fit it to the video.
(Many older dances have more than one interpretation [Playford leaves things out, makes errors, and uses terms we no longer understand, so one person thinks he means X and another Y and a third Z, who knows?] or may have evolved over time, hence there are more interpretations than dances. Some dances have more than one video. They may have both a longways version and a sicilian one, or a triple progression triple minor will usually have three videos one with 9 couples, one with 10, and one with 11 to show the different behaviors at the end of the line)
This list contains all the dances in:
And many other dances which have struck my fancy.
|Playford (John Young)||137||187||189||48|
|Fried de Metz Herman||115||118||123||8|
|Marjorie Heffer & William Porter||25||26||26||5|
|Brooke Friendly/Chris Sackett||19||19||21||3|
|Fried de Metz Herman||31||31||31||4|
|Kate van Winkle Keller & Ralph Sweet||29||41||41||1|
|Douglas & Helen Kennedy||27||28||28||9|
|W. S. Porter, M. Heffer, A. Heffer||23||28||28||4|
|Smucker & Millstone||18||18||19||0|
|Cecil Sharp (mod)||10||10||11||3|
If you wish a copy of the metadata in my database you may grab one here:
Download as CSV
This does not include choreographies or musical scores, which are often protected by copyrights, but information like the name of the dance, who devised it, who interpreted it, when these happened, the starting formation, type of progression, etc.
A note on youtu.be URLs: These are subject to change. You are advised to use the field "My URL", rather than the youtu.be URLS as "My URL" should remain constant, whereas if I need to update an animation (add music, improve a transition, etc.) youtu.be forces a new URL for the updated video.
If you wish a copy of my program and instructions for making an xml describing a dance look here.. My program is linux based and not user friendly, furthermore you'll need to understand how to run a linux program on your machine and how to download the other packages it needs.
I use the long-s when titling my animations of old dances.
It's what they would have done, after all. My father is a textual bibliographer who studied Elizabethan authors, and I grew up surrounded by more long-ses than most people. I have dabbled in old (and new) typography myself and have come to enjoy using them.
The use of the long-s faded away in France around 1790, but the Americans and even more the English kept using it into the 19th century. According to Wikipedia The Times (of London) stopped using the long-s on 10 September 1803, while the US Congress stopped on 1 Jan 1804. Some publishers stopped before, some after, but I have chosen 1804 as my cut-off. Anything before then will be titled with the long-s, anything after will not.
Rules for the long-s: The long-s was used for the round-s in lower case when an "s" occurred initally or medially but not finally in a word: so "ſchool", " aſpic", but "as". A slight complication is that before and after the letter "f" a round-s is always used, so: "offset".
People tend to be more familiar with the italic long-s which looks like an integral sign (or rather the integral sign looks like it), the roman long-s looks like a lower case "f" only the cross bar is either absent, or only present on the left side of the letter.
The long-s, like the letter "f", has a large collection of ligatures, the most interesting one being the long-s round-s ligature, which students of German are familiar with as the es-zet.
I should like to thank my fourth-grade music teacher, Mrs. Jenner, who taught me basic square dancing (probably much against my will). To my parents, who bought Richard Kraus's Let's Square Dance records and made me dance in my great-grandfather's disused laundry building. To the John Kollock family who joined us and took us to the community square dances in the old gym at Sautee, Ga.
To Cynthia Boche who got me dancing again after a 30 year hiatus, and who dragged me to my first English Country Dance.
To Alice Williams (no relation) who organizes these dances and has been most supportive of my interests.
To the Santa Barbara Country Dance Society who have put up with some of the results of my researches.
To Vic Ceder who got me square dancing again and answered many questions about hex "square"s, and who introduced me to the Taminations website which inspired my own animations.
To Gary Roodman who stumbled on some of my early animations and encouraged me to make more (and gave me some of his books and permission to use his music too).
To Colin Hume who answered many ignorant questions.
This website is copyright © 2021,2022 by George W. Williams V
My work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Most of the dances have more restrictive licensing, see my notes on copyright, the individual dance pages should mention when some rights are waived.