John Sweeney's Dance Notes
Barn Dances - Why Do English People Dress as American Cowboys?
I live in England and call Barn Dances for countless groups, for weddings, parties, village communities and lots more. At these events nearly everything I do is English. I call English dances, written and collected by English people in England, danced to English tunes written by English people, played by English bands, in England.
So why do they dress up as American cowboys?
It is a complete mystery to me, but they wear cowboy hats, jeans and check shirts; they ride blow-up horses and wear gun belts; they set up the room to look like a Wild West saloon!
If anyone can explain this to me I would be most grateful!
English Country Dancing in America
In America they have many groups who meet to do what they call English Country Dancing (ECD). Originally the dances were ones that people like Cecil Sharp reconstructed from documents such as John Playford's 1651 book "The English Dancing Master": "Plaine and easy Rules for the Dancing of Country Dances". In England we just call them "country dances", but outside of England they are often known as "English country dances".
So the origin of the name is easily understood,
What amuses me is that a significant proportion of the dances done at most events these days are American compositions from the last fifty years, based on their idea of what English country dancing was like in times past.
These new dances are written by Americans, to tunes written by Americans, danced by Americans, to music played by Americans, called by American callers, in America... but they still call them English country dances!
What a strange world we live in!
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