BackRegency Dance

“Regency” dance has now acquired a mystique!  We all know about “Playford”, but what's this “Regency” stuff?  Time for a thorough investigation.

By the way, if you don't know about Playford a good place to start is Hugh Stewart's essay What are Playford dances? and his explanation of steps and figures: Elements of English Country Dance.

George, Prince Regent
George, Prince Regent
The Regency was the period when George III's mental illness meant that he was unfit to rule, so his son ran the country as a Regent, with restricted powers.  The Regency actually lasted only 9 years, from 1811 to 1820 when George III died and George IV became King, but the Regency era is often considered to be the period from 1795 (when the Prince married Caroline of Brunswick) to 1837 (when Victoria became Queen) — although George IV ruled for only 10 years before dying in 1830.  It was known for its elegance and achievements (and extravagance) in the fine arts and architecture, much driven by the Prince Regent himself — the Royal Pavilion at Brighton is a perfect example.

If the name we associate with English dancing in the 17th century is Playford, the name in the 18th/19th centuries is Jane Austen.  She lived from 1775 to 1817, so she was 36 when the Regency was established (and she died three years before the Regent became King).  Would she still have been dancing at such an advanced age?  Dancing was for young people in those days!  But if we consider the Regency era as starting in 1795 she would have been 20 and of course she was dancing then.

Two more dates for us to consider.  The first edition of The Dancing Master was published by John Playford in 1651 and the final editions by John Young in 1728 — nearly 50 years before Jane was born.  During that time the English Country Dance had been through a major change.  In the first edition there were lots of set dances — for two, three or four couples, squares and circles, often with the “Playford” introductions of Up a Double, Siding and Arming.  By 1728 the longways triple minor was king.  No, Jane Austen didn't dance “Playford” — that was 100 years ago and she would never have heard of him.  Country dances were still popular, especially in the earlier part of the period, but I'm assuming that readers of this page are familiar with them so I'm concentrating on the less familiar forms.

A good example of country dances (and much else beside), is the BBC's 2013 production “Having a Ball” which tries to recreate the Netherfield Ball from Jane Austen's “Pride and Prejudice”.  You can read about it and watch a clip at  Or you can buy the DVD from Amazon and other places.  They only got through two dances before supper and two after supper though!

A Regency Ball was a long event and the supper break was very necessary.  See this article by Professor John Mullan where he says that a ball might last for six hours or more and points out that

When you are told in Pride and Prejudice that Mr Bingley 'danced every dance' at the Meryton assembly ball you should realise that he is a thoroughly vigorous young man (ch. 3).

The dances were normally danced in pairs; see the article by Susan de Guardiola for Jane Austen's many references to this.  I've been asked how many dances were danced at a ball, and one answer comes from “Pride and Prejudice” where Mrs Bennett is describing the ball to her bored husband, and particularly Mr Bingley's attention to their daughter Jane:

First of all, he asked Miss Lucas.  I was so vexed to see him stand up with her!  But, however, he did not admire her at all; indeed, nobody can, you know; and he seemed quite struck with Jane as she was going down the dance.  So he inquired who she was, and got introduced, and asked her for the two next.  Then the two third he danced with Miss King, and the two fourth with Maria Lucas, and the two fifth with Jane again, and the two sixth with Lizzy, and the Boulanger

That gives us 12 country dances plus the final Boulanger which was a standard easy and exhausting final dance.

In one of Jane Austen's letters she says,

There were only twelve dances, of which I danced nine, and was merely prevented from dancing the rest by the want of a partner.  We began at ten, supped at one, and were at Deane before five.  There were but fifty people in the room: very few families indeed from our side of the county, and not many more from the other.

So twelve again, though that initial “only” might suggest that she expected more.  But an article about a Royal Ball in1813 gives 9 dances.


Royal Pavilion, Brighton
Royal Pavilion, Brighton
The thing which sets “Regency” dancing apart from “Playford” dancing in the 21st century is that Regency dancing is done with steps.  There are various Regency dance groups around the country, such as Hampshire Regency Dancers in Winchester who have a page of links to other organisations.  Some of the people in these groups are more interested in dressing up than in learning how to dance, though some certainly take the dancing seriously.  But, you ask, didn't they do steps in Playford's day?  Of course they did — the “Dancing English” were famed throughout Europe — but nowadays the image of Playford as established by most EFDSS-type clubs is that it's almost all walked.  The same is true in the States, and I believe in other countries too.  No, they didn't walk the dances in 1651, but the EFDSS influence is so strong that (I imagine) Regency dance groups want to distance themselves from that image by using a different term, even though they will then dance “Black Nag” (1670), “Juice of Barley” (1690), “Hole in the Wall” (1695), “Mr Beveridge's Maggot” (1701), “Turning by Threes” (2003) in addition to dances of the Regency period.

So what steps did they use?  The good news is that for country dances you will normally get by with a skip-change step, possibly a slip-step, and the same setting step that you're used to.  To be more authentic you should finish the skip-change step with a little jump, ending feet together, rather than blurring the edges and going straight into the next figure.

I've had a lot of useful advice from Anne Daye, Director of Education and Research of the Historical Dance Society.  I'm mentioning a Jeté Assemblé here, but Anne says this wasn't necessarily used in country dancing and definitely wasn't used in cotillons.  On the other hand, John Sweeney points out:

Thomas Wilson's “The Complete System of English Country Dancing” from 1815 includes Chassees, Jetté Assemblé in lots of moves, starting right at the beginning with Turn Your Partner (Two-Hand Turn) and Swing Round Your Partner (Right Hand Turn), and continuing through Hands Four Round (Circle Left) and Back to Back (which he calls an Allemande, a source of endless confusion!).

So it would appear that some people did use Chassees, Jetté Assemblé extensively in Country Dance in that period.

He adds:

Since many of the dancers I work with are not as sprightly as they used to be, I quite often just pick one figure in a dance and encourage them to do the stepping in that figure.  E.g. in Kitchen Lancers I will suggest they try it in the Ladies Around the Men, and the Men Around the Ladies.  It usually gets a very good reaction that way, whereas trying to get them to step throughout the dance can be too tiring.

However when it comes to a Quadrille, to be authentic you need to replace the final skip-change with a Jeté Assemblé.  If you start the skip-change on your right foot, you will start the final bar of music on your left foot.  Step onto your left foot while throwing your right foot out forwards and to the right — it doesn't have to be that far — then jump, landing on both feet, bending your knees to avoid injury.  I'm not going into all the foot positions, the turnout and so on — this is just a basic introduction for English Folk Dancers who are used to walking everything and I don't want to scare you off completely!  “Jeté” means “thrown” and “Assemblé” means “assembled”, so just remember that you throw one leg out and then bring everything together again.

Heather Clarke, Dance Historian at Queensland University of Technology, writes:
Australia was settled in the extended Regency period so it's an area of interest.  In regard to Jane Austen dances — Chris Rogers wrote an article where she states,

“The types of dance Jane mentions are the waltz, quadrille, cotillion and, of course, the country dance.  The only dances she mentions by name are the Boulanger (Pride and Prejudice, chapter 3, and her letter to Cassandra Austen dated 5th September 1796) and the Minuet de la Cour (Love and Friendship, third letter).”

There is also a book by Susannah Fullerton called A Dance with Jane Austen which is well written and researched, despite Susannah not being a dancer herself (as far as I know). store/a-dance-with-jane-austen

The dances in this era are generally very formulaic, and having trawled through innumerable dance collections both online and in dusty archives, I've developed a theory that it was the music that provided the variety rather than the choreography.  In The Playford Assembly, Graham Christian mentions the characteristics of certain keys and rhythms, and how this influenced the style of the dance.  There is a good site which provides further details about the musical element at

Adding the steps to the dances changes the quality of the movement considerably as every figure is punctuated by the jeté, assemblé.  Some modern dancers are becoming more interested in these steps, but for the majority of social/recreational dancers this is an unnecessary complexity — it's also quite tiring to keep it going throughout a complete dance.  It's great that Anne Daye continues to promote this aspect of country dancing as it adds a whole new dimension to the experience.

Although you write “dancing was for young people” — this may have been the case in the elite ballroom, however there are many of accounts of older people dancing in other situations.  I wonder if anyone has studied this area in detail.

In some cases you might want to use the Allemande step, which is a slight spring forward on the right foot, landing on a flat foot, followed by two steps on the toes, left and right, followed in the next bar by the reverse.  If you were to split a bar of reel time into four equal parts, both the skip change step and the allemande step have you moving on 1, 2 and 3, so they actually seem quite similar to me — or perhaps the allemande step is more like a pas de bas.  Different people will give you different descriptions of the Allemande Step.  I found some YouTube videos but Anne points out that the allemande has been a dance form since mid-16th century though much changed across time and neither of the videos bears any relation to the Regency era, so I've taken the links out — search YouTube at your peril!

If you venture into cotillions you will probably need the Pas balancé and Rigadoon (or Rigaudon) steps — see later.

Read more about steps (and the entire First Set of Quadrilles) here.

The Cotillion   Top of page

The English spelling is “Cotillion” or occasionally “Cottillion”, pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable; the French spelling is “Cotillon” with the emphasis on the third syllable.  Some books (certainly when we come to the Quadrille) give both English and French wording for the figures.

James Fishar (1780) is particularly clear and methodical in his explanation:

G E N E R A L   R U L E S   for   D A N C I N G   C O T I L L O N S.

The   M U S I C.  The first strain of all Cotillons is played twice for the Changes, and the Figure always begins with the second Strain.  The Strains must be repeated exactly as they are marked in the Music.

The   C H A N G E S.  The Changes are a Kind of Introduction to the Figure of the Cotillon, and may be varied as often as the Dance is repeated.  Each Change, as was observed before, must take up the first Strain of the Tune, played twice over.

A Cotillon always begins with bowing all together in their Places, as in a Minuet, which must employ the first Strain, played once.  Then all Ballancé and Rigaudon, and large ring half round, turning to the Right.  This takes the first Strain the second Time.

Ballancé and Rigaudon, and come back with the Ring, turning to the Left to their Places ; which takes in all the first Strain three Times, including the Bowing.  Then the Figure begins with the second Strain.

F I R S T   C H A N G E

Ballancé and Rigaudon (the Partners facing each other) turn both Hands quite round, beginning to the Right.  1. Strain 1st Time.

Ballancé and Rigaudon, and turn as before to the Left.  1. Strain 2d Time.

S E C O N D   C H A N G E

The four Ladies Ballancé and Rigaudon and Moulinet, i.e. Hands across, with the Right Hand quite round.  1. Strain 1st Time.

Ballancé and Rigaudon, and Moulinet with Left Hands back to their own Places.  1. Strain 2d Time.

T H I R D   C H A N G E

The four Gentlemen Ballancé and Rigaudon, and Hands quite round to the Right.  1. Strain 1st Time.

Ballancé and Rigaudon, and Hands round to the Left to their own Places.  1. Strain 2d Time.

F O U R T H   C H A N G E

All Ballancé and Rigaudon, each facing their Partners, Allemande with the Right Hand quite round.  1. Strain 1st Time.

Ballancé and Rigaudon and Allemande, with the Left round to their Places.  1. Strain 2d Time.

F I F T H   C H A N G E

All Ballancé and Rigaudon, turn half round in a Ring, holding Hands.  1. Strain 1st Time.

Ballancé and Rigaudon back to their Places, half round.  1. Strain 2d Time.

S I X T H   C H A N G E

All Ballancé and Rigaudon and large Ring, half round to the Right, beating Hands.  1. Strain 1st Time.

Ballancé and Rigaudon and large Ring as before to the Left, which brings all to their Places.  1. Strain 2d Time.

N.  B.  The Changes of every Cotillon, where there is no Ballancé and Rigaudon, will be expressed at the Bottom with proper Instructions.

The   S T E P S   used in   C O T I L L O N S   are only eight,   viz.

1.  Contretem forwards5.  Single Chassé upon the Right
2.  Contretem backwards6.  The same upon the Left
3.  Ballancé7.  Double Chassé upon the Right
2.  Rigaudon8.  The same upon the Left

A small Attention to the foregoing Rules, and the Instructions annexed to each Cotillon, will in a short Time, enable any Lady or Gentleman to perform these Kind of Dances, if they are acquainted with the Steps ; a thorough Knowledge of which may be acquired in a Fortnight, by the Assistance of a Master.

Anne's book “More Dances for Jane Austen”  gives guidance on cotillons.  You can read about and order it on their website and it comes with an accompanying CD of the music.

Anne has given me permission to reproduce one of the dances from the book, though I'm rephrasing it in the way that (I hope) English Folk dancers will understand.

L'Entrée du Bal        L'Entrée du Bal: Music in PDF/MIDI/MP3/ABC formatPrint this danceTop of page

Format: Square numbered anti-clockwise
Dance and Music: “Six New Cottillions and Six Country Dances with Three Favorite Minuets… composed by Nicholas Lemaire”, 1773.
Music: (AABBCC) x 4 + A.

Original wording:

Le Grand Rond… 16
Les Messieurs font L'allemande avec la Dame de leur Gauche puis avec leur Dame… 8
Tous les huit la poussette avec un passe D'allemande aux Coins… 8
Les Dames font un demi tour de Molinet de la Main droite puis un tour da la Gauche avec les Messrs de vis a vis… 8
Les Messrs lememe excepte qu'ils font le Molinet de la main Gauche et tournent leur Dame de la droite… 8
Tous une demi Grande Chaine… 8

Colin's translation:

The First Dance of the Ball

Big circle… 16 bars
The gentlemen do an allemande with the lady on their left, then with their [own] lady… 8 bars
All eight poussette with an allemande turn at the corners… 8 bars
The ladies do half a right-hand star then left-hand turn the opposite gentlemen… 8 bars
The gentlemen the same except that they do the star with the left hand and turn their lady by the right… 8 bars
All grand chain half-way… 8 bars

A cotillion consists of a Figure, unique to that particular dance, and the Changes which were (fairly) standardised — the equivalent of Up a Double, Siding and Arming.  For some reason the first Change isn't called the first Change, so here I'm calling it “Introduction”.  You dance the Introduction, the Figure, the first Change, the Figure, the second Change, the Figure and so on, ending with the final Change — and there could be 9 or more Changes, though people probably don't do so many now.  The Introduction and the final Change were “Le Grand Rond” which is a slipped circle right and then left.

Susan de Guardiola says,

The idea that cotillons always start with the grand round followed by whatever number of changes is a vast oversimplification.  There was quite a bit of variation, though perhaps less so in England.

The other thing that most of the old books don't mention is that there is usually stepping before each half of the Change.  You would expect “Circle right and left” to take 8 bars — 8 slips in each direction — but in most cases each was preceded by Pas balancé and Rigadoon.  I imagine the Pas balancé comes from setting, but the trailing foot doesn't actually touch the floor — you step with the right foot to your right, bring the left up to it but without touching the floor, then repeat to the left.

Anne gave me this description:

Rigadoon Step in two bars of duple or compound duple time:

Starting in first position, in bar 1, beat 1 hop on the L foot extending the R to the side and replacing it to first; on beat 2 open the L foot to the side (without hopping) and replace it to first; conclude the step with a jump in first position on the first beat of the second bar.  (Then make a preparatory step in the direction of travel).

That “preparatory step” may catch you out!  A lot of cotillion tunes start with half a bar upbeat, and you move on that rather than waiting for the bar-line.  So if you're doing a rigadoon followed by the Grand Ronde, the final beat of the rigadoon is where you start to slip to the right.

A simple alternative for present-day dancers is to set to partner twice.  But if you want to try the real thing, my mantra is: Step right, pause | step left, pause | hop, change, down | jump.  (and then start the circle).

You will see plenty of bogus Rigadoon steps on YouTube videos!  Here's a proper one, explained slowly: and danced to the music at 4:30.

Anne says this cotillion has the stepping in the introduction but doesn't have stepping in the changes — that's why I've chosen it!  The instructions say that Le Grand Rond is 16 bars, but Anne explains that there's actually an extra A-music for honouring your partner: 4 bars doing nothing, then step right and bow or curtsey.  (Some people honour on the first four bars and do nothing on the second four.)  The Figure takes 40 bars, so we need to steal one A-music to complete it, leaving only one A for each of the Changes and therefore no time for the stepping in the changes.

The word “Allemande” can mean various turning moves.  In this dance it has two meanings.

The Allemandes at the start of the figure are done thus.  Link right arms with your corner but don't bend them as if you were doing an arm right.  Instead stretch them out behind the other person's back, put your left hand behind your own back and take the other person's right hand.  Turn once around, looking at the other person.

But with an allemande turn in the next move is interpreted here as turning the lady under the man's arm.

You can read much more about the many different meanings of the allemande figure at paper001.php.

A1:Nothing for 4 bars.  Step right and honour partner.
A2:Pas balancé and Rigadoon.  Circle right (slip-step).
A3:Pas balancé and Rigadoon.  Circle left.
B1:All allemande right with corner.  Allemande left with partner.
B2:All give two hands to partner, head men move slightly to your right, side men to your left, and head couples half poussette with the couple on their right (ones with twos, threes with fours) — head men pushing, side men pulling and the heads passing outside the side couple; men let go with your left hand and turn your partner clockwise under your right arm without going anywhere yourself.  Do the second half of the poussette, and again turn the lady under — anti-clockwise might flow better into the next figure.
C1:Ladies right-hand star half-way (four allemande or skip-change steps).  Left-hand turn the opposite man, and the men do a courtesy turn (without putting your arm round her waist) to finish all facing in, man on the left.
C2:Men left-hand star half-way.  Right-hand turn partner to finish back in the square, all half-way round, facing partner.
A1:Grand chain half-way to return to places.

Now in A2 you dance the first Change, the Figure, the second Change, the Figure, the third Change, the Figure, the fourth Change (and there might be many more).  Anne suggests:

First Change:Right-hand turn.  Left-hand turn.
Second Change:Two-hand turn.  Reverse two-hand turn.
Third Change:Circle right.  Circle left.

The move in C1 and C2 is similar to “All four ladies chain across — all four men chain back”, but you have twice as long as you would in an American Square, so don't rush it — four dance steps for the ladies to star half-way, and do a proper open left-hand turn with your opposite, men moving forwards throughout.

And yes, it's all danced, with an allemande step (or maybe a skip-change step), and a slip-step for the big circles, though Anne says that if you use small circles (two couples) these are danced with a skip-change step.

Anne Daye says:

The step for this should be the allemande step […]  We can only make an informed guess about basic step in cotillons.  My rule of thumb is to use the allemande step for duple and 3/8 tunes (allemande couple dances were in these metres) and skip-change for 6/8.  Although it is likely that they often used demi-contretemps, and a full contretemps or gavotte step.  And there are minuet sections too in some.

One explanation of the steps is found at steps.php.

On the same site you can read about the Dance Style and a great deal of information about the Cotillion.

You might also want to look inside The Extraordinary Dance Book.

The changes weren't really standardised.  Publishers would like you to think that their set of changes is the set, but they don't necessarily agree.  See Paul Cooper's paper: where he lists 30 or more different changes — obviously you wouldn't do all of these!  So it could well be that at a particular venue there would be an agreed set of changes.  And see the paragraph a little further down:

Some sources, such as Saltator, Feuillade and Bruckfield, indicate that all of the potential Changes would be danced in each Cotillion, resulting in perhaps 10 repetitions of the main figure in each dance.  It's likely that this was a standard convention, though most of the sources don't comment on it.  Mr Siret's Set of Cotillons or French Dances published in London c.1770 record that the changes in a Cotillion “depend much upon Fancy”; he went on to list many of the standard changes as the others.  A former owner of the copy of Siret's book at the British Library saw fit to annotate it with a specific list of four changes for two of the cotillions — perhaps the owner wasn't inclined to dance the entire sequence.  Hurst included an interesting comment in his book: “if at any Time the Dances are required to be shorten'd, let the Performers call, and do the great Ring (wherever they have a Mind to curtail it) instead of the Changes that were to have followed, and so conclude it; and, in this Manner, the Cotillons may be concluded at the Pleasure of the Dancers”.

Hurst's comment might seem to invite general chaos!  Which of the performers was entitled to call for the Grand Rond?  Did the band leader decide based on the volume of protest?!

I showed an earlier version of this page to Paul Cooper, who has written many research papers for, and he explains:

Modern 'Regency Dancing' is a mixture of history and fantasy.  We don't want to recreate a historical Ball perfectly: we'd need an army of servants, removal of amplification, dancing throughout the night, lots of standing around waiting to be involved, the active couples at risk of exhaustion (individual dances might last 15 minutes or longer), weird class-related privileges…  and so forth.  And the tickets might cost a fortune!

Modern Regency dancers want to have fun: we convert triple-minors into three-couple sets, make bland figure sequences more interesting, dance to favourite tunes regardless of the date, and so forth.  Many of us are aware of the anachronisms, some find irony in the invented traditions, but ultimately it's a compromise; different groups handle that compromise in different ways.

Many of us do invest the time and effort to better understand the historical context, but most are happy just to enjoy the dancing for what it is.  Oh, and Grrr Napoleon, long live King George, and boo to chaperones!

If anyone out there would like to attend a Regency Ball, you'll almost certainly enjoy it.  Many such events are listed here: events.php.  I myself dance with the Hampshire Regency Dancers — we're not that different from a regular folk dancing club, but we also enjoy the opportunity to entertain and educate the public at some wonderful historical venues.

Five Hearts        Five Hearts: Music in PDF/MIDI/MP3/ABC formatPrint this danceTop of page

Source: Longman & Lukey -- Playing cards, 1774
Interpretation: Colin Hume, 2022
Format: Square

Original wording:

Five Hearts


1st.  Turn your Partner with both hands.
2d.  Four Ladies Hands across.
3d.  Four Gentlemen Hands across.
4h.  Four Ladies Hands round.
5h.  Four Gentlemen Hands round.
6h.  L'allemande.
7h.  La' chaine
8h  All round

N. B.  The principle Figure of every Cotillon to be repeated between each Change.

Five Hearts.

All round.

Four lead up, then changing partners lead in the sides, two hands around four and form two parallel lines; all eight on two lines lead up and down, every Gentleman turns his partner into his place and rigadoon.  The same figure began by the other four and performed in the contrary movement.

The first change.

I decided to have a go at interpreting a cotillion myself.  I found a link from one of Paul Cooper's articles, “Cotillion Dancing in England, 1760s to 1810s” — — to a pack of playing cards on the British Museum website.  Paul talks about James Fishar, whose useful summary is shown above, but Paul doesn't really believe the cards were actually used by dancers.  And indeed probably most dancers didn't read music, and even if they did they'd surely want to be reminded how the figure goes, not how the tune goes!  The figures were printed in a separate booklet.  The cards are 11.4 cm x 7.1cm or about 4½" x 2¾" and you can see a reproduction of the card above.  We would say “Five of Hearts”, but it's just “Five Hearts”.

The A-music (for the Changes) and the B-music (for the Figure) are both repeated, and James Fishar's notes explain that there's a balancé and rigadoon before each move, so two A's would be correct — plus an extra A at the start for the honours.  The Changes are quite similar to Fishar's set but there are more of them — 8 rather than 6 (plus the initial Grande rond which for some reason is not considered one of the changes though it is when it appears at the end of the list).  I don't believe dancers of today would want to do the Figure 9 times, so I've made a selection.

The bar-lines seem to be printed in the middle of each bar, so I have moved them to where musicians would expect them to be nowadays.  Paul Cooper says:

The split bars are sometimes referred to as the 'gavotte rhythm'.  It's a particularly common convention in the music for French cotillons, less so amongst English cotillions.  Some historical dancers have strong opinions on whether the dancing to a tune in gavotte rhythm should start on the upbeat or the downbeat, so rebarring the music can be controversial.  It's unclear to me whether a typical English dancer of the 1770s would be likely to know or to notice the difference.  So long as everyone starts moving at the same time I have no particular preference.

I thought I understood the Figure until I realised that the B-music is 22 bars rather than the usual 16.  To my ear each B consists of a 10-bar phrase, a 4-bar phrase, and a final 8-bar phrase which is the same as the A-music except that the last two bars have been changed so that it finishes on the tonic.  Am I missing something?  Or are the original instructions missing something?  Here's what I've come up with.  I've given the number of beats or walking steps, though I hope people would use a skip-change step or something similar.

A1:Nothing for 8 beats.  Step right and honour partner.
A2:Pas balancé and Rigadoon.  Circle right (slip-step).
A3:Pas balancé and Rigadoon.  Circle left.
B1:(22 bars): Heads lead in (4 steps); lead opposite to meet sides (4 steps) Two-hand turn corner ¾ or 1¼ to side lines, man on left (8 steps).  Rigadoon (added — 4 beats).  Lines forward and back (8 steps).  Return to home place (4 steps); two-hand turn partner (8 steps, across the music); rigadoon to partner (4 beats).
B2:Sides repeat, forming head lines.
After each Figure, dance one of my suggested Changes, with a Pas balancé and Rigadoon at the start of each 8-bar phrase (including half-way through the grand chain).
 Reverse two-hand turn.  Regular two-hand turn.
 Ladies right-hand star and left-hand star.
 Men circle right and left.
 All allemande partner right and left.
 Grand chain.
and I would finish with the figure one more time so that the tune ends on the tonic, but that's just my opinion.

Music   Top of page

Paul says that the other main difference apart from the steps is the music.
With respect to music I was thinking more about the social history.  I have a theory that the improving musical technology had an effect on the social dancing styles: there were more pianos in private homes, operatic music would be rearranged for dancing (especially for Quadrilles), composers (perhaps) had the dancing after-market in mind for promoting their work.  It's all just a theory, but I suspect a lot of the printed dance music that was sold was bought by people learning to play instruments, and would have been used for social dancing at private homes.  The Quadrille in particular was an at-home dance; you could dance it with a few friends, memorise the choreographies, then dance it out and about — you just needed someone to play the piano.

Anne says:

I would add that we can be confident that the dance music was being sold for the amateur home player (not just a theory).  We know Jane Austen played for country dancing at home, and there is other supportive evidence.  Let alone that no professional band would need such simple stuff.

I agree that the music is very different in style from the early Playford.  To me it sounds like chamber music, and not particularly adventurous chamber music either!  It's in 8-bar phrases, and usually the second four bars are a repeat of the first four bars with a slightly different ending in the last bar or so.  Usually the first four bars end on the dominant and the second four bars end on the tonic.  It's “pretty” music, but to me it doesn't have the majesty of “Fain I Would” (1651) or “Mr Beveridge's Maggot” (1701), nor the energy of “Black Nag” (1670) or “Parsons Farewell” (1651).

Anne says:

I agree with the light and trivial nature of the cotillon dance music, but, note that the tunes often have mineure sections (see La Brunette) matching the 'story' of the dance, and also mix different metres.  Our next collection will have one with minuet, duple and 3/8 sections; the first Jane Austen collection has some.  Early 18th century English and Scottish country dance tunes are the greatest, I agree.

In fact Thomas Wilson in his “A Companion to the Ball Room…” of 1816 gives a real diatribe on the subject!

The only reason to be assigned why Collections of Country Dances, particularly annual ones, have been so deficient both in Merit and Originality, is, that good Composers have considered that it would not pay them for composing Dances, as the Publishers cannot afford any thing like, what may be termed a Price, since they have got into the Method of selling twenty-four NEW DANCES (at least they are termed so) for a shilling; therefore the Trifle that can be afforded to Composers for these annual Collections will not make it worth the Trouble or Consideration of persons of talent.

and he continues in this vein at some length.

The change-over   Top of page

The cotillion was popular during the first two decades of the nineteenth century — Jane Austen enjoyed dancing cotillions.  It was then gradually replaced by the quadrille, which dropped the standard set of changes and just concentrated on figures (in the plural).  In fact the change-over wasn't as simple as that, and some people (including publishers) still referred to quadrilles as cotillions and vice versa, making for much confusion among researchers.

It's not known whether Jane Austen danced quadrilles, but they were certainly around in the Regency period.  See for instance Susan de Guardiola's page, “What Did Jane Austen Dance?”:

We know that Jane was sent quadrilles by her niece Fanny from a letter of February 20, 1816:

Much obliged for the quadrilles, which I am grown to think pretty enough, though of course they are very inferior to the cotillions of my own day.

It's not entirely clear whether she was sent quadrille music (most of the “new sets of quadrilles” published were simply new music for the first set of quadrilles) or both music and dance instructions.  It's also hard to say whether her opinion was informed by actually dancing them or simply looking them over.  She does not mention dancing them herself, and to an experienced dancer of cotillions the figures would been easy to interpret from written instructions.  But it is possible that in the last years of her life, she did in fact dance a set of quadrilles.

Jane Austen died the next year, 1817.  The quadrilles that she was sent might have been “Paine's First Set” which was published that year and was hugely influential.  But is it likely that she danced them in her final year?

However in 2022 I eventually met Paul Cooper — I was calling the evening dance at the Early Dance Circle's annual Festival — and he told me that he had found a set of dances which were Quadrilles in all but name — in fact for numbers 1 and 3/6 the names are very similar to the names of the quadrille figures I'll be listing later — published well before Paine's First Set.  The book, “8 French Country Dances” was published by Michael Kelly around 1804, so it's always possible that Jane Austen danced these, not knowing that they were prototype quadrilles.  Paul has written about them at paper058.php#Cotillions.

The dances are:

No. 1 or Pantaloon Country Dances, No. 1 or Pantaloon Figure: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC format
No. 2 or Chinese
No. 3 or Tranice Country Dances, No. 3 or Tranice Figure: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC format
No. 4 or Bedford
No. 5 or Mouse
No. 6 or Tranise
No. 7 or Crown
No. 8 or Fairy Country Dances, No. 8 or Fairy Figure: Music in PDF, MIDI and ABC format

In the table are links to Paul's animations, and music links for the three which I'd like us to dance: numbers 1, 3 and 8.  One quirk is that numbers 3 and 6 are both called “Tranice/Tranise” and are identical except that 3 has an extra 16 bars of figure at the start.

I've taken Paul's wording of three of them and converted the terms to modern English usage; I'm quite sure you could do the same with the others.  The Plain Quadrille contains figures “Le Pantalon” and “La Trenis”, and you can see similar names in the list above.  Paul says:

Numbers 3 and 6 in the collection are both described by Kelly as having the “Tranice Figure”.  This is basically the same figure sequence known as “La Trenis” in the first set of Quadrilles.  In one case it's prefixed with those extra 16 bars of movement.  The same can be true in later Quadrilles sets too: Trenice is the name of the memorable part of the figure but extra action is sometimes included.  The Number 3 arrangement is basically the same as Payne's La Trenis quadrille figure.

French Country Dances, No. 1 or Pantaloon Figure        French Country Dances, No. 1 or Pantaloon Figure: Music in PDF/MIDI/MP3/ABC formatPrint this danceTop of page

Format: Square
Music: 2 x Own tune + extra A

A:Nothing for 4 bars.  Honour partner.
B:Heads right and left.
A:Face partner: 4 chassées right and left.  Two-hand turn.
C1:Ladies chain.
C2:Right allemande.  Left allemande.
A:Right and left.
 Side couples repeat the dance, starting at B.  Extra A at end.

You will notice that the entire figure is for just two couples.  In fact this is true of all eight dances — there's no interaction between the head couples and the side couples.  This strikes me as a lost opportinuty, or perhaps further indication that these dances came from longways sets and for some reason were then put into a square formation.  To me that's like playing golf, where you have no physical interation with the other player; I much prefer croquet where you're allowed to knock his ball off the lawn!

French Country Dances, No. 3 or Tranice Figure        French Country Dances, No. 3 or Tranice Figure: Music in PDF/MIDI/MP3/ABC formatPrint this danceTop of page

Format: Square
Music: 4+ x Own tune + extra A

A:Nothing for 4 bars.  Honour partner.
B:Head ladies chain.
A:Face partner: 4 chassées right and left.  Two-hand turn.
C1:First couple advance and retire.  The man leads his lady across so that the opposite man has a lady on each side, and falls back.
C2:The man and two ladies move forward to change places and face; the ladies chassée across while the man sets to them.  The ladies move forward to finish behind the opposite man and change places while the man returns home.
A:The first lady returns home; head ladies face partner: ladies 4 chassées right and left.  Two-hand turn.
 Repeat the dance for each lady (2nd lady is opposite first lady, 3rd lady is on 1st lady's right), starting at B.  Extra A at end.

I found the C2 movement difficult to call because there's so much going on.  The opposite man also wanted to join in, but he's just supposed to be a post!

French Country Dances, No. 8 or Fairy Figure        French Country Dances, No. 8 or Fairy Figure: Music in PDF/MIDI/MP3/ABC formatPrint this danceTop of page

Format: Square
Music: 4 x Own tune + extra A

A:Nothing for 4 bars.  Honour partner.
B:First lady and opposite cross touching right hands.  Cross back giving left, and right to partner in a wave.
A:Set twice, men turning round at the end.  Promenade across (ones promenade improper but finish proper).
C:First lady and opposite advance and retire.  Back-to-back.
A:Heads advance and retire.  Half right and left to place.
 Repeat the dance for each lady.  Extra A at end.

The Quadrille   Top of page

Dancing a quadrille at Almack's
I understand that originally there were just a few quadrilles, and gradually others were added, though most of these were variations on one or more figures of the Plain Quadrille. For instance you can read the words of Paine's first four sets (and much else e.g. two sets of Lancers) at and you can see that there is a great deal of repetition.  However there were many many sets of tunes for quadrilles.  A quadrille often had five figures, and music publishers would regularly publish new sets.  For instance at articles/arrangements/ dance_music.html you can find links to music from many Gilbert and Sullivan operas arranged for quadrilles — see the link at the bottom of the page.  That was after the Regency period, though I imagine Jane Austen would have enjoyed Gilbert's sense of humour.

My gateway to original sources is an amazing collection of links at, part of The Library of Dance curated by Nick Enge & Melissa Carvell.

The earliest music there (complete with figures) is from 1816.  When I was creating this page, Paine's First Set wasn't there — I contacted Nick and he has now found a copy (though missing page 6).  So I looked at the Second Set:  The title page gives the publisher as “Paine of Almacks” — Almack's was an upper-class assembly room in London where these quadrilles were danced, and James Paine was the band leader there for many years.

The instructions are given in both English and French: here are the English versions.  In this set French words also appear in the music to make it clear how the movements fit to the tune.

No. 1 — La Penelope

Right and Left, Balancez and turn your partners with both hands, Ladies chain entiere, Promenade half round, half right and left.

No. 2 — La Daphne

Opposite Lady and Gentleman advance and retire, Chasse to the right and left, cross over, Chasse to the right and left, back again, Balancez and turn to your partner.

No. 3 — La Poule Anglaise

Opposite Lady and Gentleman cross over giving their right hand, back again giving their left and their right to their partner, the four balancez in line holding hands Ladies fronting one way and Gent: the other, Promenade half round, opposite Lady and Gent: advance and retire; back to back, four opposite dancers advance and retire, half right and left.

No. 4 — La Theresia

Ladies chain entiere, Balancez & turn your partner with both hands, opposite Lady and Gent: advance and retire, Chasse to the right and left, cross over chasse to the right and left, back again to your place, half Promenade, half right and left.

No. 5 — Le Wellington

The Grand Round, four opposite dancers advance and change partners, the four advance again and resume partners, balancez and turn with both hands, right and left, double promenade to your places.

No. 6 — Les Echo's

Right and Left, one Gent: advance and retire twice, the opposite Lady do the same, Balancez and turn partners the Ladies moulinet, Balance without quiting hands and then to your places

In No. 2 the French version ends Balancez — un tour de main making it clear that the English should be Balancez and turn your partner rather than Balancez and turn to your partner.

Click to play videoClick to play videoClick the image on the left to see a superb display of Paine's First Set by the Dutch group Nederlands Historisch Dans-en Theaterensemble.  There are elements of interpretation which some would argue with, but the style is wonderful and I believe it conveys the way it would have been danced in 1815.  It has six figures, the fourth being “Trenis” which was sometimes danced instead of “Pastorelle” though sometimes both appeared, so maybe I'm wrong to say that the standard quadrille had five figures.  For display purposes they have cut down some figures so that only two men lead them; normally each man would lead the figure in turn.  On the right you can see Ellis Rogers and members of his Quadrille Club dancing the same set.  This has the figures in full, and therefore because of a YouTube restriction they could not fit in “Trenis”.

We note that the second set also has 6 figures rather than the standard 5, so let's turn to his next set of quadrilles that Richard Powers has kindly uploaded: Paine of Almack's Fourth Set of Quadrilles.  A note at the bottom of the title page informs us that:

Persons wishing to have PAINE of ALMACK'S Quadrilles, are requested to observe that Mr. Paine's Signature is written on them, and that no others are genuine, which will prevent Imposition, as a Spurious Edition of the Quadrilles , has lately been published.

Paine's Fourth Set        Paine's Fourth Set: Music in PDF/MIDI/MP3/ABC formatPrint this danceTop of page

Published 1815
The link to the music above also includes a simplified version of the Finale as the original becomes unplayable towards the end!

La Magdonal   (Pantalon.)

Right and left, Balancez to your partners and turn, Ladies chain, half promenade and half right and left.

La Nouvelle Eté   (L'Eté)

Opposite Lady and Gentleman advance and retire, chasse to the right and left, cross over, chasse to the right and left, back again, Balancez & turn your partners.

La Non Chalant   (La Poule.)

Opposite Lady and Gentleman cross over giving their right hand, back again giving their left and their right to their partner, four sett in line holding hands, Ladies fronting one way and Gentlemen the other, promenade half round, opposite Lady and Gentleman advance & retire; back to back, four opposite dancers advance and retire together, half right and left.

La Nouvelle Pastorale

The Gent: & Lady advance and retire twice leaving his Lady opposite, the three, Hands round, the Gentleman advance & retire twice, the 3 opposite advance & retire twice, Hands four Half round, Half right & Left,

La Veritable Chasse   (Finale.)

All eight chasse across, opposite Lady & Gent: advance & retire, Chasse to the right & Left, Cross over, Chasse to the right & Left, Back again to Places, Balancez & turn your Partners, The Gentlemen turn the Ladies on their Left with both hands half round & form two Opposite lines, all Eight advance and retire, turn your Partners to Places, the Grand Promenade all round,

Chasse Eight for the finale.

This is based on the “Plain Quadrille”.  The names of the standard figures are Pantalon (Trousers), L'Eté (Summer), La Poule (The Hen), Pastorale (Pastoral) and Finale (Final), and you can see that Paine has given these in brackets after four of the tune titles.  In the picture of Almack's above you can see them dancing Pastorale.

We danced my version of the First and Fourth figures in the Connections workshop, so let's try my version of the Third and Fifth figures.

Figure 3:       La Poule
Musicians: Play (AB AC) x 4, then final A.

A:Nothing for four bars.  Step right and honour partner.
B:First lady and her opposite man cross over giving right hands.  Cross back giving left hands, keep hold and give right to partner's right forming a wave up and down the set.
A:Set right and left in the wave twice, with eye contact.  Take a cross-hand hold with partner and promenade across to the other couple's place.  Note that the first couple are promenading with the man on the right, so instead of wheeling around as they reach the other couple's place they just face in.
C:First lady and her opposite man forward and back.  Back-to-back.
A:Both head couples lead forward and back.  Half right and left.
Second lady (on left of first lady) lead the same figure (apart from the initial honours), then third lady, fourth lady.
Some people will say that the figure should be led by the first man rather than the first lady.  I've been guided by the fact that the wording says Opposite Lady and Gentleman rather than Opposite Gentleman and Lady but I'm not saying that I'm right.  Similarly in B some people slap hands as they pass, whereas the wording says giving their right hand.  There's a lot of time for both lots of crossing, so don't get there too soon — look at the Dutch video to see how well they time it.

Figure 5:       Finale
Musicians: Play (AAB) x 4, then final AA.

Strangely enough, the finale usually includes L'Eté in its entirety, and it does so here.  But this figure is different from the Finale of the first set, so more interpretation is needed.  I'm not pretending to be an expert on quadrilles, but here's my opinion.

The A-music is 8 bars repeated and the B-music is 40 bars.  Normally the honours are during the A-music and we start the figure on the B-music, but in this case there are two A's, so we start the figure on A2, then 40 bars of B, then finish the figure on A1, ready to start the next turn of the figure on A2.  We then have an extra A2 after the last turn of the figure — but that's all right because the instructions finish (on a separate line, to show that it's an extra): Chasse Eight for the finale.  And that means every A2 is the chassé across.  So we have 48 bars to play with for the figure.

Most interpreters seem to leave out the first Chasse for the lady and her opposite man in L'Eté and in the Finale, so I'll do the same!  Counting up we then find that we've used 24 bars to do the figure up to the partner two-hand turn.  We need 8 bars for the promenade, so we have 16 bars left for The Gentlemen turn the Ladies on their Left with both hands half round & form two Opposite lines, all Eight advance and retire, turn your Partners to Places.  The advance and retire will presumably be 4 bars, as will the turn with partner, and I can't imagine there would be any extra music to get from the lines back to your partner — you just have to go for it!  But we can't fill up 8 bars with “two-hand turn corner half-way” (actually it's 3/8 or 5/8 but let's not get bogged down in detail).  So my suggestion is that we add a balancez to corner before a slow two-hand turn half-way.  After all, everywhere else the turn is preceded by a balancez, so why not here?  And that gives us:

A1:Nothing for four bars.  Step right and honour partner.
A2:All chassé across past partner (man behind lady) to meet the next; set right and left to them.  Chassé back (again man behind lady) set to partner.
B:(40 bars):  First lady and her opposite man forward and back.  Cross over.
 Facing each other (inside the set), chassé right and left.  Cross over.
 Balancez to partner.  Two-hand turn to place.  (Other people will tell you it's a right-hand turn.)
 All balancez to corner.  Two-hand turn about half-way into lines at the head, with the man on the left (4 bars, so take your time).
 Join hands in lines and go forward and back.  Men moving in front of your corner, all meet partner for a two-hand turn to place.
A1:All take a cross-hand hold and promenade round the square.
Second lady, third lady and fourth lady lead the same figure in turn.
A2:Finally, all chassé across; set right and left, Chassé back; set to partner.

Click to play videoRalph Sweet called four figures of The Plain Quadrille at the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend in 2000.  Click the image on the right to see it — I've started it as the dance starts, but he gives some interesting background before that.  His version comes from a book published in 1890, but I imagine he's added some moves from later American Squares.  It looks and sounds like a traditional American Square, but you can see that the first figure comes from the original version and his third figure has similarities to the fifth figure of the Belle Brandon Set on my “200 Years of American” page.

Here's an interesting link — I'm quoting part of the section about quadrilles: reviews/quadrill.htm

The Quadrille was introduced into English Society by Lady Jersey and her friends at 'Almacks' in 1816.  Originally figures were put together by the dancers themselves, but Wilson's Treatise on Quadrille Dancing of 1818 describes fifty different moves and suggests how they may be combined to make figures.  Many of these moves were Cotillon figures already familiar to English dancers.  One of the most popular books of the period was Payne's Six Sets of Quadrilles (1820) — the First of which was a Set that was already so popular in Paris that by the end of the 18th century it had superseded all the others.  This was the set which Lady Jersey introduced at Almacks and ultimately the form in which the Quadrille was danced in England, as the First Set of the Quadrilles, although there were numerous variations to chose from.

It usually consisted of five distinct parts or figures — which even when new music was provided retained the name of the contredanses which made up the standard quadrille.  The figures were:

Le Pantelon, adapted from a song which began 'le pantelon / de Madelon / N'a pas le fond …'
L'Ete — a contredanse popular in 1800
La Poule — a dance from 1820
La Pastourelle — based on a ballet by the cornet player Collinet, and a lively …

The fourth figure — La Pastourelle — was often replaced by a further figure La Trenis (named after the dance Trenitz) in fact, in the Viennese Quadrille both were danced — as fourth and sixth figures.

The music for the quadrille sets was made up of lively rhythmic themes of rigid 8 or 16 bar lengths — the sections much repeated within a figure.  Except for La Poule and sometimes Le Pantelon (which were in 6/8) the music was in 2/4 and usually adapted from popular songs and stage works.  In England the Quadrilles of Jullien, such as the British Army Quadrilles and the Grand Quadrille of All Nations were great attractions at his concerts in the Surrey Gardens and Covent Garden.  Elgar also wrote music for the Quadrilles during his years as conductor at the Powick Asylum (1879-94).  Elsewhere in Europe quadrilles were produced by the Strausses and all the major dance composers of the 19th century.

Scottish Set        Scottish Set: Music in PDF/MIDI/MP3/ABC formatPrint this danceTop of page

Published by Nathanial Gow around 1817

Gow's Volume 2This seems much easier than other quadriles I've looked at, though I haven't yet called it.  It has 6 figures, but of course you don't have to do them all.  In fact I suggest you don't do the first figure — look at the instructions and you'll probably agree! I'm indebted to Paul Cooper and the website for permission to reproduce his interpretations (mainly), and my versions of the music are based on his transcriptions of Gow's original music, though I've converted them from piano two hands to melody line and chords.  You can see animations of Paul's interpretations, hear the original music and see his wording — mine is different but I hope means the same thing:

  1. La Portugaise:
  2. La Bonne Amie:
  3. La Paris:
  4. La Wellington:
  5. La Pastorale:
  6. La Ronde Finale:
Note that every figure starts with an 8-bar introduction, and the musicians need to play an extra A at the end.  If you're looking for recorded music, Talitha MacKenzie has piano versions played from the original score:

I haven't seen the original instructions, but I understand this is the original wording, though I don't think the A's and B's would have been specified like that.

Mr Gow's New Set of Quadrilles, Waltzes & Spanish Country Dances
1.La Portugaise
8BChaine Anglaise
8BBalancez & Tours de mains
8CEn avant quatre; Dos à dos
4AFigurez sur les côtes &
4Chassez ouvert; Finnisez sur deux lignes
8AEn avant huit; Reprenez vos Dames à vos places
2.La Bonne Amie
4BLe Cav seul 2 mesure; La Dame d vis-a-vis idem
4Dos à dos
2BChassez à droite en donnant la main gauche
2Dechassez en donnant la main droite
4Entrez sur les côtés
4AEn avant 6
4Les 2 se passent dos à dos jusqu'à leurs places
8ABalancez & Tour de mains
3La Paris
8BChaine des Dames
8ALe Cav seul
8CLa Dame d vis-a-vis idem
8ADemie-promenade; Demie-chaine Anglaise
4La Wellington
4AEn avant quatre, Demi-Balancez
4Changez des Dames
8BTraversent les deux; Chassez & déchassez
4CEn avant quatre, Demi-Balancez
4Changez des Dames
8ABalancez & Tour de mains
5La Pastorale
4BEn avant
4Conduit la Dame à gauche de vis-a-vis
8CEn avant 3 deux fois
8DLe Cav seul
8ADemi-tour à quatre; Demi-chaine Anglaise
5La Ronde
2AIntro  (3 chords)
8ARond tous les huit à gauche
8BL'Éte: En avant deux; Chassez & déchassez
8CTraversez; Chassez & déchassez
8ARetraversez & balancez; Tour de mains
8AFin:   Chassez croisé 8 au lieu du rond

Figure 1: La Portugaise

A:Introduction and Honours.
B1:Head couples right and left.
B2:Head couples balancé to partners (I suggest four slips or chassés right and four left, but you can set twice if you prefer).  Two-hand turn.
C1:Head couples lead forward and back.  Back-to-back opposite.
C2:Head couples lead out to your right; set to this side couple.  Two-hand turn opposite half-way around, moving out to finish in head lines with the man on the left, and I believe you then need to set in lines though you may choose to leave that bit out.
A:Lines forward and back.  All two-hand turn to place — the heads need to move very positively towards the centre to be out of the way of the sides as everyone starts to turn.
 Repeat for side couples — the lines will be on the side in C2.

Figure 2: La Bonne Amie

A2:First man move forward towards middle of set; then opposite lady same.  Back-to-back.
B1:4 chassés to the right, giving left hand (presumably just touching as you pass); 4 to the left, giving right hand.  Right-hand turn half-way to face a side couple, then move forward to stand between them.
B2:Lines of three forward and back.  Actives pass left shoulder and loop left to home place.
A1:Head couples balancé to partners.  Two-hand turn.
 Repeat for 2nd, 3rd and 4th couples.

Figure 3: La Paris

B1/2:Head ladies chain (over and back).
A:First man dance a solo.
C1/2:Opposite lady dance a solo.
A:Head couples half promenade.  Half right and left to place.
 Repeat for 2nd, 3rd and 4th couples.

Figure 4: La Wellington

A2:Head couples lead forward; set to opposite.  Head ladies cross over; all fall back.
B:First couple (now opposite each other) cross over.  Chassé right and left.
A:First couple cross back again.  Chassé right and left.
C:Head couples lead forward; set to opposite.  Head ladies cross over; all fall back to original place.
A:Head couples balancé to partners.  Two-hand turn.
 Repeat for 2nd, 3rd and 4th couples.

Figure 5: La Pastorale

B:First couple forward and back.  Man lead your lady across to stand on the left of her opposite man, and then fall back from her.
C:Line of three forward and back twice.
D:First man dance a solo.
A:Head couples circle left half-way.  Half right and left to original places.
 Repeat for 2nd, 3rd and 4th couples.

Figure 6: La Ronde Finale

B:All circle left.
C:First man and his opposite forward and back.  Chassé right and left.
A:Same two cross over.  Chassé right and left.
A:Same two cross home; set to partners.  Two-hand turn.
 Repeat for 2nd, 3rd and 4th couples.
 After the final repetition, all 8 chassé-croisé: chassé across to change places with partner (man behind lady); set to the person you have now met.  Chassé back; set to partner.

If you want more detail on quadrilles, how they were danced and the problems we now have when interpreting them, have a look at Belle Brandon Set on my “200 Years of American” page.

The two major organisations involved in early dance in England are:

The Historical Dance Society   (formerly Dolmetsch Historical Dance Society) and see their page of links to other organisations:
The Early Dance Circle.

Both are serious academic groups, though not serious in the sober no-nonsense meaning — they enjoy themselves but they strive to research the dances and do them properly.  The Historical Dance Society has published three books — “Dances for Jane Austen”, “More Dances for Jane Austen” and “A New Collection of Dances for Jane Austen” — which are well-researched and very readable, explaining the steps and figures, with accompanying CDs of the music.

I've already mentioned which has a lot of information and also some animations of dances — people say a picture is worth a thousand words!  It also has a (worldwide) list of Societies that Teach and Practice Regency Dancing.

Some people say that with a few exceptions country dances didn't have names in Regency times.  It was the tune which had the name, and when somebody published “24 new dances for the year so-and-so” what they were publishing was new tunes — they put some dance instructions under each but these were pretty random and in practice the leading lady chose a set of figures and the band chose a tune to fit them.  Other people don't share this view.  Anne says:

[…] country dances could be devised on the spot by the head couple, but that was not the only practice.  Note re The Honeymoon, that Fanny Austen records dancing that by name.  Although tunes were sold with a variety of figures, probably in your own community (whether local or social) some tunes and figures went together regularly — later becoming 'traditional'.  [The instructions and tune are published in the book “More Dances for Jane Austen”, along with an accompanying CD.] is the Ellis Rogers & Quadrille Club website — you can see a video of his Quadrille Club above.  Ellis has led research and practice in quadrilling in the UK for many years and has published a large book, “The Quadrille — A practical guide to its origin, development and performance” available from the website.  For many years The Quadrille Club met once a month in London, but Ellis has now retired.

Or you might want to try researching the cotillions yourself…

Cotillions and country dances: ?id=osu.32435018220368; view=1up;seq=7

And a whole pack of playing cards of which I've only interpreted Five Hearts.

Lots of links to facsimiles of original documents: sources.php

For instance there are some quadrilles starting on page 180 of Thomas Wilson's 1816 Companion To The Ballroom

Of course, clothing affected dancing and in turn dancing affected clothing, so I'm grateful to Barbara and Bethany Lincoln for drawing my attention to a page which deals with Regency Fashion and also contains a number of links to other related websites.

There's an excellent article by Allison Thompson at

Calling a Regency Dance   Top of page

You may be asked to teach some Regency dances to a group of friends, or after a wedding, or to people who just love dressing up, where the attendees have no dance experience whatever.  Here are my suggestions.

Keep it really simple.  These people have no concept of duple minor, progression, which way is up and which way is down, etc.  You need to be aware that a lot of what you say to dancers is jargon and means nothing to non-dancers.

I've shared the calling of several Jane Austen evenings for The Round.  After one of these, the other caller (a student who was Chairman of The Round at the time) said, “You were right, Colin; I should have listened to you.  It's very different from calling at The Round, or at a Round Ceilidh.”

So I suggest you start with a duple minor, but don't start with a duple minor version of “The Merry Meeting” which involves the ones dancing with their own twos and the next twos (because it's been converted from a triple minor).  They will get hopelessly lost.  Start with something like “Sprigs of Laurel” or “The Spaniard” or “Knole Park”.  You have to explain everything: set, turn single, etc.  Don't rush it, and don't be afraid to get down there with them and demonstrate figures and steps.  I would certainly demonstrate a skip-change step and get them doing it before starting the explanation of the dance.  I would demonstrate set and turn single, though I try not to watch some people's attempts at this!  Walk the dance through at least twice, so that the concept of progression starts to mean something.  Keep the tone light — they're here to enjoy themselves, not at a lecture — but don't be afraid to correct people provided they can see that you're on their side rather than a school-teacher criticising them.

Run the dance for a good length, not just the seven times through that most recordings use.  Give people a chance to relax, feel more confident and actually enjoy their dancing.  At The Round's Jane Austen evenings the dancers are mainly students — they're quite willing to learn, to leap about and enjoy it, provided you keep things at their level.

I like to give out bits of information about how they would have danced, such as the fact that they didn't take hands four and the dance was started by just the top two or three couples, but I don't throw that at them until they've done a couple of dances and the information has some context.  I stick to dances which are actually from Jane Austen's period, but I will certainly convert some of the triple minors to three-couple set dances.  Again let these run say 9 times through, so that each couple gets to lead the figure 3 times.

Give them some different rhythms and steps.  I would suggest one or two in waltz time (and again I would get down there and demonstrate the step), a slip-jig such as “The Physical Snob”, a step-hop (or 1-2-3-hop) dance such as “Pleasures of the Town” (make sure you know which tune the band are going to play and how the dance fits the music).

I like to do at least one triple minor, though not until the second half.

I like to finish with “La Boulanger”.  I demonstrate Balancé and Rigadoon, though I tell people they can simply set twice.  If you're going to try this, make sure you can demonstrate it with conviction!

Finally, don't kid yourself that you're going to get through the same number of dances as you would with your own dance group.  No-one is judging you on the number of dances you got them through, or the complexity of the figures, or what key the tunes are in — their only criterion is whether they enjoyed themselves!

Some suggested dances   Top of page

These are from my repertoire as a caller; of course there are thousands more.  I've listed them in date order, though some of the dates may be slightly wrong.  Each dance has a link to the music, so you can print it out or listen to it.  As you can see, many of the triple minor dances have been converted to 3-couple dances.  And I've colour-coded them as Easier, Medium and Harder — feel free to disagree!

YearTitleCollectionModern interpretationFormationMusic
1758Take a DanceThompson: 24 Country DancesWright's HumoursDupleGo
1758The Shepherd and ShepherdessThompsonThis website3 cuGo
1758Chelmsford AssemblyJohnson, 200 Favourite Country DancesFallibroome 33 cuGo
1761Dance for EverThompson: 24 Country DancesWest Kirby Band BooksDupleGo
1762The CoronationThompson: 24 Country DancesThis website3 cuGo
1770Tom JonesRutherford, Volume 2Fallibroome 53 cuGo
1772The InstallationUnidentifiedAgain Let's Be Merry3 cuGo
1773Devil Among the TailorsThompson, Compleat Collection Volume 3Wright's Humours Vol. 13 cuGo
1773The Goose and GridironThompson, Compleat Collection Volume 3Come Let's Be Merry3 cuGo
1774The Alderman's HatThompsonApted BookTriple / 3 cuGo
1774The Dressed ShipThompsonApted BookDupleGo
1774The FandangoThompsonApted Book3 cuGo
1774The Free MasonThompsonApted BookTripleGo
1774The Lasses of PortsmouthThompsonApted Book3 cuGo
1774The Merry MeetingThompsonApted BookTriple / Duple / 3 cuGo
1774Once a NightThompsonApted Book3 cuGo
1774A School for ScandalThompsonApted BookTripleGo
1774The Shrewsbury LassesThompsonApted Book3 cuGo
1774A Trip to HighgateThompsonApted BookTripleGo
1775The Cuckoo's NestRutherford, Volume 3Fallibroome 53 cuGo
1775Miss Silvie's DelightRutherford, Volume 3Fallibroome 63 cuGo
1775A Trip to Castle HowardThompsonPlayford Plus3 cuGo
1776The AdieuThompsonHunter's Moon5 cuGo
1776The Comical FellowThompsonApted BookDupleGo
1776The SpaniardThompsonApted BookDupleGo
1777The Pleasures of the TownThompsonApted Book3 cuGo
1778The BishopThompsonApted BookTripleGo
1779Wakefield HuntThompson, Volume 4Hunter's MoonTripleGo
1780The TouchstoneThompsonThis websiteTripleGo
1781Miss Sayers' AllemandeThomas Budd Jnr., Minuets etc.Fallibroome 13 cuGo
1783The WaggonerThompsonWrights' Humours3 cuGo
1784Prince William's ReturnThompsonHolland as seen in the English Country DanceTripleGo
1786The BalloonUnknown originalFallibroome 6TripleGo
1786The Hop-Pickers' FeastThompson, 1786Kentish Hops 23 cuGo
1788Leather Lake HouseJ BishopThe Naked TruthTripleGo
1790The Splendid ShillingUnknownFallibroome 33 cuGo
1791Dover PierPreston Collection of 24 Country DancesKentish Hops 1DupleGo
1791Long OddsPreston Collection of 24 Country DancesThe Country Dance Club BookDupleGo
1793A Trip to TunbridgePreston Collection of 24 Country DancesKentish Hops 13 cuGo
1794Sprigs of LaurelCahusacFallibroome 5DupleGo
1794Duke of York's FancyCaricature Ball FanBath Fan 17943 cuGo
1794The Hop GroundPreston Collection of 24 Country DancesKentish HopsDupleGo
1795The Bowmen of KentSkillernThis website3 cuGo
1798La BoulangerDale's CollectionThis websiteSquareGo
1800Money in Both PocketsUnknownThis websiteDupleGo
1800The Physical Snob, TheUnidentified SourceFallibroome 1 or This website3 cuGo
1800His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales' FavouriteUnidentified sourceThis website3 cuGo
1801Duke of Kent's WaltzCahusacKentish Hops 2 or (probably not what you want) This websiteDuple/TripleGo
1802The Rose in JuneChas & Sam ThompsonThis website3 cuGo
1806The HoneymoonPrestonThis websiteDupleGo
1808The RidiculeSkillern & ChallonerThis websiteSquareGo
1809Knole ParkVoightKentish Hops 1DupleGo
1815Sir Roger de CoverleyThomas WilsonThis websiteWhole setGo
1816The Bath WaltzThomas Wilson — A Companion to the BallroomThis website3 cuGo
1816Jackey TarrThomas Wilson — A Companion to the BallroomThis website3 cuGo
1817Scottish SetNathaniel GowThis websiteSquareGo

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On Saturday, December 29, 2018, Laura Beraha from West Hills, California, USA wrote:
Hello, Sir,

I host a tea and teach English Regency dancing on third Sundays in Pasadena, California, USA. Since I am not yet an expert on the subject, I constantly strive to learn more about the period and the dancing therein.

Admittedly I do attend and dance at English Country dances, however, sylistically what I teach is not from the standpoint of folk dance. On the contary my interpretation is in the fashion of aristocratic ballroom dance in England from 1795 to 1830.  It is smooth and with a light quickness, and I'm guessing not a lot of vertical motion. Regency aristocrats probably moved with an elegance and ease never to be seen again in history. A blend of non-rigid upright posture, and an ease of stance without slouching.  It would be compared to the difference between Pride and Prejudice's Meryton and Netherfield balls.

Your article on Regency Dance is most enlightening. I have discovered a real treasure in it and am learning a lot from it. For example, a jetee assemble would certainly serve to mark the end of a figure.  Even though for the sake of accessibility I do not teach much footwork I am thinking of introducing that step at my next 'drum'.

I hope to have the pleasure of communicating with you in future.

Very truly yours,
Laura Beraha
On Sunday, December 30, 2018, Colin Hume from Letchworth wrote:
Laura -

Thanks very much for your message; I'm glad you're finding the page useful.  Please contact me again if you have any questions - though I'm not guaranteeing I can answer them!
On Sunday, April 11, 2021, Kathleen  from Southern California  wrote:
I’m helping my daughter on some research into Regency period balls. We’ve been unable to find the answer to this question: How many dance sets were there in a ball?  Any help with this would be very much appreciated! Thank you, Kathleen 
On Monday, April 12, 2021, Colin Hume from Letchworth wrote:
Kathleen -

I've done some research and updated the page.  My conclusion is about 12 dances, which would be six sets of two dances each.