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University of Iowa News Release


June 12, 2009

Old Capitol presents English country dancing event on June 20

The University of Iowa's Old Capitol Museum will present an evening of English country dancing at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 20, in the building's Senate Chamber.

Members of the English Country Dancers of Iowa City, an organization that has been dancing since the 1980s, will teach visitors the steps to several English country dances over the course of the evening. Then, in a style similar to a square dance, the group's "callers" will remind visitors of the steps as they move.

The steps themselves are playful and elegant patterns or figures performed on the dance floor with partners, said Barbara Zilles, a University of Iowa staff member who organizes the group and acts as one of its three callers. 

"You dance with a lot of different people during the course of each dance. It's fun, easy to learn," she said.

English country dancing began during the Renaissance and was common during the late 1700s, Zilles said. Each series of dance steps is set to a popular song from the time, like Greensleeves.

Katherine Moermond, Old Capitol Museum education and outreach coordinator, noted that English country dancing was fashionable during the time of author Jane Austen, one of the authors featured in the exhibition "'Fresh Threads of Connection': Mother Nature and British Women Writers," which is on display in the museum's Hanson Family Humanities through Sunday, July 26.

Austen included English country dance scenes in many of her novels, Moermond said, and those who have seen the movies based on the author's work might be familiar with the often elaborate protocol involved in the dances.

"It's very proper," Moermond said. "There's an etiquette to it that makes it very interesting to watch."

But on June 20, Zilles expects a more flexible crowd. Though some members of her group may wear period costumes, there is no dress requirement for the evening. "Whoever can walk, can dance, and the group ensures that everyone who wants to dance has a partner," she said. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information on this and other Old Capitol Museum programs, visit or call 319-335-0548.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

CONTACTS: Katherine Moermond, Pentacrest Museums, 319-335-0548,; George McCrory, 319-384-0012,; Writer: Maggie Anderson