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A country dance is a social dance form in which two or more couples dance together in a set. In the course of the dance each dancer dances to his or her partner and each couple dances to the other couples in the set. The longways set in which the men form a line facing the women, who form a second line is the most common formation. However, the English term country dance, first coined in print by John Playford of London in 1651, has always applied not only to dances in the longways formation, but to square dances, "round about the room" sets (not to be confused with "couple" dances) and even triangular sets- for three couples.
Country dancing is generally recognized to be a form of folk dance, that is a traditional dance of the people, it should be clearly understood that it is a dance for participation rather than demonstration. Its participatory nature sets country dancing apart from folk dance forms such as Clogging- which is primarily demonstration dancing. The social concourse implicit in the communal nature of country dancing also distinguishes it from the ballroom dances, couple dances in which dancers dance intimately with their partners but independently of the other couples on the dance floor.
North American Contradance is derived from the English form country dance, though in American usage the term appears to be narrowly applied to the longways set. The Appalachian music associated with American contra-dance is to this day recognisably Anglo-Celtic in form.
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