CapitalECD’s First Virtual Dance

Virtual Dances With Small Group Chats:
Keeping A Local English Country Dance Community Together During CoVid-19

by Nancy Yule            

October 19, 2020


When cancelling our monthly dances due to the risk of CoVid, Capital English Country Dancers (CapitalECD) considered how to maintain the social connection in our community of dancers without physically gathering to dance. Virtual English country dances (ECD) dances were popping up throughout the US. To keep our community of dancers together, we wanted a value added approach that would satisfy both social and dancing needs. By inviting CECD members and frequent dancers to a virtual dance that was sprinkled with small group chats, our local dancers could stay in touch with fellow dancers as well as dance. To test this concept we planned a virtual dance with small group chats for October 4, our regular monthly dance date.  Hopeful to attract even skeptical dancers who doubted a virtual dance would be enjoyable, our Board personally reached out to dancers they knew. We first invited members and frequent dancers and then expanded our invitations to our local ECD Google Group.


Dancer Reactions to Virtual Dancing With Small Group Chats Were Favorable


Our virtual event was successful and we plan to continue to hold more dances with small group. Twenty five dancers participated. At the end of the dance we asked, “Would you like us to hold more Zoom dances like this at our regular time?”  Dancer responses are below:


I enjoyed, though I had been a skeptic! I’m interested in continuing.

Yes, we would love to continue with these dances!

I’d like to do … [so] also.…continue

I would be interested in continuing this monthly. It was lovely seeing everyone again! ….Hope to see you all again soon

I really enjoyed the breakouts.  More time please.

Seems like a good way to do some dancing and integrate a little chat, too.


What Was the Afternoon of Dance and Conversation Like?


Janet was Zoom host and appointed 2 co-hosts: caller Carmen Giunta and backup host Fred. Janet’s connection went down and was recovered while Fred was interim host.


1:40  Open the Zoom room for caller Carmen and make him co-host. Sound check.

1:45  Begin letting folks into the main room from the waiting room.  Make Fred a cohost.

2:00  Introductory remarks by host Janet:  purpose of gathering, chat rooms, chat messages, mute/unmute guidelines.

Introduce the caller Carmen, (Syracuse NY)


Sequence of dances and small group chats

3 dances

5 minute conversation break in random small group chat rooms

3 dances

5 minute conversation break in random small group chat rooms

2 dances to end at 3:25 or so

concluding remarks by Hostess Janet (thank you etc) and Program Chair, Nancy (future plans for CECD)


3:30   Zoom room remains open for anyone who wants to stay and chat



Lining up the Caller and Program


Our Board attended several virtual dances to consider what would make an enjoyable virtual dance for our group, hoping to attract those who had not yet participated in a virtual dance. We have a wide range of abilities from beginner to experienced, so we wanted to have a dance within the ability of beginners while engaging more experienced dancers. We recruited a caller Carmen Giunta, who calls bimonthly virtual EDCs for nearby Syracuse Country Dancers. He had worked out the technology of virtual dances, had an effective teaching style, adapted ECD dances to solo or couple dancing that fit a small dance space and chose pleasing dances suitable for our mixed level of abilities. We encouraged him to do 2 walk throughs, call throughout each dance and expect questions from the dancers.


Dance Program


Bar a Bar

Turning by Threes

Black Nag

Chat Break


Neptune’s Triumph

Candles in the Dark

Chat Break

Softly Good Tummas

Well Hall


Overcoming technical barriers


The technical barriers are significant; they take time and expertise to overcome. Practice and test runs are needed to ensure an enjoyable dance. Host Janet was experienced at holding Zoom meetings with chat rooms. The caller had months of experience working out the technical issues of calling a virtual dance with recorded music.


Sticking with a Familiar Schedule and Audience


In order to sustain the spirit of our welcoming local ECD community, we plan to continue holding Virtual Dances With Small Group Chats on CapitalECD’s regular schedule of First Sunday Afternoons. Our program is designed for beginners and experienced dancers who join us for an afternoon of dance and conversation with dancing friends.


For dates that we organize our own afternoon of Virtual Dance with Small Group Chats, we will tweak our October 4 plan. At other times, we will plan a “Zoompool”. For instance, when in-person dances were held, local dancers sometimes carpool to a nearby site to enjoy ECD. Now that we are at home, we might “Zoompool” to a dance by having a local chat/ gathering via Zoom either before or after the nationally-available dance. This would encourage attendance at first Sunday ECDs and also allow our local dancers to stay in touch socially.


Virtual Music and Dance Events Thrive in the US


There are a multitude of virtual dances nationally. CDSS posts an online calendar of many virtual music and dance events that can be easily sorted by category. The link to the calendar is


Virtual Dances With Small Group Chats May Help Maintain Dancing Communities


Adding small group chat rooms to virtual dances is an opportunity for dancing friends to stay in touch while sharing their love of ECD and music. It’s worth trying!


Nancy Yule is Program Chair, Founder and Past President of Capital English Country Dancers.


Click here for tips on hosting from Janet Nardolillo, the host of this event.