Playford-to-the-Present Ball

Saturday, October 5, 2019: It’s our 19th Annual Southern California English Country Dance Ball with Dancing Master TBA and featuring music by TBA.

The ball is geared toward knowledgeable English Country dancers; there will be no teaching at the ball. Most dances will be briefed with a walk-through and lightly prompted. Some advanced dances will not be briefed or prompted. It is assumed that all dancers are either knowledgeable with these particular dances or are experienced enough to pick up patterns on just one walk through. Several of the dances have complex figures that will require familiarity before the day of the ball even for very experienced dancers.


The Woman’s Club of South Pasadena is located at 1424 Fremont Avenue, South Pasadena, CA 91030. The hall is convenient to the 110 freeway. There is free parking on the streets near the hall and in the school parking lot across and up Fremont Ave. northwest of the hall. The entrance to the hall is on the west side of the building.

Dance Schedule

6:00 p.m.Doors open
6:30 p.m.Dancing begins. There will be two breaks with light refreshments.


Live music, wonderful dances, sumptuous refreshments – all that for only $35 before August 1st ($45 afterwards). Pre-registration is required beginning in May. See our registration flyer or keep reading this page for more details.

The Dances

Dance instructions will be provided in the Ball booklet sent to each registrant.

For links to videos go to the Lambertville Country Dancers ECD Video List.

(S = Simple, I = Intermediate, C = Complex, FTWK = For Those Who Know—no instruction)

Learning the Dances

There are lots of opportunities to learn these dances before the Ball. Don’t forget to check with your local dance series.

The dances will be taught at the Ball Practice/Style Workshops mentioned in the Events Schedule.

Dance instructions will be provided in the Ball booklet sent to each registrant.

Links to videos of the dances can be found in the Lambertville Country Dancers ECD Video List.

Events Schedule

Ball Practice/Style Workshop 1Culver City4:00p-7:00pSundayTBA
Ball Practice/Style Workshop 2Culver City4:00p-7:00pSundayTBA
Ball ReviewCulver City7:00p-10:00pFridayTBA
The Playford BallPasadena6:30p-10:30pSaturdayTBA

Culver City: Lindberg Park Stone House, 5041 Rhoda Way (on the corner of Rhoda Way and Ocean Drive). Admission: $10

Frequently Asked Questions

What does “Playford” mean?

John Playford was the publisher of The English Dancing Master, or Plaine and easie Rules for the Dancing of Country Dances, with the Tune to Each Dance, considered the first English Country Dance (ECD) manual published.

In modern ECD, a “Playford” ball is one in which there is no basic teaching at the ball itself, and the dancers can enjoy the dancing with no teaching and very little prompting.

How is this ball different from a regular local dance?

At an ongoing dance series (sometimes referred to as a class), time is taken to explain and teach each dance figure and pattern. At the Playford-to-the Present ball, there will be no teaching; each dance will have one walk-though and be prompted for the first few repetitions. It is assumed that all dancers are either familiar with these particular dances or are experienced enough to pick up dances on just one walk through.

How do I know if I’m experienced enough to attend?

Dancers attending the ball should be familiar with standard modern ECD figures such as hey, rights and lefts, siding, poussette, cast and lead, gate, double-figure-eight, etc. and be able to do them without explanation when prompted. Some people will catch on right away; for others it will take longer. Regular and frequent attendance at dances is the best way to reach that level of confidence with the dancing.

How can I learn these dances?

One way is to attend the Ball Practice and Style Workshops that are put on shortly before the ball. One does not need to be registered for the ball to attend the practices.

Written instructions for the dances will be available in a booklet sent to all ball registrants. In addition to the special workshops and practice sessions, dancers are encouraged to use the instructions to learn the dances on their own. Videos of some of the dances may be available on YouTube. Be creative! Go through the steps by yourself in your living room or backyard. Or get a set of friends together and have an informal dance party.

Many local dances will have special practices or sessions dedicated to the Ball dances. Talk to your local dance leader to find out if that will happen in your community. To find out about dancing in your area, check out this regional list of regular local dances

What will people be wearing?

Ball attire is “Festive/Formal,” and is not period-specific. The dances span the years 1651 to present day, and the attire in the hall will likely do the same. Guests will be dressed in everything from Medieval to Regency, Victorian to Jazz Age, and many (possibly even most) will be in modern formals. The degree of elaborateness of the clothing will also vary considerably, some guests will have very ornate costumes, others will be dressed very simply. Most will be dressed elegant/formal, some will be in fanciful costumes. Wear whichever you most enjoy dancing in. Just to give you an idea, take a look at photos from our previous balls on the CCECD website.

In consideration of people dancing close to you, please do not wear strong perfume or cologne. There are large dressing rooms at the hall for those who wish to change into ball attire after arriving.

Where can I find an outfit?

Modern formal wear as well as festive attire can usually be found inexpensively in second-hand and vintage clothing stores. Discount clothing outlets such as Ross or Loemann’ are also good sources. Sometimes even major department stores can have great sales on formals.

For period attire, an ability to sew comes in handy. There are readily available Simplicity patterns for costumes of many eras, and a search on Google using keywords like “vintage” “sewing” “patterns” will bring up many resources. Second-hand and costume rental stores are another option.

One of the best ways to find an outfit is to ask your fellow dancers where they bought, borrowed, or found patterns for their ball attire.

What kind of shoes should I wear?

Be kind to your feet. Wear comfortable shoes that are easy to move around in. Low-heeled, soft-soled shoes are recommended. Make sure you’ve worn the shoes dancing before, so you don’t have aching, pinched, or blistered feet the night of the ball.

How do I find a partner at the ball?

Anyone can ask anyone to dance — male or female, veteran ball-goer or first-time attendee. If you have come without a partner, don’t be afraid to ask people to dance. If you have come with an escort, we encourage you to meet and dance with other people as well as the person you came with. That’s part of the fun of the community.

A bit of advice: dancers join the set at the bottom of the line as it forms. Therefore, if you are looking for a partner, the best place to find one is usually at the bottom of the hall, where other single dancers will be on the lookout for partners. If you stay seated, chances are that other dancers will assume you are choosing to sit out, and therefore might not ask you to dance.

What happens if I can’t find partners?

Balls are large, exciting, and somewhat chaotic events. Dancers from all over the region (and sometimes the country) will attend. Friends who only see each other once a year will be renewing acquaintances, and sometimes new dancers can feel lost in the shuffle. Dancers who find it hard to get partners are encouraged to ask any of the ball hosts, callers, or local dance leaders for help finding partners. Don’t worry that dancers are willfully ignoring you; it is simply that there is so much going on that wallflowers are not as noticeable as they are in a smaller crowd.

Will there be a dance card?

No, we do not use dance cards. We encourage dancers not to book ahead, opening up more opportunities for dancing with new friends.


Dance Master — Bruce Hamilton

Bruce Hamilton is a well-respected teacher of English and Scottish dancing with 45 years’ experience. He has launched classes, trained teachers, coached performing groups, and adjudicated festivals.

A retired research scientist, Bruce is always looking for new ways to understand and present ideas. He tries to weave many threads besides technique and choreography into his lessons. Music, sociability, and physiology are his current favorites. People often say they come away with things to think about and ways to grow. His weekend teacher’s class also draws high praise.

Bruce lives in Menlo Park, California, with his wife Jo and as many dogs and cats as her rescue operation happens to have on hand. He runs a biweekly English dance class, and is a recent past president of the Country Dance and Song Society.

Live Music — Sweetwater

Bonnie Insull (flute), Audrey Knuth (violin), and Ryan Sandburg (keyboard)

Sweetwater — Audrey Knuth, violin, Bonnie Insull, flute, and Ryan Sandburg, piano — blends the elegance of classical dialogue with the dynamism of traditional music.

A recent California transplant by way of Boston, Audrey has made a name for herself with the Free Raisins and Gaslight Tinkers. Much sought after as a contra and English musician, she has been on staff at Ashokan and Pinewoods as well as Halsway Manor in England.

When not on the dance floor, Bonnie is a leading light of the California English and contra scene, frequently playing ECD Balls in southern California as well as Mad Robin and Monte Toyon in the north. Bonnie plays with Boomerang and Toss the Possum.

A native of Northern California, Ryan has a wide variety of skills, from jazz and classical piano to harpsichord and Baroque performance practice. He has been performing with the San Diego English Country Dancers since 2009 and artfully applies his knowledge of various music styles to the interpretation of the dance tunes. 

The Committee

The Playford-to-the-Present Ball is definitely a community affair. A lot of people contribute their time and effort to help bring about the event.

Administrative Chairs:
Sparky Sotcher, Mickey Waring
Dance Booklet:
Mickey Waring, James Hutson,
    Tim Steinmeier
Annie Laskey
Name Tags:
Pat Green
James Hutson, Renée Camus
Pat Keating
Kaye Evans, Aileen Poehls,
     Melinda Dickenson
Costume Sale:
Elyse Ashton, Robert Rickun
Tim Steinmeier
Co-op Representative:
Barbara Stewart
Barbara Stewart
Aileen Poehls


For Registration Inquiries
Playford-to-the-Present 2018
c/o Annie Laskey
9116 W. 25th Street
Los Angeles, CA  90034

For General Inquiries
Sparky Sotcher

Sponsored By
California Dance Co-operative

Produced by
Culver City English Country Dance (an affiliate of the California Dance Co-Operative)


The Playford-to-the-Present Ball has a fine history of callers and musicians who have conspired to bring that special combination of sound and movement together for delightful and memorable events.

  • 2018: Dance Master – Bruce Hamilton. Music by Sweetwater (Bonnie Insull, Audrey Knuth, Ryan Sandburg).
  • 2017: Dance Master – Graham Christian. Music by Offbeats and guest (Ashley Broder, Ben Schreiber, Jeffrey Spero, plus Bonnie Insull).

  • 2016: Dance Master – Brad Foster. Music by StringFire (James MacQueen, Annie Rodier, Patti Cobb, Erik Ievins).
  • 2015: Dance Master – James Hutson. Music by Flutatious (Miranda Arana, Bonnie Insull, Christa Burch, Jeff Spero).
  • 2014: Dance Mistress – Kalia Kliban. Music by Persons of Quality (Jon Berger, Rebecca King, Jim Oakden).
  • 2013: Dance Leader – Chris Page. Music by Bonfire (Bonnie Insull, Frank Hoppe, Richard Scher).
  • 2012: Dance Master – Ric Goldman. Music by The Syncopaths (Jeff Spero, Ryan McKassen, Ashley Broder, Christa Burch).
  • 2011: Dance Leader – James Hutson. Music by The Funky Fandango String Quartet (Jon Berger, Erik Ievins, Shira Kammen, Michelle Levy).
  • 2010: Dance Leaders – Kris Davey, Chris Page, Tom Wilson. Hostess – Judee Pronovost. Music by The English Roses (Mary Ann Sereth, Walter Sereth, Robert Winoker).
  • 2009: Dance Mistress – Annie Laskey. Music by The English Roses (Mary Ann Sereth, Walter Sereth, Guinevere Sanger, Mike Earls).
  • 2008: Dance Leader – Mary Devlin. Music by Cuckoo’s Nest (Frank Hoppe, Kurt McInnis, Ken Shaw, Jeff Spero).
  • 2007: Dance Masters – James Hutson, Judee Pronovost, Ben Rotenberg. Music by Bonfire (Bonnie Insull, Richard Scher, Jon Berger).
  • 2006: Dance Master – Giovanni De Amici. Music by Interfolk Goes Baroque (Kriss Larson, Bonnie Insull, Mary Ann Sereth, Carter Dewberry).
  • The 2000 to 2005 dances were also run by Giovanni and we hope to unearth those programs from the mists of time.