What is DanceMinder for? Part I

At the core DanceMinder is a collection of dances.  That may not sound like much and it would be understandable if you were thinking that if you wanted a collection of dances, you could buy a book.  DanceMinder is actually much more than just a collection of dances.

DanceMinder was started because I (Michael) wanted a more dynamic way to display the dances and I wanted to be able to easily carry around all the dances I like without that being a small stack of reference cards like this:

or a large stack of books like well, imagine a large stack of books.

Over the course of several years we had built up a stack of laminated reference cards with just enough information that we could call or participate in a dance we didn’t know cold.  Unfortunately as the stack grew it took more time to flip through it, looking for a specific dance.  Alphabetizing helped but the sets seem to center around the letters ‘c’ and ‘s’ and on the dance floor it takes a while to page through them.  Especially when Michael doesn’t put them back in order after an event. 🙂

We only ever had one copy of the cards so on the occasions where we weren’t in the same set or one of us was calling and the other dancing, one person was just out of luck unless we had the time beforehand to print out another copy.

It’s also not that unusual to reach into your pocket and take out your notes only to have them scatter across the floor after they slip out of your hand.

I wanted to be able to share these notes more easily with friends and students, so I started coding up the database and presentation and DanceMinder was born.

By now you’ve probably seen the main page


and it’s largely self-explanatory so I’ll start with the dance listing that you can get to through the main menu bar.

Dance Listing

By default, DanceMinder will display a listing of all the dances in the database regardless of type or origin.  The filter boxes at the top of the listing allow you to control what kind of dances are displayed and how the final list is sorted.

For example, you can change the Dance Style to “Set” and you will see the following:

Click on any of the images to see a full-size version.

The other filters available are:

Dance Style

  • Ceili
  • Step
  • Set
  • Sean Nos
  • Two-hand
  • Contra

Tune Style

  • Reel
  • Jig
  • Hornpipe
  • Polka
  • Slide
  • Treble Jig
  • Waltz
  • Mazurka
  • March
  • Fling


  • Irish
  • English
  • Scottish
  • Welsh
  • American

These filters are likely to change as new dance styles, tune styles and categories are added to DanceMinder.

You can also filter based on a text string you enter, similar to searching found across the web.

You can enter any text you like (such as “clare” shown below) and DanceMinder will provide a list of dances with the word in the title or description.

The next thing to do is choose a dance to view.  We’ll start with the Antrim Square in full view by clicking on the name in the listing.

Dance Full View

At the top of the listing you’ll see the name of the dance and social networking buttons on the right.

The first DanceMinder feature is a ratings box on the left.

This dance was rated Easy and Fun by the users at the time the image was captured.  If you’re a logged-in member of DanceMinder you would have the ability to add your own ratings and the rating box would look like:

The next section is:

Danceminder dance dropdown

and includes options to display the crib notes view of the dance, control how each figure is displayed (collapsed or fully displayed) email a link of the dance to anyone you like or download a pdf form of the dance.

Note that emailing a link and downloading a pdf are options that are only available to members of DanceMinder.

The edit button provides a number of options available to members who also have rights to edit a dance.

Why don’t all members have these rights?  For two reasons.

  1. Because the vast majority of members are likely to be passive users of the site who merely want to use DanceMinder as a reference and way to collaborate with other dancers (more on that later).
  2. There is currently limited capability for maintaining a change history on dances.  We’re working on adding this capability in much the same way that Wikipedia does but it’s not yet ready.  Once that capability is available, editing of dances will be opened up to more members.

I’ll go into detail on the editing options in a future post.

The next part of the dance display is the dance information, description and links area.

All of this is self-explanatory and the main thing to mention about this area is that the Description and Links headers may be clicked on to collapse them.  You’ll likely find this most useful when viewing the site on a phone or tablet.

A section that’s not present with every dance is a “Videos” section.  It will only show up if an editor has added embedded YouTube videos to the dance.

When they are available you’ll see the following expandable link

which when clicked on, will show all the embedded videos.

You can either play the videos at the size presented or open them in a new window on YouTube.

The rest of the page shows the individual parts of the dance

Each section of a dance (typically a figure) is displayed with the name, tune type and total number of bars of music needed.  Movements within a figure are numbered (in the case of Irish, Contra uses a slightly different nomenclature) with the movement text and bars of music to the right.

Repeated movements are shown shaded to make it easier to find them when dancing, calling or just learning the dance.

Like the dance information section, the figure heading can be clicked on to collapse the figure.  Again particularly useful when on a phone or tablet though it’s also useful on a full-size screen when you don’t want to be distracted by figures you aren’t studying.

Figures are repeated with their movements until the end of the dance.

The next feature to mention is the crib note view.

Dance Crib View

By default the view is fully collapsed.  Why? Because the crib view is designed to be viewed on small devices, possibly while on the dance floor.  Because of this design goal, the initial view shows a minimal amount of information and allows the user to expand the areas they’re interested in.

The crib view also omits the social networking buttons and the rating box.  This view is all about using as little space as possible.

By clicking on a figure you’ll see

Each figure is presented in a shortened form where the text is a short version of the movement. Where there’s more explanatory text, the movement name will be underlined and can also be expanded.

Note the way that the first three movements have been expanded to display more information.

You can also control how many columns are used to display the figures in crib view.  You’ll see a Columns button that has options for 1-4 column display.

Click on any of the images below to be taken to a live version of the example.

You may now select how many columns to be displayed, from 1-4.

DanceMinder will also save your selection and use it as the default for all future Crib views until you change your selection.

Print styles for both the full and crib forms of the dance are also available for those times when you can’t do without a hard copy version.

Now.  Go play with DanceMinder.

3 thoughts on “What is DanceMinder for? Part I”

  1. Your website is AWESOME, my students will love this for set dancing. Well done!

    1. Thank you Liz. If you have and comments or requests please let us know. Especially if there’s a dance you’d like added.

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