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English Folk Dancing - Present and Future

GUEST,Derek Schofield 06 Mar 12 - 08:07 AM
Will Fly 06 Mar 12 - 08:16 AM
GUEST,Derek Schofield 06 Mar 12 - 08:17 AM
Will Fly 06 Mar 12 - 08:23 AM
Will Fly 06 Mar 12 - 08:24 AM
Mr Red 06 Mar 12 - 08:38 AM
SteveMansfield 06 Mar 12 - 10:28 AM
Will Fly 06 Mar 12 - 11:12 AM
Peter C 06 Mar 12 - 11:31 AM
Les in Chorlton 06 Mar 12 - 11:34 AM
GUEST,Derek Schofield 06 Mar 12 - 02:02 PM
Will Fly 06 Mar 12 - 02:17 PM
GUEST,the said Baz Parkes... 06 Mar 12 - 03:32 PM
artbrooks 06 Mar 12 - 06:04 PM
Desert Dancer 06 Mar 12 - 09:17 PM
Richard Bridge 07 Mar 12 - 04:19 AM
GUEST,Baz Parkes 07 Mar 12 - 04:42 AM
GUEST,FloraG 07 Mar 12 - 04:53 AM
Les in Chorlton 07 Mar 12 - 05:32 AM
Mr Red 07 Mar 12 - 06:49 AM
Mo the caller 07 Mar 12 - 06:55 AM
GUEST,Howard Jones 07 Mar 12 - 07:44 AM
Les in Chorlton 07 Mar 12 - 08:04 AM
Desert Dancer 07 Mar 12 - 10:45 AM
Desert Dancer 07 Mar 12 - 12:01 PM
Desert Dancer 07 Mar 12 - 01:00 PM
Les in Chorlton 07 Mar 12 - 01:25 PM
Wolfhound person 07 Mar 12 - 02:01 PM
GUEST,Howard Jones 07 Mar 12 - 02:20 PM
steve_harris 07 Mar 12 - 06:59 PM
Desert Dancer 07 Mar 12 - 09:35 PM
Mr Red 08 Mar 12 - 12:02 PM
GUEST,RB 08 Mar 12 - 03:30 PM
Les in Chorlton 09 Mar 12 - 03:30 AM
Desert Dancer 09 Mar 12 - 01:41 PM
Fidjit 10 Mar 12 - 10:08 AM
Les in Chorlton 10 Mar 12 - 10:48 AM
Fidjit 10 Mar 12 - 05:28 PM
Les in Chorlton 11 Mar 12 - 05:59 AM
Howard Jones 11 Mar 12 - 07:32 AM
Les in Chorlton 11 Mar 12 - 08:12 AM
Mo the caller 11 Mar 12 - 08:12 AM
Les in Chorlton 15 Mar 12 - 06:49 AM
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Subject: Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: GUEST,Derek Schofield
Date: 06 Mar 12 - 08:07 AM

In the Winter 2011 issue of English Dance & Song magazine (and as a finale to a year of features celebrating the centenary of the English Folk Dance Society), we published an article 'Folk Dancing - Present and Future' which contained comments from a selection of callers, musicians and dancers from right across the folk dance spectrum, from Playford to Ceilidh. As editor, I asked for further comments, and most of these were published in the current issue, Spring 2012.
In order to widen the discussion, and also to get more suggestions for tackling some of the issues raised, the original article is now available as a pdf on both of these two pages given below.
I would welcome further comments, from members and non-members alike.
Thanks
Derek Schofield
Editor

www.efdss.org/eds/edsbyyear/year/2011

www.efdss.org/eds/edsbyyear/year/2012


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Subject: RE: Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Will Fly
Date: 06 Mar 12 - 08:16 AM

www.efdss.org/eds/edsbyyear/year/2011

www.efdss.org/eds/edsbyyear/year/2012


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Subject: RE: Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: GUEST,Derek Schofield
Date: 06 Mar 12 - 08:17 AM

Thanks Will.... never know how to do the blue clicky thing ....


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Subject: RE: Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Will Fly
Date: 06 Mar 12 - 08:23 AM

The blue clicky occasionally screws up - as it did in the previous post. Let's try again...

www.efdss.org/eds/edsbyyear/year/2011

www.efdss.org/eds/edsbyyear/year/2012


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Subject: RE: Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Will Fly
Date: 06 Mar 12 - 08:24 AM

It's important, apparently, that the URL in a blue clicky starts with "http://www" and not just "www"...


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Subject: RE: Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Mr Red
Date: 06 Mar 12 - 08:38 AM

I did offer Max a JavaScript workaround for just the above problem. He is busy doing a university course right now.


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Subject: RE: Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: SteveMansfield
Date: 06 Mar 12 - 10:28 AM

I've been following the debate in EDS with some interest.

One observation I'd make is the emphasis on 'tuition' and 'technique' in some of the responses.

Is it really such an awful thing that dancers don't know how to do a star 'properly', resorting instead to what one of the respondents refers to as the 'bunch of bananas' star?

Is, indeed, the whole concept of doing ceilidh dances 'properly' one that is sustainable in the wider context that the dances find themselves performed in, outside of the 'folk dance clubs'?

I'm all in favour of correct and proper technique where it matters, Morris, and English tradition-based dance music in general, being a particular personal example of that: and for English social dance I'm very much in favour of the study and preservation and observation of the dances as they transmit, change and develop. Equally I'm very much in favour of research and analysis of the music that accompanies English folk dance.

But I'm an unashamed sad old geek on this stuff. Many people aren't, but they know a good thing when they find it.

When it comes to English social dance, I'd far rather see the hordes of people of all ages enjoying ceilidhs at festivals, and at ceilidh clubs like Phoenix in Horwich or Knees Up Cecil Sharp, and carrying that attitude and that style out into the wider community at social events, weddings, PTAs etc: and if the finer points of the dancers' technique isn't always 'correct', well, quite frankly, meh.

Personally this debate has reminded me very much of the 'Morris is dying out!' hoo-ha of a couple of years ago. Then, it was the Morris Ring saying that their particular vision of the Morris was dying out, wilfully and deliberately ignoring the strength of the Morris amongst sides who don't regard women as an inferior species unfit to participate in the sacred rite; now it's the 'folk dance clubs' protesting that their particular vision of folk dance is dying out, as if the ceilidh liberation wars of the 70s and 80s had never happened ...


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Subject: RE: Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Will Fly
Date: 06 Mar 12 - 11:12 AM

I'm sure many of the sights I see, as a band musician, at weddings and parties where we perform for dancing, would amuse - perhaps even horrify - the dedicated folk dancer. In fact, the last year has seen us move away slightly from waiting for work to come in (and we do a lot of weddings and parties in a typical year) to going out and organising our own barn dances in my local village hall. We're doing our third this coming Friday and, if the previous two are anything to go by, it'll be a sell-out - by which I mean 150 people in the hall.

By and large, there's a difference between the 'hired' gigs and the ones we organise. In all but a few cases, the weddings consist of people who've mainly not done a barn dance before, but it's a wedding, they're generally up for it and they have a good laugh and plenty of fun. Our own dances are a slightly different matter. We get people from the local morris teams along, and some club dancers, as well as local people who, like the wedding guests, are just out for a good time. There's a noticeable difference in skill levels between the various types, as you can imagine.

We've debated whether to aim dances, in terms of complexity at one or other of these types and, in the end, we've decided to ignore any divisions, do what we do and people will either like it or not. We bill ourselves as a "rocking" ceilidh band and - with guitar, bass drums, fiddle, mandolin, melodeons, saxes and big PA - that's just what we are. What's most important to us is that people have a good time. So, for example, we wouldn't ourselves attempt to teach an 8thsome reel at a dance of unknown people - but if a group of dancers, sufficient in number, who knew that particular dance, requested it, we'd play for it. Horses for courses.

Of folk dance clubs, I know nothing, being just a musician and not a dancer...


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Subject: RE: Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Peter C
Date: 06 Mar 12 - 11:31 AM

My personal view for what it is worth, is that there is not one single audience for folk dancing/country dancing/ceildh dancing, and that each of the different audiences will respond to different treatment/marketing. Proper research is really needed into what people need/want - quantitative and qualitative - perhaps EFDSS could get a grant for that?
In Gloucestershire, there is some evidence that dancing in the daytime is attracting better numbers than evening events. This may of course because 'older people do not go out in the evenings' which is the mantra of AGE UK!


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Subject: RE: Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 06 Mar 12 - 11:34 AM

The kind of folk dance we are discussing is the English social dances collected towards the end of the 19C and the early years of the 20C. The general assumption seems to be, perhaps with all things 'folk', that it was part of our heritage, what ever that means, it was dying out and it must saved.

The dances and the tunes were collected by Sharp et al and eventually stored at Cecil Sharp House. The EFDS and later the EFDSS promoted the dances via demonstration teams and dance clubs. How is this strategy related to the way people danced the dances during the last couple of hundred years? I guess we don't really know. A large proportion of rural working people had left for the factories of the Industrial Revolution. They enjoyed the Music Halls and concerts by all kinds of professional musicians and the started to dance in pairs.

In the early part of this century we look back on a collection of dances and tunes and a practice where a caller explains and leads dances at events called variously Barn Dances, Ceilidhs, Hoe Downs and knees ups. How does this relate to what people did just before or just after the Industrial Revolution, the early years of the 20C or the 60s and 70s when folk song clubs brought new life to English social dances? Well, again I have to say I don't know and I am too sure it matters much.

The main thing about social dance is simply that it is social and it is about dancing. It is one of the opportunities we have to be in close physical contact with other people. Single people can meet and befriend other single people and people with partners can meet and enjoy the company of other people with out breaking too many taboos.

I would echo above about the need to teach country dancing - or more to the point its irrelevance. One walk through is usually enough to get even the most inexperienced dancers dancing. The novices often seem to enjoy the dances more than the so called experienced dances.

The spirit of dance bands of the 18 & 19C seem to be who ever had an instrument could play if they knew the tune - see my thread about Dance Bands. In that spirit I am all for big rocking bands if that's what you want. My personal preference is big accoustic bands. We have had 28 in The Beech Band, need no PA and can still hear each other at the end of the night - people not dancing can also chat with out having to shout over the PA.

I'd like to speak against villages also. Most of us live in Cities, towns, urban and suburban places. Sometimes we have community halls but we are much more likely to find schools, church halls, Irish Clubs, The British Legion, Sports Clubs and Halls, Trades and Labour Clubs and ,god forbid, conservative clubs.

The future? If all the dance bands simply organise dances - maybe for and with the involvement of local charities - then dancing will continue

L in C#


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Subject: RE: Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: GUEST,Derek Schofield
Date: 06 Mar 12 - 02:02 PM

I've read the comments so far with interest. Thanks.

The original article identifies far more problems with the folk dance clubs than with ceilidhs. But, notwithstanding the younger audiences at festivals and some ceilidh series as identified by Steve Mansfield, ageing audiences and some of the other issues in the folk dance clubs could affect ceilidhs in the future.

There are far more folk dance clubs up and down the country than ceilidh series, with many areas of the country having no close ceilidh opportunities.

Les asks interesting questions about how these dances were done pre-revival, and of course we don't have enough information about this!

As for whether a bit of basic teaching is appropriate ... some would argue that the enjoyment of the dancers would be increased if they knew how to do a rant step, a ladies chain, a swing etc .... others might say that there is no single right way of doing these things, so teaching is inappropriate.

An observation - if you look around at other folk/popular dance styles, it would be rare for people NOT to have been to a class first - even if it's just a half hour before the main dance starts. That's what I remember doing with cajun in the 1980s. In the article, Baz Parkes says that's what happens at Bath ceilidhs.

I look forward to more comments!

Derek


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Subject: RE: Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Will Fly
Date: 06 Mar 12 - 02:17 PM

if you look around at other folk/popular dance styles, it would be rare for people NOT to have been to a class first

That's an interesting point, Derek. Perhaps it's now a normal expectation that all instruction on how to a dance at a ceilidh will be given by the caller on the spot. I couldn't imagine it would be feasible, for example, for us to give a half-hour tuition to the 150 people who are coming to our gig on Friday - they'll be drifting in ones and twos and groups any time from 7pm (when the bar opens) to around 8.30pm or so. For a regular, organised sequence of dance dates - with regular attendees - I can visualise a pre-dance teaching session. For a one-off/irregular venue - where some people may never have danced before, and may never dance again - it's probably nor an option.

Oddly enough, most people seem to comprehend the do-se-do and star moves without much bother, the cast needs just the one explanation and people get longways set, etc., fairly quickly. Strip the willow is something else again...


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Subject: RE: Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: GUEST,the said Baz Parkes...
Date: 06 Mar 12 - 03:32 PM

It didn't happen at the one we did in January...sadly, didn't have time to ask why...

Baz


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Subject: RE: Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: artbrooks
Date: 06 Mar 12 - 06:04 PM

Perhaps a JoeClone could change the thread title to English Folk Dancing... . There are many other kinds, you know.


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 06 Mar 12 - 09:17 PM

For what it's worth, speaking from the U.S. experience (and my 40+ years involved in it), these things have their cycles...

= Square dancing had a revival as an "all-comers" form starting in the '20s, that had its peak toward the end of the '40s. There are a few communities/callers who have kept this going to the present, but this has been very localized.

   Square dancing evolved in the '50s to a "club" form with increasing complexity and formalization and consequent exclusivity (extensive lessons required). Live music was abandoned for the use of recordings, and the style of calling developed so that the caller's skill and creativity was more important than the music. This form peaked sometime in the '60s, and while it is now still extant throughout the country, for the most part it is suffering from an aging base and lack of recruitment of younger dancers. (There are some regional exceptions.)

   There is a current square dance revival happening in two areas:

   Within the past 10+ years there is a push by people with a strong interest in southern Appalachian-style "old-time" music to start all-comers, southern Appalachian-style square dances. These typically attract a relatively young and rowdy crowd (with some variation). There is a strong motivation from musicians to push for these events, although there are callers who have been instrumental, and quality calling is obviously requisite to make it work. New callers are arising from among the dancers (and maybe musicians), and contra dance callers who are expanding their skills. Somewhat surprisingly, urban areas on the west coast (Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles) are central in this revival.

   Within the contra dance scene, there is also in the past 5+ years a push (especially from callers) to revive the integration of square dances and contra dancing. (More about contras, below.) The style of dances in this case is more diverse, although it has come in parallel and somewhat aided by the energy of southern Appalachian square revival, since there has been some crossover in callers, dancers, and discussion forums.

= Contra dancing, which carried on in pockets of New England apparently continuously since North American settlement had a revival in the late '60s and '70s that built to a peak/plateau maybe around 2000(?). (N.B. This is the scene I know best.)

   In the '60s and '70s, it was a young and rowdy crowd, and there was a relatively small repertoire of contra dances, including dances that were little changed from 50 or 100 years prior. In some areas, international folk dances might have been included in the evening, and squares quite often were.

   Taking a lesson from the boom and bust of the club square dance scene, a hallmark of the contra dance scene is that there is always live music. Also, there has continued to be a consensus that the contra dance scene should always be accessible to newcomers, with no more than a 15 or 30 minute pre-dance lesson offered, but not required, to enjoy the evening. Almost all dances are walked through once or twice before they're begun.

   Through the '80s and '90s, the scene grew exponentially. The style of dancing evolved such that those traditional contra dances were rarely danced, and were unknown to the majority of dancers. International folk dances disappeared early on, and square dances in most areas dropped out of the repertoire. [International folk dancing as a separate dance scene has had its own boom and bust, and some argue it was also a victim of increasing dance difficulty leading to need for lots of lessons, etc.]

   Regarding square dancing at contra dance evenings: Contra dance calling is less demanding than square dance calling, and a feedback between callers being uncertain of themselves, and dancers being unfamiliar with the style -- and not wanting to have their evening's buzz interrupted by a different feel of dance (and an unpracticed caller), led to the disappearance of squares.

   The live music and "beginners always welcome" paradigms remain. The repertoire of dances is not as simple as the historical dances, though. Those who get the most enjoyment are those who have invested more than a few evenings in dancing the form. There's a large proportion of those who try it once who never return. (However, this is probably true of any endeavor.)

   Among experienced dancers there is always some push for more difficult dances and the opportunity to dance without beginners. This has caused some hand-wringing, but I think that for the most part it has been mitigated by a proliferation in the past 10-20 years of weekend and week-long dance camp opportunities, without seriously altering the core reality of "beginners always welcome".

   Within the past 10+ years, there has been a consciousness of the rising average age of contra dancers, and there have been long running dance series that have ceased operation. Hands have been wrung here, too.

   However, it looks to me that within the past 5+ years, there is a new crop of dancers and musicians, especially arising in the Northeast and seeding to the West. I think a core of these are the offspring of those who were rowdy young dancers in the '70s and '80s (offspring who fortunately were not put off by their parents' antics!), and they're bringing in their friends.

   Also, there has been a consciousness of the history of the contra dance scene. Within the past ~10 years, in New England, especially, there has been a push to bring the historical dances back into the repertoire, at least to prevent their extinction. And, in parallel with the Appalachian square dance revival, there has been a push to reintegrate square dances into the contra dance scene. In this latter case, there was also the recognition of the need to not lose the expertise of a few senior callers who had survived the boom and bust of club squares and gained much applicable wisdom in the process.

The Country Dance and Song Society has been instrumental, though certainly not alone, in facilitating the re-revival(s) in the contra dance scene. The next generation of dancers and musicians is being developed in part through its dedication to family camps, scholarships for young people, youth interns, and youth-oriented programming. CDSS has also encouraged the contra-square revival by running square dance calling courses at its camps, and supporting the work of some key individuals involved with the revival. (See Square Dance Resources on the CDSS website, and publications.)

The Appalachian square dance scene has no similar formal organization, but really is a grass-roots revival. I think that there may be more useful cross-pollination between the two square dance revivals as they develop. There's at least one online discussion forum of traditional dance callers where this happens. (In fact, there are some UK callers of English dancing on this discussion list, too.)

I've said nothing about the state of English country dancing (Playford & Playford-style) in the U.S. because I've had less personal experience there. There's a bit of the "aging core" problem there, but then there are new recruits out of the historical costume crowd. That crowd is in a healthy state in part because of the rise in home-schooling in the U.S. So, that will be an interesting dynamic to watch.

Possible lessons for UK readers: if it really doesn't deserve to die, it won't. It might not look the way you remember, but it will continue. The energy of key individuals and the support of EFDSS is essential. People who participate in more than one style and who can carry lessons between them are also important. And it's fun to see how it all evolves.

I would recommend that UK dance organizers see if there are any ideas and inspiration to be drawn from the many materials posted online from a conference last fall for dance organizers (supported in part by CDSS), especially notes on defining and realizing your "vision": Puttin' on the Dance.

I hope these examples and resources are of use.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 04:19 AM

I have been saying since the 60s and continue to say that the popularity of a form of music or dance depends largely on the sexual opportunities it gives.


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: GUEST,Baz Parkes
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 04:42 AM

Becky in Tucson...thank you for your considered and thoughtful post. It raises some interesting comparisons

Baz


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: GUEST,FloraG
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 04:53 AM

desert dancer - I enjoyed reading your detailed analysis. Thanks for the time and effort.

trends to consider in English dancing

- teenage boys will now dance with each other - as they do in the clubbing scene - so we need to make our calling less sexist. eg. If the tall person stands on the left and the shorter on the right etc.

- clubbing only gets going after 11pm so perhaps more dances could be later ( I know the problem with restricted halls). Some festivals do this. It is possible but expensive to do silent dances with headphones for all the dancers.

- we have an aging population and more people have free time after the age of 60 ( or 90 if this government gets its way). The U3A and other groups do social dancing as a keep fit and social activity rather than a dance activity, so it can give the impression that this sort of dancing is for old people. We could do with ways of counter acting this impression.
FloraG


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 05:32 AM

Up there somewher I said:

"The main thing about social dance is simply that it is social and it is about dancing. It is one of the opportunities we have to be in close physical contact with other people. Single people can meet and befriend other single people and people with partners can meet and enjoy the company of other people with out breaking too many taboos."

Richard put it much more succintly:

"I have been saying since the 60s and continue to say that the popularity of a form of music or dance depends largely on the sexual opportunities it gives".

Dancing as a social activity isn't dying out. Wherever it is social and fun it goes well. When people hi-jack social dance of any kind and try to turn it in to aerobics to music or over complicated formation dancing not only does it put most of us off but it misses the central point about dancing as a social event.

Most people at wedding and other community ceilidhs have a great time even though the may never have danced English Social Dances before. If after that they want to dress as the imagine 17C rich people may have done and dance Playford that's perfectly fine, if the want to gather together with likeminded people to dance complicated dances that is also perfectly fine.

I trust loads of people will follow the real tradition of English Social Dances and have a great old knees up with a load of other people.

Cheers

L in C#


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Mr Red
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 06:49 AM

At the risk of brickbats (keep 'em red please):

If you want Folk Dancing done properly go to "Social Folk Dances" or "English Country Dances" or "Scottish Country Dance"

My preference is for folk dancing. Ain't never seen a horse dance - well not at a ceilidh anyway.

The nearest I need to "proper" is not to bump into everyone. ie Polka free for all. I can advise beginners, help them, but the next time I get pushed when I am about to move, the perpetrator might get an earful. I might explain some physiology about short-term memory and danger signals. And man-handling and loud noises are just such that wipe your 7 second loop, leaving you clear to deal with the idiot, but not the dance. So watch out for him at Chippenham in the Squares and Contra dances. The best help is a pointed finger BTW.

beginners are the life blood of Ceilidhs/Barn Dances. They put the folk into Folk. And some of 'em realise it is all about fun.

I always speak to newcomers at Stroud Ceilidhs (Old Swan Band Apr 14th) and inevitably include my mantra "the two golden rules are 1) smile & 2) don't freeze - keep moving" oh and maybe add "listening to the caller helps" - they appreciate that, and it shows we are not elitist (I hope). It all adds-up to Folk. If petrol suddenly doubled in price (and rising) our community would comprise where we live instead of what we do. And we would get to know folk and commune accordingly. I would talk to my neighbours much more (including the one on the right that is) because we would be forced to commune locally.

AND that's another thing............


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Mo the caller
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 06:55 AM

But "over complicated formation dancing" can be a social event too.
There is a real buzz to working with a group and getting something right. Teamwork. E.g. learning an Irish Set (which date back 200 yrs to the Quadrilles), or dancing an American square without a walk-through.

Not the only way to enjoy dancing. It should be fun at whatever level.

I suppose when I'm calling I try to do a programme that will be comfortable most of the time, but give something a little bit harder somewhere (whether that is a strip the willow when they've only danced easy-easy dances, or a level up from that).

The second most important thing in dancing is the music. We have such a glorious variety to dance to.


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: GUEST,Howard Jones
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 07:44 AM

What seems to be lacking is the infrastructure to teach folk dancing.   We emphasise that it is something which anyone can do, which is true up to a point, but this results in conflict between novices and more expert dancers who want to be able to dance "properly". But where can people go to learn?

When "Strictly" made ballroom popular again no one imagined they could just turn up at the Palais and do a foxtrot- they started going to dance classes. The folk scene lacks the professional infrastructure to provide that - those involved usually just organise a monthly dance and leave it at that. They often don't have the time, resources and perhaps the skills to do anything more.

Just because it is folk dance doesn't mean it is easy. In the old days people learned the dances and the steps, they didn't just turn up and hope for the best.

I think this has been a weakness of the e-ceilidh movement in particular. Ceilidhs are for dancing and you just try to pick up as much as knowledge as you can from that. The folk dance clubs are better at it but tend to focus on a particular style of dancing, and perhaps aren't all that attractive to younger people.


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 08:04 AM

Hi Howard,

"The folk scene lacks the professional infrastructure to provide that"

Sure does. I think most of us have said that if people want to seek this level of expertise it's up to them. I cannot for the life of me see the point - but what I think in this context is irrelevant.

I have only once been at a dance - Whitby Festival about 10 years ago when a woman in one of those felt skirts and waistcoats - invented by the EFDSS in about 1935 I believe complained that we were not taking the dance seriously enough. I think one of us was at the wrong dance. And to be fair I don't know which.

I guess I feel that taking social dance to a higher level is a bit like competitive running. None of my business really but please don't rty to claim it is the 'tradition' or is any way moer imortant than any other form of social dance

"conflict between novices and more expert dancers who want to be able to dance "properly"

People having a great time at a wedding or community dance are doing it properly and that's for sure

Best wishes

L in C#


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 10:45 AM

Two other things involving young folks in the U.S. scene:

"Crossover" or "techno" contra dances: use the existing dance figures, but done to contemporary music with disco lighting. Obviously, this is something at appeals to a younger crowd more than carmudgeons like me (consequently, I've not studied it very closely). Most often this makes use of a DJ, but there is one band, Perpetual e-Motion that crosses over between regular and techno contras with their original take on traditional and contemporary contra tunes. Thus far it's a small niche within the contra scene, rather than a place that new dancers start.

The Youth Dance Weekend, supported by CDSS. Although an increasing number of dance weekends/camps have established reduced fees for young people, in general they're an older crowd with the time/funds to attend, and under-30s are a distinct minority. The Youth Dance Weekend, first held in 2008, was started specifically to provide a focus for young folks, and cleverly designed to include workshops on dance leadership. (Many dance camps/weekends include workshops for callers and musicians and sometimes organizers and so are one of the training grounds for developing talent.)

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 12:01 PM

One more thing: "gender-free" dances, which are called using a vocabulary with gender references. These have been around for 30+ years, in most areas with a specific intent of being welcoming to the LGBT crowd, but also in use for simply to take an approach that focuses more on the dance than the gender roles in it. See The Lavender Country and Folk Dancers and The Heather and Rose Country Dancers as examples of each.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 01:00 PM

Whoops - I meant --

... "gender-free" dances, which are called using a vocabulary without gender references.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 01:25 PM

I feel sure we are with you Betty!

L in gender equitable Chorlton


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Wolfhound person
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 02:01 PM

Howard wrote something like "they don't just turn up and hope for the best"

Oh yes they do. Regional variation and all that - if you attend a "dance" in Northumberland there is (usually) no caller: you are expected to learn the dance by copying the other dancers. The fans of these events are helpful but firm, and speak very disparagingly of "ceilidhs" - which in this neck of the woods are the ones with this "modern new fangled" idea of a caller. Woe betide you with some locals if you name your event by the wrong title, so they turn up expecting to dance instead of wasting time being told what to do.

And it is at the dances that the village-to-village variation in the forms of each dance still survives - just.
The ceilidhs are more at the entry level "folk" type ceilidh. With less and less local material being used, unfortunately.

Somewhere between would be good.....

Paws


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: GUEST,Howard Jones
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 02:20 PM

Wolfhound, you've misunderstood my point, which was that people don't think they can do ballroom dancing, or jive, or most other forms of dance without some tuition. With folk dance, however, that's not the case. And of course, up to a point people can just turn up and give it a go, and they'll usually have a great time. However if they then want to take it a bit further, and learn some stepping, how to polka, and how to do some of the fancy things that you see experienced dancers doing, then they're on their own - often all they can do is try to pick it up by osmosis, and hope not to look too much of a prat in the process.


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: steve_harris
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 06:59 PM

As for whether a bit of basic teaching is appropriate ... some would argue that the enjoyment of the dancers would be increased if they knew how to do a rant step, a ladies chain, a swing etc .... others might say that there is no single right way of doing these things, so teaching is inappropriate.

It would seem only kind to teach them *a* way to do these things, just to get them started like :)


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 09:35 PM

One more thing, then I'll butt out!

I should make clear that club square dancing (also known as modern western square dancing or MWSD) though not what it was for a while in the U.S., does persist. It's also popular (as you no doubt know) in the UK and in Europe. I saw a video recently of a big Swedish crowd with lots of young people having a great time at it.

It's a different world from the dances I enjoy, but a large number of people have a great time doing it. I ran into an ex of mine after a few years -- we had enjoyed folk music together -- and I was astounded to find he was into MWSD. Gradually I realized: he's a computer geek, so he's in it for the puzzles. It's a whole different perspective.

So, the other lesson: not everyone likes the same dancing and there's not much to be gained by looking down one's nose at someone else's preferences. Again, the thing is to be clear what you're trying to do, and find those folks who will have fun doing it with you.

Now I'll get out of the way.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Mr Red
Date: 08 Mar 12 - 12:02 PM

It is worth remembering that some French Dancing events do have a 7:30- to 8:30 workshop time, and Bal from then on.

French Dance Stroud do this and even have higher grade workshops in the afternoon some months.


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: GUEST,RB
Date: 08 Mar 12 - 03:30 PM

It would be useful if there were a callers handbook available to illustrate how to perform the various movements i.e ladies chain. wring the dishrag, basket and correct and varied ways to swing, etc. correctly, as a way maybe to regulise styles. One caller I work with will allways give instruction to perform a basket having the ladies place their arms OVER the gents shoulders, this of course prevents the lean out and fast spin and just ends up with a stumbling mass. movements need to be taught properly for maximum enjoyment.


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 09 Mar 12 - 03:30 AM

Look, I am not trolling but I think their is a a genuine difference between wedding and community dances where the band has a caller, the dancers often know little and have a great time and the legacy of Sharp et all - those who went out and arrested the dances, locked them up in CSH and only released them 'on paroll' via demonstration teams and the establishment of a 'gullag' of country dance clubs.

I think the first is the true tradition and the second may well have saved stuff for posterity but it didn't have to be that way - or maybe it did given who Sharp et al were and how they viewed the world of old songs and dances

Best wishes

L in C#


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 09 Mar 12 - 01:41 PM

One of my points: different strokes for different folks. And, differing visions need not be in conflict (except sometimes when they overlap at the same venue). Cumulatively, it's all good.

Like I tell the new dancers -- just keep smiling and keep moving!

~ B in T


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Fidjit
Date: 10 Mar 12 - 10:08 AM

alive and well down here in the South.

Lots of clubs around in this area South Wilts / Hants. One of the reasons why I returned to England after 42 years in Scandinavia. Mind you there was plenty of dancing there too.

Chas


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 10 Mar 12 - 10:48 AM

Thanks Chas, clearly a group of people enjoying dancing together. It doesnt look like something I could easily get into but that I guess is up to me.

Best wishes

L in C#


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Fidjit
Date: 10 Mar 12 - 05:28 PM

Les. It's called Playford.


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 11 Mar 12 - 05:59 AM

It certainly is Chas. I still have a vnyl copy of "The Complete Dancing Master" by JK AH and all those incredible musicians

I also have a very old and battered collection of "Country Dance Tunes" Set 1 to 10 by one Cecil J Sharp. Sets 3 to 10 are taken from "The English Dancing Master" 1650 - onwards arranged by CJS.

Clearly a very influential collection of documents?

Best wishes

Les


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Howard Jones
Date: 11 Mar 12 - 07:32 AM

Les, I'm certainly not going to knock wedding ceilidhs and similar where the participants "often know little and have a great time" -they're bread-and-butter for most bands. However I don't agree with the implication that ignorance is a virtue, or that knowing how to do it properly should prevent anyone from also having a great time.

There seems to be a lack of opportunity for people who go to these sorts of ceilidhs and enjoy it, and who see people there who can dance well and want to learn more. Unless they are prepared to go the whole hog and join a folk dance club, which may be a bigger commitment than they are prepared to give (and which may focus on a quite different style) there don't seem to be many opportunities to learn.


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 11 Mar 12 - 08:12 AM

I accept the logic of your argument Howard - and if people want to "dance well and learn more" and "there don't seem to be many opportunities to learn" - perfectly true.

I am making two points I guess: Who is defining "dancing well"? Is it the shear joy of dancing with other people to appropraite music or is it dancing specific and sometimes complicated steps that take quite a time to learn? I don't think the answer is one or the other, they are both versions of dancing well.

The second point is about the nature of "English Country Dancing". Great danger here of going down the road of what is folk - but here I go: On this thread, in the folk scene, at dance clubs and festivals I guess we have some collective idea of what ECD is. Maybe not, but lets start there.

Sharp published those 10 volumes of "Country Dance Tunes" and they clearly represent a considerable influence on what, in the 20C became known as ECD - is that right? The first two volumes have the line "Collected in Country Villages"

As I pointed out above, 8 of the volumes are from Playford, first published in the 17 & 18C. Did some of these Playford dances 'leek' into the country side? I guess they did but I don't know - maybe others can answer the question.

What seems reasonably clear is that Playford, the Dancing Master, was organising dances for relatively rich (urban?) people, dancing in well appointed ballrooms and not for farm workers dancing in pubs or barns. Playford Balls are a feature of the world of ECD but to get to the point - are they "Country Dances" in any meanigful sense?

So, what on earth am I wittering on about? This thread "English Folk Dancing - Present and Future" - generated by Derek Schoffield from an article in the EFDSS publication "English Dance and Song" asks the question 'Will ECD survive?'

I think it's best chance is at the wedding and community dances partly because they are most fun and that is because that is the true heritage of ECD.

God, I can bore for England.

Trust that is clear and best wishes

L in C#


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Mo the caller
Date: 11 Mar 12 - 08:12 AM

It seems difficult to provide opportunities that will be taken up.
One of the clubs (focussing on a mix of styles but mainly Playford and American) I attend sometimes tries to run a series for beginners on a different night from the club night but you need plenty of dancers, not all of them novices, to make it work.


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Subject: RE: English Folk Dancing - Present and Future
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 06:49 AM

Is this discussion over?

L in C#


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