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Folk Dancing

 Quorn Folk Dance Club logo Probably every country has its own traditions of folk singing and dancing. The range is enormous and if you would like to enjoy some examples from around the world then go to one of the international folk festivals such as the one held each year in Sidmouth, Devon. Here in England our own rich heritage of song and dance is treasured and developed by the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

Maybe we have a fair notion about Irish and Scottish dancing, but what about the English variety? Morris Dancing comes to mind immediately with its flowery hats, bells, sticks and handkerchiefs waving on the village green. Well that is certainly part of it, though even Morris comes in several varieties and individual 'sides' or teams may stick to their own special dances. Sword dancing, in both its 'long' and its 'rapper' versions is also the preserve of men's sides, though women also have their own 'ritual' dances, especially with clogs and garlands. A grand place to see all this would be at the annual Whitby Folk Festival.

And then there are the 'country' dances, where men and women dance together, as would be seen at 'barn dances' the length and breadth of England. There are literally hundreds of these, many of them handed down from generation to generation, but also new ones which are the creation of the 'callers' who normally officiate at such barn dances. To be honest, the English 'tradition' has borrowed ruthlessly from other countries over the years, and in turn has exported its dances around the world. The result is an eclectic mixture that has something for everyone and which spoils most people for choice.

Not only are there these country dances, lively affairs of the village green and often danced with abandon, but there is also a more stately variety more likely to have been seen in costume dramas on the television. 'Pride and Prejudice' recently showed a very nice selection, delightfully performed. These dances often go right back to the seventeenth century when dances of the 'common people' were refined and brought into the salons of the gentlefolk. Fortunately many of them were assiduously recorded for posterity and, in general, are known as 'Playford' dances after the best known of their publishers. It is the country and Playford dance tradition on which Quorn Folk Dance Club concentrates.

So, these days, a folk dance club member might well experience over a hundred different dances in a year, of a wildly different variety. They will be old and new, fast and slow, waltzes, reels, jigs and hornpipes, and they will be danced to recorded music and (best of all) to a live band. There are many such bands around the country and they, together with a caller who 'talks and walks' us through each dance, are the mainstay of a good evening's dancing.

Most dances are performed by couples in some kind of formation, perhaps a long 'set' for 'as many as will', or four couples in a 'square', or in some kind of circle. The thing is that these dances are overwhelmingly social occasions and suitable for all age groups. Often you will move on from partner to partner through a single dance, or perhaps a set comprising a few couples will weave its own pattern as its members 'do-si-do' and 'star right and left' with each other. All the time the caller will be giving instructions about what to do next, and watching out for problems. You learn as you go along and more experienced dancers are always ready to help. The rhythms and movements soon take over so that folk are ready for a short rest after every couple of dances.

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