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
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
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