Folk Dance Club

Peggy's Dancing Notes

Dancing 350 years ago: a quote from Histriomastix:

Dancing is for the most part attended with many amorous smiles, wanton compliments, unchaste kisses, scurrilous songs and sonnets, effeminate music, lust-provoking attire & ridiculous love-pranks; all of which savour of sensuality & of raging fleshly lusts. Therefore it is wholly to be abandoned of all good Christians. Dancing serves no useful purpose, no profitable, laudable, or pious end at all: it issues only from the inbred pravity, vanity, wantoness, incontinency, pride profaneness, or madness of men's depraved natures. Therefore it must needs be considered unlawful to Christians. The way to heaven is too steep, too narrow for men to dance in and keep revel-rout. No way is large or smooth enough for capering roisters, for jumping, skipping, dancing dames, but that broad, beaten, pleasant road that leads to hell.

So wrote William Prynne in 1633. He thought the same of acting too. However, the authorities took a very dim view. He was sentenced to be pilloried, fined £5000, had his ears cut off & locked up for life. Later, after yet more pamphletts were distributed, he was branded on the cheeks with SL - Seditious Libeler. Such was the wrath of the Anglican Church at the time.

Clearly, even then, dancing was enjoyed by everyone from all walks of life - excepting the very odd puritanical.

Evening Echo, Opinion, Monday 14th August 1989

No dancing in the streets of Bournemouth

There could have been dancing in the streets of Bournemouth this week - but plans for the town's fifth annual folk festival collapsed in a flap over a marquee.

Council "intransigence" has been blamed for thie demise. That puts the matter too simply.

Festival organisers had asked to be allowed to erect the marquee near the pier to house a craft fair. They wanted to hold the event one week later than the corresponding period last year to avoid a clash with a similar festival westward along the coast at Sidmouth The date is important because exponents of folklore and dance, craft and traditional skill, clever as they are, cannot be in rwo places at once.

Certainly the refusal to allow the marquee to be erected stems from one council department, and even one council official, who has now left the authority. It was a peculiar refusal anyway, based on the fact that this was one of Bournemouth's peak weeks. So was last week, when the marquee would have been permitted, presumably, because an exact precedent could have been cited.

But the tourism department, for instance, was aware of the 1989 needs of the organisers LAST YEAR. And the beach and cliffs committee was told in MARCH that the festival had been cancelled because it clashed with the Sidmouth festival - Except that it didn't. Except that the whole point was to ENSURE that it didn't!

Anyway, enough said on that score. On the eve of the week when the festival should have been running, the organisers started talking about council intransigence , attacking tourism director Ken Male for not intervening on their behal, and stating that so much bad will had been created with dance teams that Bournemouth may never again be able to stage a folk festival.

Our question is: what has everybody been doing since March to try to re-establish what is undoubtedly a tourist attraction?

As any Morris dancer will tell you: there is a time for dancing rings around each other, and a time for knocking sticks.

Needless to say, that was the last of folk festivals in Bournemouth.

Dancing in USA - an advert for a dance:

Dancing is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face, and a greatness to your life. It will make weak men strong and average ladies beautiful. It will aid digestion and improve your financial position immeasurably. It will invigorate your entire system, improve your posture, & make your children behave. It is safe, non-toxic, & has hardly any effect on the current political situation. We hope you enjoy dancing & come often.

For a dance: Old Farmers Ball, Swannanoa, North Carolina

My Introduction to Folk Dancing

I went in very slowly, feeling shy and oh so small,

The room was full of strangers, and they all seemed 10ft tall.

So I sat down rather coyly, on a chair beside the door,

But they said, "You'll have to dance you know - that's what you've come here for."

So I said I didn't know it, but they said they'd pull me through,

And then the music started - and my troubles started too.

They pushed me and they pulled me, and they whispered "Right hand star",

Then they said "Change with your partner"; then hissed "Stay where you are!"

I listened to the music, but I couldn't get the beat,

(My mother should have told me I was born with two left feet).

And they spoke a foreign language, which I found awful strange,

Things like Allemande & Siding & Hey & Swing & Change.

And then the big white chieftain (whose name I just forget),

Seemed to think I was drunk - shouted, "Reel across the set!"

Well, I've always been teetotal, so I didn't like it quite -

Still - the other ladies did it so it must have been alright.

But when the man beside me - in the middle of the dance -

Said, "You ought to be improper" - Well I froze him with a glance.

There wasn't time to answer, though I could have said a lot,

For I may not know the dances, but I hope I know what's what!

Then they said, "Don't look so worried dear, cheer up, relax, let go!"

So I danced with gay abandon - right on my partner's toe!

They prodded me and swung me, and hauled me back in line,

They smiled on me quite kindly, and said, "You're doing fine."

Well, I'd laddered both my nylons, and my right leg had gone lame,

Still I gave a ghastly smile and said, "I'm awfully glad I came".

They said, " This keeps you fit you know". I said, " I'm sure it does".

(I knew my back was broken, but I couldn't make a fuss.)

For when peoples' hearts are kindly, well you leave some things unsaid.

I just stuck my arms back on again & staggered home to bed.

And the doctor's optimistic - says I'll soon be as right as rain,

So when I get out of hospital - I'll be Folk Dancing again!!

The Fiddler of Dooney

When I play on my fiddle in Dooney,

Folk dance like a wave on the sea;

My cousin is priest in Kilvarnet,

My Brother in Mocharabuiee.

I passed my brother & cousin:

They read in their books of prayer;

I read in my books of songs

I bought at the Sligo fair.

When we come at the end of time

To Peter sitting in state,

He will smile on three old spirits,

But call me first through the gate;

For the good are always the merry,

Save by an evil chance,

And the merry love a fiddle,

And the merry love to dance;

And when the folk there spy me,

They will come up to me,

With "Here is the Fiddler of Dooney!"

And dance like a wave of the sea.

W B Yeats (1871-1957)

Recited at the funeral of Ted Sannella, a much loved caller & musician of Maine. USA

The Two Sex Country Dancer

I'm a two sex country dancer

And may seem rather dim

But I never spend an evening

As a full time her or him.

I change my sex from dance to dance

My corners always alter,

Its really not surprising

That I occasionally falter.

The old and simple dances

I can manage very nicely

And I can learn a new dance

And do it most precisely.

But when it comes to next week

I don't know if I can,

For I learnt it as woman

And now dance it as a man.

And so you men have all the luck

To always stay the same.

When female 'gentlemen' go wrong

Be sparing with your blame.

I'll add a postscript to this tale,

One comfort I have got:

When both the women change their sex

It doesn't show a lot.

(Written before things started to become gender free.)