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Author Topic: Couple dancing in England  (Read 2136 times)

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Hugh Taylor

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Couple dancing in England
« on: May 17, 2019, 02:47:50 PM »

Just had a peak at Dave Shepherd's Facebook page and he's said the following to a video of some dancing in Ireland -

This is of great interest to anybody who is into European couple dancing. Dances like this existed in England as well (but effectively stamped out by the EFDSS concentrating on 17th century dances from the Playford Dancing Master, and the sudden popularity of both American Square dancing and Scottish country dancing in the 1950s). We have a lot more in common with both our Irish and European neighbours than most English folk dancers are prepared to admit!

Does anyone know of any evidence to support that theory?
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Tone Dumb Greg

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Re: Couple dancing in England
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2019, 03:24:17 PM »

Just had a peak at Dave Shepherd's Facebook page and he's said the following to a video of some dancing in Ireland -

Is it possible to have a link to the video, please?
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Roger Hare

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Re: Couple dancing in England
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2019, 03:26:27 PM »

...Does anyone know of any evidence to support that theory?

I don't know whether it's 'evidence', and I don't know whether it 'supports' the theory, but I'm
currently looking at a late 18th-century collection of tunes for the fife (and German flute and
fiddle). There are ~115 tunes in this book, and a lot of them seem to be French in origin.(*) I have
tracked down what I think is the French original for some of these tunes (I will check more carefully
when I get a chance), but the French 'original' certainly has both tunes and dance instructions.

Saturday Morning Edit: Here's what I meant. The two attachments have a tune (Gigue Anglaise)
which is the same, apart from the key. The first is from Stewart's Select Collection of Airs...
(https://archive.org/details/selectcollection00rugg/page/44), the second from Landrins Pot-pourri
François des contre-danse ancienne
(https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b90832820/f55.item.zoom)

The dance instructions in the second indicate that the dances are for sets of four couples, so it's
not quite what the OP had in mind  :(, but it seems to indicate that there was some 'leakage' across
the Channel...

« Last Edit: May 18, 2019, 10:22:01 AM by Roger Hare »
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Anahata

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Re: Couple dancing in England
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2019, 03:37:27 PM »

A quick bit pf Googling more or less supports what I thought, which was that waltzes, polkas and schottisches became widespread in Europe and America in the 19th century. It seems they caught on in England a little later than elsewhere, but we certainly had them.

So they existed here, but perhaps never completely displaced the set dances that have always been part of our country dancing tradition.
We had ballroom dancing too - that's all couples, isn't it? (and includes waltzes, anyway, and possibly polkas?) - that's the sort of dancing I thought of as belonging to my parents' generation.
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Thrupenny Bit

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Re: Couple dancing in England
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2019, 04:02:22 PM »

The American Square Dance throws a long shadow.
The other day I saw a local advert for 'a ceili' mentions a couple of bands and " Western dress optional..."
Years ago when I was helping out with a band, checked shirts and cowboy influenced attire was common.
A barn dance seems to still conjure up the Americanisms. Perhaps people have disconnected with the countryside so much as to not realise we have barns in this country, and a barn dance often heralded the end of harvest.....  ::)
Hey ho....
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Dick Rees

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Re: Couple dancing in England
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2019, 04:18:06 PM »

A quick bit pf Googling more or less supports what I thought, which was that waltzes, polkas and schottisches became widespread in Europe and America in the 19th century. It seems they caught on in England a little later than elsewhere, but we certainly had them.

So they existed here, but perhaps never completely displaced the set dances that have always been part of our country dancing tradition.
We had ballroom dancing too - that's all couples, isn't it? (and includes waltzes, anyway, and possibly polkas?) - that's the sort of dancing I thought of as belonging to my parents' generation.

Waltz, polka and schottische...the rock 'n roll of the 1880's.  Does this coincide with the rise of the accordion and the advent of "factory made" instruments?
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Hugh Taylor

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Re: Couple dancing in England
« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2019, 04:21:03 PM »

Is it possible to have a link to the video, please?

Here it is - https://www.facebook.com/ciarank1/videos/10155132956619125/?t=72
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Re: Couple dancing in England
« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2019, 05:29:23 PM »

Thanks. Interesting seeing the varsovienne in a different context, but still called shoe the donkey.
I don't have much knowledge of the Irish traditions but it does seem to share some features with Cornish Tea Dances, while being in the Irish traditional style (straight back etc).
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Re: Couple dancing in England
« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2019, 05:32:31 PM »

Lovely footwork.
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Henry Piper

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Re: Couple dancing in England
« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2019, 11:47:57 AM »

The American Square Dance throws a long shadow.
The other day I saw a local advert for 'a ceili' mentions a couple of bands and " Western dress optional..."
Years ago when I was helping out with a band, checked shirts and cowboy influenced attire was common.
A barn dance seems to still conjure up the Americanisms. Perhaps people have disconnected with the countryside so much as to not realise we have barns in this country, and a barn dance often heralded the end of harvest.....  ::)
Hey ho....
Q


I have to Agree with this, I play fairly regularly in a Country/Barn dance band playing (Predominantly) English tunes for(predominantly) English Dances ! often held in barns !!, regularly a third to half the audience turn up in Cowboy outfits packing Toy Guns ( at least I hope there toys ) the whole evening is often punctuated by Cries of "Yeehah "" and they get really excited by the possibility of a "Do Si Do".

Our callers often patiently explain that what they are doing is English or at least British, but for some reason most Ceilidh/Barn Dance guests still automatically equate Barn Dance with American, and I remember one occasion we were soundly berated by a dissapointed Punter that we had no Fiddle or Banjo,he couldnt beleive you could have a Barn dance without either of these !!. our normal Line up at the time was Melodeon, Anglo Concertina, Guitar and Bass. At the end of the day I suppose it doesnt matter what the Customers Think they are doing as long as they enjoy it,( and they mostly seem to ) but some times I find it frustrating that these people seem to have so little knowledge of our home grown social customs.
« Last Edit: May 19, 2019, 11:50:13 AM by Henry Piper »
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Mike Hirst

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Re: Couple dancing in England
« Reply #10 on: May 19, 2019, 03:24:20 PM »

In Northumberland and Durham we get a 50/50 split on cowboy hats or kilts for the gents, with a good 75-80% of the ladies wearing tight skirts and stilettos. We have recently been asked to quote for a medieval ceilidh. I'm hoping it'll be more game of thrones than sackcloth and ashes.
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Andrew Wigglesworth

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Re: Couple dancing in England
« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2019, 09:18:23 PM »

"but effectively stamped out by the EFDSS concentrating on 17th century dances from the Playford Dancing Master"

Hmmm, try consulting the Community Dance Manuals and upholding the claim that EFDSS concentrated on 17th century Playford, and the idea that EFDSS was capable of "stamping out" anything is pretty fanciful I think.

Roger Hare

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Re: Couple dancing in England
« Reply #12 on: May 20, 2019, 06:00:37 AM »

...Perhaps people have disconnected with the countryside so much as to not realise we have barns in this
country, and a barn dance often heralded the end of harvest...
...but for some reason most Ceilidh/Barn Dance guests still automatically equate Barn Dance with American...
I hear what you both are saying, but I'm really surprised. It simply wouldn't occur to me that 'barn dance'
meant anything but, well, 'barn dance'. I think that this would also be true for most of the folks I know. Is
this 'transatlantic' association really common then?
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Re: Couple dancing in England
« Reply #13 on: May 20, 2019, 08:33:10 AM »

I don't see why it would be false. But the main thing is that you have to differentiate between the original context for couple dances (mainly the upper-class salons) and the shortly-lived dancing occurring in traditional societies. For the former, you'll have evidences of it throughout all Europe, the upper-class habits being quite permeable. For the latter, there was not enough time for these dances to be adapted by the popular milieu. You have some exemples of mazurka being adapted by traditional society here and there, but, roughly speaking, you have very few variations over space for those dances, they were mainly transposed "as is" in lower-class dancing.
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ChrisP

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Re: Couple dancing in England
« Reply #14 on: May 21, 2019, 01:06:37 PM »

The idea that they disappeared is a bit odd. Does nobody watch Strictly? Have you all forgotten Victor Silvester? My father started his dance band days in the 1920s, and his father before WW1. The Beresford Band. Scan Tester's Imperial Jazz Band. It was all working class couple dance. Waltz, schottishes, polkas, barn dance, tango, foxtrot

Jake Middleton (brinwins)

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Re: Couple dancing in England
« Reply #15 on: May 30, 2019, 06:35:07 PM »

Hi, Chloe here Jake’s wife.

Yay! People are taking an interest in English couple dancing! I did a workshop on couple dances collected in England including Varsovienne, Schottisches, The Highland Fling, and Double Schottisches as part of the ‘Forgotten social dances’ workshops at Chippenham this year with John Kirkpatrick. We’re all set for a re-run at Sidmouth 2020. I’m currently uploading videos onto my Youtube channel: Chloe Middleton-Metcalfe. This includes other dances as well as couple dances, but the focus in on collected material.

I’ve written short essay which addresses the lack of couple dances in the current folk dance revival in England. It can be found in the new VWML’s annotated bibliography on social folk dance. Find it here: vwml.org/socialdancebibliography

Briefly, couple dances were not so popular amongst English folk dancers for a number of reasons, from not being considered to be English enough to the competition the EFDSS had in the 1940s  from the Old Time movement, which more or less specialised in couple dances.

I’m all up for a English bal-folk movement. Bring it on. Let’s have more couple dances, especially in sessions. Jo and Simon Harner run great sessions in Hampshire at the Samuel’s Rest, they have revived Alice Gillington’s dances collected from the New Forrest gypsies, this includes some fantastic couple dances. At Chippenham Somerstep were also doing some of these dances – with audience participation.

Exciting times.

Dick Rees

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Re: Couple dancing in England
« Reply #16 on: May 30, 2019, 07:06:41 PM »

Chloe...

Thanks for the videos on your YT channel.

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ChrisP

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Re: Couple dancing in England
« Reply #17 on: May 30, 2019, 07:25:31 PM »

Could it be that couple dances are not as much fun, and not as likely to engender community spirit as group dances, which being "common enterprise", like hunting in packs and playing rugby, require cooperation and humour (but unlike hunting and sport don't usually end in bloodshed, though we could all tell a tale or two)?

Theo

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Re: Couple dancing in England
« Reply #18 on: May 30, 2019, 07:51:01 PM »

Maybe, but the right couple dances can result in a pursuit of an altogether more fascinating kind!
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Re: Couple dancing in England
« Reply #19 on: May 30, 2019, 08:36:07 PM »

Theo, really! I'd expect a bit more decorum from you.
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