I spent two recent weekends at two quite different folk dance festivals, neither of which I had been to before.
The first was Dance Around the World at Cecil Sharp House in London, and was quite varied. It ran all day Saturday and Sunday, with three streams of workshops plus one of performances during the day, and dances in the evening. It attracted mostly an older crowd, though a bunch of young people too, varying a lot from workshop to workshop. Some had 8 people, some 50. A few friends (including Jenny) also attended some or all of it. Highlights of the workshops for me were Irish Set, English Clog, Latvian and Greek, though the others were interesting too. (I also did the Polish, Lithuanian, Bulgarian, Bolivian, Tango, French, Caribbean Quadrille, Nineteenth Century Quadrille and Jamaican Quadrille workshops.)
Saturday evening there was a French (Balfolk) dance night which was excellent. Two great bands, lots of cool people, lots of great dances. Sunday evening there was an ‘Anglo-International Barn Dance’ which turned out not to be very interesting, and a swing dance night hosted by Swing Patrol which was alright, though there were not that many people. It was nice to have plenty of space and a nice floor though, and I did get some good dances.
The following weekend was Skint, which was excellent. It runs annually in a parish hall in Ashover, a bit south of Sheffield, and is limited to around 100 people. Tickets sell out in minutes. The name apparently refers both to ‘Scandinavian and International dance’ and the fact that it is really cheap (£45 for the whole thing Friday–Monday including meals and accommodation? Woah!) Dances are primarily Balfolk (French, which I really enjoy) and Scandinavian (which are also interesting, though not so much my thing), though with a mix of other styles as well. Workshops were all taught by volunteers; there were three at once during the day, usually one dance, one music, and the third either another dance or something different. We all took turns to cook and clean and ate all meals together. Each evening the main organised dance ran until around midnight, then there was midnight cheese (an excellent idea!) then more dancing in a smaller room with any musicians who wanted to join in playing whatever they felt like. Probably half the people there played at least one instrument, so there were never any shortage, and often the musicians outnumbered the dancers at the late night sessions. Dancing in the middle surrounded on all sides by a circle of 20 musicians playing all sorts of instruments was magical. There were a lot of great dancers as well, and I had a bunch of switch dances (mostly French schottisches and mazurkas) which was cool, trying to spread the idea. I ended up dancing until about 2:30 am on Friday night and 3:30 am the following two nights, so really did not get enough sleep, but it was worth it.
On Saturday I did the Fandango, Contra, Polska, Irregular Waltzes and Sønderhoning workshops. On Sunday I did Playford, the first half of the Swedish waltz workshop, found I was not getting it so gave up and went to try singing Sacred Harp instead, “Out of Body Dancing” (which was a fun experimental workshop about connection and musicality, sort of) and Wallonian / Flemish. Monday did not have any workshops, sadly, mostly just cleaning up. All in all, an excellent weekend, and lots of new friends! I highly recommend it, and will be going back next year.
|Skint 2014: Fiddlers in the sun|
Now to decide whether to try Copenhagen Folk Marathon, and perhaps some Balfolk events further afield next year…