Dance Reviews

FAMILY CEILIDH WITH NYFTE AND FRIENDS - National Youth Folklore Troupe of England

This lively ceilidh was quite something featuring a large number of young dancers and musicians and a chance to join in with accessible, caller-led routines.

I counted nearly 70 people in Bakewell’s Town Hall all there to cheer on the National Youth Folklore Troupe of England, a talented group of people aged 10 to 18 whose members are from all over England. Traditionally they come together in the spring, perfect their repertoire then travel to locations across England, this year including the Buxton Day of Dance and this special event at Bakewell Town Hall, which was also entered into the Fringe.

There were some magnificent dancing displays all accompanied by young musicians on violin, recorder, guitar, drums and percussion. Two dancers showed us fast and furious clog dancing. In the bigger displays, complicated manoeuvres with swords were particularly thrilling to watch and it was remarkable to see how they ended up in star formations. Other dances involved accoutrements such as bells and handkerchieves, staves and garlands of flowers, all reflecting traditions from different parts of the country. The costumes, often in purples and greens, were also very beautiful and carefully made. The youthful nature of the performers meant they had no problem with the odd gymnastic move - I liked the leap-frogging in one dance!

However this was not about just watching. After a few minutes of feeling a little intimidated, a very nice man called Richard gently encouraged me and my friend to join in one of the dances. What looked very complicated when observing turned out to be quite accessible when you are in the midst of it and being guided by others in your group, though all that skipping did prove quite a workout. Luckily I wasn’t on the floor during one of the dances where the young caller barked “Jump!” - a command that had the enthusiastic dancers seemingly wearing seven-league boots as they leaped across to the other side of their dance circles. All ages had a go with the youngest being a baby in a sling and some of the smaller children upping the ante by making sure that going round in a circle actually meant swinging round at speed!

It was great to see how NYFTE (pronounced Nifty) is keeping these dancing traditions alive and there was every indication that the children and teens involved really love to do it. The young callers showed particular confidence and aplomb unfazed by the herding kittens nature of their task at times. For further information see:

Stephanie Billen

BUXTON DAY OF DANCE 2023 - Chapel-en-le-Frith Morris

You have to hand it to Chapel-en-le-Frith Morris. Not only do they - as they say themselves - hold the world record for the most hyphenated Morris side, but they have a track record of organising Days of Dance in extreme weather conditions. Last year it was the hottest day of the year, this year it was a day of biblical extremes - wind, driving rain, hail and (very) fleeting bursts of sun. Next year expect a plague of locusts.

This year’s sixteen sides ranged from the local - Adlington, Wirksworth, Poynton, Macclesfield, Whaley Bridge, Chapel itself - to sides that travelled from Sheffield, Leicester, Nottingham, Shipley, and as far afield as Lewes and the Mendips to experience the joy of dancing while soaked-through to the skin and playing instruments you couldn’t see under your anorak. In addition, G & G Morris - Gisela and Gunther - and The National Youth Folklore Group of England (NYFTE) joined the other sides to showcase their talents at several locations around Buxton, none of them undercover.

Once again, Morris traditions from the Cotswolds, the North-West and Welsh Border counties traditions were well represented but the repertoire was rather more diverse than last year, with impressive Appalachian dances from Fiddle 'n’ Feet, and Gisela and Gunther on rauschpfeife and solo dances. (Don’t tell me me you don’t know what a rauschpfeife is - look it up). But what was consistent was the enthusiasm, skill, humour and commitment of both dancers and musicians and, it has to be said, the enthusiasm and commitment of their audiences.

If Chapel’s Day of Dance is anything to judge by, the traditions of Morris are healthier and more secure than I can ever remember. Young people, mixed sides and creative face-painting and unique ‘dress sense’ were very much in evidence. When the heavens opened, I saw one dancer even create a figure which involved stamping in puddles as part of the dance. How creative can you get? It might have been a spontaneous invention on his part or it could have been a cunning way of encouraging three-year-olds to take up Morris dancing. Look out for the ‘Peppa Pig Morris’ side at next year’s Day of Dance.

The various satisfactions of Morris dancing such as mastering a skill, enjoying congenial company, getting fit and generally showing off in public, are difficult to convey to audiences, but the Chapel-en-le-Frith Morris Day of Dance does this brilliantly. Putting together another impressive and enjoyable event under incredible, adverse conditions really is commendable.

Graham Jowett

1950S' TEA DANCE - Shellac is Bac!

“Extraordinary how potent cheap music is”, to quote Noel Coward. Not only is it potent, it is also supernaturally memorable. Even if we were not caught up in the post-war invention of ‘The Teenager” or not even born in the 1950s, we probably know the likes of Blue Suede Shoes, Good Golly Miss Molly, Bebop-a-Lula, Wake Up Little Susie, Jailhouse Rock and many other era-defining songs. Mike Dehenny’s gig reminded us that songs like these are all part of our aural back catalogue.

Mike’s 1950s Charity Tea Dance is billed as ‘Shellac is Bac’. He is a DJ and 50s enthusiast whose equipment almost predates the term disc jockey, since it is based on two classic, valve-driven record players made in about 1954 and he only plays original 78rpm records. Artists such as Gene Vincent, Elvis, Buddy Holly, Connie Francis, Little Richard, Carl Perkins, Fats Domino, Rosemary Clooney, and even our own Lonnie Donegan featured in three hours of non-stop, authentic 50s hits. And all the proceeds go to Blyth House Hospice and Helen’s Trust.

Almost all of this music was eminently danceable, so long as you have the energy and stamina to cope with plenty of rock and roll and jive. The great benefit of 78s for those of us in a certain demographic, is that songs tend to last for less than 3 minutes and so you can actually pace yourself. Fortunately for some of us, there were also some opportunities to slip a cha-cha or rumba or even, heaven forbid, a foxtrot into the evening when the tempo eased off. Or you could just relax, sit, enjoy the music and watch the other dancers showing off their routines. Just like Strictly, really!

It must be said Michael doesn’t do the electronic wizardry of most younger DJs. But then he doesn’t need to have elaborate props because his choice of music propels the whole evening without gimmicks. Having said that, the life-size cut-outs of Elvis and the pink Cadillac certainly featured in many of the dancers’ selfies.

BUT, if you want to dance, and by that I mean dance properly, to real music, without seizure-inducing coloured lights, empty DJ banter and throbbing tuneless rhythms, do look out for Michael and ‘’. You will not be disappointed.

Sorry, did I just show my age then?

Graham Jowett