Dance Suf­folk!

Where to go and how to get your feet in step

EADT Suffolk - - Inside -

THAT Len Good­man, and TV’s Strictly, have a lot to an­swer for. Danc­ing may have been around for Suf­folk cen­turies, but sud­denly it seems like the new so­cia­ble me­dia. As mov­ing ex­pe­ri­ences go, it’s more than just a nifty way to tone up those mus­cles and ex­er­cise those lit­tle grey cells in one feel-good part­ner­ship - dance is flex­i­ble, fun and sim­ply fab for mak­ing friends. And no mat­ter whether you need to go gen­tly or if you have the drive and en­ergy enough to get right into the groove and give it your all, Suf­folk surely has more clubs, classes and ceilidhs than there are se­quins on any slinky Strictly out­fit. Just give some­thing a go and you could have a real ball.

So where to start? A for­mal class? An in­for­mal class or taster ses­sion? What about just go­ing along to a dance or prac­tice night? Per­haps there’s a par­tic­u­lar type of dance or mu­sic that takes your fancy. Maybe you see your­self more com­fort­able danc­ing for re­lax­ation and per­sonal en­joy­ment than for per­for­mance or or­gan­ised events. In Suf­folk you’ll find peo­ple strut­ting their stuff ev­ery­where, from time­honoured ball­rooms and vil­lage halls to state of the art studios at the fab­u­lous DanceEast HQ on Ip­swich Water­front or even in the streets. Work­shops, cour­ses, pay-as-you-go ses­sions or pop along and join in dances - the pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less and for most dance styles, there’s no need even for spe­cial clothes or equip­ment. Folk are friendly and club nights breed a very spe­cial sort of in­clu­sive ca­ma­raderie, so you’re sure to soon find your feet.

Good golly, Miss Molly

Mor­ris danc­ing is a rel­a­tively new ad­di­tion to the Suf­folk dance scene. Pos­si­bly more rough and ready, win­ter-based East Anglian ‘Molly’ danc­ing was ob­served in the 1930s but could have been around for cen­turies. Could John North­brooke have been point­ing the fin­ger, when he de­clared in his 1579 Trea­tise against dic­ing, danc­ing, plays, and in­ter­ludes, ‘wherein . . . idle pas­times etc com­monly used on the Sab­bath day are re­prooved’: “They daunce with dis­or­di­nate ges­tures, and with mon­strous thump­ing of the feete, to pleas­ant sounds”? To­day Molly and Mor­ris sides abound in Suf­folk, wel­com­ing all to bran­dish big sticks, han­kies or gar­lands, to wear clogs, bells and breeches, or of­ten quite dar­ing eye-catch­ing dis­guises. Suss out what might suit at pub-based ‘ dance-outs’, fes­ti­vals or street fayres. Then pop along to work­shops, taster ses­sions or prac­tices to find out more.


For a frol­ick­some night out with a dif­fer­ence, why not give a ceilidh a go? Pro­nounced ‘kaylee’, the name sug­gests not al­to­gether lo­cal ori­gins, but it’s still the sort of get-to­gether which tra­di­tion­ally might feel at home in a good ol’ Suf­folk barn, with English mu­sic and dances suit­able for all ages and abil­i­ties, plus the added bonus of an of­fi­cial break in the mid­dle, for a bit of a breather and spot of en­ter­tain­ment. Head to ru­ral Rend­ham in the height of sum­mer and you’ll find one hap­pen­ing in a field. An in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar pas­time around ru­ral com­mu­nity halls from Clop­ton to the Cam­bridgeshire bor­der, the ceilidh has made a real come-back re­cently, thanks to its re­laxed and friendly for­mula. Monthly dances like the DanceFolkus night in Wood­bridge in­vite ev­ery­one to have a go at their own pace, or even join the ‘Come all Ye’ band led by the Har­bour Lights Ceilidh Band, if they are mu­si­cally minded. “In­struc­tion is given ev­ery step of the way,” ex­plains Rachel Smith who, to­gether with her teenage daugh­ter, Daisy-May, has been en­joy­ing the DanceFolkus evenings since they started up over a year ago. “Whether you’re a to­tal novice or tried this sort of thing be­fore, it’s great fun and al­though some dances make you think, it’s far from daunt­ing as ev­ery­one is work­ing things out to­gether. You can go as of­ten as you like too - there’s al­ways a re­ally lovely club feel and the nice thing is that you can join in the danc­ing as you wish – just the gen­tle waltzy ones maybe, rather than the stompy step-hops, if you’ve had a hard week!“Ceilidhs are a real so­cial dance clas­sic fea­tur­ing reels, jigs, polkas, step-hops and waltzes, with reap­pear­ing dance fig­ures like ‘strip the wil­low’, ‘ladies’ chain’ or the dar­ing ‘bas­ket’ where part­ners are lifted up and put in a spin. “Many of the dances are pro­gres­sive,” adds Rachel. “That means you keep mov­ing on and chang­ing part­ners through­out the dance. Fancy a Suf­folk some­thing that will get your feet tap­ping? Step­danc­ing is a ver­nac­u­lar form of im­pro­vised, free-style tap­danc­ing. Tra­di­tion­ally done in pubs or at so­cial gath­er­ings, it’s still very much alive to­day and al­ways look­ing for new re­cruits. Sim­ply put on a pair of hard-soled shoes and let your feet add the per­cus­sion as you step on the spot - usu­ally on a solid floor or wooden board to a horn­pipe tune. “Just lis­ten to the mu­sic, and let it come out through your feet,” ad­vises Suf­folk step­danc­ing guru, Doreen West O’Con­nor. Now there’s some­thing to prac­tise in the kitchen while the ket­tle’s boil­ing! Can’t get on your feet, but would still love to join in? Then why not let a doll do the danc­ing? Jig dolls – jointed wooden dolls made to dance by flip­ping a board po­si­tioned un­der their feet – are part of Suf­folk’s ‘Sing, Say, Play or Pay’ tra­di­tion which got ru­ral peo­ple joining in and mak­ing com­mu­nity en­ter­tain­ment through live mu­sic and dance, be­fore juke boxes and large TVs came on the scene. Have a go with a jig doll at one of the East Anglian Tra­di­tional Mu­sic Trust’s events, at FolkEast 2018 or spot them in tra­di­tional Suf­folk folk ses­sions.

‘Even on an evening when you’ve got two left feet peo­ple are re­ally un­der­stand­ing and al­ways ready to have a laugh’

It’s a great way to meet new peo­ple and a real con­fi­dence-builder too. Even on an evening when you’ve got two left feet, peo­ple are re­ally un­der­stand­ing and al­ways ready to have a laugh!”


You don’t have stick with lo­cal styles, just to get danc­ing close to home. Who’d have ex­pected to ex­pe­ri­ence ex­quis­ite Thai danc­ing by tal­ented lo­cals in Wick­ham Mar­ket vil­lage hall, or find Za­hara belly dance classes just along the lane at Parham? Down near Martle­sham, you can fall in line Lou­siana- Suf­folk’s his­toric air­fields some­times have dances linked to re-en­act­ment events, but the at­mo­spheric old Of­fi­cers’ Mess, The Red Feather Club, at Horham, near Eye, has an on­go­ing dance pro­gramme not to be missed, in­clud­ing a 1940s Swing Dance on March 24. style and you might even spot a Jewish wedding-type Klet­zmer ceilidh in Cop­dock. There’s fancy French stuff on the menu at Strat­ford St An­drew, jit­ter­bug, jive and swing just over the hori­zon at Hunt­ing­field, and hid­ing down Great Glemham’s lit­tle lanes, fancy-foot­work all the way from Scot­land – kilts (not com­pul­sory!) and all. “Scot­tish danc­ing is good fun,” ad­mits Vic Stan­brooke, who to­gether with his wife, Mary, has been don­ning the soft shoes and get­ting down to more than just the Gay Gor­dons at Ron Smith’s classes around Glemham for over 20 years. “You have to con­cen­trate a bit to get the steps, but we love dances like Postie’s Jig which re­flects daily life - a post­man do­ing his rounds. It can all get a bit se­ri­ous at times, es­pe­cially if you’re aim­ing for Burn’s Night, but we have a laugh. It’s good for move­ment and a great way


to meet peo­ple. Do­ing demon­stra­tion dances at lo­cal care-homes on oc­ca­sion has been re­ally re­ward­ing.“


Pre­fer to part­ner-up over a spot of Ar­gen­tinian Bury-based tango, or siz­zling Sud­bury salsa? Want to give mambo a go-go or pur­sue dreams of Black­pool tow­ers with all those ball­room favourites? “Ball­room or se­quence danc­ing are very so­cia­ble pas­times,” en­thuses Ea­mon Shep­pard, not the most likely dance­floor diva, when you see him shin­ny­ing up Ip­swich lad­ders all day as MD of Fal­con Win­dows, but to­gether with his wife, Anna, he’s a reg­u­lar at­trac­tion on the cruise-ships. “You can stay fit in a fun way danc­ing and it doesn’t mat­ter if you’re a be­gin­ner or pro­fes­sional – ev­ery­one can mix in and en­joy it. ‘Party game’ dances go down re­ally well at events around Christ­mas, but even the more se­ri­ous prac­tice ses­sions get you meet­ing peo­ple with sim­i­lar in­ter­ests from dif­fer­ent back­grounds.” Many of Suf­folk’s Schools of Dance hold ‘satel­lite’ classes away from their main venue, so look out for classes at a com­mu­nity hall near you.

DanceEast has got the for­mula down to a tea. StowMovers, the over-60s dance class held at the John Peel Cen­tre in Stow­mar­ket, is tea dance with a dif­fer­ence, a no­ex­pe­ri­ence-nec­es­sary in­vi­ta­tion to get mov­ing in a cre­ative and in­for­mal way led by a pro­fes­sional dance artist, all pol­ished off with a re­laxed cuppa. But back at re­gional HQ, the Jer­wood DanceHouse on Ip­swich Water­front, there are equally fluid go­ings on at the barre, not to men­tion classes or of­ten pay-as-yougo ses­sions in ev­ery­thing from bal­let, tap, sen­sory-based nia-dance to cre­ative hip-hop and mu­si­cal theatre. “Go along and have a go,” in­vites DanceEast pro­gramme man­ager Ca­role Creasey. “The en­vi­ron­ment isn’t pre­cious, but in­for­mal and all you need is the en­ergy, com­mit­ment and will­ing­ness to come and try. We’re look­ing to run more work­shops to show what we do and al­ways en­cour­age par­tic­i­pants to share and see peo­ple’s en­deav­ours through per­for­mance op­por­tu­ni­ties.” “And there’s no ex­pec­ta­tion to have your leg up by your ear,” adds Ip­swich-born pro­gramme man­ager Ali­son Hart­ley, both jok­ingly and in all se­ri­ous­ness. For at DanceEast, there are mov­ing ways to sup­port ev­ery­one, from early ca­reer dance artists, de­mand­ing teenagers and tiny tots to peo­ple with spe­cial needs, De­men­tia or Parkin­sons.


Don’t miss the free Halesworth Day of Dance on March 17. Loads of Molly and Mor­ris sides danc­ing in the streets, mu­sic ses­sions and even a fab evening ceilidh. www. face­ halesworth­day­of­dance


25% of all adults in Eng­land fail to do enough phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity to ben­e­fit their health? Danc­ing is a proven stress-buster and im­proves breath­ing, pos­ture, cir­cu­la­tion, co-or­di­na­tion, alert­ness, men­tal agility, mem­ory Hav­ing a good dance is a chance to take your mind off things, feel a full spec­trum of emo­tions, get things out of your sys­tem, win con­fi­dence, ex­press your­self, lis­ten more than maybe you would nor­mally, learn some­thing new, so­cialise and share, fill some free time, have a laugh


East Anglian Tra­di­tional Mu­sic Trust: Suf­folk Folk incl. so­cial dance clubs plus Scot­tish, Irish & French dance: www.mar­ FolkEast Au­gust 17-19 (the an­nual op­por­tu­nity to have a go at al­most ev­ery­thing!): www. DanceEast : All styles, schools, clubs & classes list, col­lated by Brian Vin­cent: www.eas­t­an­gli­

French danc­ing at FolkEast. Photo: Lind­say Want

Pretty Grim Mor­ris in dis­guise. Photo: John Heald

All are wel­come to DanceEast’s Spring­board. Photo: Mike Kwas­niak

A ceilidh in full swing at Wood­bridge. Photo: Lind­say Want

Mor­ris fun at FolkEast. Photo: John Heald

Oxblood Molly dance at the Sw­ef­fling White Horse dance out. Photo: John Heald

Suf­folk step­dancer Ella Beale. Photo: Lind­say Want

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