Sidmouth FolkWeek - Strictly Sidmouth Dancing

Since the very first year, back in 1955, public displays of folk dancing have always been a feature of the Sidmouth Festival. Then, there was a restricted repertoire of country dances, morris and sword. Today, the country dances are danced in a social setting rather than as a ""performance

Since the very first year, back in 1955, public displays of folk dancing have always been a feature of the Sidmouth Festival. Then, there was a restricted repertoire of country dances, morris and sword.

Today, the country dances are danced in a social setting rather than as a "performance," and the morris repertoire has broadened as well.

Dance displays take place informally along the Esplanade throughout the week, but especially on Sunday lunchtime, when dance teams from all over the south-west join the invited guests.

A focus for the dance sides will be the Dance Display Showcase in the Blackmore Gardens Marquee every afternoon, 2.30-4.30pm. Here, the dance groups will be joined by day visitors such as the Cornish dancers, Tan Ha Dowr, and weekend guests, the Tanec Bulgarian Dancers. Most of the dance groups will also perform in A Chance to Meet in the Blackmore Gardens Marquee, 5.00-6.00pm daily.


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This year, the dance sides will also be performing at the festival's exciting new performance centre, the HUB. This is the area of the Ham and Port Royal centred on the new-look Ham Marquee - the dance displays will take place in the pedestrianised Port Royal area every afternoon.

Here's an Eye-Spy Guide to the styles and dance groups this year:

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Cotswold Morris: The style that most people think of when they hear the phrase 'morris dancing', characterised by bells on the leg, handkerchiefs and sticks. Originating in the Cotswold villages these dances form the bedrock of the morris repertoire.

Look out for Great Western Morris from Exeter, Hexham Morris, Harberton Navy, Oyster Morris and Stroud Morris.

North-west Morris: Danced in clogs or hard shoes, these processional dances were performed in the wakes, processions and carnivals of north-west England, originally to accompany the rushcart on its annual journey to church to replace the rushes which were used to keep worshipers

warm before church floors were paved. Look out for Chiltern Hundreds, Rose and Castle and Sidmouth Steppers.

Border Morris: Originating in the counties that adjoin Wales, these dances were performed at Christmas time. The dancers usually carried sticks and some of them blacked their faces. Today, the dancers often wear beribboned costumes and love whooping and yelling whilst dancing.

Look out for The Witchmen.

Molly Dancing: From the East Anglian counties and the Fens, again danced at wintertime, usually around Plough Monday. Modern teams have been inventive with their costumes.

Look out for Ouse Washes.

Longsword: From Yorkshire, the dancers carry rigid metal, or sometimes wooden, swords. The dancers are linked together by each one holding the tip of the next dancer's sword. The dance culminates in a sword lock.

Rapper Sword: From the mining communities of north-east England and Durham. The swords are flexible and the dances much faster than longsword. The sword locks are more varied in design and the dance also features somersaults.

Look out for Gaorsach Rapper, an all-female group based in Scotland, and Smutt Rapper.

Appalachian Dance: The clogging dance style from the Appalachian Mountain area of the USA. Influenced by Irish and English percussive dance, Afro American music, this style of dance has been quite popular in the UK.

Look out for Chequered Flag from Portsmouth - black and white kit.

Clog Dance: Percussive dances, originally danced solo, with the dancer wearing clogs. These dances entered the music halls and there were many competitions, which encouraged the dancers to be ever more inventive.

Look out for Instep Clog based in north-east England, and Hexhamshire Lasses, who also dance with garlands.

And don't forget - please give generously to the collecting tin - all the money collected goes towards festival funds.

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