Dance Reviews

BUXTON DAY OF DANCE 2022 - Chapel-en-le-Frith Morris

“The sun always shines on the Morris”, the squire of my Morris side used to say, with heart-warming but irrationally misplaced optimism. He generally trotted it out whenever it stopped raining just as we were about to dance. He would have felt totally vindicated by Chapel-en-le-Frith Morris’ Day of Dance at Buxton Festival Fringe on what was the sunniest, hottest day of the year so far.

Fifteen sides show-cased their dances in various locations around the town, all with substantial audiences ranging from the wildly enthusiastic to the slightly bemused. Why are those ladies wearing wooden clogs? Why are those men trying to hit each other with big sticks? Why are these people with their faces painted following a tradition that dates back at least to the 15th century and has defied famine, war, pestilence and now potential dehydration? There are no answers to these, and to be frank, many other questions, except to say “It’s great fun, exercise, entertainment and friendship in one spectacular activity”. Throughout history, wherever working people have met to let off steam and celebrate their communal life, survival and resistance to fate there will be noise, music, larking about and dancing. That’s the essence of Morris. That's why it has survived for centuries and why it is so enjoyable to do and watch.

This cannot be a review that singles out sides for praise or critiques performances. Morris is not a competition - it is a celebration of human exuberance, social cohesion and, dare I say it - artistry. Sides came from across Derbyshire, Macclesfield, Poynton, Dukinfield, Manchester, Stockport,, Staffordshire, North Warwickshire, South Yorkshire, Leicester and Malvern and represented the major Morris traditions of the Welsh Border counties, the Cotswolds and the North-West mill towns. Organising such an event so efficiently, especially post(?)-pandemic is a massive challenge and Chapel are to be heartily thanked for undertaking it. The standard and energy levels of the performers was stunning. Their age-range was massively encouraging as well.

The Day of Dance is unique as a Fringe event because you don’t choose to attend it. Not only are there no bookings, tickets or queues - if you are in town on the day, you would have to choose actively to avoid it. It’s to be hoped that nobody did, and that some of the on-lookers, young and old, will be inspired to locate their local side, find out about practice nights, try it out and be hooked on this age-old tradition. And perhaps take part in a future Fringe Day of Dance?

It was really great to have you all back!

Graham Jowett

REGENCY MUSIC & DANCE - Regency ReJigged

The weather could not have been kinder for the 'Regency Rejigged' group and spectators for Sunday morning's free demonstration outside the Pavilion Gardens.

The music was provided from the shade of the bandstand by four musicians in regency costume, comprising two fiddle players, one bodrum player and a percussionist. The dancers below, wore an array of beautiful homemade costumes.

I had come along specifically to see them dance, but visitors who were in the vicinity soon drew closer as the music and dancing began. The group performed several dances in the 'Playford' style. Viewers of any Jane Austen adaptation would have recognised the style immediately.

Although the group only meet once a month to practice, the choreography of each dance was performed seamlessly. There was something almost mesmerising about the back and forth of the couples as they stepped, twirled, and circled each other. By their nature, the dances are measured and formal, but the dancers' enthusiasm and enjoyment was clear to see.

The group are based in Euxton near Chorley, but have members who travel from all over the region to take part. Formed in 2007 prior to a regency event in Cockermouth they had so much fun they are still going today.

I left them as they prepared to do another two sessions in the Assembly rooms at the Crescent. Sadly, I was unable to follow them across, but it must have been wonderful to see them perform in a Regency setting. By the time this review is published, Fringe visitors won't have another opportunity to see them perform at this year's festival, but I do hope the group will return to Buxton in the future, to give the public another opportunity to see how people enjoyed themselves during the period spanning the 17th to early 19th centuries. They certainly provided much enjoyment today.

April Irwin