Instep Annual Review 2021
Researching and developing clog and step dance
Registered Charity Number 1178704
This last year was another where our activities were curtailed by Covid lockdowns and isolations, so it’s been difficult to get together as a whole group and achieve the normal social activities, demonstrations, workshops etc that we would have liked to do. Nevertheless, many InstepRT members have been very busy on their own projects so it’s been a productive year despite the pandemic. In relation to InstepRT’s aims, I think I can confidently say that we’ve still met all of them this year, with the many and varied projects, online workshops, publications and presentations that members have been involved in. There are also the bursaries which we’ve continued to award and these have increased our reach and reputation within the step and clog dance community.
The development of the website continues, aided by being able to meet on Zoom fairly regularly to review progress and identify the next steps. A small group of proof readers is working through the existing content, making corrections and checking that all links work. Another group worked on defining appropriate search terms for when the new website is up and running. The IT group is now working on the steps needed to move over to a new webhost.
The bursaries group received twelve applications for funding this year, five of which have come to fruition. They are:
Chris Metherell and Alex Fisher for their work on collating and notating Pat Tracey’s steps into Newcastle Notation. They are being supported by Nickie Dailey who offered to do some work on the InstepRT website but is at the moment helping with the notation work. Nickie’s offer was not a conventional application but was very welcome nevertheless. She is being funded through the money given to Chris and Alex for this project.
Carol Dawson, for funds to support the teaching of clog step dance at a local school, to replace old dance boards and to buy some clogs for the school children to dance in.
Sophie Crawford, for a stepping and signing project for deaf and hearing dancers, her ‘mee-maw’ project.
Lewis Wood, to develop a show called Footwork Live with stepping from InstepRT members, stemming from his CD of stepdance tunes written for specific dancers.
Joy Parkes, who is currently being supported by Mats Melin to help her research and document the clog dances of the Mobberley tradition. When she has completed the initial work with Mats, the bursary group hope to be able to support her with her project from then on.
Grace Smith was a bursary award holder from last year, but she is included here because she has just successfully completed her project to develop a set of new 3/2 hornpipe steps. She hopes to be able to teach them when conditions allow. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exssAuz-b7w
Individual members’ activities and projects
Simon Harmer has had another busy and productive year in which he’s made virtual contact with Canadian step dancer April Verch, and despite the two of them never having met, made excellent use of transatlantic zoom sessions to develop a routine of completely new set of steps which they unveiled in January 2022. To quote, ‘Steps From the Heart combines research, new choreography and performance’, developed in collaboration and presented to an international online audience on January 8th and 9th. This has been a fantastic collaborative event that cut through many differences between Simon and April to get to their shared love and passion for dancing. https://aprilverch.com/about/steps-from-the-heart/
Furthermore, Simon’s ‘Step Your Way’ project which he developed last year with Sasha Biloshisky has been offered further financial support through the Sound Connections/Reverberate/English Heritage funding. This time he and Sasha are focusing on the Sailor’s Hornpipe itself so all the information Instep members have been sending him over the last few years will once again be put to use. The project will run between February and March 2022.
In July, several InstepRT members were involved with recording Lewis Wood’s C.D. ‘Footwork’ an album of original tunes for English step and clog dancing, featuring stepping from all over the country. The dancers were Toby Bennett, Lisa Sture, Lynette Eldon, Simon and Jo Harmer and Melanie Barber. Others dancers and musicians were also consulted – Katie Howson advised on the music for East Anglian step dance, for example. Jim Eldon also had a valuable input during Lynette’s sessions and when Lewis visited them to formulate his ideas. The evenings, with the different dancers who visited Simon and Jo during the week, talking dance or dancing together was a highlight of the year (and I don’t think there was a sudden increase in Covid cases in Portsmouth that week!). It sounds like too much fun was had!
Toby Bennett and Jen Cox (who together run the Facebook group, ‘Step and step clog dance traditions of England’) ambitiously organised a weekend of clog and step dancing in Derbyshire, ‘Camp Clog’ in August. This was the first ever such event and was borne out of the frustrations of not being able to meet up for over a year (but happily, the govt gave us our ‘freedom’ in July). By all accounts it was a great success and looks as though it might be set to become an annual event.
Toby also ran some Zoom step swaps (a series of Sunday morning virtual meet ups for step and clog dancers both UK and international); led a workshop at the Leitrim Dance Festival teaching some hornpipe steps; helped organise a weekend ‘Zoom Clog’ series of workshops for which he also taught his improvers’ “Knicker Factory Hornpipe”; led a Morris Federation workshop for Mrs Marhoff’s Single Hornpipe; and recorded steps for Lewis Wood’s Foot Works project.
Alex Fisher has been involved in the Lancashire Sparks schools’ clog dancing resource films. Lancashire Sparks was a partnership project between Lancashire County Council’s Heritage Learning Team, Blackburn Museum, and dancer Jenny Reeves of the ‘About Time Dance Company’. These teaching resource films are all available on YouTube.
Heather Blasdale Clark has received major federal funding to take the museum exhibition Dancing in Fetters: the culture of convict dance on a national tour across five states and territories, including a number of World Heritage Listed sites, between 2021 and 2024. A partnership with Bush Traditions will ensure a lively programme of events which will incorporate step dancing performances and workshops. http://www.colonialdance.com.au/dancing-in-fetters-exhibition
She has also written a chapter and contributed to the conclusion in L. Lohman (Ed.) ‘Researching Secular Music and Dance in the Early United States’. https://www.routledge.com/Researching-Secular-Music-and-Dance-in-the-Early-United-States-Extending/Lohman/p/book/9780367483005′
In October 2021 Heather presented an event run by Early Australian Colonial Dance, ‘Dancing on the deck: a maritime history of dance’. This was an online event because of covid restrictions but this made it accessible to many more viewers. including members of Instep.
Research & Publications.
In 2021 Chloe Middleton-Metcalfe completed her PhD on social folk dancing from the University of Roehampton and gave two lectures: one for the Morris Federation (online) and one for the EFDSS’s conference on Diversity in Folk. She published an article on the subject of social folk dancing in the Folk Music Journal, and accepted an invitation to join the board. She joins a very select group of academic ‘folkies’ who each in their own way, are putting ‘folk’ on the cultural agenda in England.
Below are links to Chloe’s 2021 publications:
2021. PhD Thesis. Barn Dances, Ceilidhs, and Country Dancing in England 1945-2020: An Examination of Non-Specialist English Social Folk Dance.
Dance Department: University of Roehampton.
2021. “Douglas Kennedy and Folk Dance in English Schools”. The Routledge Companion to English Folk Performance. Edited by Steve Roud and Peter Harrop. Routledge. eBook ISBN9780429299063
2021. The History and Development of Dark Border Morris. The Morris Federation.
Chloe also received 23 photographs/images of dancers from the collection of Tony Foxworthy (now deceased). She digitised these and sent them to Chris Metherell. The ‘originals’ (some copies of copies) were then donated to the VWML.
Alex Fisher had an article published in English Dance and Song (Summer 2021) on the ‘Lakeland dancing masters & finishing ball programmes.’ She also contributed a chapter on ‘Fancy Footwork: Reviewing the English Clog & Step Dance Revival’ to the book: The Routledge Companion to English Folk Performance, edited by Peter Harrop & Steve Roud (published July 2021). Some Instep members have already purchased this ‘must have’ book – others are waiting until the cheaper paperback version comes out!
Chris Metherell wrote a short series of papers for Simon Harmer on John Durang and his hornpipe routine. Chris thinks they were not circulated but Simon might be happy for that to be done if anyone’s interested. The 4th paper was supposed to deal with the interpretation of the steps but it remains unfinished. A pity – as he comments that this probably the most interesting part. He also wrote a paper on the history of the Broom Dance in response to a query from Heather, but which was circulated to everybody.
Katie Howson published two articles about the history of Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe on her ‘Unsung Histories’ website:
These were both well researched and fascinating to read and complemented Simon’s and Sasha’s Step Your Way project which focused on dancing Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe steps last year. Here Simon is dancing it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DL1OQMMAyPA
And then of course, there were the prestigious EFDSS Gold Badges. Three people from the same group in the same year! They are as we all know: Chris Metherell, Kerry Fletcher and Lynette Eldon, together with her husband Jim. They are all so very deserving of their awards and all in Instep send our very best congratulations.
Website: an average of 1000 hits per day. Mostly from UK, USA, Canada and Scandinavia. A few from Russia, China and the Philippines.
Most hits were to look at the Flett material or Simon Harmer and Alex Woodcock.
Facebook: 261 likes, 288 follows, 15 posts in 2021 reaching between 65 and 600 people.
Twitter: 17 followers, 6 posts in 2021 with 120 to over 1,000 impressions.
Instagram: no presence.
Instep Annual Review 2021