This last year proved to be a year like no other, and because of the restrictions on movements and activities imposed to control the spread of Covid 19, as a group we have not been able to achieve all of our desired outcomes. However, a number of individuals within the team have been very busy in pursuing their own research and publications, most of which have involved the use of resources and expertise within Instep, and all of which have been shared within the group.
Although not an IRT initiative a number of IRT members supported a dance project, Step Your Way, led by Simon Harmer and fellow Portsmouth dance teacher, Sasha Biloshisky, between September and December 2020. This project was funded by Reverberate, a Shout Out Loud initiative in partnership with Sound Connections, to support grassroots focused heritage projects. Shout Out Loud is a Kick the Dust project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The project explored the link between steps of the early 1800s with street style steps of today.
The heritage dance focus for the project, was Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe, collected by Tom and Joan Flett, part of the Flett Archive held by the IRT. As a result of the project the participants were made aware of the IRT website and it was accessed by two of the older students who are studying dance. They intend to follow up on the hornpipe as part of their studies. Chris Metherell advised on the dance steps, preparing a video and clarifying the Fletts’ notation. Katie Howson’s personal research into the tune Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe and Parry’s Barrel Organ, the life of Miss Gayton and the dances associated with the tune was used as resource fact sheets for the dancers. Other background information came from articles and books suggested by Mats Melin and the research of Heather Clarke. Kerry Fletcher gave help with the application for funding and advised over the output video. Jenny Read and Jo Harmer shared risk assessments and procedures to ensure studio sessions were Covid secure and Zoom sessions were safe and effective. Chris Metherell and Katie Howson provided short interviews for the output video. In addition, friends of IRT contributed; Jane Harrison shared information and photos of her parents for the resource sheets and Lewis Wood gave the participants the experience of dancing to a live musician.
FolkActive had agreed funding through the Energise Me organisation to run 3 stepping workshops for teenagers as part of a project set up by Hampshire’s Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service (EMTAS). This aimed to use stepping as an activity to improve cultural awareness in three areas with a high proportion of young people from Gypsy and Traveller families and should have taken place last October. However, the agreed funding looks likely to be carried into the new financial year, and the organisers are hopeful that the project will still take place, possibly in June as part of the Gypsy Romany Traveller Family History Month events. The funders were interested in Jo’s suggestion of involving younger steppers in the delivery: this could be an opportunity to involve one or two of the younger generation of East Anglian dancers (ref minutes last year EATMT project)
Alex has written a chapter for a book – “The Routledge Companion to English Folk Performance” edited by Steve Roud & Peter Harrop & due to be published in June 2021. The book will include contributions on all aspects of English folk & my chapter is entitled ‘Fancy Footwork: Reviewing the English Clog & Step Dance Revival’. In viewing most of the step dance material that emerged into the 20th century, Alex presents an analytical framework that can connect style & technique with social & historical context rather than regional context. In focusing on the revival & how it has developed, she describes individuals & events which shaped the early days and discusses the relative influence of step dance competitions.
From January 2020 she was also involved in a clog dance project in primary schools, organised through the Lancashire Museum Service. They had purchased 3 boxes of clogs that schools could then hire in the future & six schools were selected to produce resources to accompany each box. These included written work inspired by the clogs and digital footage of clog dance steps & activities that teachers could lead. Alex has been working with a contemporary dancer (Jenny Reeves) who is also a skilled clog dancer who really believes that clogging has much to offer pupils. Between them they have worked with the six schools to produce a big performance which would have been last May but had to be cancelled. However it looks like they will still be able to produce the digital resource of appropriate teaching material with clogs.
Despite battling Covid all year, Mats has been able with the help of his co-author, Jennifer Schoonover, to get his next book published. They used the Flett material from the IRT site a lot and they also got permission from the Flett daughters to use the material too. Chris recommended its publication to Routledge so there are some connections to Instep.
Over the last year Heather has been focusing on music and dancing associated with Captain Cook, including a considerable amount of research about dancing onboard ship. This has extended to include a much broader examination of dance as part of shipboard life dating from the earliest records in the 1500s through to the early 1800s. As this a largely untapped area, it’s been very rewarding to gather a variety of references specifically about dancing during the age of exploration. She has given a number of presentations and published several journal articles about the voyages of Captain Cook highlighting the importance of dancing for sailors (hornpipes and country dances) as a way to keep them healthy both mentally and physically – she found it enlightening to discover that it was recognised as an ‘antidote to the tedium of shipboard life’ and significant for dispelling the threat of discontent and mutiny.
An outcome of with this research was the production of a Captain Cook history/literature/dance teaching unit for primary school children which included a sailors hornpipe. There is also a video of her lecture on the Historical Dance Society website.
Apart from the above mentioned books and articles, Instep members continued to have articles published in English Dance and Song this year. A review of the wonderful Stepping On Conference at CSH in November 2019 appeared in the Spring edition and in the Autumn edition (no Summer edition this year) appeared Simon Harmer’s fascinating story of his collaboration with street dancer Sasha Biloshisky (Bboy) on developing his work on Whistling Billy’s Barefoot Hornpipe(which he presented and demonstrated at the Stepping On Conference).
Toby Bennett has been working on the Stepping On proceedings which he has been editing and a number of Instep members have contributed to. There have been one or two holdups but it should be out as a joint INSTEP, EFDSS, HDS publication in early this year.
One thing some Instep members have been working on is the development of the InstepRT website. A sub-group was convened to consider a number of issues including how to make the website easier to access and navigate and what other content should be included. This is currently work in progress, but the group have made some good inroads this year and there will be a full report at the AGM.
There has also been some new material added to the archive over the year, including the steps and biography of Samuel Bell from Julie Williams, and Reading Cloggies day of dance videos from Paul Earwicker, uploaded by Chris Metherell. Chris has also transcribed the papers from Jennifer Millest’s estate and these have been added to the website. Sadly the Flett Frenzy weekend to get the remaining Flett material uploaded couldn’t happen as planned because of Covid restrictions.
Finances and Bursaries
We have had two further donations plus gift aid from our benefactor which gives us enough money to put together another bursary offer for next year. The bursary committee has leant some lessons from the first round and will be reviewing the guidance for future offers and considering what expertise Instep members can offer bursary holders. The three bursary projects from 2019 have been reported on and will be presented at the AGM.
- likes = 228, followers = 247
- average of 1-2 posts per month
- most posts reach at least 100 people, with a handful of ‘likes’ and occasional shares
- Simon’s post with the Robert Benchley quote shared on the Step & Step Clog Dance Traditions of England page had the greatest reach at 335 people
Facebook messenger enquiries:
- request for Alex Fisher’s contact details
- request to find Rebecca Woodward (danced at Dartmoor in 1999)
- request for 3 website links for a student researching folk dance & gender issues (social dance, rapper sword & NE step dance)
- request for academic publications on folk dance & gender
- a “thank you” for publishing the interviews of the late Doreen Kerr from her grandson
- request for more info on George Macintosh, 1900s champion clog dancer, and to share photos from a relative
Twitter is very quiet with a princely 13 followers
Instagram…no presence at all.
- 13,000 hits from approx 3,000 visitors, mostly form the UK and USA and Canada but also some from places such as Sweden and China.
Although it has been difficult this year to continue our work as effectively as we would have hoped, we have in the main achieved a significant amount when measured against our objectives as set out in the InstepRT constitution: (https://insteprt.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/IRT-Charity-Constitution-Signed-2018.pdf)
Here’s hoping for a more socially interactive time to come later this year after we’ve all been vaccinated and the opportunity to re-establish our presence at festivals and gatherings.
Julie Williams, Chair