Saturday, 23 January 2016

Would You Care For This Dance?

"Would you care for this dance?"  
It might mean "Would you like to join me for this dance?" If you've seen me dancing you probably wouldn't, but that's not what I mean.
It might mean "Would you enjoy watching this dance?" I hope you will.
Or it might mean "Should we look after this dance and preserve it for future generations?" And that is precisely what the people you're about to witness are trying to do.


I've been scouring YouTube looking for an exponent of Northern Clog Dancing and can find none more entertaining than the wonderful Hannah James. In addition to her dancing she's also a lovely singer of traditional songs and also plays the accordion. Here she is dancing with the wonderfully-named band Kerfuffle....

video by Peter Simmonds
(lots of folk music from festivals)

Now if you come from the Appalachians you may think that this is your tradition, but it's actually been danced in the north of England since Columbus was setting sail for the west. At around that time clogs changed from all-wooden shoes to leather shoes with wooden soles and these proved to be ideal for "kicking up a racket". The tradition got a big boost during the Industrial Revolution when miners took it up as a cheap form of entertainment. Champion dancers made it on to the stage of the music halls, though in those days all the dancers were men.


Just when you think you've seen every kind of dance there is to see, up pops the gently absurdity of The Britannia Coconut Dancers from Bacup. Every Easter Saturday they dance their way across Bacup, as they have done for generations, taking in several pubs and a stop for lunch. They wear wooden discs upon their hands, knees and midriff which may or may not be the origin of the "coconut" part of the name. The dance and their get-up is just about indescribable so it's just as well that you can watch them for yourselves....

video by Rob Jukes
(a wide variety of videos with quite a few featuring dancing)

Their blacked-up faces have caused all kinds of controversy in these politically-correct times. One day someone will notice that they also wear skirts and turbans too! And what about those clogs? Won't that upset the Dutch?


No, not that kind of rapper.
These rappers are short "swords" with handles on either end and are used in the north-east of England for dancing. In recent years the dancing has become faster and there are more and more female dance teams - and they keep getting younger! Here are the remarkable Sheffield Steel......  

video by Joachim Dreiman
(for lots more videos of Sheffield Steel)

Whew! Quite how they do that without tying themselves in knots is beyond me!

Take care.


  1. Love this post. Each dance is unique and special is its own way. The rappers were most amazing to me and so much better than the connotation of the term today.It looks like such a confined space too, I'd be claustrophobic. I'd think those young women have done that dance a few times before! How wonderful to keep the old traditions and dances alive. Great post!

  2. I don't dance well, but I do enjoy the music and watching others dance. It amazes me that some people have so much energy!

  3. How fun! I lived in Appalachia for 15 years and learned to clog, and I must admit, certain music still compels me to have a go. I've never seen rappers or nutters though and am impressed. It's good to see young people (or not so young in the case of the nutters) keeping traditions alive.

  4. I always love watching dancing though I have no coordination myself. Let's hope these traditions never die out.

  5. That clog dance is absolutely first class John - what incredible sense of timing.

  6. How very interesting! I love the clog dancer in your first video. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. These videos are great and I watched them all and went on to watch the next video in the first link, which was an old film of folk dancing. Thanks for rounding these up for me. My husband and I enjoyed seeing some dancers on May Day in Padstow years ago.

  8. The steel rappers were impressive. A lot of practice there. Hannah James was mesmerizing. I liked her the best.

  9. VEry entertaining. Enjyed them all, even the not so politically correct.

  10. John, you are such an educator about English folklore. I loved the videos. Perhaps the best part was that, except for the Backup dancers, the dancers and musicians were YOUNG! I worry about having these cherished customs dying out, but maybe there is hope after all.

  11. A wonderful post. I love to dance, and I have collected a variety of dance from around the world to my dance blog The world has many dance which I've never heard of, and here were two of them (the last two).
    Have a happy dance times ;)

  12. I really like the rappers. What a great variety of patterns they make.
    The skirts on the nutters look like aprons. Quite the hodgepodge in those costumes.

  13. A fun post, John. Very impressed with the Steel Rappers, - what a lot of concentration that must taken - well learning it, anyway. I suppose it comes easily once that is done and you can put your heart and soul into being joyous!!!!

  14. My toes were tapping with the Cloggers. I love barn dances and ceilidhs. The Rappers are amazing, I wonder how long they practised to get it perfect.

  15. Its amazing how many folk dances are still being done. Its great to see old traditions kept alive.


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