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Topic-icon Local Links and Historical Steps

2 years 4 months ago #30 by Chris Gill
Local Links and Historical Steps was created by Chris Gill
Norwich Historical Dance may take their dancing seriously, but their approach is that dancing is fun as well as being a great way to keep both body and mind fit and all to some of the best music around. They also like to keep the local links so that the dancing for both the participants and any spectators is relevant. This could be the obvious ones, Playford, who was born in Norwich, Noverre, who ran his dancing school in the Assembly House, Norwich, or in the versions of "When the Lights Went Out" which they have performed over the last couple of years, Edith Cavell, Vernon Castle and the local working folk who marched away to war or watched their menfolk do so.

This has been a busy year for the group who have just returned from a very successful performance at the annual ‘Early Dance Circle Festival’ in Bath. Their contribution to the weekend celebrated the famous morris dancing journey of Will Kemp from London to Norwich in 1600 which became known as ‘The Nine Days Wonder’. The audience of dance lovers at the Festival enjoyed a humorous take on the journey, called ‘The Nine Minutes Wonder’ with Norwich dancer Jonathon Hooton as Will Kemp.

Keeping the members busy are the preparations for the up-coming Norwich Playford Ball on Saturday November 19th. It is fitting to hold a Playford Ball in the Norwich Assembly House with all its historical associations, for John Playford, a Norwich man, was a significant and important figure in the promotion of dancing with the collection of dances and their accompanying music which he published from 1651. Several editions followed until c1728. His work helped to keep these dances alive down the centuries to the present day. Until 2015 the annual ‘Norwich Assembly’ was run by Freda and Ian McIntyre but in 2014 they asked NHD if they would be willing to take on the responsibility of running this dance evening.

Chris Gill of NHD said that despite the reservations about the amount of work involved they felt that such a prestigious and historically important dance event should not be lost. Happily they are getting ready for the event in the Norwich Assembly House with all tickets sold and a waiting list for the chance to obtain one. Those attending are also able to take advantage of the offer of free pre-dance tuition in some of the dances by the popular caller, Andrew Swaine. Amanda Williams, the group’s tutor, will give an hour’s class in the afternoon before the ball.

NHD are already planning for the Playford Ball in 2017. This is a significant year as it is the bi-centenary of the death of Jane Austen whose novels include many references to dancing. These dances form part of the wide repertoire of Norwich Historical Dance and the group have often performed them at both public and private functions with audience participation very much a part of what they do.

Their busy year took in events as diverse as a production for Swaffham Arts, the Hanse Festival in Kings Lynn, Norwich Museums’ ‘Fashion & Passion’ and ‘Museums at Night’ events in Norwich Castle, and an afternoon performance in Wymondham Abbey, fundraising for Priscilla Bacon Lodge.

Looking further ahead, NHD are planning to host the 35th Early Dance Festival in 2018, in Norwich, which will bring dancers from across the country to this dancing city. No time to rest on their laurels, their plans are afoot!
Chris Gill

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