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At the heart of English folk

#3: Joy After Sorrow

Examining the dance element of the exhibition, by Laurel Swift.

What has your role been in the new exhibition?

My role was, as a morris dancer, to be a subject for Rosie to use to make the work. For the slow-capture pieces, I wore costume, did some jumps, waved my hankies. For the praxinoscope we looked at traditional arm movements on a "backstep, backstep, feet together jump" morris sequence, and broke it down into ten distinct arm positions, each of which were photographed. Finally, Rosie put a massive sheet of paper on the floor, mixed up some ink, and I danced backsteps, single steps, galleys and capers on the paper.

Which dances were used?

For the visual work, I used isolated morris steps including backsteps, jumps, capers, galleys and single steps. We further isolated arm movements do to a single flick from the wrist, which would usually come as part of a larger movement. I used new arm movements that got created at some point in the Morris Offspring journey, along with fairly standard traditional patterns.

For the private view, we did a Playford Country Dance (collected by John Playford in the 17th century, or written sometime since) called Joy after Sorrow, to a tune called Song for the Starling. We adapted it so that as the dance progressed, dancers started following each other around, not unlike the starlings in the video being shown in the background. The dance also got increasingly faster as it progressed.

(Big question!) What is the purpose of dance? Why do it?

Dance makes me happy! It's an expression of joy and of being. It's really fun dancing with other people. You make a human connection that you don't make in other ways. There's lots of reasons to dance: to connect, for exercise, to show off, to express yourself, to push yourself. But mostly to have fun together to music.

Auditory and visual arts could be seen as quite disparate entities – would you say dance somehow bridges the gap?

I've never thought about that, but I suppose it does, yes. Dance is a thing that you watch, like visual arts, but it's much better when there's music, or some kind of soundtrack. So I suppose it's somewhere between a painting brought to life and music visualised. But it's also it's own thing too!

Rosie Reed Gold’s exhibition Murmuration of Folk is available to view at Cecil Sharp House until 12 August.



National Youth Folk Ensemble

National Youth Folk Ensemble


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