Review from English Dance and Song:

ALAP EDSreview

Review in Set and Turn Single, Autumn 2012

Another Look at Playford Research into 17th and 18th century English Dances by Pat Shaw.

This is the 3rd volume in the Pat Shaw series, this one being compiled and edited by Marjorie Fennessy. Basically, it is a book of 120 dances published by Playford, Bray, Kynaston, Walsh and other publishers of that time that Pat Shaw researched for his monthly series of workshops which ran from 1959 until 1972. The book contains over 250 pages, is spiral bound and costs £12.50. This is a remarkable book, especially for the price – 120 dances, all clearly notated together with the music, with chords added where necessary by Nicolas Broadbridge. Copies of all the original dances from Playford etc. are also included. So – this is a wonderful resource for a caller wanting a new source of 17th and 18th century dances, all of them set out in an easy to read and understand format.

Looking further into the book one of the lists gives the title, source, date and when danced at the workshops. The column of when danced has over 30 blanks – so does this mean over a quarter of the dances in the book where never used at the workshops, or was the actual date not recorded? There are more lists – one is an index giving the type of formation (longways, 3 couple longways etc) and the rhythm of music (reel, jig etc.) used for it. There are also two pages given to Pat’s initial plan for the series – written by him in 1959, and then his conclusions in 1972.

Looking at the dance notations, are they Pat Shaw’s – or are they interpretations of Pat’s interpretations, written by the editorial team so they are in a useable consistent style? If the latter, it would have been nice to have included copies of some of his notes to show how he had written his interpretations, and shown the wording he had used. However, many of the dances do have notes after them – those by Pat Shaw being identified as his.

I do not feel this is the place to comment on Pat’s interpretations of the dances. I understand these 120 dances were chosen from 400 dances, and personally, I think it would have been interesting to see his interpretations of “Newcastle” (as people still enjoy arguing over Sharp’s interpretation) and “Abergenny” – if indeed he had looked at them?

And may I finish with a plea to bands? When callers have live music they will be able to try out these dances, but clubs using recorded music a lot of the time will not be able to dance some of the dances in the book. Please have a look and consider recording some of these tunes.

So, as implied in the opening paragraph, this is a book that will be useful to anyone with an interest in folk dance – a must for callers and musicians, but also of interest to dancers to leave on the coffee table and browse.

Trevor Monson