Saturday, 29 December 2012

Happy New Cornish Dancing Year!

Bledhen Nowydh Da! Happy New Year!

Saturday January 5th is a BIG day for Cornish music and dancing!

A spot of FUN FIT EXERCISE in the morning to work off a few festive calories at the first Sparking Saturdays Cornish Dance Workshop of 2013, and in the evening, a choice of 'Degol Stul' at Heartlands, Pool or Corncrow at Looe Folk and Acoustic Club!

Sparking Saturdays Cornish Dance Workshop - 10-12 noon

Liskerrett Centre, Liskeard

A chance to pick up a selection of simple Cornish social dances in time for the evening's 'Degol Stul' - furrys, serpents, circular & couple dances. No partner required: wear comfortable clothes & shoes for dancing. 

10:00 - 10:45 - Beginners / refreshers - simple Cornish social dances
11:00 - 11:45 - Intermediates / advanced - Cornish set & step dances

Bring scoots/hard shoes to try out a step dance or two in the 2nd half.

Family friendly - all over 14 welcome, or 10 plus if accompanied by a participating adult.

£4.00 (under 18's £2)

Degol Stul - Twelfth Night - 6pm-11pm

Chi an Bobel, Heartlands, Pool

'Big Nos' presents over Twelve Bands for Twelfth Night in a celebration of Cornish 'Nos Lowen' dancing from 6pm at Chi an Bobel, Heartlands, Pool.  Tickets £8/£6 on door (u11's free) with food availble.  Info on 01209 31 32 33 or

A perfect opportunity to try out some of the dances learnt at the Sparking Saturdays Cornish Dance Workshop in the morning, and pick up a few new ones!

And a chance to pick up a copy of the new Howl ha Loer Nos Lowen Dancebook by Ian Bruce & Jaz Hicks:
Howl ha Loer Nos Lowen Dancebook by Ian Bruce & Jaz Hicks

Corncrow at Looe Folk and Acoustic Club - 8pm-11pm

The Jolly Sailor Inn, Princes Square, Looe PL13 2ER

Corncrow's first performance of 2013.  The duo play mainly traditional songs and tunes in a distinctive style which is informed both by Cornwall’s enduring musical traditions and it’s prevailing folknik spirit.

Kim Guy sings, and plays guitar & recorders, and Steve Hunt sings, and plays guitar & bouzouki. Their music features on several UK folk compilation albums, and their own mini-album CD, Sweet Nightingale.

"I reckon they’re going to go places, because I really like their stuff!" Mike Harding. BBC Radio 2

More info here.

Two fine choices for the evening in two different parts of Cornwall, both guaranteed to have you smiling, singing, and either tapping your toes, or stomping your feet!

Enjoy :D

Monday, 24 December 2012

Nadelik Lowen!

Nadelik Lowen onen hag oll! Merry Christmas one and all!

Wishing you all a Sparkling Christmas 2012!

Here's to much Cornish dancing, music & merriment in 2013!

Card created by Celia Lister - Calligraphy and Lettering Art

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Mr Martin's Reel

Here's a great challenge dance between the musicians and dancers - Mr Martin's Reel.

Collected from Mr Hedly Martin of Morval near Looe back in 1980, and often danced in the kitchens on slate floors at family parties.

The dancers form a circle, with hands placed on the shoulders of the person on either side of them (if this is difficult for individuals, or if it makes it easier for the dance, holding hands, or across the forearms also works).

Nos Lowen with Dalla at Liskerrett Centre - Mr Martin's Reel
Shuffle to the right for seven (onan, dew, tri, peswar, pymp, hwegh, seyth), stank-stank, to the left for seven, stank-stank, to the right for three (onan, dew, tri), stank-stank, to the left for three, stank-stank, to the right for two (onan, dew), to the left for two, right for two and left for one and stank-stank.  Repeat in time to the ever-increasing speed of the music!

Perfect for small people and big people, and a fine way to learn some Cornish counting and stamping too!

Here's a clip of this with some big people who spoke little English, and no Cornish at Lorient Interceltique Festival with Dalla...

And here's another clip of lots of big people dancing this in multiple circles (fun tip...once you feel comfortable going in the usual direction of right first, try going left first instead in your circle... it'll confuse a few people at first...looks great from the outside!):

The tune is the King of Sweden (Mygherten Sweden), and you can find the dots in Fooch here.

Cornish band, Dalla, have a great recording of this tune on the Rooz CD, available from Kesson, the Cornish Music Portal or CD Baby.

The full story of Mr Martin's Reel is on the an-daras portal, where you'll find oodles more Cornish folk art stuff!

Happy Cornish Dancing :D

Friday, 30 November 2012

Dancing with Corncrow

What a fabulous summer across the UK festival circuit with the marvelous duo, Corncrow.  Corncrow perform mostly traditional songs and tunes in a distinctive style, informed by Cornwall’s enduring musical traditions and it’s prevailing folknik spirit...and occasionally invite me up for a dance spot!

Here's one of the first outings with Corncrow at Fabulous Furry Folk, Glastonbury Assembly Rooms, which included a repeat Boscastle Breakdown set with little Safi Diagne, and some fine dancing with the magical people of Glastonbury.

Corncrow at Fabulous Furry Folk, Glastonbury Assembly Rooms
with Kim Guy on guitar & my lovely husband, Steve Hunt on bouzouki
Picture by Ian Anderson, Founder & Editor of fRoots magazine

Festival at the Edge was one of my favorites of 2012 - it's such a gorgeous festival up in Much Wenlock, with great storytelling, concerts and lots of dancing.  Corncrow played for the FATE 'Sparking Saturdays Cornish Dance Workshop' in the morning, with participants getting to grips with Newlyn Reel, Old Hand-in-Hand, and Tregajorran Furry and a good selection of Cornish folk dances.

Cornish Dance Workshop with Corncrow
'Nine Brave Boys' warm-up serpent
Festival at the Edge
Corncrow played on the Village Stage, and after inviting me up for a spot, I lead a couple of impromptu Cornish dances in the sunshine.

Corncrow on the Village Stage at
Festival at the Edge
And another great favorites of the year was Wallingford Bunkfest - a fantastic festival, centered on the Kinecroft, with oodles of free music (thanks to some great sponsorship and support) and crowds of some 20,000 appearing over the course of the weekend.

Corncrow in the Corn Exchange
Wallingford Bunkfest
'Tasty clogging' picture by Sarah McQuaid

We caught a great set from the lovely singer-songwriter-guitarist, Sarah McQuaid in the Portcullis, and I was delighted to be asked up for a spot of clogging as Sarah played 'Shady Grove' and 'Cluck Old Hen' - thanks, Sarah!
Corncrow played a corker of a set on the Kinecroft Stage, and I was delighted to join them once more for Boscastle Breakdown.

Corncrow on the Kinecroft Stage, Wallingford Bunkfest
Picture by Paul Chandler

Thanks, Corncrow for another great summer - looking forward to next year already! :D

You can listen to Corncrow on Reverbnation, buy their EP 'Sweet Nightingale' online through Kesson and find them on facebook and twitter.  

Friday, 1 June 2012

Celebrating Liskeard's nomination as a Portas Pilot Town with Cornish Dance

Celebrating Liskeard's nomination as a Portas Pilot Town with Cornish Dance

We were delighted to learn that Liskeard was nominated as a Portas Pilot Town "competing against the edge of town supermarket with a vibrant arts scene, guerrilla gardening and yarn bombing".

And it was marvelous to be asked to dance in the street at the end of a 'Sparking Saturdays Cornish Dance Workshop' as ITV West Country were broadcasting the news.

Here's the clip of that very special day ...

Exciting stuff being part of the 'vibrant arts scene' with traditional Cornish dance :D

And well done to the Liskeard Town Team!

Splann! Splendid!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Flame Serpent Cornish Dance on Olympic Torch Day in Liskeard

Flame Serpent Cornish Dance on Olympic Torch Day in Liskeard

After a series of workshops to give the dancers plenty of confidence to dance & get other folk up to dance, here's a couple of snaps in Westbourne Gardens of the wonderful crew in their flame-coloured clothes :D

Lois Taylor and Martyn Kington lead the Flame Serpent

Newlyn Reel

A mighty serpent dance ...

.... that keeps getting longer and longer ...

... and Liskeard Street Band playing the tunes ...

A great day all round ... and what fun dancing outside in sunny Liskeard as part of Olympic Torch Day!

Well done to all the dancers, and a HUGE thanks once again to Liskeard Town Council for pulling together such a MAMMOTH event!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Sparkers keep the Olympic Torch Alight!

Dydh da! Good Day!

It's nearly here, folks ... the Olympic Torch is passing through Liskeard on Saturday 19th May, and the Vital Sparkers have lined up some Cornish dancing including a simple, colourful Olympic Torch Serpent-March for the afternoon in Westbourne Gardens.

All the Cornish dances are really easy to pick up - just follow the rest of the dancers.  Wear flame colours - black, red, orange, gold & be a part of the grand spectacle.

There'll be a few 'snakey, serpent' dances, where you join the line & follow the leader as they spiral around the dance space, a few circle dances, including the 'Mr Martin's Reel' challenge dance between the dancers & musicians, along with a furry-circle & some partner dances.


The History

Back in the days of the Cornish Tea Treats (and still now in some parts of the Duchy), the local band would lead a procession of dancers across the fields to the local farm, or down through the town to the hall.  

The leaders would take the dancers into a huge spiral, and once they reached the centre, would turn & go under the arches of the dancers that were following them, with all the dancers following in turn as they became the leaders.  Sometimes, the following dancers would simply part to let the procession travel back through the line, joining back into the procession as they became the lead couple. 

And many a new romance or friendship was said to have sparked on such an occasion... 

You might find that the Helston Furry Dance does this, as the dancers cram into Coinage Hall at the end of the main dance with the lead dancers spiraling back out under the arches of the following dancers, taking everyone else with them.

Nancy, one of our Sparking Saturdays Cornish Dance Workshop participants tells us that her father-in-law remembers his father referring to it as a 'snake dance'.  This would have been a group from Newquay who went over the gannel to the fields at Penpol Farm with St Dennis Band leading them.  We're hoping to be able to get some pictures from Nancy sometime once her father-in-law can dig them out of the attic.

We tried out the dance for the first time at one of the Sparking Saturdays Cornish Dance Workshops, before a great Cornish Dance Night / Nos Lowen with Dalla & the Liskeard Street Band, and thought it would be a great one for Liskeard's Olympic Torch Day:

How does the Olympic Torch Serpent-March work?

Easy ... find yourself a partner, or bring one with you, and join the procession with the leftie/gent on the left, the rightie/lady on the right...

Picture by Ian Bruce / Clare Taylor

The step is a bouncy march - let the music get you into the rhythm, and follow the couple in front of you ...

Picture by Ian Bruce / Clare Taylor

... when the top couple turn, make an arch to let them under ...

Picture by Ian Bruce / Clare Taylor

... and once you're at the front, turn & go under the arches ... (see the top couple in the top left of the pic below, checking back as they've come out at the end of the procession, and everyone's followed under!)

Picture by Ian Bruce / Clare Taylor

Just keep going, either making the arch while you're waiting to go under ...

Picture by Ian Bruce / Clare Taylor

... or ducking under the arch ...

Picture by Ian Bruce / Clare Taylor

If your partner is a small person, you might need to let go hands, so that the leading dancers can pass by ... just keep moving forwards.

The Sparking Saturdays Cornish Dance Workshop folk were well impressed, as the dance had never been tried before this century in Liskeard!

Picture by Ian Bruce / Clare Taylor

The lead couple ducks under, and the new leads get ready to turn ...

Picture by Ian Bruce / Clare Taylor

... and under they go .... 

Picture by Ian Bruce / Clare Taylor

... and the next ones get ready to turn & go under.

The leftie/gent turns the rightie/lady under, so that they end up on the left again (this can be quite a fancy flourish, or a simple swap sides) ...

Picture by Ian Bruce / Clare Taylor

... and away they go ...

Picture by Ian Bruce / Clare Taylor

These pics were taken by Clare Taylor at the nos lowen with Cornish band, Dalla at the Liskerrett Centre in Liskeard, Cornwall in February 2011.

What should I wear for the Cornish dancing on Olympic Torch Day in Liskeard?

  • If you can, wear flame colours - blackredorangegold - and let's see if we can turn that Olympic Torch Serpent-March inside out like a huge flame!

Do I need special shoes?

  • Nope - whatever is comfortable, works for the weather & dancing outside on the grass ... trainers, shoes, pumps or boots.  Steel toe caps & stilettos are probably best left at home!

Can I try the Olympic Torch Serpent-March out before Olympic Torch Day in Liskeard?

  • We'll run through the Olympic Torch Serpent-March, along with some of the other dances for the afternoon in Westbourne Gardens, with all dances taught for beginners & refreshers.
And on the afternoon of Olympic Torch Day in Westbourne Gardens, Liskeard ...

Lois from the Vital Spark Project & Martyn will lead the dancing, bringing the Olympic Torch Serpent-March together, with Jenny & Carlton & the Liskeard Street Band providing the music.

Meet at Westbourne Gardens at 1:15, ready to dance at 1:35 for 1/2 an hour, and again at 2:20.  The Olympic Torch Serpent-March will be danced twice ...


So all you incredible people in Liskeard & the surrounding area - you marvelous mums & dads, teenagers,
athletic footballers, runners, cricketers, swimmers,
lovely Zumba dancers, gorgeous dance school girls & boys, Girl Guides, Boy Scouts,Rotarians,
farmers, fishers, mechanics, knitters, restaurateurs, cooks, town councillors, shoppers, shop keepers & @LoveLiskeard supporters, the challenge is on for you to make this the BIGGEST, MOST
COLOURFUL Olympic Torch Serpent-March
 ever in Liskeard!

Go on ... make this a big one for Liskeard!

HUGE THANKS to Liskeard Town Councillor,
Trina Dawe & colleagues, for helping to make this happen!!!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

FerLyskerrys & The Vital Spark

Dynnergh! Welcome!

Let’s begin at the beginning … the beginning of The Vital Spark, that is (which is probably some way from the real beginning, and a very long way from the end) ...

Shortly before Kemysk Cornish Dancers headed out to Lorient Interceltic Festival in 2010, we danced out for the first time for an invited audience of 40 or 50 up at St Clether Barn to raise money for the church organ, and to help fellow dancer, Gemma Kempthorne to promote the space as a new community venue.  I was really lucky to be introduced to Lois Taylor, an inspirational contemporary dance artist, and we began talking about the possibility for doing some Cornish dance in Liskeard in the not-too-distant future.

Kemysk Cornish Dancers inspirational 
set for the Vital Spark project

Sometime after the festival season, Lois dropped in for coffee & a chat about a potential project inspired by the Cornish dances she’d seen up at St Clether Barn, and how the stepping had made her think about the way in which the needles of a sewing machine moved up and down.  Could we translate a Cornish dance into a piece of needlework?  Could it spark some creative dance...? And what about sparking some music, and prose...and...and ... and could it perhaps spark some energy into the weary market town of Liskeard, bringing in an extra visitor or two to shop & be part of whatever would come to be ...? 

We chatted about the possible Cornish dances that we could use, and how we could get artists to scribe the dance, and take the artwork to sewing groups to make cushions, and to spark interpretations of the dance and the music with contemporary dancers, writers & musicians, culminating in some kind of celebration event ... and we settled on the dance ‘Fer Lyskerrys’ - that’s Cornish for ‘Liskeard Fair’ as the natural choice sometime in March (St Piran’s time) – ideal for dancing, feasting & enjoying fine cider & ale!

So, while Lois pulled the creative, promotional & logistic strands of the Vital Spark together with support from Feast, I scheduled a series of 6 fortnightly Cornish dance workshops on Saturday mornings before the footie (my husband & son are PAFC fans), designed for participants to have some ‘foot stomping fun with Cornish dance’, and to learn the Fer Lyskerrys dance.

And so, the Vital Spark Festival set out on it's journey into the unknown...

A Potted History of the Cornish dance, Fer Lyskerrys

The story behind Fer Lyskerrys – Liskeard Fair - comes from documents describing the feast days, such as St Matthew’s Fair in Liskeard, where there were processions with musicians begging for cider or beer and ‘dances taking place on the green’.  The original Fer Lyskerrys tune was collected in the late 1890’s, with an extra couple of bars to the regular 16/32 format found in the processional furry dances.  As there was ‘dancing on the green’, this dance could have originally been in a stationary set, rather than furry dance style. I picked up Fer Lyskerrys with traditional Cornish dance group, Asteveryn, which was danced as a square set, similar to the Quadrilles, which were popular in stately homes in the late 19th century, with those extra 2 bars removed, & I recall hearing of a few variations in the form of the dance, depending on which dance group you were with.

The full history of Fer Lyskerrys is well documented on the site, including the dance notation for Fer Lyskerrys with the format without those 2 extra bars.  It can also be found in the excellent book by Merv, Alison & Jowdy Davey, ‘Scoot Dances, Troyls, Furrys & Tea Treats: The Cornish Dance Tradition’ published by Francis Boutle – the Book Shop in Liskeard can get a copy for you if they’ve none left on the shelves (or if you’re not in the Liskeard area, drop into your local bookshop & ask for a copy to be ordered for you).

The Workshops

The first Cornish dance workshop in the Vital Spark series was run as a very special session at the Liskerrett Centre (a former school with plenty of natural light in the main hall), with music provided by Corncrow’s Steve Hunt on bouzouki, & Pentorr’s Martin Jump & Will Manley on mandolin & fiddle, with half a dozen artists scribing the Fer Lyskerrys dance.

The dancers included complete novices to Cornish folk dance from Liskeard & the surrounding area, some of the original Polperro crew (that’s a story for another day ...), contemporary dancers, writers, singers & musicians (who would later form into the Liskeard Street Band). 

After a few simple ‘warm up’ Cornish social dances, we began to learn ‘Fer Lyskerrys’.  To help the dancers remember the first part of the dance, these words appeared ...

"Hello neighbours, how’re you doing?
We’re doing fine, how about you?
On the wheel at Fer Lyskerrys
Round & round & round we go”

...and into the Celtic cross...hold it there, tops to the band & back, turn your partner, sides to the door & back, turn your partner...and ladies chain ... and breathe (thanks for those 2 extra bars!).  Some folks (like me) find it easier to remember how a dance goes if you’re not trying to count or figure out your left from your right.

We kept in the extra 2 bars as per the original music, and as a natural breather for the dancers – adding an extra twirl for the fun of it.

The artists quickly scribed the dance shapes, the dancers, the musicians & even the music as I taught Fer Lyskerrys: we have such immense talent in Liskeard and the surrounding area; the image of the Celtic cross, and the pattern of the Fer Lyskerrys wheel, with hands on shoulders was perceptively well captured.  And these were only ‘rough’ images!  Incredible!

Fer Lyskerrys tune captured in oils ... incredible!
Over the course of the next few weeks, a series of Vital Spark workshops took place: musicians collaborated with contemporary dancers, sewing groups stitched away, writers got creative, singers worked on songs, and artists worked on their Fer Lyskerrys artwork.  You can see some of the images of this on the Liskerrett Centre’s website.

And the dancers learnt the shapes & forms for a selection of simple Cornish social dances, such as Old-Hand-in-Hand, Mr Martin’s Reel, North Cornwall Furry, Tregajorran Furry & Newlyn Reel, as well as dancing Fer Lyskerrys.

The Vital Spark Celebration 2011

Finally, the week of the Vital Spark, with the artwork exhibiting at Stuart House, an evening of song & dance at the Liskerrett Centre, and finally, the Vital Spark Celebration in Liskeard Town Hall, which was decked out in the the fine artwork from the artists, cushions from the sewing group & poems & prose from the creative writing group.

The contemporary dancers had created some beautifully subtle & powerful interpretations of Fer Lyskerrys, accompanied by the musicians, who had taken the original notated tune & come back with an incredibly delicate, almost light-touch version.  The creative writers shared a selection of some of the most moving, witty and engaging poems & prose, and the singers came back with the Fer Lyskerrys song. 

Rewards all round with cider & ale, a delightfully moving performance of ‘Mothers & Daughters’ from Skyl Glas, the Pan Celtic Competition Winners 2011 for the Cornish entry, along with Willow, and a finale with Cornish psych-folk-dub-reggae band, Pentorr playing for dancing after a final set of Fer Lyskerrys.

Here's a rake of pics from the workshops & the Vital Spark Celebration event.

“Can we do more of this?” was heard frequently in the feedback from audience & participants ... yes indeedy ..

More Cornish Dance & The Vital Spark 2012

‘Sparking Saturdays’ Cornish Dance Workshops carried on after the first Vital Spark Festival of the Arts, based on demand from participants, and newcomers appear frequently to have some ‘foot-stomping fun with Cornish dance’. 

Scoot Lyskerrys is emerging as the Liskeard-based Cornish dance group, performing in the streets of Liskeard & on selected occasions, including the opening of the ‘It’s a Hard Rock Life’ at Stuart House in Liskeard, in a mix of scoots (clogs), taps or whatever footwear is available.  And almost always dressed in bright colours.

And the Vital Spark is back this year, this time with a 2 week arts festival, including creative writing, making music, making a dance, paintings & drawings, ‘Sparking Saturdays Cornish Dance’, ‘Style About Town’ and performances at the ‘Rough Cut’ in the Liskerrett Centre, & the Vital Spark Celebration Event in the Town Hall.

This is the first blog in the Cornish Dance & Cornish Dance Products series ... thinking in particular about some of the lovely people from Liskeard, and those folk artists across the border in Chippenham, and across the next border in Glasgow ;) Hope you like it!

Here's a couple of extra links for you:

Kesson - your gateway to Cornish music CD's & downloads
Fooch - Cornish tunebook including 'Fer Lyskerrys' (with the extra couple of bars!)

Happy Dancing!

Oll an gwella - all the best,

Carmen :D

Coming up sometime soon in the Cornish Dance & Cornish Dance Products series ...

The Imploding Cornish March (sometimes known as ‘Coinage Hall’)
Newlyn Reel
Tin Stamp
Polperro Furry

...and don't forget St Piran's Day on 5th March ... celebrations across Cornwall over the 2nd/3rd/4th March weekend ...