Dartmoor Step Dancing Project - Message from Project Coordinator Lisa Sture - Taking Steps: Discovering & Enjoying Our Dartmoor Stepdance Heritage
You may be wondering ... Why are we doing this project?
Stepdancing is a form of dancing where the feet tap out a rhythm to music and is allied to, but not the same as, clog dancing and a forerunner of Tap Dancing. Specifically what defines the tradition has not been studied. However, it was a popular social pastime, as well as a competitive activity involving prize money, something that would have been keenly fought over.
It is reported that at one time there were pubs on Dartmoor where 'everyone' was stepdancing, and there were a good number of villages across Dartmoor that held an annual stepdance competition.
These days it is not often that you will see someone stood on the traditional small board doing Dartmoor Stepdancing. If you go to the 3rd Monday music session at the King's Arms, S Zeal you may do, if you go to the Annual Dartmoor Folk Festival you definitely will, but apart from that it is a rare sight. How things have changed!
The Dartmoor Folk Festival was started by renowned Dartmoor folk musician Bob Cann in 1978. He wanted to help revive and preserve the traditions of Dartmoor, and in particular, the traditional music, dance, song and crafts of the area. It has done well, and for the last 33 years there have been both stepdancing workshops and a competition. During this time the number of stepdancers has grown, and interest has grown too.
How did the decline of stepdancing happen? It happened before mobile phones and the distractions of modern technology. Les Rice used to say it was when World War II started in 1939. This, along with many other thing,s like whether women competed in the competitions, we don't know. So research is the focus of the first part of the project. We are searching out all the records we can find across the country to do with Dartmoor Stepdancing, so we can so piece together more facts, steps, stories and music of the tradition.
We are hoping to find people who remember stepdancing from more than 30 years ago, or who knew the older stepdancers, and record their memories. These interviews will enrich our knowledge and inform the development of stepdancing into the future.
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