Dancing Dialogues – Latest news from the project

Dancing Dialogues is networking research with traditional, folk and national dance groups of all cultural identities.

10 July 2024


Dancing Dialogues is networking research with traditional, folk and national dance groups of all cultural identities practising in South West, South East and Midlands regions in England. The project has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council with contributions from universities. As they come towards the end of the project, they share a snapshot of their experiences in each of the regions. Throughout they have been supported by One Dance UK.

The project culminated in a workshop day hosted in Cecil Sharp House bringing together invited participants from a wide range of dance groups. They welcome reps from nine dance groups and to learn more about Polish, Appalachian clog, Peruvian, Iberian, Brazilian, morris (3 sides), and Hawaiian Hula. They piloted a way of working that prioritised researching through moving together, paying attention to steps and rhythms. They began with dance video clips contextualised by the dancers, learning a basic step from each form and choreographing across forms in small groups. Each group performed what they had discovered in moving together with the versatile and creative support of percussionist Andres Ticino. Kerry Fletcher taught dance developed by Folk Dance Remixed ‘Waves of the Soul Train’ to bring the whole group into a longways set, allowing further dance step exchange between partners and ending the movement part of the day with the challenge to repeat our steps to different rhythms that Andres had heard and collected earlier. They had a lively discussion at the end of the day, which drew to a close all too soon, knowing there was so much more to say.

Part of the project was to better understand regional characteristics and differences in traditional dance activity. Each researcher records first thoughts on their experiences:

Libby: "In the South East I realise I have just touched on the immense range and number of dance groups that are active in the region and that also operate within their distinct networks well beyond UK borders. The level of skill involved in, for instance the Polish group Karolinka’s steps and song or Morena Slovak Dance Co dramatic dances are exceptional and not fully recognised and valued. I have been so impressed by these groups seen in practice or at Swanage Folk Festival. Similarly impressive were Northfields Morris and Pilgrim Morris at their local events in London and Guildford. How groups form and why they stay together is not straight forward with, for example, some having participants from a wide range of national heritages drawn to a specific dance form lead by a passionate and highly trained/experienced leader. The Iberian Folk Song and Dance Society and Rosaria Gracia’s group are two such groups I visited. Speaking to Tamsin of Hawaiian Hula and Jessica of Baila Peru I was aware of their deep connections to the countries of their dances’ origin and the respect they had for the ritual and spiritual stories that were embedded in them. Local community lies at the heart of Bhangra Dance London with their classes and festival appearances proving highly popular. At one class there were over thirty dancers, most of whom were under eighteen and proficient in fast intricate moves to the rich rhythms of the music. It was refreshing to see young people delighting in their cultural dance and enthusiastic about sharing it with everyone at the local Hanwell Carnival."

Rosa: "For the West Midlands strand of the project I have been working closely with Pauline Woods-Wilson, President of the Morris Dance Federation,  and with Matthew Turvey  from the Shakespeare Morris group based in Stratford-Upon Avon who came to the Dancing Dialogues workshop. I have been in touch with the Coventry Morris, Glorishears of Brummagem and the Nottingham Folk Dance Group. The groups have also contributed to the interactive website map. The West Midlands has several South East Asian and Eastern European Folk dance groups and while contact has been made with many, I am yet to meet them in person."

Jerri: "For the South West region, I’m focusing on Devon and Cornwall. I’ve been surprised by how many Morris sides there are in Devon, with many different styles, some creating new dances based in local folklore and the landscape. There are also groups doing other dance forms including Appalachian step. I’ve met with several groups, one of which is Bulgarian dance group Sedef led by the wonderful Ani who travels throughout the South West teaching dance to Bulgarian communities. In Cornwall, I’ve seen some Morris, but I’m particularly interested in the development of Cornish dance, as well as the influence of Breton dance and the Nos Lowen events, connecting to a sense of shared Celtic identity. For the workshop, I was very pleased to bring members from Beltane Border Morris, the Isambard’s Gasket Rats, and Aurora Appalachian from Devon. They all enjoyed meeting dancers from different styles and regions and choreographing new pieces with each other. I went to the Teignmouth Folk Festival recently (22-23 June) and was struck by how many people practice traditional and folk forms with so much passion and energy. Watching the wonderful Beltane Border Morris performing along the sea front to an appreciative audience made me realise how strong the practice of these forms is in the South West, and long may it continue."


For the full research questions and ideas behind the project, you can find all the details on the website Dancing Dialogues (, together with the online map, questionnaire link and recordings/summaries of our events.