From Hampshire Advertiser, 1930
Keen Interest in the Displays
A team of Fordingbridge folk dancers recently had the honour of taking part in a display of Morris and Sword dancing at the Albert Hall. There has been a great revival of folk dancing in the last 30 years, but the history of the Fordingbridge folk dancers only dates back four or five. The troupe was formed at the suggestion of the English Folk Dancing Society then resident in the neighbourhood. At first, the dancers were ladies, belonging to the Damerham group of Women’s Institutes but eventually, after a folk dancing party had been held at Fordingbridge a mixed class was started, and this was followed by a children’s class.
The present instructor is Mr. Michael Bell, of Southampton, the County Teacher of the English Folk Dancing Society, which shares with Miss M. Saunders, of Woodgreen, Breamore, the Chairman of the Fordingbridge Society, the secretaryship of which has lately been taken over by Mrs. Powell, of “Heytesbury”. Mrs. Powell is one of the pioneers of the Society, a most enthusiastic supporter of the folk dancing movement in the county, and a member of the County Executive.
The District is fortunate in having such an enthusiast as a resident for her love of folk dancing induces her to devote many hours a week to popularising the movement in and around Fordingbridge, and putting beginners through their paces.
Most of the dancers are just ordinary working people of the villages. Some come from Salisbury, others from Charlton, Downton, Godshill, Woodgreen, Hale and Breamore, and the interest has spread as far as Burley and Ringwood, where classes are carried on.
It was the success of the Fordingbridge men at the county competition at Southampton last year which caused them to be invited to appear at the Albert Hall under the auspices of the English Folk Dancing Society, which, by the way, was founded by the late Cecil Sharp, who devoted his life to making folk songs and dances common property. They were naturally very much elated at the honour, but the troupe of eight dancers consisted of working people, and a visit to the Albert Hall meant staying in town for several days. It was an expensive matter, but their friends rallied round, and the money required was raised by means of fetes, competitions and social gatherings of various kinds. Those who were present say that the massed dancing that took place was most impressive.
Miss Saunders, who is a voluntary worker in the movement, admitted to the “Hampshire Advertiser” that folk dancing occupied her time either as an instructress or in some other way every day in the week. She liked to see people taking part in the exercise for it was strenuous enough to be good for those physically, and as dances get more complicated it was good mental exercise as well.
Last year a party of twelve Fordingbridge dancers made a tour of the villages of the Forest and gave demonstrations in the open air. They visited, amongst other villages, Bramshaw, Lyndhurst, Romsey and Cadnam dancing to the strains of a melodian and concertina played by a boy from ear. This tour was so successful that arrangements were made for the young musician to take lessons, so that a greater variety of dances could be given, and it was hoped to repeat the tour this summer.
They might also repeat the folk dancing camps which were very happy events at Godshill in Whitsuntide, and in June. One was a mixed gathering for folk dancing, and the other for men for Morris and sword dancing.
Miss Saunders said that some of the dances were very old. Some people believe that Morris dancing was originally Moorish dancing. There were various types of folk dancing, what was known as the traditional being very simple, whilst the Spanish type, for instance, was spectacular. The Moorish idea, however, was not generally accepted, as it was found that at old-time festival dances people dressed up in fancy costumes and sometimes blackened their faces, and were therefore called Moors.
The Fordingbridge folk dancers have won honours at the Bournemouth competitions, and also at numerous local events. In the summer months, they visit fetes and social gatherings, and it is expected that they will do so again this year.