Sidmouth Folk Week 2010: social dance and serious ceilidh - how long before it dies completely at Sidmouth? Comparisons to Towersey Festival 2010.

French and Breton dancing - and Blowzabella.

I spent Tuesday evening at the Poisson Rouge Breton dance event in All Saints Hall. It wasn't packed (fortunately) but most of the people knew how to dance and I'd rate it as one of the evening highlights.

In contrast, Blowzabella on the Wednesday was a disappointment at the Bulverton where in a previous year, they had been excellent. So why the difference? Perhaps because the 8pm event in 2010 had been Bellowhead - a band that attracts the teenyboppers and those who love just to thrash around - and some stayed on for Blowzabella. Jo Freya didn't help by giving little or no time for the melee of dancers to come to some sort of order before launching into progressive dances - more than one person said to me that these were excellent dances and good music totally wasted on a crowd of people many of whom couldn't do them and couldn't care less they were making a nuisance of themselves.

The dance floor was far too small and with so many non-dancers taking up too much of the available area: this seemed to be a layout design fault. Also, there seems to be a problem also with the numbers allowed in - they were certainly restricted for Bellowhead with many season ticket holders disgruntled that they couldn't get in. Some people spent an hour and a half in the queue  - after the event had started. It was primarily a concert, so the marquee could be filled to its (permitted?) capacity. However, once Bellowhead had finished the limit on numbers was apparently lifted with any ticket holder being allowed in - so the venue could have been even more packed for the Blowzabella dance event. This hardly seems sensible: fast dancers surely need more space than do bopping concert-goers.

What a contrast to when Blowzabella have played in central Exeter (and I've been twice, Jo Freya was the caller most recently) - on each occasion the dancing has been excellent, the instruction clear and with adequate space available.

So Exeter can do it and Sidmouth Folk Week can't?

Management's near obsession with a single dance event - the silent ceilidh - is confirmed by the official photographs: of 93 photos loaded by 30 August (and unchanged from 10 August), 22 were of the silent ceilidh. There were 13 of Morris dancers on the Esplanade and nearly 30 of pre-festival activities including in the Market Square. There was just one photo of social dance. Maybe more will be added later?

Note: I have been told these are not the 'official' photos on but I can't find any alternatives on the festival site at the moment! There are some stunning sets of images of street processions etc on other websites that are also linked from the festival homepage.

Dance at Towersey Festival 2010 compared to Sidmouth FolkWeek 2010.

On the subject of French dance, whilst the Poisson Rouge event at Sidmouth was good (and Blowzabella was largely a waste of time for anyone who wanted to dance properly) the Euro dancing at Towersey in 2010 was even better. A large marquee with room to dance was filled with many experienced dancers, many moderately good dancers and a few novices keen to learn. Under Kerry Fletcher it all worked well, albeit she usually tries to cram too much into a limited time.

However, she always annoys me by saying how good we all are (when many of us know we are basically rubbish!). I managed several dances that I wouldn't even have attempted a few years ago, I taught a few novices some of the basics, I even attempted the Carnival de Lanz processional dance - which is not all that difficult once you get the hang of it.

And here is the difference from Sidmouth - you could leave Towersey festival after a long weekend feeling you had learnt something, not only from the dance tutors but (in my case) from the several superbly accomplished women with whom I had been able to dance. I forget names so easily but on the off-chance that Stephanie is reading this - thank you for the mazurka. I have never had a better partner for that dance - and I've had quite a few who I rated as perfect.

You just don't meet many dancers of this quality at Sidmouth any more. There is little left at Sidmouth to attract them.

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