Speed dancing - an idea for UK folk festivals? Copied from STS issue 81 May 2013.

Dear Chris,

I read Stephen Wozniak's thoughts about combining a dating agency with the folk dance community with interest and I came up with a perfect solution . . .'Speed Dancing'.

It could work like this: a host website (STS ?) could promote Speed Dancing events around the country and interested participants would log on and be issued with a number and location and date of the dance. Once there, the rule would be that you had to dance with a different partner for every dance - the caller could call out a pair of numbers (a bit like dancing bingo or the football draws e.g. 'male 11 with female 23' for example) until all the sets were made up and the people who had those numbers danced that dance with each other. Simple! When that dance was over, the process would be repeated - the caller would call out pairs of numbers and the dancers on the floor would move on and search out their corresponding partner for that dance. This alone could be hilarious.

The dances would have to be simple to learn and fun to do and of fairly short duration so that a maximum number could be achieved throughout the evening, ensuring as many changes of partner as possible. Think of all the flirting moves and 'see me later' whispers !! This could really catch on! No more poor 'singletons' sitting out as wallflowers and no more worrying about finding a partner for the next dance. The novelty of the idea and its similarity to 'Speed Dating' might attract a whole new range of potential converts to folk dance as well as making a fun event for us old faithfuls!

So come on folk dance and festival organisers, can you take up the idea and organise a 'Speed-Dancing' event ? It could do wonders to pep up the image of folk dancing!

Best Wishes    Karen Barrett

And a response - from STS issue 82 July 2013.

Dear Chris,

In STS 81 Karen Barrett suggests speed dancing. I think not - but her suggestion of lots of short dances would have the advantage over events where the caller tells you to 'keep the partner you have' for what seems like an eternity when all you really want to do is get back to the woman you asked to dance originally. At any dance there needs to be plenty of time for anyone to find and dance with the one (or two?) people they find most appealing.

A recent speed dating event at a library in Surrey attracted many men and apparently not a single woman. I suspect the opposite might be true for dancers - so maybe if you combined the two types of event and held a dance in a library? After all, at Chippenham we had a dance in a Church and there were one or two disbelieving glances from passers by.

The serious issue remains that online dating websites attract money in the tens of millions and with contact between people being limited in 95% or more of cases to a few emails - so called online 'chat'. There must surely be a way for folk dancing to tap into this huge and lucrative singles market?

No format is likely to suit everyone - I try and tease partners as much as possible and it is usually the American and French women who appreciate it most. Quite regularly I am told that women would prefer their partners to flirt more. At Chippenham one woman told me I had 'lovely contra eyes'. It made up for those who (as always) refuse even to do a gypsy properly. They should take up knitting or stamp collecting.

Yours (forever being misunderstood by women)

Stephen Wozniak

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