Dance teaching - beyond the basics. Free dance lessons (Devon & Somerset).

I have now danced for over 20 years - including French, Breton, Irish Set, American Square, and a few oddments at festivals in addition to mainstream English folk dance and ceilidh. For many years I danced quite badly owing to the fact that so little was actually 'taught' in a professional manner in local clubs - in contrast to what happens in many other dance styles such as Ballroom and Jive.

In the last 20 years I have attended many dance workshops and tutorial sessions at folk festivals and dance weekends and have picked up a range of tips and teaching techniques from experts as well as from a range of superbly competent dance partners.

Now (2023 and onwards) I feel I should offer to pass on some of this advice and guidance to other people including newcomers, as a part of proper teaching of folk dance (and to include remedial lessons!). This would be teaching moves and component parts of dances rather than teaching of whole dances (but a few would be included).

So here is how I envisage it might work.

For years I have been frustrated at ceilidhs where half the people don't know the basics. It slows everything down.

Dancing is more satisfying if everyone knows what they are doing and just goes for it.

I am not proposing to hold classes on specific days or at one fixed venue. Rather YOU, a group of your friends, etc, can decide you'd like to learn, find a local venue (a large room in a house, a school hall a village hall etc) pay as appropriate, and I will attend by prior arrangement and teach you from a menu of dance types - folk dance moves (lots of them), American Square dance, Irish Set dance, French dances, couple dances (waltz, polka, schottische, mazurka etc) and so on. And TEACH YOU HOW TO SWING PROPERLY.

The emphasis would be on teaching but to include some dances (with music!) depending on the floor type and size of the venue. I can then teach (maybe) two or three separate groups at different times and in different locations, to suit each group. Anytime 10am to 10pm, if I'm free.

The organisation - finding people to attend from within your social group(s), deciding a time and place, agreeing this with me, etc will be down to you. Minimum number is really 7 (with me, makes 8). I have taught aspects of dance in my kitchen 1:1, but 8 is a minimum number for square sets, and indeed for lots of dances. Some square sets need 10 people. Most attendees can be women (more women than men usually attend dances) but some have to learn to dance both roles. Women are adaptable, they can do this (!). In any case, women need to be able to dance both roles, unless they always bring a man with them - and he might get stolen during the evening.

So attendees can be all women or mostly women. Mostly men would not work.

There will be no entrance fees etc, except you have to organise and pay for hire of the hall, unless you use someone's home. Any venue needs to be heated - there will be some time spent standing around.

Some teaching will be well in advance of what you will need at a typical local dance, but it will force you to think - and give you an idea of what you might expect at festivals (for example Sidmouth Folk Week in August).

Minimum duration would be about 1.5 hours, perhaps 2 hours to make the travel worthwhile. Anywhere within about 30 miles of Sidmouth is OK. For a really keen group, maybe further.

What's in it for me?

To increase the number of (especially younger) people attending local dances and ceilidhs and knowing what they are doing. Too many dance clubs have either closed down or become much smaller in the last ten years.

CONTACT: Steve Wozniak = stevewozniak42 (AT)      replace (AT) by @ to create a valid email address.

1. Despite having been dancing for years, some people fail to appreciate the importance of being in the right place, at the right time and facing in the correct direction. This is the principal reason they get fast dances wrong - they know all the moves, but if even a couple of dancers in a set of six or eight get out of place, some fast dances break down very quickly. American Square Dance illustrates the point perfectly - every move needs to be performed correctly.

2. Many people have never learnt to do couple dances properly. They make awkward and/or uncomfortable partners for waltz and polka, for example. Many do not know how to do a range of other couple dances - which is rather limiting. I can teach these.

3. Many people have never been taught how to swing properly - that is, to do the basic 'buzz step' swing which is the default method for most folk dances except step-hop where other options can be employed. Again, this makes them distinctly uncomfortable as dance partners, and can even be dangerous. I regularly taught people at festivals how to swing properly - in the old days when I used to attend many of them - some women have been astounded at the difference it can make to their swinging even after two minutes of instruction.

4. Many newcomers would benefit from intensive learning sessions for moves such as grand square and variants, and moving on to learn the discipline of complex flutterwheels, grand sweep moves, reels etc. All of these I can teach very easily.

Dance partners can be grouped into two broad categories:

A. Those who have learnt at some time in their lives to swing, waltz and polka properly. Often they have learnt ballroom dance. They know the importance of balance and where to put their feet and especially in swinging, the orientation of their feet. These partners are usually quite comfortable to swing with and often very good indeed. Age, size or shape makes little difference!

B. The others! Oh dear me. For both men and women, these range from acceptable through to appalling, some think they are swinging properly because they have been doing the same thing (and very badly) for a decade or more. It is not primarily their fault - they have never been taught properly. Often they don't like being told they are doing it all wrong. Unfortunately, the longer they have been dancing badly, the more remedial teaching may be required. Better shoes (with more slip to the soles) can help too, as can having a decent dance floor.

Of course experienced dancers often get things wrong - or they appear to do so. Often I put in extra moves and turns that often work but sometimes don't quite work, so it looks like a mistake. But it was more of a miscalculation as to what I could get away with! A good dancer can always recover quickly from errors.

So this is what I could offer.

Finally, I would like someone to teach me the polska - I did it properly at Towersey some years ago ........It's an offset dance which makes it both unusual and difficult to learn. The walking forward bit is easy once you get the hang of it. Turns for a man are sweep round and step on left foot, tap right, step onto right. Repeat....Sounds easy doesn't it.......

Some discussion of basic folk dance moves is here.

main Folk Dance Page

Home page.