STEVE WOZNIAK ANSWERS KAREN
In STS 77 Karen asked why people take up folk dancing. In my case it was a consequence of working in the south-west. 1 drove around 10,000 miles (mainly in Devon) looking at over 100 houses and not being able to decide what I wanted - a farm, a large house, a small cottage. Being married would have made life easier - I would have been told.
I visited Sidmouth as part of my travels and liked the'well to do' atmosphere compared to the 'rural poverty' of other areas. I attended one or two of the large International Folk Festivals as a casual day tripper, never dreaming that I might one day venture onto a dance floor. Having been involved a little with the property market, I knew that people rarely buy what they first think they want. Thus, Estate Agents politely note down and then disregard these views. People often buy what 'clicks', irrespective of the fact that it might be far from their perceived ideal.
In my case I was driving along when for some reason I glanced back and saw the sun glinting on the river Sid. A year or so later I bought a bungalow nearby. The proximity of the International Festival was a small factor - I liked the idea of an annual spectacle on my doorstep. But I was still a long way from being brave enough to try folk dancing. I was a back-room scientist. But when it was proposed to build a large multistorey car park near the seafront I began a campaign against it and, in a by-election, I won a seat as a town councillor.
For several more years I looked through the open walls of the dance marquees. It all looked so impossibly fast. But one year I went to a dance and decided never again. A year or so later I gingerly attended the late Mick Brookes' beginner workshops, which in those days were held in the Knowle Council Offices. Again, I decided never again.
But every year I was drawn more and more to the sights and sounds of the international Festival. Somewhere along the way I decided I must try to learn how to dance. The process took years, mainly because (I later realised) most of dance teaching was completely unsuited to anyone of my innate inability.
I can't put my finger on when I really decided to try in earnest but I have now been attending dance festivals for about 6 or 7 years. I still can't do the Polska, but I do teach English and French dance to a basic level and using the 1:1 method of teaching that I wish had been used when I was trying to learn. Many beginners at festivals seem very grateful, so perhaps I should patent it! In my view, more people like me who are not natural dancers and who have no musical ability or sense of rhythm could be persuaded to take up dancing (and become quite good at it) if the structure and pace of teaching workshops was substantially altered. So to answer Karen Barrett's question in a nutshell, fate, and the sun on the river Sid decreed I live in Sidmouth. The International Festival was by then such a spectacle that after a few years as a spectator it became impossible even for me not to want to become a part of the action.
Looking back at life, everyone should be able to identify a few places or events where a chance decision determined the road henceforth to be travelled. What or who else might have been encountered along any of the other multitude of roads?
I'm reminded of Joan Baez: "There but for fortune."
Index page for STS articles and letters.
Top of folk clubs page - folk dance clubs in Devon (etc)
Gittisham Folk Dance club - the original website
Sidmouth Folk Festival - the history since August 2001
How to run a folk dance club - experiences over 15 years (most pages not yet completed)
Folk Dance Diary 2016 - highlights of a year of folk dancing.