Letters in STS89 about dance behaviour, unwarranted accusations and persecution! September 2014.

Why is Steve Wozniak being persecuted?

Dear Chris

Set and Turn Single has become far too personal. Why is Steve Wozniak being persecuted? No one else is. If comments like those In the letters pages of the last STS appeared in any other forum they would probably be removed. At least Monty Crook didn't refer to Steve by name, although the references wore obvious to anyone taking an interest.

There are a number of men on the social dance circuit whose behaviour upsets a fair proportion of women to some degree. A few are avoided by pretty much every woman who has ever experienced their unpleasant behaviour and at least one has been banned from dancing at several venues. However, in most cases it's a matter of personal reactions, which do vary from woman to woman.

I know various women who particularly enjoy dancing with Steve Wozniak because he can usually be relied on to liven things up. In fact I haven't directly heard any complaints about him, although I recognise the depiction of his dancing.

I know several women who dislike dancing with certain male dancers with whom I also enjoy dancing occasionally. A common feature with these individuals is that they too like to inject a sense of fun into our dancing, Is that so wrong? Surely the correct response to an encounter with someone whose dance etiquette upsets you is to tell them avoid them in future (if they don't change their behaviour), discuss it with your friends, and move on. There are plenty of other dancers at a festival. Admittedly it can be harder in a small club or dance holiday.

If you feel that strongly, mention it to the festival, event or club organiser. But why air your grievances against a specific individual in public? Would you do that about any other person acting in a private capacity and not breaking the law? Letters of this sort would possibly be treated as harassment in a place of work.

Many single women still feel obliged to dance with any man who asks them, unless genuinely too tired or injured, because it would be impolite to refuse, but some have moved on from this. Indeed some will openly turn down one man and then accept another's invitation for the same dance. Other women may leave the hall to avoid dancing with a man they don't wish to dance with. Is this necessary these days? Or is it acceptable simply to refuse a man, without explanations? What do others think? Lets have a grown-up debate about the issues, not enter into a personal mud-slinging contest.

Fran Sly

Would I bother driving to Eastbourne Folk Dance Festival?

Dear Chris,

I am bound to respond to the content of recent letters in STS. As these were centred around Eastbourne and Chippenham Festivals I will restrict my comments largely to these two events.

I would not bother driving 180 miles to Eastbourne unless I knew that some of my favourite dance partners were attending, so we email each other before booking. But this year was memorable not only for the fun I had with my ‘usual’ partners but with quite a few new faces also. Despite a longstanding arm injury dating from Woolacombe weekend in February (which happened when I rather overdid swinging women around) I managed never to sit out a dance. I had to explain to partners that I needed to swing using both hands around their waists simply to offer support for my injured arm. The vast majority accepted this. There will always be a few who complain about anything.

Chippenham this year was one of the best festivals for a long time owing in no small part to Seth Tepfer from the USA. I can remember thrashing various women around the dance floor in some of his fast square sets and one partner exclaiming ‘Oh, why can’t every dance be so exhilarating?’

Contrary to the picture painted by Alan Wilson, Liz Hope, Phyllis Smith, Monty Crook and a few others, I never had the slightest problem in finding partners at Chippenham, despite the fact that two of my favourites couldn’t dance. One spent the weekend with ice packs on her knee and the other had a damaged foot. But I had to turn down one or two women because others had already asked me for the next dance. No doubt some people felt uncomfortable with the speed and exuberance of some events. As I have suggested before in STS, there is always knitting or stamp collecting.

However, Chippenham was not without its unsatisfactory aspects. Even before the first dances I had people muttering to me about the ceilidh bands on offer – all being at the ear splitting and/or ‘rock-ceilidh’ end of the spectrum. In all the years I have attended Chippenham I have never before elected to avoid the late night ceilidh sessions, owing simply to the absurdly high sound levels. Other dancers also avoided these events. Hot Rats on the Friday were fine – but the Saturday, Sunday and Monday were unbearable. Whoever is in charge of booking ceilidh bands at Chippenham needs to be replaced. I must have spoken to 20 or more people who all agreed that the sound levels were absurd. Tickled Pink play excellent dance music but it is simply far too loud. (A comment often repeated to us - Ed)

There were unsatisfactory arrangements in Neeld Hall also. In my previous letter in STS I outlined the problems of single sided ventilation. I forgot to use Neeld Hall as a prime example. Despite a large number of doors on one side it is in a sheltered location and can overheat rapidly. On one occasion an officious steward tried to close all the fire doors because he said some people were sneaking in. Two or three dancers including me immediately threw the doors open again and told the steward not to be so silly.   The festival needs to provide a sufficient number of adequately trained and intelligent stewards instead of broiling dancers. This has been a longstanding problem at Sidmouth. I would have expected better at Chippenham. Again, the person involved needs to be replaced.

So, if we got rid of a few miserable and/or inadequate people from the dance halls, replaced one or two jobsworth stewards and booked ceilidh bands and sound engineers who were both sane and suitable, Chippenham could be almost perfect!

Steve Wozniak.

A related letter about overheating in Blackmore Gardens Sidmouth has been retained in the folkfestival section.

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.