One step at a time

24th November 1995 at 00:00
Baskets and Bananaskins. Country Dancing for the Unwary, Pounds 12.50 + Pounds 1.50 pp. Cheques with order to 'John Bull Music', 221 Station Road, Nether Whitacre, Coleshill, Birmingham B46 2JG.

This illustrated booklet and cassette tape of music provide an enjoyable introduction to teaching country dancing. The booklet is written in a lively, concise style and gives details of 10 traditional dances.

From the start, the writers emphasise the social nature of folkdance and the importance of every dancer's enjoyment. The text supports this approach, while paying attention to the need for an awareness of style and technique to improve performance.

There are detailed explanations of the figures and steps, with teaching points to develop the necessary dance skills. Each dance is clearly laid out on one page, with written notes and illustrations of the formations. The relationship between music and movement is clarified and there are notes on the overall pattern of the dance. As a postscript there are some helpful ideas for creating your own dances.

The well-produced cassette tape provides music and calls on side A and music only on side B. The tunes, mainly from the British Isles, include different tempos, a variety of rhythms and some interesting arrangements. While it is impossible to reflect the great diversity of traditional dance in a publication like this, some information on the regional culture and context would have been helpful. This could lead to identifying generic features and encouraging creativity and innovation within those frameworks.

The publication of these materials has come at a time of heated debate about the contribution of traditional dance to the dance curriculum. This style of dance can provide children with an enjoyable and social form of dancing which should form part of a balanced dance education.

The programme of study for dance at key stage 2 requires children to be taught: "a number of dance forms from different times and places, including some traditional dances of the British Isles". However, it is essential that this is interpreted in a way which reflects the rich cultural diversity of Britain today. We need to have many similar resources to teach historical dance, dance from other cultures and professional theatre dance.

Baskets and Bananaskins will help to deliver one aspect of the dance programme. Teachers will then need to select a range of teaching methods and styles to enable children to create, perform and view dances as integral aspects of appreciating traditional dance. Teachers can also use this resource as a starting point for research into the development of new dance forms, developing links with traditional dance from other cultures and contemporary dance styles.

Additional resources:

Dance Matters, the termly publication of the National Dance Teachers' Association. Tel: 01543 685162

The English Folk Dance and Song Society, Cecil Sharp House, 2 Regents Park Road, London, NW1 7AY

Dancing, by Gerald Jonas. BBC Publications, 1992

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