17th November 2000 at 00:00
UNDERSTANDING VICTORIAN SOCIETY THROUGH DANCE: From Monarch to Mudlark. By Kate Badrick, Wendy Crouch, Anne Daye, Ellis Rogers and Pat Tracey. General editor: Diana Jewitt. Published jointly by the English Folk Dance and Song Society, Dolmetsch Historical Dance Society and the Grand Union of Folk Dancers pound;16 book, pound;13 CD. Tel: 01277 840473

This well-illustrated dance resource pack for key stage 2 covers ballroom, country, Morris and processional dance, performance and clog dance of the Victorian era. Each section places the dance style in its historical and social context with examples of the main influences of the day.

Although it is described as suitable for teachers with little dance experience, some might find the wordy instructions daunting. A star system indicates the difficulty of each dance and there are good examples of warm-ups. As with any simplified form of notating dance, the more complex dances take a lot of working out. The sorter and simpler dances are fairly straightforward with corresponding diagrams and arrows for floor patterns. The accompanying CD is an invaluable and time-saving addition.

Background information on street entertainers creates an atmosphere for children to respond to and there are clear lesson plans with suggestions for contexts and cross-curricular activity, which will lead to greater exploration and insight. The history of clog dancing is probably the most detailed, with its origins in the Lancashire factories brought to life by descriptions of the dance being tapped out on the hard floor to the rhythm of the machinery. It may also interest boys to know that this was a highly respected activity for men with a champion dancer in every village.

Humorous cameos of Victorian life from Punch magazine suggest starting points for discussion as well as interesting movement ideas.

Gaynor Coward is a dance teacher and choreographer

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