First Folk Week dance is a soggy success

SOGGY dance fans squeezed into Blackmore Gardens Marquee for the first dance display of FolkWeek 2009 on Saturday.

SOGGY dance fans squeezed into Blackmore Gardens Marquee for the first dance display of FolkWeek 2009 on Saturday.

What followed was a two-hour taster of the delights to come this week.

First up were the mixed team Oyster Morris from Kent with its Green Man.

In white and green with a touch of red, they treated us to some traditional dances, including Bonnets of Blue.

Most teams offered three dances to give a flavour of their style, and in contrast to the neatly turned-out Oyster Morris, next on the dance floor was the colourfully uncoordinated Ouze Washes.

Their outfits, that is, were un-coordinated, with an array of bright skirts and dresses - some worn by the men - set off with black faces sporting sunglasses and striking coloured tights emerging from big boots.

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These Molly dancers give off such energy and excitement as they perform, and Mississippi Mud Dance was no exception.

A serious change in style came with Valerie Romanin's barefoot flamenco.

This innovative dance takes Moorish belly dance and gypsy influence and combines a touch of the Spanish flamenco to produce a sensual display of gyrating moves.

The lithe Valerie, who also offered workshops during festival week, seemed able to move her hips and waist in different directions and although not always outwardly energetic, performed a complicated and perfectly-executed series of movements.

Again the mood changed with Chequered Flag, the Appalachian dance group from Portsmouth.

Easily spotted in their black and white kit, their stepping was exciting and their brief taster reflected the influence from other traditional dances, such as Canadian step and English clog.

Rapper dancing at its best followed a short interval, with two top mixed teams, Instep Clog and Smutt Rapper, who demonstrated some tight, intricate moves in what seemed, when using rapper swords - flexible double-handed sprung steel blades - like a cat's cradle of moves, forming a star of blades held aloft at the end.

In between both groups we saw The Witchmen. This alternative Morris team, with a definite pagan attitude, are a festival favourite in their rag outfits and feathered top hats and sunglasses.

More delights were in store with the London-based Tanec Bulgarian Dance Group.

In beautifully embroidered costumes, their gracefully-choreographed dances are based on traditional Bulgarian folklore and body language spoke for itself.

Chiltern Hundreds, in their green, black and gold, performed north-west Morris for us in their inimitable style to round off the afternoon, promising another year of exciting dance displays that only FolkWeek can produce.