This week a friend and I paid a visit to the English Folk Dance and Song Society in Camden. Heard of it? Neither had I, but it’s brilliant. It has the general ambiance of a public library, but louder and friendlier and way more fun. It’s right up there with the London Fight Factory as one of the most welcoming classes I’ve ever been to.
There are morris dancers, clog dancers, Irish dancers and fiddlers. There are concerts and performances. There is even a very nice cafe.
My ignorance of English folk dancing is pretty embarrassing. I thought clogs were strictly Dutch. Not so. We learned a dance that originated in Lancashire, an old type of clog dancing.
The real shocker though: I was actually pretty good. Usually I leave dance classes feeling like an amnesiac with too many feet but in clog dancing I may have found some natural aptitude. I’m not going to be headlining at a country fair any time soon but I kept up the whole way through.
Obviously that’s not because I’ve developed any memory skill or coordination. It’s something to do with the pace of the class, the exceptional teaching, and the fact that your shoes make noise. For me, the clog sound made it more like playing an instrument. That I can handle. You can hear when you’re not getting it right and you can remember the noises that are supposed to come next. Don’t ask me why that helps. It just does.
After the class, we go upstairs to share what we’ve learned with the intermediate class. Because we’re newbies, our instructors even put on a quick show for us so we can see how it’s done properly. It’s very impressive.
Discovering places like this is just about the best thing about writing this blog. All over London are these little boltholes of specialist skill, filled with enthusiasts doing their stuff. It reminds me why I love this city. I will never have done everything there is to do here.