The Mid-Atlantic Stomp, 1968. Letters in response to this article.
From English Dance and Song Vol XXXI No 4 Winter/Christmas 1969
The Mid-Atlantic Stomp
Sir, - I was surprised to see no direct response in the Autumn issue of Dance and Song to John Kirkpatrick's excellent article "The Mid-Atlantic Stomp". I agree with everything he said, except that "stomp" is too joyful a word to describe what much of our dancing (?) has become - "plod" would be more apt.
Whilst the Playford versus Traditional controversy is very interesting, we desperately need to get down to the basic essentials of helping people to really dance and to give them an incentive to improve their technique (and consequently, increase their enjoyment). This can only be done by more experienced and well-informed MC's and by more high standard competitions.
How many of us would take lessons from an unqualified tennis coach or piano teacher? We know what a fillip a really good teacher can be to a group - I recall with great pleasure the effect (temporary, unfortunately) that a visit from Nibs Matthews had on our local club. They suddenly realised that dancing is not merely a somewhat desultory physical exercise, but that they were actually taking part in a social function with members of the opposite sex! MC's should have to pass examinations before venturing to instruct. The good ones would have nothing to lose, and whilst it may create a temporary shortage, the long-term results could only be beneficial.
There are many well-meaning people within the Society who believe that a competitive element would deter the not-so-talented from dancing at all, but this does not apply to ballroom dancing, where the good, bad and indifferent all seem to find a niche, so why should it not be so with us? People cannot aspire to better them-selves at anything unless good standards are set and it is the duty of the EFDSS to set them. We should also consider the number of people who lose interest and turn to some other hobby where they are not in the company of a preponderance of perpetual "rabbits."
Any raising of standards would help to improve our public image and help us to attract a more varied and virile selection of people to join us. I know that examinations and competitions have been tried in the past, but in an age when qualifications and professionalism (even in amateur pursuits) are everything, could we not give both another chance?
Sir, - Nine cheers for John Kirkpatrick, and death to the Mid-Atlantic Stomp!
If we are to fulfil our object of restoring their dances to the English we must show them what they really are. The great mass of young people are on the pop scene, responding lustily to music with energy and great individuality. Crude, of course, but the raw material of dancing, the joy of expressing music in movement and fanatically enjoyed. We shall not convert these people to our more sociable forms by letting them see the grim geometrical plodding that is all too common. Would you try to wean a Coke-drinker with flat beer? Bring him in good ale, and he may even come at last to demand the fine dry sherries put up by John Playford et al.
There is room in English dancing not only for local but also individual variations, which, provided they outrage neither the music nor the other dancers, add immensely to the fun. (Traditionalists, refer to Tom Flett on the subject of the rant.) The splendid thing about showing the folk flag is that we are missionaries when, and only when, we are seen to be enjoying ourselves. And you never know who's watching.
G. C. SMITH
Sir, - Looking at some dancers' stereotyped movements, one may be inclined to agree with John Kirkpatrick's plea for more originality in stepping. It must be remembered however, that to many people stepping is an anathema. His reference to the changing of the Guard is hardly fitting when I recall the mental torture involved in learning foot-drill during National Service.
Folk dancing will continue to be regarded by the public as a museum piece whilst we separate it from dance in general. Sharp presumably arranged dances for schools because at that time there was no educational alternative. As recently pointed out in this journal dance is being taught in a more enlightened manner in many present day schools where music is regarded as a creative aspect of the curriculum. It would be unfortunate if MC's were to pay too great attention to the plea for more variations in stepping, their main concern should be the continued enjoyment of dance movement in any form and let the clubs and course organisers take over from there.
Stepping indeed is great fun once one has learnt to move in a group dance with ease and enjoyment. When it is presented as prerequisite of folk dance, we can expect to retire into further obscurity to debate what is English tradition and what is not.