Norwich Historical Dance videos
When the Lights Went Out
Fragments of a presentation by Norwich Historical Dance for Swaffham Arts, 2016, in commemoration of 100 years since the First World War
Our scenario imagined a local woman looking back through her diaries and remembering a particularly happy day which took place just before the outbreak of war in August 1914. She provided the link for our dancers and musicians to re-enact the event.
We aimed to illustrate the contrast between composers such as George Butterworth busy collecting traditional folk music and dances (he was himself a Morris dancer) while the public was probably more excited by the new music and dances coming from the USA; one of the most famous exponents (and an inspiration to Fred Astaire) was Vernon Castle, who was in fact born and brought up in Norwich. We imagined Butterworth and Castle converging on a local tea dance by chance one August day, and illustrated the show with songs, a Morris jig, English country and Ragtime dances. However the war brought all such joyful occasions to an abrupt halt, and we ended the show remembering the names of local men who died, as well as both Butterworth and Castle.
Pastime with the Pastons
Pastime with the Pastons was NHD’s performance for the 2019 Early Dance CIrcle Festival in Edinburgh. Norwich Historical Dance took the painting ‘The Paston Treasure’ and the decline of the Paston family as the inspiration for their 2019 Early Dance Circle Festival presentation in Edinburgh.
The Pastons are famous for their family letters, the largest and earliest collection of their kind in the world. Rising from the peasantry in the 1400s, they become one of the four greatest landowning families in Norfolk. When William Paston, 2nd Earl of Yarmouth, died in 1732, however, he was heavily in debt and had no heir. The Pastons’ estates and possessions all had to be sold and the family line came to an end.
At the beginning of the performance, the dancers bring on objects representing the Pastons’ exotic collection of curios, which are shown in ‘The Paston Treasure’ painting. They also perform part of the song ‘Charon, O Charon’, the musical notation for which is depicted in the painting. Following this, the dancers perform a selection of English Country Dances from the period (including one called Paston’s Maggot) with interruptions from a debt collector, hinting at the family’s financial difficulties. In the final dance, the dancers stop dancing one by one, and turn their backs on William Paston, symbolising his lonely death as the last of his line, and the way that the Pastons’ fortune had slipped away to nothing.
NHD performed a set of three dances set in the garden of a 15th century Ferrara country house to which five ladies and one gentleman have escaped from a plague ridden town, as their contribution to the 37th EDC Festival which was held ‘on-line’ due to Covid -19 restrictions.
Haste to the Wedding –
A traditional country dance opening NHD’s 2014 performance in the commemoration
of the start of the First World War. Diss Museum asked us to take part
and the scenario we created was a wedding party on the eve of the war,
ending with the sudden marching off of the men to the war, and the
very evocative and poignant finale of the Poppy Farandole.
– From a performance of 15th century dances for the 2016 Hanse Festival,
King’s Lynn, with musicians Minstrels Gallery. The annual Festival
celebrates King’s Lynn history as a member of the Hanseatic League,
a N European alliance in the Middle Ages of merchant guilds and their towns and cities.
– The final dance in the performance of 15th century dances for the 2016
Hanse Festival, King’s Lynn, with musicians Minstrels Gallery. The annual
Festival celebrates King’s Lynn history as a member of the Hanseatic
League, a N European alliance in the Middle Ages of merchant guilds and
their towns and cities.
A 3-couple dance from John Playford’s English Dancing Master, 1651. Taking ‘The
Dancing Master‘ as the theme, NHD staged a dance class from the 17th century,
danced in the Undercroft of Strangers’ Hall in Norwich.
A lively dance for four couples in a square formation from John Playford’s
English Dancing Master, 1651. Taking ‘The Dancing Master‘ as the theme,
NHD staged a dance class from the 17th century, danced in the Undercroft
of Strangers’ Hall in Norwich.
Performed for the 2016 Hanse Festival in King’s Lynn, with musicians
Minstrels Gallery. An unusal dance for three from the 15th century
Gresley manuscript discovered in Derbyshire Record Office in 1984.
Broadcast & Journalism students Yaran Zhao & Heting Zhang have created a film about Norwich Historical Dance
Two young Chinese students were captivated by the dancing, the music and the costumes at an NHD event and threw themselves into making a film about the group as part of their studies, with the support of BBC Voices. They came to classes, interviewed dancers and musicians and, at last, filmed a performance in the garden at Stranger’s Hall in Norwich. Their only regret was not being able to show “all the splendid pictures and interviews in the final film”.