The Lost Dances Archive

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In 2019 at Dance Dynamics we embarked on a two year project named The Lost Dances. With 30 young people from Dance Dynamics youth group, 30 students from Swansfield primary school, 20 young people from Barndale SEN school and over 20 residents at Abbeyfield care home all based in the Northumberland town of Alnwick.

We created this promotional video near the beginning of our project in 2019. It is filmed in our dance studio, the Hindmarsh hall in Alnmouth and on the beach nearby, featuring some of the young people at Dance dynamic involved in the project.

In 2012 we had worked with a piece of music named The Lads of Alnwick’ a piece of music which has been in the folk musicians repertoire for some 300 years. A piece of brilliantly written triple time, 3/2 hornpipe music, from late 17th Century/Early 18th Century dances. We have danced and danced to this particular piece of music which its origins come from our own home town of Alnwick, here in Northumberland. A place that now boasts some of the finest folk musicians across the globe. So the notated music was passed down through generations and the manuscript had also been unearthed in the 1900’s. But, where was the dance, how was this piece danced in our home town when it was created for dance all those years ago?

So we have done a lot of research on this to find out!

Another notation.

We started by finding this triple time hornpipe named the Princess Ann Chacone. It was created for Princess Ann around about 1719, at least that is when the dance and the music was notated. We found this and many more dances in the archives at EDFSS in London. Our group made a special trip in Summer 2019 to find these notations. We researched how to read the Feuillet, French notation from various sites on the internet, each of us finding different steps and movements, it was very complicated and very much like ballet. We then marked out the dances in our studio with chalk and practised them over and over again.

Here is one of the useful videos we watched to learn how to decipher the old notation.
Here is our group in July 2019, researching the dances at EFDSS in London.
This is Nancy Dawson, she was very famous for dancing the hornpipe in 1740 and having her debut at Sadler’s Wells theatre in 1759, the hornpipe becoming very popular. The hornpipe was not seen as a Sailors or national dance until around 1895. And we have so enjoyed bringing back the dance and performing for our audiences. We also found – image at the top of the page – the Duchess of Northumberland’s notebooks which contained the steps of the Nancy Dawson’s hornpipe. Proving it to be a very popular dance indeed, from Sadler’s Wells to the Royal Courts. We have shared these images with EFDSS in London to add to their dance archive.
Boulmer Maypole dancers, around 1920. Photograph found by Avril Meaking in the Boulmer village hall.

We were given this photograph by the residents of Boulmer village and were for a time able to use the original maypole. We needed to make a new base from it and we were able to learn many dances with this pole. The pole became too old to use so we purchased a new one. We then began making our own original dances and shared then around Northumberland teaching over 500 children in 7 different schools.

This is Dance Dynamic young company performing the new Maypole dance titled ‘ Half Penny’ at Howick Hall Gardens August 2021.
And dancing Half Penny at Amble Puffin festival May 2019.
The Maypole at Castle Carrock school in Cumbria. The Maypole hadn’t been used for a number of years so we were able to use our teachers packs to develop many dances for them to perform at the Queens Jubilee event June 2022.
Studying Northumbrian clog dance with the residents of Abbeyfield care home in February 2020.
In November 2019 – we were able to bring all the participants of the project together in an evening of dance and music, students came from Barndale SEN school, Swansfield Primary school and Duchess high school alongside professional dancers. We performed with our Rapper dance team and clog dance performance and danced the night away with all the social dances we had learnt throughout the year.
Our young rapper team 2019. photographed in Howick hall gardens.
Our completed Lads and Lassies of Alnwick dance, created by Joey Olivier and artwork by Natalie Reid.
We danced it together again at our end of project celebration at Howick hall in August 2021.