I am a Dance Master specializing in a number of different dance forms. I lead classes/events in Breton Folk Dance (from Brittany), French Country Dance (from Central France), Medieval Dance (from Southern France and Northern Spain) and Sacred Circle Dance. I have taught at all kinds of events from large, International dance festivals to small classes in universities and dance clubs around the world. My teaching is not only based on a knowledge of "steps," but also a intimate knowledge of the cultures and customs that the dances come from. In the Sacred Circle Dance world, I also compose new music and choreographies which I lead in workshops.
Sacred Circle Dance
Dancing in a circle is an ancient tradition common to many cultures for marking special occasions, strengthening community and encouraging togetherness. The circle is probably the oldest known dance formation. It is found even today in the community dances of many cultures, including Greek, African, Eastern European, Israeli, Serbian, Irish Celtic, Breton, Catalan, South American and North American Indian. It is also used, in its more meditative form, in worship within various religious traditions, including, for example, the Church of England and other Anglican Churches.
Modern circle dance mixes traditional folk dances, mainly from European or Near-Eastern sources, with recently choreographed ones to a variety of music both ancient and modern and they draw on a rich and diverse dance tradition. There is also a growing repertoire of new dances to classical music and contemporary songs.
Circle dances can be energetic and lively or gentle and reflective. The style and mood reflects the group and the interests of the teacher. The aim always is to experience the joy of dancing with others and to create a sense of well-being and community. It was Bernhard Wosien who first brought to the Findhorn Community in Scotland the traditional circle dances that he had gathered from across Eastern Europe. He so inspired people there that teachers took the dances (sometimes calling their dance 'sacred circle dance') to other parts of the UK and started regular groups particularly in the south east of England and Somerset, then across Europe, the US and elsewhere until now the network extends also to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and South America.
Circle Dance is sometimes also known as Sacred Circle Dance from the original importance it had for the Findhorn Foundation community in Scotland following visits there from 1976 onwards by Professor Bernhard Wosien, a German dancer. Known first as Sacred Dance, it has changed over time as enthusiasts have made contributions, and may now be called Circle Dance, Sacred Dance, or Sacred Circle Dance (SCD). A small centrepiece of flowers or other natural or venerated objects is often placed at the centre of the circle to help focus the dancers and maintain the circular shape. Dancers bring many different belief systems to the circle including conventional religions, New age and Neopagan beliefs and no religious affiliations at all. Much debate goes on within the circle dance network about what is meant by 'sacred' in the dance.
I have led Sacred Circle Dance events in the UK, Europe, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and Japan. I do not lead a regular group, as I can never commit myself to being at the "same place at the same time" every week. If you would like me to lead an event for you, please send me email or use the form at the bottom of the page. I have many programs to choose from.
In the agricultural society of 19th Century Brittany, the most common occasion on which dancing took place was a wedding. Other opportunities for dancing were:
* beating the earth floor of a new house or repairing a damaged beaten earth floor
* preparing a threshing floor
* celebrations following agricultural work (such as a harvest festival)
* secular celebrations accompanying a religious festival (such as a pardon)
More recently, throughout the second half of the 20th Century, a revival of traditional Breton dancing has taken place, to such an extent that it can now be considered to be at the forefront of contemporary Breton cultural expression, along with the music which accompanies it.
Two main opportunities exist to experience Breton dance: Fest-Noz (night festival) and Fest-Deiz (day festival). The former reunites both young and old in a celebration of their cultural heritage, whereas the latter tends to be frequented by a somewhat older collection of people. Moreover, the range of dances found at a Fest-Noz is likely to be smaller; at a Fest-Deiz the full variety of Breton dance can often be seen, including dances in fours and eights which rarely get an outing at a Fest-Noz.
Breton dance is accompanied by musicians and singers playing and singing in duos, trios, quartets and, sometimes, even larger groups. Traditional acoustic instruments are often the mainstay of these occasions, though some groups have also taken up electric instruments as well. The most ubiquitous instruments are the accordion and two characteristically Breton wind instruments–the biniou (bagpipe) and the bombard (a reed instrument similar to the oboe). I lead the only ensemble in the USA to specialize in the dance music and dances of Brittany. "Trouz Bras" has performed at large and small events in many parts of the country - bringing the traditions of Brittany to a new audience. To see examples of Breton dance, please visit the "Trouz Bras Video Page." I am available to lead Breton Dance events in the USA and abroad using live music provided by myself solo or my Breton Sonerion Trouz Bras. Please write to me or use the form at the bottom of the page if you would like me to lead Breton music and dance events for you.
French Country Dance
Moving to the centre of France, I also lead the country dances of that region. Bourrées, Valses, Mazurkas and many other types of couple dance make up the repetoire of the rich tradition. Traditionally accompanied by the Cornemuse (French bagpipe) and Vielle à Roue (Hurdy Gurdy), the dances are fun and flirtatious. The Bal is the place to find these dances in the summer months, and at the large dance festival at St. Chartier and the Grand Bal de l'Europe at Gennetines in France. There is only a handful of dance teachers in the USA who know these dances and I am one of them. I am very happy to travel to lead the dances for you. Please contact me to ask more or use the form below. The music that I provide to dance to can either be performed live by myself on the Cornemuse, or from recordings.
My specialities are the Medieval Dances of Northern Spain and Southern France from the 11th Century. I spent many years living in and studying the traditions of these regions, and for a considerable length of time I have been offering classes and workshops in the subject. I offer both the "peasant dances" and the dances of "the court" that were inspired by them. Participants can be transported to the courts of the Chateaux of the medieval period to experience these dances to live music or recordings, depending on your budget. During the sessions, they take a peep into a time of extravagance, wealth and privilege and taste the life of the extremely wealthy and also those of the time who lived in less fortunate circumstances. A "costumed" event can often be a huge success, but whether in period clothing or not, modern audiences enjoy my "Medieval Dances" a great deal. If you would like to discuss the possibilities of an event, please communicate your needs and I will be very happy to create an event that suits your needs.
Photo credits: The photos of me teaching in Brazil were taken by Deborah Dubner / photo of Trouz Bras taken by Sally Sinclair Beckham. Illumination by Cait Webb, www.caitwebb.com, used with permission.
You may contact me about any of the dance forms that I lead by calling +1 619 430 9944