Review: Playford Ball at Sidmouth Folk Festival


09:40 9 August 2022

11:22 am 9 August 2022

The Playford Ball held on Thursday August 4th at the Methodist Church Hall drew an enthusiastic and elegant crowd.

The Playford dance is the oldest form of English country dancing. In 1651, at the time of the English Civil War, John Playford wrote “The Dancing Master”, a collection of country dances. It continued for 18 editions with changing dance patterns and laid the foundation for the country dances you can read about in Jane Austen books and see in movies set during this era. Playford dancing has its followers in the UK, US and around the world, and Folk Festival attendees had the opportunity to attend workshops to learn different aspects of the dance before the ball. However, experienced Ceilidh and Contra dancers were also able to transfer their experience and enjoy this more majestic dance form.

Appellants Rhianwen Davies and her father Rhodri at the Playford Ball
– Credit: Maria McCarthy

The dances were called by father and daughter Rhodri and Rhianwen Davies. Mollie Koenigsberger and Dave Yeomans provided the music which included tracks such as Lillibullero, which many will recognize as the BBC World Service theme, and The Young Widow which was given new life in Kiera Knightley’s version of Pride and Prejudice. A dance known as “Hole in the wall” to Henry Purcell’s Abdelezer, and which featured in “Becoming Jane” with Anne Hathaway, was a particular crowd pleaser, with the musicians being enthusiastically applauded by the dancers. Rhodri said, “After a few years of dancing in isolation over video calls, it’s a pleasure to be back to dancing in person and continuing that tradition,” and Rhianwen added, “I think people enjoy the dances because that they are so elegant and give them the opportunity to go back in time.

Dancer Anne Parker said: “The Playford dance draws such a friendly crowd and it’s nice for people to have the opportunity to dress up.” Kathy Cox traveled from Australia to enjoy the Sidmouth Folk Festival and added: “It was a wonderful festival and I love Playford so this event is particularly magical.”

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