From Ann Dunbar
Colin and I came to Pastime by a circuitous route full of lucky coincidences. When we met in the early 1990s, we found that we shared a love of dance, from ballroom dancing at dinner/dances, jiving at jazz concerts, and folk dancing and barn dancing at charity events.
We were at a Conference in Brighton in about 1992, which coincided with celebrations for the re-opening of the Royal Pavilion after its major restoration. The highlight was a re- enactment of Princess Charlotte’s Ball in the Music Room, which had been organised by Ursula Adam. We joined in the Regency dances in longways sets. It took me back to schooldays and I enjoyed doing this dancing again. Ursula saw me helping some children who had never done this type of dance before. We chatted about dancing and she gave me details of a Scottish dancing club in Cranleigh, and the Quadrille Club, run by Chris and Ellis Rogers, at that time in a ballet studio in Battersea. It later moved to Cecil Sharp House in Camden. We joined both these groups. It was at the Quadrille club where we first met Alison and Juanita.
So through the serendipitous meeting with Ursula we discovered many new dancing avenues to explore. Bedford Early Dance, organised by Chris and Jo Saunders, held weekend Baroque courses. Colin and I thought nothing about getting up early on Saturday, having breakfast and packing a lunch, then driving to Bedford for a day’s energetic dancing, followed by dinner in a pub before driving home, then repeating the whole thing the next day! Our energy levels astonish me, especially as we were both still working full-time.
We still felt like novices in this dance world, and didn’t feel we could join an established group without having some knowledge of what we should be doing, so we continued to explore the various periods of historical dance through weekend courses and Summer Schools. At these events we met many more ‘regulars’ in the world of Early Dance – Anne Day, Hazel Dennison and the Capriole Society, where we had our first tuition weekend with Jorgen. We attended Philippa Waite’s Consort de Danse Baroque in Cardiff and the Summer Schools organised by Dolmetsch (now HDS), first in Hengrave Hall, then later in Chichester.
Highlights of this time were the Bath Minuet Company’s Balls in the Bath Guildhall and the amazing Regency Russian Charity Balls held in the Cafe Royal, both organised by Ursula. Through these events we met Kate Cleeland. We met many more Pastime members at the St. George’s Feasts at Hengrave Hall. I remember Alison and Peter were there, with Melus, Sharon, Janette, Tricia, Francoise, Steve and Colin. They were all so friendly and welcoming that I tentatively asked Alison whether we could come and try some classes. Having sampled dances through all the periods at Dolmetsch Summer School, I had decided that the earliest periods – the Renaissance, Tudors and Stuarts – were the ones I enjoyed most.
Looking back at my diaries I see that it wasn’t until January 2004 that we joined Pastime. It was a very welcoming club with the feeling of community and support and we quickly felt at home. Joining in with performances at EDC Festivals was quite fraught and nerve- racking. Fortunately we usually opened the afternoon’s dancing and I was always relieved when Pastime had made its presentation and I could relax and enjoy the rest of the Festival.
We went to our first Pastime Summer School in Richelieu with Dorothee Wortelboer the year after we joined. I remember being asked to collect Dorothee from St Pierre des
Corps station. Peter was to give us instructions, which he did to Colin, who knew nothing about the request, so he didn’t take the information in or make any notes.
It was a searing hot afternoon, with seemingly the whole of France trying to get home after the summer holiday and I had no idea where this station was. It didn’t help that the station was in the process of a major modernisation and extension, causing awkward detours, terrible local traffic problems and nightmare parking. No satnav, very poor mobile phone networks and we had no idea what Dorothee looked like – easy-peasy? Somehow I eventually found a tiny gap near the station to pull off the road. I couldn’t leave the car, so Colin set out to look for Dorothee in the station. He returned with her about half an hour later, to my immense relief, and we drove back to Richelieu with the setting sun shining in our eyes below the sun visors.
The Summer School was very sociable, relaxed and enjoyable. We adjusted the daily timetable to cope with the very hot weather. Dorothee was an excellent tutor for a very interesting selection of dances, which we put together in a presentation for the Early Dance Festival in Canterbury of the four elements, Earth, Fire, Water and Air at war with each other.
The day off, when we visited somewhere of interest, was a highlight of the week. I particularly remember Loche and the chateau at Villandry. The photo I took that day of the garden decorated with vegetables is still used as my screen saver. The dinner on the final evening, when the cooks on duty planned their menu around the fruit and vegetables which needed to be used up, was awaited with great anticipation. Some very inventive dishes were served!
It was always good to have the visiting tutors for our Saturday sessions: Jorgen, Hazel, Isabelle, Robin, Anne and others. The dancing events, which Pastime arranged always seemed to come together at the last minute, on a wing and a prayer and with fingers firmly crossed. They were well attended and enjoyed by the participants and visitors alike. The food for the buffet seemed to sort itself out well most of the time, but I do remember one Christmas party when there were too many plates of cold chicken and not enough accompaniments.
My dancing days are now done, but my feet still tap, my body sways with the rhythm and I long to join in.