In about mid-November 1997 my good friend Sharon told me about an unusual experience she had just had – historical dancing! She had seen a poster in Bromley library advertising Pastime Historical Dance and decided to go along.
Thinking I might enjoy this too she invited me to go with her to the next practice.
I didn’t hesitate for long – the attraction of something quite different, outside my knowledge and experience was just what I needed in my life.
Since the village hall was unavailable, this first session was held in the small church hall in the village, where they usually have the tea on fete days. I don’t think that we have ever used it for a practice since. I remember not having the right shoes but learning some Branles encouraged by very friendly and supportive people. I remember Alison talking about the Christmas party, which was then held in a school hall in Reigate. Although invited, Sharon and I did not feel confident enough to attend.
So it is 1998 that I think of as my first year in Pastime. I remember very soon being joined by two more ‘newcomers’ – Kate and Tricia.
Almost immediately we were involved in preparing for the Early Dance Festival, to be held in October at Rochdale Town Hall. Our performance, Tricia reminded me was Colin’s version of the Harlequinade. I remember ‘Row Well Ye Mariners’ and throwing sweets at the audience at the end. I know we did more dances but can’t remember what they were!
We had our first taste of Colin’s creativity in his painted screens, which he transported in his car along with Melus the 200 + miles to Rochdale. Not surprisingly they arrived very late at night/early in the morning and had a much needed nap in Morrisons or was it Asda’s carpark?
I remember it was a wonderful weekend, the first of many as the annual Early Dance Festival became an ‘not to be missed’ event of the year.
Highlights: Our unique and terrible accommodation, the spectacle of the Victorian Gothic Town Hall, the performances by other groups, the general dancing, the 12 Course Banquet including cheese on toast as the ultimate test of endurance.
We laughed so much in such good company which set the tone for my Pastime experience ever since.
Hengrave, Richelieu and beyond
Hengrave 2000 15th Century Weekend with Hazel Dennison, Judy ? and Jackie Marshall Ward
We were taught wonderful 15th Century dances – Nobile, Janzimetta
St Georges Feasts – also held at Hengrave.
Highlights: – eating gorgeous food in a confined space in a corset, five of us in a ‘dorm’ in a circle to loosen each other’s corsets after a night’s dancing.
Summer Schools in the faded splendour of Richelieu in the Loire Valley – the best experience!
2003 Hazel 15th Century– the hot year!
Highlights: no lighting in the ballroom, huge hole in the floor to stride over.
Learning the fabulous ‘Corona Gentile’
Eating delicious food, cooking shared by us all.
2005 – 16th Century Dorothea Wortelboer
Highlights: Learning the unforgettable ‘Brando Alta Regina’ – an aide memoir was created to help us remember the complicated structure of the dance such as:
‘Half Moon,’ ‘Friendly Circles,’ Olympic Rings,’ ‘Mad Hey,’ and ‘Union Jack.’
Dorothea’s energy and patience was astounding.
Eating gorgeous food.
2007 Lieven Baert 16th Century
Highlights: Learning Spanioletta for 7, Canaries ( Lieven demonstrating in his splendid studded leather boots)!
Wonderful warm – ups to music by Monteverdi
Learning tricky steps – including Jostra and the infamous Groppi and Fioretti
Sharing shocking a huge amount of moules for Lieven’s delicious Moule dish
2009 The first of many occasions with Barbara Segal as dancing mistress with the versatile Bill Tuck providing music and merriment
Highlights: Lots and lots of dances, both graceful, like the ‘Minuet for two’ and ‘Short and Sweet,’ and the fun ones like ‘Duke of Gloucester’s March’ and ‘The Pole Dance.’
Afternoon tea at the elegant salon du the in the heat of the market square.
2011 – Jorgen Schou Pedersen 15th Century
Highlights: The amazing mathematical precision of Jorgen’s choreography with his wonderful music.
Being taught dances which have become favourites
Entrée Coranto, Crudele, Squillini
2013 – Anne Daye 16th Century
Spanioletta for 2
La Bouree for 2
2015 Cait Webb and Chris Elmes 15th Century
with their wonderful music played on a range of appropriate instruments.
I went to pick them up from Tours with the redoubtable Alison at the wheel. No SATNAV but amazingly with my map reading (!) and Alison’s superb sense of direction we were there on time. Amazed to see them both arrayed with rucksacks, suitcases and holdalls containing their numerous instruments. They folded themselves carefully into the car still clutching their precious cargo and we were off.
Highlights: Tesara for 10 – fast, furious and fun. La Fortuna, Armyn, Mowbray and Cait’s interpretation of some of the Gresley dances.
Cait was clear, precise, patient. She challenged and supported us.
This was to be our last Summer School at Richelieu for the time being. I am forever grateful to Alison for her vision – she saw the potential in the chateau and proceeded to do the booking, organise the tutor, the timetable and the Pastime kitty!
What were we do in 2017?
Undeterred Michele was on the case to find another venue.
2017 Bournemouth with Barbara and Bill
Our base was a friendly hotel with a basement ballroom.
Highlights: Lots of elegant Bray and the comic Lambranzi dances
We were encouraged to join in the evening entertainment for other guests.
Party pieces were performed: A Baroque dance from Barbara, the Charleston from Kate and Chris led his vounteers in a Morris dance.
2019 The Isle of Wight 16th Century with Barbara and Bill
La Battaglia, Contrapasso, Bellezze d’ Olimpia
Lovely hotel with great staff and good food.
I feel so lucky and so privileged to have been taught by so many distinguished teachers in such extraordinary places with a group of fun loving but committed dancing friends.
Pastime is a unique group! We will survive.