The brilliant Meirāni folk dance group is one of more than 700 dance groups in Latvia. It was founded 1994 when local villagers gathered to keep their folk dance traditions alive. The group dances traditional Latvian folk and stage dances in costumes similar to the folk costumes worn in the 19th century in the Vidzeme region of Latvia. Meirāni have danced at festivals throughout Latvia and at folk festivals in Lithuania, Estonia, Switzerland and Finland. Tredegar House Folk Festival is privileged to have them with us this weekend.
SCHWABISCHE TRACHTENGRUPPE HEIDENHEIM
The Schwäbische Trachtengruppe Heidenheim are a dance troupe that come from the beautiful Baden-Württemberg area of southern Germany. ‘Schwäbische Trachtengruppe’ means Swabian Traditional Costume Group (Swabia is an ancient area of Germany). Newport is twinned with Heidenheim and their visit and great friendship has added significance on this 75th anniversary of VE Day. The group, whose members range in age from 10-75, take part in many international festivals, such as the world-famous Munich Oktoberfest and we are privileged to have them with us this weekend.
Zdravetz was created six years ago by dance instructor Tihomir Todorov. Though not a professional, he has huge dance experiece and a great passion for Bulgarian folklore. And it’s clearly infectious! As Zdravetz tell us: “inspired by him we dance traditional Bulgarian folklore dances from different regions of the country. We are amateurs but dance with fire and passion in our hearts to bring the sunshine and beauty of Bulgaria to our audiences. Our long history and vibrant rhythms are unique in the world of dance, and we aim to brighten your day and make you happy.” We’ll all dance to that!
INDIA DANCE WALES
WALES’ premier professional Indian dance company has been practising the art of Classical Indian Dance since 1983. They hold regular class schedules across South Wales, West Wales and South West England, plus numerous workshops, community work and productions. India Dance Wales specialises in the classical dance form of Bharatanatyam, one of the most dynamic and internationally popular styles of Indian Dance. This ancient art form is based around Hindu mythology and originated in Hindu temples as a form of worship to the Gods. There are two main aspects; Nritta (abstract dance movements) and Abhinaya (a portrayal of the emotions through hand gestures and facial expression).
BASED in Newport and Cwmbran, Al Rakas have been performing for six years. They experiment with a range of styles and music including Turkish pop, Bollywood and Folk, fusing moves and music to create dances they love and using a variety of props and costume. Expect Al Rakas to bring something new to each performance and are great crowd-pleasers. They hold a beginners’ class in Cwmbran on Monday evenings and are also available for bellydance birthday parties for all ages over six, hen nights or other functions. For more details just ask one of the dancers.
CARDIFF MORRIS are one of Wales’ earliest 1970s revival sides. Formed in early 1970 by a small group of experienced dancers who had migrated from Morris sides in other parts of the country, they quickly recruited a number of local enthusiasts. These intricate dances are generally derived from the Cotswold traditions, although you may see them perform their own tradition of dance from the village of Nantgarw, just north of Cardiff. Look out for the Welsh dragon and Cardiff coat of arms on their Welsh-weave ‘baldrics’ or cross-sashes - and, of course, for Iris, their own dancing dragon.
CLOCS CANTON perform North West style Morris dancing. It is a form of the art where, among other things, dancers wear clogs and use garlands and wavers. The side have been dancing in and around the Cardiff area since 1986 so next year, 2021, will be their 35th anniversary. Clocs Canton are easily distinguishable…proudly distinctive in the Welsh colours of red, white and green, and unusual in kit with stripy trousers which always makes them stand out in a crowd. New dancers and musicians are always welcome at their meetings in Canton on Thursdays. For more details ask the dancers.
JAWAHIR MIDDLE EASTERN DANCERS
A GROUP that combines the best of folk traditions with modern essences from around the world. Expect to see and hear influences from Spain, Egypt, Turkey, North Africa, Armenia, Algeria and Israel. ‘Jawahir’ is an Islamic name for girls that means ‘jewellery’ or ‘precious stones’. The team, who are available for festivals, fetes and special occasions, choreograph and source most of their own dances, music, props and vibrant costumes. Some of their members have been dancing together for more than 10 years.There are weekly classes, suitable for all ages, at Newport’s Duffryn Community Hall, Newport on Sundays from 6-7pm.
NOW based in Cardiff, Cobblers Awl have kept both Welsh and English clog-step traditions alive for over 40 years since the group was formed in Cwmbrân. Their repertoire includes routines from Lancashire, Lakeland and the North-east of England, and over the past decade they have developed Welsh stepping, embedding traditional elements within a contemporary polyrhythmic framework. They wear wooden-soled leather clogs, all handmade by the few craftsmen still creating such traditional footwear. Cobblers Awl practise at The Community Space at Tesco (Gabalfa) on Western Avenue in Cardiff on Monday nights. Again, just ask the dancers for details.
CWMNI GWERIN PONT-Y-PWL
AS the name suggests, this is a dedicated team aiming to keep alive the great culture and tradition of Welsh folk music and dance. They perform at displays and festivals across Wales and the UK and throughout Europe where they have links with other traditional dance groups. Cwmni Gwerin Pont-y-Pŵl are a small and friendly group always looking for new musicians and dancers, whether experienced and inexperienced. They meet in New Panteg Rugby Club, New Road, New Inn NP4 0PZ every Tuesday at 8.15 pm and would welcome anyone interested. Please feel free to ask the dancers for details.
DAWNSWYR BLAENAFON was formed in the Autumn of 2014 in Blaenavon. Gradually the group grew and “danced out” for the first time for the Blaenavon World Heritage Day Festival of 2015. In 2018 the team adopted a costume based on the industrial past of Blaenavon. The women wear clothes worn by the brickyard workers and the men’s costume is that of the miners and ironworkers of the town, all from around the early part of the twentieth century. They perform a mixture of modern and traditional Welsh dances together with some from other Celtic traditions, and a number of dances they have created themselves. Dawnswyr Blaenafon is a community group with many local residents in its numbers as well as from further afield. They also have a band of 12 musicians who call themselves Mynd i’r Gap. The team can be contacted via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone 07794574572
A GROUP formed in 1976 by eigh t people from the Gwent area keen to revive the tradition of Welsh folk dancing, Gwerinwyr Gwent are now at the heart of the art form in South Wales. Their performances, ranging from slow, courtly dances to the faster fair and clog dances, have graced eisteddfodau and festivals here and overseas. Foreign tours have included Denmark, Finland and Latvia. Members also host overseas dancers invited to Tredegar House Festival. New members are welcome at practice nights each Thursday 8-10pm at the Graig Community Hall, Bassaleg, NP10 8LG. Call 01495 271953 for more details.
DAWNSWYR GWERIN PEN Y FAI
THIS is a team with a worldwide reputation. Each dance in their repertoire has its place and tradition in Wales with styles varying from energetic fair dances and lively social dances to elegant court dances, all accompanied by a band of skilled folk musicians. Performers wear traditional Welsh flannel costume. On formal occasions the women wear the distinctive tall black hats. In great demand to entertain audiences and hold social dance evenings throughout Wales and beyond, Dawnswyr Gwerin Pen y Fai have performed at festivals across the UK and Europe. They are also members of the Welsh National Folk Dance Society.
DR. TURBERVILLE’S MORRIS
A MORRIS side originally from Crewkerne, and now from Somerton in Somerset, they take their name from Crewkerne’s most famous son, the pioneer 17th century eye specialist Dr D’Aubigny Turberville. They specialise in English Cotswold Morris dances from the villages or ‘traditions’ of Wayford, Hinton-in-the-Hedges, Ilmington, Bampton and Wells, along with styles from Dartmoor and Shropshire. During the Summer fete and festival season they can be recognised by their costume of white, with green and maroon baldrics and ribbons. Winters are spent practising and teaching new members at their Somerton base.
ENIGMA BORDER MORRIS
ENIGMA Morris describe themselves as “Morris with No Compromise, No Questions, No Answers and Attitude!” And just one look at the costumes of this South Somerset side tells you you’re in for something different. As their website advises: “What you wear can be individual except for the tatter jacket, which is sleeveless. Men do not have to wear a skirt and tights but the choice is theirs. Kit colours are black and turquoise. Masks can be a reflection of your personality but in kit colours and not full face. Wigs etc are also acceptable. Bells will be worn on footwear to give maximum effect.” Enigma have performed widely at festivals including Bridport and Sidmouth. Tredegar House is in for a treat.
FLAMENCO is an Andalusian term which refers both to a musical style, known for its intricate rapid passages, and a dance genre characterised by its audible footwork and fluid hand and arm movements, often accentuated by the use of castanets. The three expressions of classical flamenco are the toque (guitar), cante (the song) and baile (the dance). Sit back and thrill to this Flamenco performance from a team which has appeared regularly at the Festival. Pay special attention, too, to the colours and volumes of material in their traditional dress as they swirl and sway around the dance floor.
ISCA MORRIS were formed in 1976 by three experienced dancers taking their name from the Roman fortress of the Second Augustan Legion which once stood on the site of the town of Caerleon. In common with a number of other Welsh Morris sides they wear the red, white and green of Wales but include a red sash emblazoned with a Roman helmet. Their dancing season usually extends from May 1 (when they dance at dawn in the glorious Roman amphitheatre at Caerleon) to about mid-September, every Wednesday evening, at a variety of real ale pubs across Newport, Torfaen and Monmouthshire.
SHOOSTRING are a dynamic and energetic dance group who display a synchronised and unique approach to Appalachian dancing. The side choreograph their own dances, bringing to life the toe-tapping rhythms of American Bluegrass music performed by the Shoostring Band. Appalachian dancing is a form of folk dance developed in the Appalachian mountains of North America, where it is still popular today (the term Appalachian derives from Appalachee, a reference to the indigenous Appalachee native Americans. Shoostring have performed at many events and folk festivals, including, of course, Tredegar House, plus Wadebridge, Chippenham and Pontardawe. They have also toured County Cork in Southern Ireland.
AN Appalachian dance side from Cardiff who have been performing for more than 20 years.They dance mainly to traditional tunes but also love more modern works and are grateful to Bellowhead and other groups for their inspiring music. Appalachian dance was created when generations of European settlers took their traditional dance steps and music with them to the New World, where they blended with African rhythms and the dance steps of native Americans. The art form is sometimes called American clogging, though it is often danced in tap or flat leather-soled shoes. Shoostring meet on Tuesdays from 8pm at Livsey Hall in Llanishen where new dancers are always welcome.
TOPAZ TRIBAL is a Gypsy Caravan Tribal Bellydance troupe from Abergavenny. Gypsy Caravan Tribal Bellydance draws its inspiration from a range of cultures including Indian, Spanish and African, but its roots are firmly planted in the Middle East. The group fuse historical and traditional bellydance moves with an improvised and bohemian style to produce a result that is powerful yet elegant, graceful and, above all, feminine. Topaz Tribal is led by Wendy Hughes, a Principal Teacher and Certified Level 5 Instructor with Gypsy Caravan. For more information search for Topaz Tribal Bellydance on Facebook or ring 07530099265.
JEAN SMITH and Ian Craigs started clog dancing in the North East of England with the Newcastle Cloggies. They later became involved in the collection of dance steps with the Instep Research Team and performed as members of the dance group Instep. Since 2007, they have focused on developing their own repertoire of duets and solo dances bringing together traditional steps from a variety of sources as well as creating their own contemporary pieces. Their dancing has taken them all over the world, from New York to St Petersburg. Experienced clog dance teachers as well as performers, Jean and Ian run workshops for beginners through to advanced stepping.
SOUTH WALES SCOTTISH COUNTRY DANCERS
A troupe of Scottish Country Dancers drawn from groups and classes all over the South Wales area. Some of the dancers taking part at the festival are Scots, though by no means all. Scottish Country Dancing is an internationally popular activity, danced with enthusiasm and gusto from Tokyo to Toronto, snd Dunedin to Dundee. There is a range of classes in South Wales catering for all levels of experience, and for all ages. As they say, “Everyone is welcome. And, better still, we also have social dancing most Saturdays in the year. We all dance because it’s fun…and quite addictive.” For more information on a class near you, just speak to one of the dancers at the festivsl.
Founded in 1956, originally as the male-only Mendip Morris Men, the side embraced equality in 2019 when they amended their constitution to welcome women into membership and shortened their name to Mendip Morris. They can be identified by their red, gold and blue baldrics (crossed sashes), adorned with the King Alfred’s jewel at the back and the Somerset dragon at the front. Black breeches, bell pads and brightly decorated straw hats complete the outfit. Mendip Morris are sometimes accompanied by the Fool who wears a smock, odd coloured socks and a very fetching black top hat; a spotted horse (called, er…Horse) and the Green Man.
MINI GWYL PLANT
BACK in 1981, the dance troupe Gwerinwyr Gwent (see their entry above) started a festival of Welsh Folk Dance for children called Gŵyl Plant Gwent. This drive to pass on the traditions of folk dance to a new generation was, and remains, hugely successful. The numbers have grown year upon year, and now four festivals are held locally at Abergavenny, Abertillery, Cwmbran and Newport. To underpin this pioneering work, Tredegar House Folk Festival introduced a Mini Gŵyl Plant in 2014. The organisers felt it vital to include this within the main dance programme so that the children would realise what an integral part of the festival they are.
THE BLACKWOOD CELTIC BAND
FORMED in 2001 as a fledgling school band comprising 12 pupils playing tin whistle, guitar, bodhran, mandolin, cello and double bass, this inaugural group grew into a permanent fixture at the school. Since 2003, all pupils are offered a grounding in folk music and the Band is into its sixth incarnation. With tours to Spain and the Czech Republic under their belts, the band has also played the Welsh Assembly, St. David’s Hall, the Millennium Centre and National Eisteddfod.
MANSANT are the Lloyd Family – parents Geraint and Sara, and their children (fiddler and harpist Mared, viola player and guitarist Carwyn and the youngest, little Tanwen, (if, at first, you miss her, she’s the one dwarfed by her giant double-bass!). Together they play sparkling arrangements of a range of traditional Welsh tunes. Audiences across Wales have been entranced by the band’s originality. Sara even puts down her accordion to play the Welsh bagpipes. Alongside their joint musical talents, the Lloyd children are also skilled at the art of Welsh clog dancing, taught to them by their father Geraint, who is also an expert clogger. Like the Blackwood Celtic Band, Mansant are also stalwarts at playing for twmpaths and expert traditional dancers.
OUR FAMOUS GRAND CEILIDHS
ON the Friday and Saturday nights of the Festival we hold grand ceilidhs in a dedicated dance marquee. These are uproarious, uplifting events in which, if you aren’t dancing, you’re probably falling about with laughter. The ceilidhs are led, on different nights, by two sensational bands…
CALENNIG DANCE BAND
SPECIALISING in Welsh dance music, Calennig Dance Band is at home playing for experts and first-time novices alike. The band is led by concertina and spoons player, and all-round force of nature, Pat Smith who is acknowledged as one of Britain’s most entertaining callers. Pat has taught Welsh dances and called twmpaths from Auckland to Aberdeen, from Chicago to Christchurch. She is accompanied by a pool of regular musicians such as Mike Kennedy (bass), Iolo Jones (fiddle), Peter Davies (whistles, recorders, oboe, bagpipes and Bombard), Rob Morris (guitar and accordion), and Ned Clamp (guitar, mandola and harmonica).
JUICE is one of South Wales’ longest running and most popular ceilidh bands. Originally known as Juice of the Barley, this brilliant band was founded back in the mid 1970s, by Jenny and Gill KilBride. They were later joined by sons Bernard, Daniel and Gerard who, having absorbed the tradition, continued in their own right as Juice. Many incarnations later, the band is still as vibrant and dynamic as ever and have graced our Festival year after year. The band’s caller has been the legendary Dave Parsons for far longer than he would care to remember!