Lancashire Stepdancing

Lancashire Stepdancing



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Wherever people wear hard-soled shoes there is percussive dancing. Devon and East Anglia are enclaves of hard shoe stepping, the north of England is the home of step dancing in clogs.

In Lancashire clogs were used as industrial footwear. The rhythms of Lancashire clog dancing reflect the rhythms of machinery.

Pat Tracey, from Nelson in East Lancashire, started dancing at the age of six. She learnt her dances mainly from her mother. Her uncle was a professional clog dancer. Many of the steps she teaches have been danced by family members since the middle of the 19th century. This is "traditional" dancing in every sense of the word.

In 1990 Pat was presented with the Gold Medal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society. The presentation was made by Sam Sherry. Sam was a professional clog dancer for many years and epitomised the showier aspects of the Lancashire style. His citation is reproduced here by kind permission of the EFDSS.

I was honoured to receive a telephone call from Alan Barber, on behalf of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, asking if I would present its gold badge award to my friend and colleague in clog dancing, Pat Tracy. I was delighted to accept.

Pat's roots in Lancashire traditional clogging go back at least three generations to her Mother, her Uncle and her Grandfather, and who knows how many before them. We all have Pat to thank for the revival of the East Lancashire heel and toe style of clog dancing.

Although I had spent most of my working life as a professional dancer, mixing with dancers from all parts of the world, I had never before seen this particular style of clog dancing, and I am quite convinced that had it not been for Pat, this style of dance would have disappeared completely. This fact alone entitles her to the gratitude of this Society and the thanks of all who value tradition. Now, hundreds of dancers have been taught by Pat, in a period covering more than 30 years, and Lancashire heel and toe clog is safe for posterity. I am pleased to say that at the 1991 Fylde Folk Festival at Fleetwood there is a plan to add a competition for this style to the Lancashire and Cheshire Championships. I am sure this will give Pat great satisfaction.

Pat's first connection with Cecil Sharp House took place in the mid 1950's when she replied to a newspaper article in which Douglas Kennedy asked anyone who could clog dance to contact him. This led to invitations to dance at many of the Societies functions, and an instruction class was started at Cecil Sharp House in 1959 with Peter Kennedy as musician. This was really the beginning of the clog dance revival.

The list of Festivals, functions and workshops which were graced with Pat's footwork during the following seven years is far too long for me to tell; but it included two Royal Albert Hall Festivals, Hugh Weldons Arts programme "MONITOR" on BBC television, and teaching her Miners Clog Dance to actors at the Royal Court Theatre for John Ardens play "Sgt. Musgraves Dance", which was to be repeated in the 1980's.

By 1966, with two small children to care for, Pat retired from the scene and the revival almost died. I came to the folk world in 1968 and kicked some life back into it. Happily, in 1973, a phone call from Peter Dashwood brought her back to the fold - since when she has continued to perform and teach, not only in the U.K. but in places as far apart as America and Belgium and she was twice again involved in teaching the Miners Clog Dance for "Sgt. Musgraves Dance". At the Old Vic in 1984 - the cast including Albert Finney and Max Wall - the dance scene (in a pub) was a hit at every show, and I was lucky enough to be part of it.

A couple of years later, Pat taught the cast at the Canonbury Theatre. She also gave her expertise to the television production "A Simple Man", the ballet choregraphed by todays most famous dance producer, Gillian Lynne, on the life of Salford's painter L S Lowry.

Pat mentions three highlights from her long and pleasurable association with Cecil Sharp House. The Golden Jubilee Ball attended by the Princess Margaret in 1982, the special ceilidh to mark Nibs Matthews retirement in 1985 and in 1988 the memorial celebration for the life of Douglas Kennedy - who had launched her EFDSS career so many years previously.

So many achievements - so much affection from the vast number of clog dancing devotees - yet Pat remains ever modest and charming, and continues to travel many, many miles each year to perform and teach her beloved Lancashire clog dancing.

Pat Tracy, it is my pleasure and a real privilege to present to you the Gold Badge of the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

Pat Tracey died on 2nd February 2008. We all miss her.