Lord of the Dales Dance

One of the most popular hymns in English-speaking congregations, and possibly a featured request at the upcoming Hymns & Pimms at St. Cuthbert’s, is Lord of the Dance, written in 1963 by English songwriter Sydney Carter to fit with an old Shaker tune, Simple Gifts. In fact, although we associate the Shakers mostly with their American peak during the nineteenth century, the religious group originated in Manchester. I remember seeing or reading in the latter days of my youth, an interview with the last two surviving Shaker ladies (the Shakers practised celibacy) — one died recently at the age of 89 and the other at the age of 80 is still living communally in Maine, along with a religious brother aged 62. For the Shakers, dance was a religious practice.

Today seems a fitting day to celebrate dance, anyway, and since it’s the weekend of the Dance the Dale project, what better topic to feature in today’s diary!

I’d been up to Allenheads a couple days ago, but thought I’d just drop in yesterday morning to catch the clog dancers in the courtyard.

Hadrian Clog beat out a friendly rhythm on the flat courtyard space in front of the Hemmel Café
The Hexhamshire Lasses with their brightly festooned hoops

It was a lovely morning’s dance in the sunshine, as Georgia Shorrock remarked, and the session up at the ‘heeds will have set the dancers up for a delightful day to Dance the Dale. The dances continued at Allendale Market Square in the afternoon, and then it was a traditional Northumbrian Ceilidh at Allendale Village Hall in the evening. Today the project continues with dancing from 11am in Hexham.

It looked like the participants were all having such fun, dancing in the sun; maybe it’s the real beginning of traditional summer here in the ‘Dale!

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