A perspective from a new dancer

My name is Josh, I’m 25, an engineer from the midlands and I recently became a “folkie”.

I began dancing just over a couple of months ago now. Originally, I didn’t know anything about it until the girl I started dating at the time mentioned it as one of her many hobbies. I was told about the wonderful community, all the different events that go on and even some of her favourite dances. It was only when things got more serious and she asked me to go with her that I realised how curious I was – partly, I admit, in the hope of impressing her.

I tend to be a confident person but when it came to the first day doing this I was a little apprehensive. This was mainly due to the fact that I didn’t know what to expect or how they would react to new people, no matter what I was told beforehand. But hey, you don’t really know until you try!

The day happened to be a special occasion as it was the birthday of the chairman of the local club. Most of the group appeared to be over 50 but there were a few students which put me slightly at ease. However, my apprehension was completely misplaced; they were all very welcoming and happy to show me/help me with no negative comments at all.

I even surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it. I think that was also partly due to the fact that the girl I was dating also helped me with my dancing as much as possible. Due to this experience, it got me going back until the point where I felt comfortable enough to go on my own with a little encouragement. One of the “callers” (the people who lead you through the dance) even helped me arrange a little surprise for Valentine’s day to dance my now girlfriend’s favourite song!

As my enjoyment continued I agreed to attend my first folk dance festival called Inter Varsity Folk Dance Festival (IVFDF) in Cambridge at the end of February. Once again, I was initially uncertain due to the new experience but felt confident enough that I would at least be okay with the dances. As it turned out, they were even more welcoming as it was mainly based on university groups that were filled with eager energetic students willing to try everything and anything.

It was here that I truly understood what the community is like in this new world. Everyone was really friendly and always looking to dance with someone new, trying a wide variety of the workshops available. There were groups of student societies who came from places ranging so far as Exeter and Edinburgh, including individuals I met who travelled over from Germany and America.

One thing that really struck me was that no one was challenged for being different. There was a lot of “gender free” calling going on with the big push being to increase acceptance of whichever role/gender you wanted to be. I was informed by a lot of regulars that this is the first time the push has been so huge and I could tell that everyone was really reacting positively to the change with no opposition to be seen or heard.

After hearing about all the events going forward and meeting such a lovely group of people I am well and truly committed to attending as many events as possible. Much to the love of my girlfriend!

My tips are as follows for new starters; give it a go and enjoy yourself. Don’t worry about how much of a fool you may think you look as everyone has been there and all will do everything they can to help!

I just hope that I can pass on my experiences as a beginner onto any beginners I come across .

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