We recently caught up with our wonderful workshop leader Kerry Fletcher to discuss all things dance. Kerry is a choreographer and traditional dancer of many styles, from waltzing to clogging. She is an experienced dance workshop leader and an accomplished performer. We also get the gossip on what we can expect at Sidmouth this year!

What is Eurodance? 

It’s social and it’s fun !!… and includes group, partner and chain dances (lines of dancers linked together) from across Western Europe, mostly during the week we’ll be focussing on regional dances from France, Brittany and Scandinavia. We have evening dances called ‘Bals’, which is just French for a ‘Ball’ , an evening social dance. We’ll have fabulous live music too with different bands and musicians at the Bals, with Oscina, Sarah Matthews and Doug Eunson and Nicky McConkey

Can anyone do it? 

Yes!! beginners are always welcome, you don’t need to bring a partner, just some enthusiasm and willingness to dance with a variety of people. I try to make sure there are different levels in each workshop, so we’ll work on basics for those new to it and variations/more challenging steps for those who are more experienced. 

There seems to be increased interest in bals at the moment. What inspired you to start dancing, and how did you get into Eurodance? 

I’m very happy that it’s getting popular, and even more so that it’s being spurred by the younger generation! I’ve been folk dancing most of my life, the fabulous Dixie Lee (my mum!), ran a folk club and we would hop off to festivals in the summer and ceilidh dance the time away… then I was lucky enough to work with Swedish folk bands Filarfolket and Groupa in the 1980s, bringing them on tour to England, and to Sidmouth too – Filarfolket were an incredibly exciting band with fiddles, Brazilian percussion and a wind section too, and they played a very memorable gig at the concert tent at the arena in 1986 – it was electric and many of us danced up the aisles and round the sides too, even though we didn’t know the dances to the exotic Swedish rhythm of the Polska! And I wanted to learn more, so I started going to Swedish festivals in the 1980s, and then was lucky enough to work with the amazing Jo Freya, with her European band Freya, in the late 90s, travelling across Europe and learning dances too. She introduced me to Chris Walshaw who taught me how to really waltz! And here we are, people asked me to teach them, and so I do – I love nothing more than seeing people develop their confidence in dancing, especially beginners, as it can feel intimidating to start with, though that often fades quickly when we start dancing together in a workshop and that is an utter joy – so it all seemed like a good idea to me!

Tell us about your involvement with Sidmouth Folk Festival? 

I’ve been coming to the festival since I was a teenager, and been fortunate enough to dance with many sides and companies, such as Oyster Morris, Paddington Pandemonic Express Urban Molly Dancers (what a mouthful!), with Broken Ankles Appalachian dancers, duet of songs and fiddle with fabulous Fiona Larcombe and brilliant Karen Tweed’s Circa Compania company, and I’m very proud to say that the company I run, with Natasha Khamjani and Frances Watt, Folk Dance Remixed,  had our first performance of our show, Step Hop House, at Sidmouth, thanks to the faith of incredible Alan Bearman! I’ve been involved in many other ways in the festival too… I’ve had  stall in the craft market as jewellery maker Kraft Kerry, and I’ve worked with the sound crew too across the festival, even worked with the lighting crew doing follow-spot at the arena for a couple of years, stewarded, cleaned the loos, oh and sometimes been know to be involved in much sillyness at the old LNEs up at the Bowd!!

Where can we find you during Sidmouth Folk Festival? 

We’ll be in the lovely St Theresa’s Hall for all the workshops, with the Bals in All Saints, Stowford Rise and the Methodist Hall.

Can you share a memorable experience from a past festival performance? 

Ah so many fabulous memories over the years…  I really loved the arena shows, with all the UK and international dancers… I remember one in particular, with Gingers Street Theatre and folk dance company Woodfidley – they did a woman disappearing trick with an eerie folk folk song of a young woman who hides, hoping to be found, but she never was – it was utterly magical and the choreography was fantastic. Which really inspired me to try and make new dance and music with folk at its heart, and take that out to the wider public – which is what I now do for a living, lucky me! A massive thank you to Sidmouth Folk Festival and all who make it happen, it’s such an incredible and brilliant festival, full of togetherness and joy!! 

Any top tips for those new to Sidmouth?

Pace yourself! It’s an amazing week with so many brilliant things to do… take time to go to the far end of the prom at Jacob’s Ladder and breath in the sea air, enjoy an ice cream, walk through Knoll Park meadow (which used to be the arena site) or along the Byes of the river Sid – that will recharge your batteries so you’ll be ready to carry on dancing your sox off all week!!

Kerry is co-chairing the next FREE Folk Education Development Day: Tuesday 25 June in Northampton.
Presented by the English Folk Dance and Song Society’s Folk Education Network in partnership with Northamptonshire Music and Performing Arts Trust.

Click here for more details and how to book your space.