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  • Jamie McCarthy

Playing for a Dance Class as Folk Dance.

21st April 2016.

I play for more dance classes now than I used to. I was very nervous to begin with, because I'd seen really experienced musicians who had developed the incredible skills needed for more traditional dance class formats and I knew I wasn't up to that and that I wasn't that kind of musician at heart. I also knew that it wasn't something I wanted to spend a lot of time developing, because it's not where I'm at. But slowly, more and more people have asked me to play for their classes / sessions and I've managed to find a very gradually expanding group of people whose approach fits really well with my extremely improvisatory approach to the situation.

I'm now finding that I really enjoy doing it and one of the things I love about it is that it's completely participatory - much in the way that folk or community dance is / was originally. There's no audience: everyone in the room is taking part in making something happen. There are no spectators looking on and perhaps judging how 'good' it is, because everyone is too involved in doing their own thing, (or at least it feels that way from where I am in the room). Which isn't to say that there isn't appreciation on both sides for the good stuff that happens musically and dance-ically.

I keep thinking that it reminds me of how the practice of taking extended solos in jazz music arose originally (I believe) out of a need for the music to last for greater periods of time so people could dance longer to a given song / feel, without it getting boring. I'm sure, in the same way as I feel happens in the classes / sessions I play in, that in those jazz dance settings the musicians and dancers egg each other on to indulge in entering more deeply into what they're doing - a sound inspires a movement or a movement inspires a sound - round and round. I love the social, human functionality of this; for me it's much better than 'playing a gig' - there are no 'outsiders' on the scene, everyone is 'in it'.

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