Interesting article in Saturday’s Guardian about Mary Neal who is one of the unsung heroines of the folklore revival in the early 20th century, but who made the mistake of getting on the wrong side of Cecil Sharp. Mary Neal was an socialist, suffragette and social worker who used dance as way of encouraging and helping factory girls in London. Her approach to dancing emphasised the fact that dance was a developing tradition and that forms and performance styles could change and evolve over time. This contrasted with Sharp’s highly formalised approach to folk dance which focused on developing a fixed canon of repertoire and was dogmatic about performance style. They fell out and the subsequent hagiography of Sharp more or less wrote Neal out of the story. This is now being remedied though and the EFSDS held their first Mary Neal day on Saturday.
Neal is also interesting for her involvement in the Kibbo Kift, an early version of the Woodcraft Folk (kind of lefty version of the Scout movement), which also involved individuals like Rolf Gardiner (who I’ve blogged about before) whose subsequent career had a distinct right-wing trajectory. The Kibbo Kift also utilised a range of interesting imagery including Anglo-Saxon / Viking ideas and concepts drawn from a 1930s concetpion of Native American life. I hope to come back to this at some point.