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QUICKSILVER - The Quicksilver Barn Dance Book 

QUICKSILVER - The Quicksilver Barn Dance Book 
Private Label ISBN: 9781999886011 

This package was provided by Mike Ruff and seems to be aimed exclusively at schools and similar social groups for children. The Maypole Manual is a 72-page ring-bound volume directed at teachers and instructors. It starts with aspects of the history, with the fact that the associated dances only date back to the late 19th century. There is help for the way to plan and introduce the activities, with a surprising number of links to the National Curriculum. This is followed by detailed instruction for 14 ribbon dances - increasing in their complexity - followed by a few extra social dances and the sheet music for a few of the dances.

The CD (available separately) is the standard Barn Dance repertoire played by an augmented line-up of Mike's regular band. Amongst the musicians are a couple of names well known in folk and folk rock circles - Chris Haigh and Graeme Taylor.

The Morris! Hey! set is packaged differently in a DVD case and takes a different approach. This is aimed at the upper end of Key Stage 2, as well as Key Stage 3, and though there is a 32-page booklet, this is mainly an aide-mémoire, with the main demonstration and teaching coming from the two DVDs. Six dances are taught; three from different Cotswold traditions, one from the North West, one Border dance and one from the neglected Molly Dance tradition, with this dance following the imagined reconstruction by that excellent side, The Seven Champions. The dances are broken down into manageable teaching sections before the whole dance is performed. The demonstrating dance side is well chosen; they are young, able, enthusiastic and of both sexes. In other words, most likely to appeal to the pupils that they will be shown to. DVD 2 ends with short videos of nine varied dance sides all filmed at a Chippenham Festival. The final disc in this set is a CD of a melodeon (occasionally joined by a banjo) playing the composite parts for each dance followed by the dance as a whole.

On the DVD sleeve it is admitted that there were technical errors in the production of the DVDs, but they are not of a nature that makes the package unusable. The biggest problem is that the main menu on both DVDs is inaccurate and the last four listed items on DVD1 and the first four items in DVD2 are not present, though everything that is promised in the booklet can be found on one or other. The other problem is the accessibility of the short explanations which are said to be accessed from sub-menus for each of the dances. These were tested on two Windows PCs and on two separate DVD players; in this case these short but vital sections could be accessed from computer but not from DVD player.

The Quicksilver Barn Dance Book neatly brings us back to the beginning; there is a statement on the cover saying, "Dances for Quicksilver's Maypole Madness CD". This time the target audience seems to be prospective dance callers and those who would extend their repertoire. After a short introduction there are a couple of pages explaining each dance figure used in the book, generally with cartoon illustrations. This is followed by the notation for 10 dances of the standard 32-bar length derived from a variety of sources. They are grouped as "Quick and Easy Dances", and that is exactly what they are, and they are well-explained. Of the five other dances, one is a 24-bar longways dance and the others are a variety of circle dances that callers use to bring variety to a dance evening. Every dance is linked to a track on the CD, but of course, they will always to better to live music.

Vic Smith


This review appeared in Issue 135 of The Living Tradition magazine