English Folk Dance Society


English Folk Dance Society
   The foundation of the EFDS was formally proposed by Cecil *Sharp, seconded by Alice *Gomme, at a public meeting in December 1911, and the Society lasted until 1932 when it amalgamated with the *Folk-Song Society to form the *English Folk Dance and Song Society. Sharp had been actively collecting traditional dance since 1906, and had already published the first parts of his Morris Book (1907), Country Dance Book (1909), and Sword Dances of Northern England (1911). His public disagreements, and growing competition, with Mary *Neal prompted him to form a Folk Dance Club in 1910, which resulted directly in the formation of the EFDS the following year. Sharp's agenda at the time was heavily influenced by his differences with Neal, which were adopted wholesale by the new Society, in particular his stress on 'artistic' rather than 'philanthropic' principles. He believed that the newly discovered dances should be brought back to the people by way of trained professionals rather than enthusiastic amateurs. What distinguished the EFDS from the existing *Folk-lore Society and Folk-Song Society was that it had from the beginning 'a policy of active propaganda with a view to restoring traditional arts to popular use' (Croft, 1927: 3), but only on Sharp's terms. His views openly dominated the Society until his death in 1924, when he was succeeded as Director by Douglas *Kennedy, and it took years for Sharp's influence to begin to wane.
   The Society immediately set out a programme of training, holding classes, granting certificates, lecturing, and demonstrating on a nationwide basis, as well as organizing country dance parties, balls, and festivals, and attracted thousands of enthusiasts, particularly amongst schoolteachers. Until the First World War, the activities of its members were viewed by the general public as mildly eccentric, but continued work brought wider public acceptance during the 1920s and 1930s, although the movement was never able to shake off the rather fussy, precious, serious-minded reputation it had gained. Development was also hindered by the fact that many of Sharp's most promising disciples, such as R. J. E. Tiddy and George *But-terworth were killed in the war. Ironically, considering the birth of the Society in Sharp's disagreement with Neal and her supporters, there were factions within the EFDS who believed that the Society should concentrate less on certificates and more on enjoyment, and this viewpoint gradually became accepted as the inter-war years progressed. When amalgamation with the Folk-Song Society was mooted in 1932, there were some in the latter organization who feared that their relatively academic membership interests would be swamped by the hobby dancers, and this tension remained a major force in the development of the new combined Society.
   The Society published a Journal: 2 volumes, 1914-15; second series 4 volumes, 1927-31.
   ■ Derek Schofield, FMJ 5:2 (1986), 215-19; W. D. Croft, JEFDS 2s:1 (1927), 3-16; Douglas Kennedy, FMJ 2:2 (1971), 80-90.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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