English Dance Song - Winter 1993 p. 19
NORTHUMBERLAND AND DORSET STEPS
A the turn of the century the ‘rant’ step was only one of the steps taught by a dancing
master at Alwlnton in
Nothumberland. In 1962 my husband [Dr. Tom Flett] and l visited a Mr and Mrs William Tully
at Sewing Shiels. near Housesteads.
They were in their seventies and have always been keen dancers themselves and, in
addition' were able to give us a picture of the dancing classes attended by Mrs
Tully‘s mother and aunt in about 1880. The classes were run
by a Louis Proudlock. He held classes in numerous places but was probably not a full-time
teacher of dancing but he could play the fiddle. and teach simultaneously. Mrs Tully said,
‘The Proudlocks were good step-dancers, Sailor‘s Hornpipe and everything' and her
mother ‘could put the right steps in.'
Mr Tully himself had attended the classes ol a Mr Ramage who taught 'Mainly all
Country Dances, then you know, Polkas, Schottisches, Corn Rigs, Morpeth Rant. All dances
with a lot of stepping in them.' My husband showed them the current version of the
rant step and the Scottish pas de Basque and asked whether the rant step was
used in the old days. The answer was quite definite, Louis Proudlock taught a number of
steps which could be used in Morpeth Rant and Corn Rigs and the rant step was one of the
‘proper steps‘. The pas de Basque was used by people who ‘could not put the beats in‘. One
of the ‘proper steps‘ was referred to as a Hornpipe step and
appeared to be a trebling step. On being shown a treble followed by a ‘back treble this
seemed to satisfy them
both. Other sources told us that the rant step was a very tight close step - you did not
fling your feet about on a
closely crowded dance floor.
In Dorset steps were not taught for Dorset Four Hand Reel. People made up their own steps.
which caught on and became popular amongst other dancers. The actual dance was revived by
Miss M. E. Mayne, of Chideock, from local people in 1948 and standardised into the form
danced today. In the old days the Northumberland rant step was not used but it is easy to
see why it has become ubiquitous as there was a similar Dorset step, but in that the legs
were lifted and the feet crossed alternatively one over the other on the beats. Again we
were able to talk to people who remembered back to the turn of the century and were able
to collect several distinct steps. John Wesencraft, Anne-Marie Hulme and Jennifer Millest
all collected in this area and the steps and comments of us all were published In English
Dance and Song. vol. 44, no. 2, 1982 and a general account of dancing in Dorset drawn from
the poems of William Barnes first published 1844, 1859 and 1862) was published in English
Dance and Song., vol. 43, no. 1, 1981.
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