Author Archives: Sarah McCulloch

The DUP in Oxford

Our group in Oxford has been running for nearly two years now. We have four leaders; Susannah, Vicky, Clare and Radha who are all supported by Adrian on the guitar. We meet once a month on the second Saturday of the month.

When we first met we were all keen dancers, some of us had been dancing for many years and some of us had attended the dance leaders training course. We all wanted to have the dances in Oxford but none of us felt able to lead or start a group alone. Rather than complain that there was no one in Oxford leading dances we realized that it was up to us to make this happen. So, this is what we have done!

At most sessions the four us lead a couple of dances each with Adrian on the guitar. This supportive, collaborative way of working has made it possible for us all to step out of our comfort zones, find our voices and confidence and lead dances. It has been transformational. We each bring something different to the dances and are drawn to different traditions which adds to the richness of our collaborative approach. There is also the added bonus of being part of a group in that if any of us is unable to attend a session the others can still hold it.

We welcome visiting dance leaders and musicians to lead or play with us if they wish. Sky has led dances with us on a number of occasions as have Rissa, Alan, Jane and Jackie. We have also been lucky to have Felix on his viola, Phil on his guitar, Jackie on the piano and guitar and Moses on the drums.

At our sessions we have anything between 8 and 18 dancers, but not usually less than 10. We have a varied and changing group of dancers with some regulars who will never miss a dance and often new people who have never danced before. As we have become more established the dances have rippled out to other groups in Oxford and we are drawing more people in. The group is evolving in a very natural and organic way. Apart from meeting to run the sessions the 5 of us meet on two other occasions each month; once to rehearse and once to de-brief after the session. For us to lead together, in a coherent way, we have found it is really important to make this time together.

We all feel very proud that DUP is now established in Oxford, it is gathering momentum and it is up to us to let the dances flow. So, on with the dance!

Clare, Radha, Vicky, Susannah and Adrian

Leading the Dances in Oxford

Four of us have been leading dances together in a local church for just over a year, and generally attract 8-12 dancers: a mix of interested locals, circle dancers, and those who’ve done DUP at Unicorn or Sacred Arts Camp.

Radha and I were leading this session, as both Clare and Susannah were away. Adrian, our regular guitarist, was being joined for the first time by Felix on viola and drum.

Lots of things were happening that Saturday, so we weren’t expecting a big turn-out: even so, just two people was a surprise… But both had been at SAC, so weren’t new to the dancing.

We began with Haida, and followed its upbeat mood with Kol Ha Na’Shama and Mother Earth is a Great Big Ship – and very soon something began to happen. We did less explaining than usual – of words, steps, tune, and general background – which meant we spent more time actually dancing. Adrian and Felix were able to be both playful and expansive in their accompaniment; with fewer of us it was easier to change tempo and dynamics. The last dance before the break was All My Relations, with a more inward and meditative energy, and by then we all seemed to be very finely tuned to each other.

We changed the order of dances to finish the session, and dropped the intended ending dance. I led with Fill Your Cup, and Radha finished with the Kalama (we were one week short of the actual 50th anniversary). For both of these we four danced in a line rather than a circle, and were completely in tune and in step with each other. I experienced again the feeling I first had doing DUP (in a small yurt on a Dorset field) – I was no longer sure where I ended and those around me began.

So, that’s why I wanted to write about this session! In terms of numbers, and raising money to pay for use of the church, it was our least successful. But what it clarified for me was the reason I love DUP. There was no sense of performer and follower: the six of us co-created the sessions. It reinforced that what we do is a practice, and numbers and payment are irrelevant to its success; and that when you are able to let go of too much conscious thought you open yourself to experiencing an amazing harmony with others. Don’t talk the talk, dance the dance!

– Vicky Linklater

‘Honouring Our Roots’ – 50th Anniversary event Edinburgh 24th June

What a delight this evening was – over 30 people came, some familiar with the Dances, some new to them – but all feeling inspired to come and join in with celebrating SAM’s legacy.

People arrived bearing food to share at the break – much variety and deliciousness. Fateah graciously doubled as compere and dance leader, while the other 4 of us (Jenny, Sarah, Dominic and me) led half hour Dance sessions, with an hour in the middle for eating and talking. Gavin and Clare provided extra musicianship, Monika brought the ice-cream (in cool bags as there was no freezer!) and Isabel oversaw the refreshment table and washing up. Krytstyna sorted and arranged the flowers brought from gardens. The collaboration and cooperation was a joy to be part of.

The 5 of us haven’t ‘worked’ together before and it felt so good that there are whisperings of something similar being arranged again – the seed has been sown and we look forward to it germinating. Peace to all,

Stella Cranwell