by Andy Bettis
I'd been invited to teach at a beginners group. Although most of the participants had no previous circle dance experience the organiser had been to a couple of workshops and had specifically requested 'King of the Fairies' which she remembered as one of her favourites. Always obliging, I prepared the evening's dances with KotF in pride of place.
After I've taught a dance a few hundred times I find myself developing a more or less fixed style, a combination of what seems the most straightforward and simple to me, the best of how I've seen others teach it, and experience and observation of how people dance after I've taught them. Anyway, my normal method for teaching 'King of the Fairies' is to go through the first three parts, skip over the fourth section (wind/swans flying) by just saying 'trot at double speed and follow me', then fully teach the last part. This seems to give people confidence about the steps and still provide a point of surprise and excitement when the circle breaks and the resulting line 'whooshes' around.
So the dance was taught, the music started and we were away. The first part was a little wobbly, the second and third steadier as people got into the dance, and smiles and grins were popping up all around the circle. Then came the fourth part, I released my right hand, started waving my arms and making whooshing noises and started to spiral in. As one the other dancers, following my lead, let go of hands and started rushing around in all directions.
There are times in dancing when it is no longer possible to lead a group and the only decision to be made is to go with the flow or abandon the whole thing and start again. In the middle of this impromptu swans' chorus it was clear that people were enjoying themselves, there were no collisions and the candle was undisturbed, so being an adventurous sort I carried on, thinking 'I can correct this for the second time through'.
The music changed and people realised that we were into the fifth part. Slowly the circle reformed and, although the steps had been mostly forgotten in the excitement, we were back to dancing as a group. In between reminding people of the steps during the repeat of first three parts I stressed the idea that we should keep holding hands in the fourth part and just follow our right-hand neighbour, smiles and nods convinced me that we were all ready for it this time.
As the music changed the excitement of the first time through was rekindled and, my explanations and exhortations blown away, the circle once again split into twenty individual swans, each one riding their own wind and flying their own path. In harmony with the group will I swooped and whooshed with the best of them, limiting my 'leading' to encouraging people back into a ragged circle for the end of the dance.
Needless to say, this was the dance that was most fondly remembered at the final sharing.