Afternoon Jams, Late Night Dancing, and Early Morning Croissant!

The chance encounters that I make on this trip are clearly going to e more important than anything I actually planned. This particular coincidence happened during one of the milongas throughout the week. I spent most of the time dancing with Maiwenn and her friend also named Jeremy. I was helping him learn volcadas and a gancho, and the three of us were trading off dancing with each other. During one of their dances I decided to go find a new partner and randomly asked a women standing by the sidelines to dance. She was a good dancer, but clearly begining and very excited that I had asked her. She asked to dance another dance and I said yes of course. We started talking afterwards and it turns out that she is the teacher for the Basque dance classes at the festival. Knowing that it existed, I asked her on a whim I asked her if she had ever heard of Sword dancing in Basque Country. No, no one who I have met thus far on my trip had heard of such a thing, so you can imagine my surprise
 when she said, “Oh yes, my friend Patxi dances and collects these dances.” It just about knocked my socks off, but I recovered and ended up getting his number and being introduced by text. I will be contacting him soon and hopefully going to Pay Basque for a little trip!

That afternoon I was tired so I took a nap in the first hall while watching a group rehearse for an elaborate performance of folk dancing. I didn’t get to see the performance because i was still tired and went back to the campground to sleep more. It was a little too hot to sleep in the tent at 4 in the afternoon, so I curled up under the big purple gypsies wagon with some blueberries and went to sleep.

Upon waking up I wandered up to the festival to find more jamming. I found a rather large jam of musicians and singers

I decided it was time that I start learning Irish Banjo, so i fashioned a pick out of a plastic spoon and set to work on the top four strings. It was actually rather successful, and I surprised myself with my facility in picking out melodies in this new way!

The schedule had English dances listed, so of course I had to go check it out! It turned out to be a English/Welsh women and her French husband who are a group called MadTom. I had an interesting realization that I was actually changing the way other people at the festival danced. There are certain flourishes that are fairly commonplace in contra dance community around Boston and New England that I do naturally: twirls, spins during the do-si-do, putting an extra hand in the star. These movements were totally new to the french and by the end of the dance I noticed many of the younger dancers imitating these “new” motions! I may have changed French dancing forever 😉 

I briefly went to a workshop of all kinds of dances in 3/4 time and found this zwiefacher! Well, I don’t know if that is what they called it, but it totally is one! Minus the silly lyrics and big brass band of course! I actually really like it, and it was fun to dance to once the French figured out how to actually dance it! Pay no attention to the strange shuffles they are doing, it is just a learning aid.

I also met a group of Europeans who had all met in Scotland a few years back and were into folk music and dance. That connection was made when Alistair, a guitar player from the Netherlands (i think?) started loudly singing “Hi Ho The Rattling Bed” which I quickly ran over and joined in on. Once i proved that I knew all the verses he did (up to “the women on the man,”) he said, “I like you, and invited me to join the group for a lovely dinner of french cheese, cidre, bread, sausage, and other rather delicious things! For some reason we get around to parodying Lord of the Rings and singing strange songs. My favorite: “I’m Into Folk” by the Radio’s

I got a home computer, I got lots of floppy disks
But as for my taste in music, I won’t take many risks
I only like the real thing, ‘Cause I’m a healthy bloke
My friends are into Hip Hop, but I’m into Folk!

I’m into Folk, I’m into Folk
I told it to my friends, but they thought it was a joke
I’m into Folk, I’m into Folk
My friends are into Hip Hop, but I’m into Folk!

I meet Zarina again and we split a bottle of cidre and talk about travel, language, stereotypes, and differences between countries. Apparently americans wear shorts (true) and always have juice or milk boxes (???) I am certainly jealous of European language education. She speaks Russian, French, English, Polish, and used to speak German and said “it’s not that many!” Oy. If only! US language education is kind of broken, it needs to start earlier and be more regular!

By this time it was too late to check my banjo into the instrument check, I would have to wait until 3:30 when it reopened for half an hour. As I stayed up later and later, I became less and less inclined to go to bed. I danced more with Maiwenn and a French girl Marianne, and before I knew it it was 6:30 in the morning and the dancing had taken a turn for the awesome! Trad dance meets blues dancing!

We danced till about 7:30 at which point Marianne and I went and bought croissants straight out of oven at the boulangerie. I wandered back to the tent, ate another croissant and went to bed

Peoples thoughts on dancing (first of many segments):

Zarina: Dancing is respect. And communication. The dancing has to be respectful to be fun.

Maiwenn: Dancing is passion. You can’t just learn the steps, and so many people do! You have to feel every movement

Me: Dancing is Awesome! Au revoir et bon nuit!




About Jeremy Carter-Gordon

My blog of a year studying point-and-hilt sword dancing on a Watson Fellowship. Enjoy reading, tell me your thoughts and leave me a comment, or visit my website at
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