Article MT322. 

The Folk Dance Movement

Mary Neal, Cecil Sharp and the Struggle for Supremacy

by Arthur Knevett


During the late nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth three principle voluntary movements were set up, namely Mary Neal's Espérance Working Girls Club (1895), Baden-Powell's Boy Scouts (1907-1908), and, a little later (1911), Cecil Sharp's English Folk Dance Society (EFDS).  The shared aim of all three movements was to provide an antidote to the perceived uncertainty and malaise that had given rise to '...  the spectre of social breakdown, economic failure and national decline.'1, or as Simon Featherstone expressed it ,'a crisis in the social fabric of England.'2  They would achieve this by providing activities that would promote healthy bodies and instil healthy minds in terms of national pride, national identity and good citizenship.  The growth of industrialisation and the perceived degenerative effects of the trappings of modernity were held to be the cause of this decay in the national character. 

Mary Neal and Emmeline Pethick

Mary Neal was born in Birmingham in 1860, she was the daughter of David and Sarah Anne Neal and was christened Clara Sophia.  Her father was a successful businessman, a button manufacturer, and she describes her family's social position as a family with '... a one horse brougham for wet weather and a barouche with coachman in livery for fine days.'
3  In February 1888 she joined the Wesleyan Methodists West London Mission based in Soho.  She became a member of the 'deaconess-like "Sisters of the People"' and she chose to be known as 'Sister Mary'.4  The Mission was a part of the wider universities and settlements movement.  In her unpublished autobiography she describes how she came to be a member of the "sisters", she wrote: The scheme made an instant appeal to me and within a few weeks I set out for a new adventure and an entirely new way of life.5 One of the tasks assigned to 'Sister Mary' was running a 'Club for Working Girls'.  Neal was passionate about improving the lot of working women.  Roy Judge cited a passage written by her for the Fourth Annual Report (1891) of the Mission in which she said 'If these clubs are up to the ideal which we have in view, they will be living schools for working women, who will be instrumental in the near future, in altering the conditions of the class they represent.'6  She was joined, in 1891, by Emmeline Pethick and the two worked together running the club.  In 1895 they both left the Mission and started their own club in Cumberland Market, St Pancras, which they called the Espérance7 Working Girls' Club.  They later established a tailoring business which they called Maison Espérance.  Neal, in her autobiography, gave her own account and said that: The tailoring enterprise was strictly a business undertaking.  An advert for the tailoring services on offer appeared on the back page of a fund raising pamphlet entitled Dear Mother Earth9 by Mary Neal.

The pamphlet was dedicated to Emmeline Pethick.  Maison Espérance was opened in 1897 in response to the poor working conditions and 'infringements of factory and workshop acts' that the girls reported to them.10 The advert emphasised the good working conditions, in contrast to those that the girls had described to them, which implied that the quality of the garments produced would be of a much better standard.11

The Espérance Working Girls' Club

Mary Neal wrote that: 'We started our club with one idea and one idea only, we would make for our girls a bright and happy Christian home ...'12  The club was open four evenings a week.  Neal described the weekly programme: The Espérance Girls' Club became well known for its displays of 'music and dancing and play-acting'.14 A young lawyer, Frederick Lawrence, attended the club display in 1899 and met Emmeline, in 1901 they were married.15 After her marriage Emmeline left the Espérance Club to concentrate on her work for the women's suffrage movement and Frederick assisted her in this work.  She later became the treasurer of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU).  Following their marriage Frederick added his wife's name to his own and became known as Frederick Pethick Lawrence. 

The settlement movement provided members of the middle-classes the opportunity to engage in some form of social work and this was also the driving force behind Mary Neal's and Emmeline Pethick's involvement with the Espérance Club.  However, for Neal and Pethick there was also a political dimension to their work.  This is summarised by Neal in her autobiography when she wrote:

It was their politicisation resulting from their social work that led them both to give their support to the labour and suffragette movements.

Herbert MacIlwaine

When Emmeline left to get married in 1901, Herbert MacIlwaine took her place in the Espérance Girls Club to assist Mary Neal.  MacIlwaine was an Irish novelist, the son of Canon MacIlwaine of Belfast Cathedral.  He had spent time in the Australian bush working on a cattle-station and during his time there he had written a number of novels, amongst them were Fate the Fiddler; The Undersong and The Twilight Reef.
17  He had moved to London and was living at the Passmore Edwards Settlement and it is likely that he was introduced to Mary Neal by his neighbour Frederick Lawrence.  MacIlwaine acted as musical director for the dances and songs the girls would perform.  In 1905, he read the report of an interview with Cecil Sharp in the Morning Post on the subject of English folk-song and he later suggested to Mary Neal that this might be suitable material to use for the Club's forthcoming Christmas party.18

Mary Neal meets Cecil Sharp

Cecil Sharp had joined the Folk-Song Society (FSS) in 1901 and in 1904 he was elected to serve on the committee following his public criticism of the way in which the society was being run.  He had by this time established himself as a very successful field collector of folk-songs.  Neal made contact with Sharp to request information and help in introducing folk-song to the girls in her club, the two met and Sharp agreed to help.  Neal records that Sharp told her that 'I should be surprised at the way in which English boys and girls would understand and appreciate their own Folk music.  "They will learn it," said Mr Sharp "by a sort of spiritual sixth sense ...".'
19  Indeed, the songs that Sharp introduced were so well received by the girls and by those that they subsequently performed them to that Neal was prompted to ask Sharp if there were any dances that would be in keeping with them.  Sharp told her of his meeting six years previously with the Headington Quarry Morris Dancers and Neal records that after 'getting the address from him, I went into Oxfordshire and found the two countrymen who had given Mr Sharp the tunes ... I brought these two men up to London and set them to teach my girls to dance.'20  The two men were William Kimber, the morris team musician, and his cousin Richard Kimber.  From this point on Sharp became closely involved with the Espérance Girls' Club.

The Folk Dance Movement

The dance movement was pioneered by Mary Neal with, initially, the assistance and support of Cecil Sharp.  With Sharp's help she introduced morris dancing to her girls in the Espérance Club and so began the revival of the national dance tradition.  By the time that Neal had contacted Sharp he had already propounded the view that the teaching of folk songs in elementary schools would instil national pride and patriotism.  Folk dancing was soon thought to be equally effective in this respect and would help to combat this perceived general malaise.

The Morris dances and folk-songs the girls had learnt were performed at the Christmas Party and were a great success with the audience.  MacIlwaine gave an account of the performance and said:

This success was followed up with a public performance on 3 April 1906 at the Queen's Small Hall, Langham Place in central London.  It was billed as 'An English Pastoral' and was created by MacIlwaine.22  Sharp by this time had achieved considerable publicity for his activities and his views on folk-song.  As a result of which he was establishing himself as something of an expert on folk-song in the minds of the general public.

Sharp was a committee member of the FSS but was in dispute with nearly all his fellow committee members over the society's endorsement of the song list prepared by the Board of Education to be used in elementary schools.23  The song list included national as well as folk songs and Sharp was firmly of the opinion that only folk-songs should be included.  Folk songs had been created and perpetuated by 'the common people', they were communal and reflected their feelings and tastes.  National songs which had been composed by an individual for the people expressed the personal ideals and aspirations of the composer.

Although he was in disagreement with the FSS committee Sharp gave his support to the burgeoning dance movement and seems to have been content, at this time, to let Mary Neal take the lead.  The reputation of the Espérance dance team was growing and requests for team members to perform and teach others the dances were beginning to grow.  The girls had learnt the dances from members of traditional morris sides that Neal had located and subsequently invited to the club to teach the girls.  At the request of organisers of village fetes and celebrations they were travelling all over the country teaching the dances to groups who would then perform locally.  As MacIlwaine explained; 'Neither tunes nor instructions for dancing existed anywhere in print.  So far as it was possible the girls who had learned them were sent out to teach others.  Since April last [1906] they have taught in several counties and in London and yet not a tenth of the demand has been met.'24  Indeed, Sharp helped in this, a request came from the Rev Francis Etherington, who was the vicar at Minehead (Somerset) and a friend of Sharp.  He wanted to put on a show for a visit by the Somerset Archaeological Society and wanted to include morris dancing as a part of it.  In response to this request Sharp wrote to him and told him that 'the men from Oxford (the Headington Quarry Morris Dancers) were all in full work and would find it difficult to attend.' He went on to say:

It is interesting to note Sharp's view of 'country girls' and perhaps this gives an insight into his view of country people, and probably the view of urban dwellers generally.  The comment suggests that he saw country people as entrenched in their own ways and slow, or reluctant, to learn new things.  Nowadays they might be described as less 'streetwise' than their town and city counterparts.  This concurs with the view, intimated by MacIlwaine's comment cited above, that the London girls were intuitively drawn to folk-song and dance and learnt them quickly.  Judge described Sharp's role at this time as principally that of 'musician and historical scholar'.26  It is also interesting to note that Sharp had no qualms about women performing morris dances.

It is clear that at this time Sharp was on good terms with Mary Neal.  Indeed, Neal had dedicated her fund raising pamphlet, Set to Music, to Cecil Sharp.27

In the pamphlet she wrote of folk-song that; 'The songs are full of the love of the land, of the flowers and of healthy joyous life.' and contrasted them to the songs written by 'The decadent verse-writers of to-day ...'28  Featherstone wrote that both Sharp and Neal advocated a 'restorative primitivism' through the introduction of folk dance and song and that they '... argued that the decay of character, physique and traditional knowledge in English youth was due to the destructive effects of industrial and urban modernity.'29  Sharp was a romantic nationalist and, as Vic Gammon has stated, drew on ... 'a tradition of romantic thought that stretches back to the eighteenth century ...'30.  He saw both folk song and folk dance as racial products, rooted in the countryside and handed down from generation to generation.  In the case of song this would be through an oral/aural process and in the case of dance by practical demonstration, oral instruction and practice.  Sharp's involvement with the Espérance Club provided him with the opportunity to have influence and practical involvement in the folk movement outside of the FSS.

With all the increased interest in morris dancing there was a perceived need, as MacIlwaine had intimated, to provide instruction books and this need was met by Sharp and MacIlwaine.  Together they located traditional morris teams and collected their dances from them.  In an interview with a Morning Post correspondent Sharp said; 'You must understand that the noting of dances is far more difficult than that of music.  Choreography, as the art of dance-notation is called is a much more complex science than music notation.  Indeed, without Mr MacIlwaine's assistance I do not think I could have evolved the system we now use.'31  The results of their labours were published in the first four parts of The Morris Book. Part 1 appeared in 1907 and in the introduction Sharp complimented and acknowledged Mary Neal as the originator of the morris dance revival.  He wrote that:

The Goupil Gallery Meeting

By the winter of 1907 the dance movement had gained both widespread popularity and publicity.  Demand was such that instructors from the Espérance Club had been teaching dances as far afield as Devon, Derbyshire, Norfolk and Monmouth.
33  With all this increased activity Neal wanted to found an organisation that would enable her to spread the workload and better organise the growing demand for their services.  To this end a meeting to discuss the future of the movement was arranged to take place on 14 November at The Goupil Gallery, an art gallery in Regent Street, London.

On the day before the conference the event received some unexpected publicity.  A cartoon and a brief, but positive, article on the revival of folk dances together with a notice of the forthcoming conference appeared in the magazine Punch.  Mary Neal recorded in her autobiography that she knew nothing about it until she received a telegram from a friend congratulating her on the publicity.  She wrote: 'I went out and bought a copy of Punch and was much thrilled to find the cartoon.' She went on to record that she and Herbert MacIlwaine took the copy of Punch to show it to Sharp.  They were somewhat dismayed by his reaction:

Copy of cartoon 'Merrie England Once More' by Bernard Partridge that appeared in Punch on 13 November 1907, p.345 in Vol. 133. 35

What it was about the cartoon and short article that appeared in Punch that provoked Sharp to react in this way is unclear.  Perhaps it was the caption 'Merrie England Once More'.  Vaughan Williams had criticised his use of the term 'Merrie England' in the draft of his book Folk Song: Some Conclusions, or he may have considered that the cartoon, which depicted Mr Punch leading a group of dancers, trivialised, or even mocked, the dance movement, or perhaps it was the note under the cartoon and the article that mentioned that the movement had the excellent object of 'a return to the land' and had originated with The Espérance Club for Working Girls and went on to state that, 'We refer to the revival of Folksongs.  Games and Morris Dances which under the direction of Miss Neal and Mr H C MacIlwaine, of the Espérance Club, and Mr C J Sharp, the musician has led to many charming performances at the Queen's Hall ....'36  Or it may be that Sharp thought that the article relegated his role to that of a helper, it is possible that it was all of these things.  Whatever it was that caused his dismay Sharp had second thoughts and did attend the conference.  When he addressed the assembly he alluded to the cartoon and the article and said that:

Sharp went on to stress that the scope of the new 'Society' should restrict itself to the popularisation of folk dance and song.  The Morning Post reported on the meeting and stated: It is clear from the report that the folk propaganda, of which Sharp was the major exponent, was working.  Sharp had some misgivings about the proposed new association but went along with the idea.  He was appointed onto the committee tasked with organising the association to be known as 'The Association for the Revival and Practice of Folk Music'.  The committee met several times but found it impossible to reach any agreement.  Sharp soon resigned when it became clear that his ideas were not shared by most of the committee.  Mary Neal records that, 'It is almost impossible to state what the exact quarrel was about.  Perhaps, just briefly, it was that Mr Sharp wanted to make an exact canon for dancing and I wanted it to follow the traditional freedom of the old dancers.'39

Following Sharp's resignation Mary Neal gathered together a few of her friends and a small association was started with the idea of getting the movement outside the Espérance Girls' Club.  The association grew in strength throughout the next year and Sharp grew increasingly disturbed by Neal's public portrayal of the role of the Espérance initiative.  In a letter he wrote to Lucy Broadwood, the FSS Hon.  Secretary, he stated:

In essence this is true but at the meeting Sharp was more restrained in expressing this view.  A verbatim transcript of the meeting records that he said:

Neal commented that prior to the proposal for the establishment of the Association:

Sharp was now formulating his own ideas as to how traditional dances should be taught.  In 1908 MacIlwaine resigned from his position as musical director for the Espérance Club but continued in his collaboration with Sharp in collecting and publishing morris dances.  MacIlwaine's position was taken up by Clive Carey.  Carey had attended Clare College, Cambridge as an organ scholar in 1901 and during his time there he combined his undergraduate studies with a Grove Scholarship in Composition at the Royal College of Music.  He was a singer, a baritone, and later was to become 'singer and director of operas at the Old Vic Opera Company'.43  He was very keen on morris dancing and following his appointment as musical director for the Espérance Club he assisted Neal in collecting dances, Carey later turned his attention to song collecting.

In 1910 Sharp and Herbert MacIlwaine published Part 3 of the Morris Book.  Sharp was becoming concerned that Neal was, in his view, diluting the tradition through the practice of inviting traditional morris dancers to teach her girls who would learn the dances in a purely practical and visual way (one might say, a traditional way).  The Morris Books were now viewed by Sharp as handbooks to be used by experts for teaching the dances.  Sharp was firmly of the opinion that learning the dances solely by observation, no matter how skilled the demonstrators were, would lead to inaccuracy in performance.  Moreover, if dance steps were forgotten it would be difficult to organise repeat demonstrations since the traditional dancers did not live nearby and due to work and family commitments they would not be readily available.  Sharp, in his introduction to the Morris Book Part 3, insisted on the importance of using a handbook (and having a qualified teacher, where possible) to ensure accuracy and to maintain what he described as 'the traditional character' of the dance and he went on to say that; 'On this point we feel it necessary once more to offer a word of advice and warning, for we have seen again and again how easily the Morris may degenerate into a disorderly romp.44  This is in stark contrast to the compliment he paid to Mary Neal in the introduction to the Morris Book Part 1.  Indeed, when a second edition of the Morris Book Part 1 was published in 1912 Sharp had removed any mention of Mary Neal and the Espérance dancers.  Neal was incensed and she wrote to Clive Carey that Cecil Sharp had; '... re-written his first book with not any new mention of me and Florrie.  ... my temper has its limits.45

Sharp's contrasting views on dance and song

Sharp's ideas on folk dance run counter to his theories on folk-song.  Folk-songs, he argued, were subject to an evolutionary process as they passed from singer to singer and any resulting variation was a part and a feature of a living tradition.  Teaching folk dance in the way described above would prevent any such evolutionary process from taking place.  One can only assume that his justification for this is the fact that a morris dance is a team effort and therefore synchronisation between dancers is of the utmost importance to prevent the dance degenerating into 'a disorderly romp'.  Folk singing on the other hand is, generally, a solo performance and as such is individualised.  Nonetheless, one is left with the uncomfortable feeling that folk-song is being encouraged to develop whereas folk dance is, in effect, being 'glass-cased'.  It is inconceivable to think that Sharp believed that morris dances had never evolved over the years and it is likely that he felt that such evolutionary development could, and should, only take place with traditional performers in what might be described as a traditional dance tradition just as songs evolve through the oral tradition.  In spite of the emerging differences between them, Neal continued her work in promoting folk dancing

Sharp the 'legislator'

Sharp now had serious differences with Mary Neal regarding the teaching methods to be used for teaching morris dancing.  Sharp had been unable to make headway where the FSS was concerned regarding the exclusive use of folk songs in the elementary school curriculum but he was determined to position himself as a major figure in the dance movement.  In due course he embarked on a series of enterprises, the crowning glory of which was the founding, in 1911, of the English Folk Dance Society (EFDS), and this enabled him to overshadow Neal's achievements and establish himself as the expert, or 'legislator', and leader of the folk-dance movement.  The term 'legislator' is used here metaphorically.  As Zygmunt Bauman explains the 'legislator' role consists of making authoritative statements in support of particular opinions where differences occur.  The selected opinions in due course become accepted and binding.

Sharp's differences with Mary Neal centred on how folk dance should be taught and performed.  Sharp favoured an analytical approach in which every step is learnt exactly as recorded from the traditional dancers.  Neal, on the other hand, favoured the 'intuitive method'.  The vital factor in this method is demonstration by traditional performers to show the learners the rhythm, style and fluency of the movements and the resulting combined action.47  In spite of the fact that traditional dancers had learnt the dances in this way Sharp felt that 'revival' dancers who learnt from demonstration would not be able to accurately reproduce the dance steps and that this would detract from the quality of the performance.  Both Neal and Sharp wanted to popularise folk dancing but for Sharp it must be taught by 'expert teachers' to ensure that the accuracy and quality of performances was in no way diluted, whereas Neal was more interested in perpetuating the spirit and joy of the dance.  Georgina Boyes has stated that; 'The 'thoroughly vulgar movement' envisaged by Mary Neal formed no part of Sharp's agenda.  Through the English Folk Dance Society, the Folk Revival was organised, staffed, trained and recruited among the middle classes.'48  Neither Sharp or Neal were dancers but Sharp became the self-appointed expert on morris dancing.  He had no more experience than Neal but he was a musician and perhaps better able to choreograph the dances.

Ironically, in the case of folk-song, it was Sharp's critics who thought that the introduction of folk-songs into the elementary school curriculum would result in performances that would be neither accurate or of good quality.  Furthermore, many songs were deemed to be unsuitable and would have to be either omitted or bowdlerised and therefore a distorted view of the folk-song repertoire would be presented.  National songs, however, needed no such alteration and Sharp, with the support of Ralph Vaughan Williams, were the only members of the FSS committee to object to their inclusion for use in schools.  Sharp thought that folk-songs in schools was the best way to get them back into wider circulation and get them sung once more by the descendants of those that created them even if some of the school versions were not as they were originally collected and he was convinced that they would instil into the children patriotism and national pride.49 Consequently Sharp was out of step with most of his fellow FSS committee members and with Neal and her supporters in the dance movement.  Nonetheless Sharp was convinced that he was right and he continued to put forward 'expert opinion' in his efforts to 'legislate' and get things done his way.  By 1910 the dance movement was split between those that followed Mary Neal and the philanthropic philosophy that underpinned her organisation now known as the Espérance Guild of Morris Dancers and those that followed Sharp's ideas.

Folk dancing in schools

Physical education had been on the minds of a number of educationalists since the poor state of health and physique of young men had been highlighted during recruitment for armed service in the Boer War.  One of Sharp's fellow FSS committee members, Alfred Perceval Graves, in his role as a school inspector, had taken a particular interest in the need for a more organised approach to physical education.  His ideas centred on organised games as a part of the school curriculum to improve the physical well being of children.  Shortly after the Liberal Party's landslide victory in the 1906 General Election Graves was presented with the opportunity to put his views directly to Augustine Birrell, the newly appointed President of the Board of Education.  Birrell approved his ideas and instructed Mr Edmund G A Holmes, the Chief Inspector, to consult with Graves and introduce a new article into the code.  The article provided for 'properly organised games for older children under competent supervision and instruction.' Graves wrote that 'Birrell accepted it and it became law.'50  The article was included in the Education (Administrative Provisions) Act of 1907.  This Act also laid upon the school authorities the responsibility to provide a medical inspection of children upon entry, or as soon as possible thereafter, to an elementary school.  Attending to the health and fitness of children was clearly becoming something of a priority.

Physical education in schools was not a new development, military drill had been introduced in 1871 and was a part of the secondary school curriculum, however entry to secondary school was limited and most children left school only having attended elementary school.  To address the lack of physical training in elementary schools the Board of Education in consultation with the War Office issued a document entitled A model course of Physical Training for use in the Upper Departments of Public Elementary Schools. This was also based on the army methods of training and used military drill together with dumbbell and barbell exercises.51  The educational historian H C Barnard wrote that 'more sensible methods of physical education were suggested in a syllabus issued by the Board of Education in 1909.  This was based largely on the practice of Sweden and Denmark ...'  According to Barnard these practices had transformed the teaching of gymnastics.52  The 1909 National Syllabus stated that:

This prepared the way for further developments in physical education and the introduction of folk dancing was a part of this.  Both Sharp and Neal were anxious to have their version recognised for school use but following a meeting between Sharp and the Chief Inspector to the Board of Education, Edmund Holmes, it was Sharp's version that was adopted.  He was given a free-hand at the South Western Polytechnic in Chelsea to oversee the training of teachers with respect to the teaching of folk dancing.54  To meet this new requirement Sharp established a School of Morris Dancing with himself as Director and this had the support of the Physical Training Department of the Polytechnic.  Dorette Wilkie was the founder and Head Mistress of the college and in keeping with the Board of Education's official recognition of morris dancing as a part of the physical education syllabus in 1909 she had co-operated with Sharp.  She enabled him to establish the School of Morris Dancing and learning morris dances completed the training programme for student teachers' of physical education.

Sharp was able to train, examine and grant certificates to teachers for teaching morris dancing.55  The Folk-Song Society in the 'Annual Report, June 1908-9' acknowledged Sharp's involvement in the dance movement and it was stated in the report that:

In terms of getting official approval Sharp had out-manoeuvred Neal.  The success of this strategy was later confirmed in a report prepared for the Board of Education by the Chief Medical Officer in 1912 which stated that: Commenting on these events Mary Neal wrote: In 1910 and 1911 Neal published the results of her and Carey's dance collecting activities.  The dances were published in two volumes entitled The Espérance Morris Book Part 1 (1910) and Part 2 (1911).

Mary Neal, The Espérance Morris Book Part I (London: Curwen, 1910). 
Mary Neal, The Espérance Morris Book Part II (London: Curwen, 1911). 

Neal saw them as reference manuals to be used by everyone.  In this respect she was at variance with Sharp in that the books could be used by non-experts.  These events brought the differences between Neal and Sharp to a head and they were aired in public.  Sharp's biographer, Fox Strangways, wrote that Sharp had written to the Morning Post on 1 April 1910 to let it be known that he was disclaiming any connection with the Guild.  Neal countered this by writing to Vanity Fair on 14 April 1910.59  Sharp gave an interview which was published in the Morning Post on 3 May 1910 in which he responded to the content of her letter and said that:

He went on to say that: Two interesting points emerge from this: firstly, Neal was applying to dance Sharp's theory for song with respect to communal evolvement.  Secondly, Sharp's insistence that dances should be learned from experts who would teach each step exactly as it was danced on the occasion it was noted from tradition, contradicts the criticism he previously made of the composer, musician and folk-song collector Percy Grainger.  Grainger's practice was to notate every note that a singer sang from phonograph recordings to ensure an absolutely accurate record.  Sharp's practice in noting song tunes was to capture the essential melody sometimes including a few examples of variations of the tune.  In a letter to Grainger Sharp said that; 'In transmitting a song our aim should be to record its artistic effect, not necessarily the exact means by which that effect was produced.'61 (my emphasis)  Sharp's method with dances was to ensure that all the dancers were in step with one another and executing each step in exactly the same way.  However, this does ignore the fact that a traditional dance team is made up of individual dancers who have learnt the dances from other traditional dancers and not from an 'expert' with a handbook to ensure each dancer executes each step in exactly the same way.  Learning the dances traditionally ensures that all the dancers perform the same steps but each dancer will introduce their own subtle variations.  For Neal the result of the combined team movements would be a performance full of vigour and unaffected spontaneity.  Her aim was to spread 'joyful participation'.  Sharp, on the other hand, thought that the dances must be step perfect with all dancers performing each step in exactly the same way.  As Vic Gammon has pointed out accuracy in the execution of a dance was of particular importance, '...  he seemed to think there was an absolutely right way to do each dance.'62  Douglas Kennedy, one of Sharp's closest disciples, wrote that 'In our teaching instruction we followed closely, almost slavishly, the form of Cecil Sharp's printed descriptions.'63  Kennedy later wrote that 'The Neale [sic] episode hardened Sharp's attitude on the question of 'traditional form', a phrase which was to lead to endless discussion in the years ahead.'  And he added that there were those that feared 'for the loss of the spirit in the pursuit of the letter, but these doubters were dubbed "Nealites" for their pains.'64

Sharp was in broad agreement with the philanthropic motives and views of Mary Neal and the potential social effects her organisation could have, but he was in complete disagreement about the methods of teaching.  He was appalled at what he now perceived as the lax standards of accuracy of the Espérance dancers.  He thought that their performance and teaching would trivialise the dances and turn people away from them and thus, in due course, kill the revival.  Indeed, Sharp had written to Neal telling her that she had 'deliberately isolated' herself from those who were 'better acquainted with the subject than yourself and animated by higher artistic ideals.'65  The essential difference between Sharp's approach to traditional dance and that of Neal's was that Sharp wanted precision which required expert teachers, trained under his supervision, and recognition of their achievement through certification given by him.66  Neal on the other hand was more interested in getting as many people to participate as possible and in capturing the 'spirit'.  In a letter to Michael Barlow, Douglas Kennedy described Neal's approach to morris dancing as providing 'more colourful displays which we considered flamboyant'.67  In later years Kennedy admitted that Sharp may have put too much emphasis on technique and in so doing undermined the spontaneity and joy of the dance.  He expressed his surprise and shock when both Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst told him that they preferred Sharp's demonstration team's performances better than those of the traditional teams.68  On reflection this is perhaps not so surprising since both men, given their musical training, would have been more attuned to the strict synchronisation of the movements rather than the more exuberant and freer style of the traditional dancers.

Mary Neal and the 1910 Shakespeare Memorial Festival, Stratford-Upon-Avon

In spite of Sharp's criticisms the activities of Neal's dancers had gained widespread publicity and acclaim.  This led to a decision by the organisers of the 1910 Shakespeare Memorial Festival to arrange an additional festival to be held later in the year during July and August to include, as Neal described, '... out of doors special plays and performances of a pageant nature ...'.69  These events would include folk dancing and folk singing and they were added to the programme for the first of these extra festivals.  Earlier in 1910 Mary Neal had organised a vacation School in Littlehampton with Clive Carey and her principal dancer, Florence Warren, as instructors in song and dance respectively.  The school was attended by sixty teachers who wanted to learn folk dancing.  The perceived success of this venture prompted the Governors of the Memorial Theatre at Stratford-Upon-Avon to transfer the School to be a part of the 1910 festival and Mary Neal wrote that 'about two hundred availed themselves of the opportunity of learning the songs and dances.'70  She later wrote that: Both Sharp and Neal, in their own way, saw traditional dance and song as a means of bringing about social cohesion.  Neal believed that the return of traditional dance to the general public at large would have a therapeutic effect giving rise to 'a reawakening of that part of our national consciousness which makes for wholeness, saneness and healthy merriment.'72  As we have seen, the origin of Neal's organisation had developed from her experience of social work and involvement in the 'settlement movement'.  Two of the attendees at the 1910 Stratford Dance school were the sisters Maud and Helen Karpeles.  They were volunteers at a branch of the Guild of Play at the Mayflower Centre in Canning Town in the London Borough of Newham.73  They wanted to learn folk-songs and dances to teach to the children.  To this end they attended the 1910 Stratford-Upon-Avon festival.  The Guild of Play had grown out of the settlement movement, it became a movement in its own right.  Martha Vicinus wrote that: In an obituary for Maud Karpeles written by Margaret Dean-Smith75 she wrote that Maud was 'in search of something new to teach East-End children in her Guild of Play'.76 This is corroborated by David Atkinson who said the two sisters when they returned from the Stratford-upon-Avon festival enrolled in dance classes under the direction of Cecil Sharp with the intention of continuing to learn the dances and then teaching them to 'settlement children in Canning Town in the East End of London.'77  In due course the sisters, particularly Maud, became close friends, disciples and colleagues of Cecil Sharp.  Maud was to become a key figure in the folk-song and dance movement.

Neal and Sharp Compete for the 1911 Stratford Summer School

The dispute between Sharp and Neal came to a head over the competition between the two camps to take charge of the Summer School for folk singing and dancing for the 1911 Stratford-upon-Avon Shakespeare Festival.  Archibald Flower was a member of the Stratford brewing family and Flowers Brewery was the largest employer in Stratford.  As such he was a very influential businessman and he was the Chairman of the Board of Governors for the festival.  Frank Benson was an actor-manager of a theatrical touring company, he managed the Shakespearean festival at Stratford from 1888 to 1919.  He was also a keen sportsman with a passion for cricket.  In addition to the theatrical productions he organised for the festival he also introduced some sporting activities as part of the annual celebrations which were scheduled to take place over a three week period around 23 April, the date celebrated as Shakespeare's birthday.  Both Flower and Benson considered that folk dance should be a part of the festival.  Indeed morris dancing had been a fringe feature of the original festivals, and Neal made mention of a 'famous troop of morris-dancers from a neighbouring village' dancing up the street after the church service which opened the festival.
78  The dancers referred to may well have been the Bidford-upon-Avon Shakespearean Morris Dancers.

Neither Flower nor Benson had any qualms about the relevance of folk dancing, and in particular morris dancing, to the festival since Shakespeare made reference to it in a few of his plays.79  In an article on Shakespeare and morris dancing Alan Brissenden wrote that:

The issue was to whom the event should be entrusted to ensure accuracy and high artistic standards.  Both Neal and Sharp competed to win their favour to be the one chosen to organise the Summer School for 1911, which both hoped would become a permanent feature of the festival.  In a letter to the Morning Post Sharp had openly criticised the dance teaching at the 1910 Summer School, he wrote: Benson was aware of the criticisms that Sharp had made against Neal and in a letter he wrote to a colleague, who is only identified in the salutation as 'My dear William', [probably William Hutchings, JP, a member of the Board of Governors of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre] he said: Sharp's lobbying proved the more successful and he was appointed Director of the School, Mary Neal withdrew from taking any part in the festival.83  In terms of getting official approval Sharp had out-manoeuvred Neal.  Sharp wrote to his friend Paul Oppé84 and said: Mary Neal's version of these events was rather different.  She wrote that: She repeated this account some years later in a letter she wrote to Fox Strangways after receiving a complimentary copy of his biography of Sharp.  She congratulated him on his 'vivid pen' and said that it was a 'wonderful biography, and I wish I had never seen the other side of 'our Punch'.' This was a clear reference to the cartoon that appeared just before the Goupil Gallery Conference.  She went on to explain that she resigned from her position as Honorary Secretary at Stratford 'because Mr Flower promised a Conference before anything was settled, but within a week he appointed Mr Sharp and did not have the Conference for about two years.  So you have not got that quite right.  But it does not matter now.'87

Sharp saw his appointment as Director of the Vacation School of Folk Song and Dance as an opportunity to bring folk dancing before a wider public and further popularise the dances which, in his view, would be for the public good.  Regarding the addition of the vacation school to the festival he wrote that ' […] if the art of a country is to reflect national ideals, […] it must be deep rooted in and intimately related to the primitive art of the unlettered folk.' He went on to say 'Shakespeare is called our greatest national poet […] he was the spokesman of our race the mouthpiece, as it were, of the English folk, […] It is here that the link between the two movements, now associated with Stratford, is to be found.'88  It is clear from this that Sharp believed that greater awareness of traditional heritage would instil in people a greater sense of national identity and patriotism and thus contribute to the establishment of social cohesion.  Ross Terrill in his biography of R H Tawney said, '...  the problem that preoccupied social critics was the apparent loss of social cohesion.' He went on to argue that the Edwardian years 'brought mounting industrial unrest.'89  Sharp promoted folk-song and dance, particularly in education, as a means of establishing social cohesion and producing model citizens.  For Sharp the way to combat such alienation and apathy among the working-classes was to introduce folk-song and dance into the elementary school curriculum.  In 1910 he had written:

His actions, I believe, had as much to do with the role he had adopted for himself as 'expert' or 'legislator' as with his political convictions.  The prevailing socio-political mood provided the opportunity for him to promote himself as well as folk dance and song.

What a 'merry dance he led us': Cecil Sharp and the Foundation of the English Folk Dance Society

By 1911 Sharp had gathered around him a coterie of disciples and like-minded folk-dance enthusiasts.  The sisters Maud and Helen Karpeles with Peggy (Margaret) Walsh and Helen Kennedy had formed a folk dance club and 'gave demonstrations to illustrate Sharp's public lectures.'
91  All four were later recruited by Sharp to act as dance instructors for the dance school events at the 1911 Stratford festival during August (the festival dance school was repeated for one week in late December 1911).  As a result of this collaboration the Dance Club gained Sharp's patronage and out of this association came the idea for a dance society.  In December of that year, under his leadership, they founded the English Folk Dance Society (EFDS).  At a meeting, which took place on 6 December 1911 at St Andrew's Hall, Newman Street, London, Cecil Sharp moved that 'a Society, to be called The English Folk Dance Society, be established, having its headquarters in London, ...'.92  The motion was carried and a committee was appointed.  Those appointed to the committee were Maud Karpeles, her sister Helen (who was Honorary Secretary), Ralph Vaughan Williams, Alice Gomme (now Lady Gomme), Sir Archibald Flower, Hercy Denman, Charlotte Sidgwick, Percival Lucas, George Wilkinson, and Cecil Sharp as Honorary Director.  Captain William Kettlewell was appointed Honorary Treasurer and Miss Peggy (Margaret) Walsh, (later to become Mrs Kettlewell), was appointed Secretary.

The Society's mission was to 'disseminate a knowledge of English Folk Dances, Folk Music and Singing Games, and to encourage the practice of them in their traditional forms.' Douglas Kennedy in an article on the early years of the EFDS summarised the main activities of the Society as:

(a) The instruction of members and others in folk dancing.
(b) The training of teachers of folk dancing and the granting of certificates of proficiency.
(c) The holding of public demonstrations of folk dancing.
(d) The holding of dance meetings for members at which dancing will be general (Country Dance Parties) and at meetings at which papers will be read and discussed.
(e) The publication of literature dealing with folk dancing and kindred subjects.
(f)The foundation, organisation and artistic control of local branches in London, the Provinces and elsewhere.

The constitution of the new Society was similar to that of the Folk-Song Society but only one third of the committee retired each year whereas it was half the committee of the FSS that retired each year.  However, in both cases the retiring members could stand for re-election.  Those with official roles, such as Honorary Secretary, were obliged to stand for election each year at the Annual General Meeting.  On the face of it this presents a very democratic structure.  Christopher Bearman considered that the EFDS compared well with the FSS in terms of 'democracy and openess [sic] of management'.94  However, all the committee members had, in the first instance, been appointed rather than elected and all were known personally to Cecil Sharp.  Maud and Helen Karpeles demonstrated dances at his lectures; Ralph Vaughan Williams was a close friend and a fellow committee member of the FSS as was Alice Gomme; Sir Archibald Flower was the Chair of the Board of Governors of the Stratford Festival; Hercy Denman, was a morris dance enthusiast who had informed Sharp of traditional dances in his area of Nottinghamshire.  Charlotte Sidgwick95 was a founder member of the Oxford Society for the Revival of the Folk-Dance and this was later to become a branch of the EFDS.96  Percival Lucas, a morris dance enthusiast, was the younger brother of E V (Edward Verrall) Lucas97 the noted travel writer and biographer of Charles Lamb.  Percival was a genealogist and writer and he would later edit the first two numbers of the English Folk Dance Society's Journal (EFDSJ).  There would be no further editions until 1927.

Front cover of the first EFDS Journal, Vol. 1 no.1, May 1914 (pp.1-32).
Vol. 1 no.2 was published April 1915 (pp.33-64).

Percival Lucas was married to Madeleine Maynell, the daughter of William Maynell the writer and critic, her mother was Alice (née Thompson) the poet and essayist.98 Madeleine's sister, Viola, was a friend of the writer D H Lawrence and in early 1915 the Lawrence's lived in her cottage.  Roger Ebbatson wrote that:

It is interesting to note that Lawrence, in his short story England, My England, (1915) based the central character, Evelyn Daughtry, on Perceval Lucas portraying him as 'refined and tending towards dilettantism'100.  After portraying Daughtry (Lucas) as a man of no real substance he heard of the death of Lucas at the Battle of the Somme, he regretted having done so and, according to Ebbatson, 'wished the story 'at the bottom of the sea''.101  However, in 1921 Lawrence wrote a revised and lengthened version of the story and changed Evelyn's name to Egbert.  In this version he modifies his portrayal and credits Egbert with 'a passion for old folk-music, collecting folk-songs and folk-dances, studying the Morris-dance and the old customs.  Of course, in time he would make money in these ways.'102  Ebbatson puts forward the argument that by 1921 when Lawrence wrote his revised and lengthened version of the story he portrayed Egbert as a 'representative of a certain strand of English culture' and argued that: It would seem that Lawrence clearly associated the folk movement with the notion of what has now come to be known as 'Englishness'.  His use of the folk movement connections of Lucas to illustrate the interests and activities of his central character suggests that this aspect of 'Englishness' had, by this time, become generally accepted as established fact.

The remaining member of the committee was George Jerrard Wilkinson, he was a professional musician and had succeeded Sharp as music teacher at the Ludgrove preparatory school, which prepared pupils for public schools, mainly Eton.  Sharp had held this position from 1893 to 1910 when, according to Fox Strangways, he was persuaded by his wife to resign his post and give his time fully to folk music.  Alongside this post from 1896 to 1905 Sharp had been the Principal of the Hampstead Conservatoire, owned by Arthur Blackwood, whom Sharp had met during his time in Australia.  He was also the music teacher '... to the royal children at Marlborough House'.  This was a part-time appointment, the lessons were held twice a week during the summer from 1904 to 1907.104  Lucy Broadwood wrote and congratulated him on his appointment, she said; 'I was charmed with your account of your Royal folk-song singers ...  I think it rests with you to raise up a musicianly king who (like Charles II) really knows what is what and encourages it!'105  The two main posts amounted to full-time work and Sharp had used the school holidays for collecting dances and songs and evenings and weekends for lectures, teaching dancing and adjudicating for exams and competitions.  After 1905, Ludgrove was his only source of regular income so to give it up was something of a 'leap of faith' since he was left with only lecture fees and royalties from book sales to live on.106

Dorrette Wilkie, the Head Mistress of the South Western Polytechnic in Chelsea, and George Butterworth were subsequently added to the committee membership.  George Butterworth was introduced to folk-song by his friend Ralph Vaughan Williams.  He had joined the FSS in 1906 and actively collected songs over the next seven years.  He became a close friend of Cecil Sharp and developed a keen interest in morris dancing.  He had attended the 1911 December school at Stratford as a student and Fox Strangways wrote that George Butterworth said of the experience that 'it was one of the few occasions when he felt he had lived in a really musical atmosphere.'107

The first President of the Society was Lady Mary Trefusis who accepted the appointment in 1912.  Sharp had known her during his time in Australia where she was known as Lady Mary Lygon before her marriage to Colonel Trefusis.  She was the 'eldest daughter of the Earl of Beauchamp, and, ... Woman of the Bedchamber to Queen Mary.'108   She was very enthusiastic about dance and worked tirelessly in her home county of Cornwall to bring folk dancing to as wide a public as possible.  It is interesting to note that both the FSS and the EFDS attracted as members people who believed that in some way the promotion of folk-song and dance would enhance and make more tolerable the daily lives of working people.  The promotion of social reform did not seem to be considered.

EFDS membership statistics

The English Folk Dance Society got off to a good start and by 1914 the membership amounted to two-hundred and eighty full members and forty-one associate members.109  In a little over two years the membership of the EFDS had overtaken that of the FSS which had three hundred members in 1914 .110  However, the makeup of the dance society membership was strikingly different to that of the song society.  From the outset the membership was predominately female.  The 1914 figures show that the male population of the society was 24 per cent, the remaining 76 per cent were female and 73 per cent of them gave their title as 'Miss'.  This suggests that the Society was attracting to its ranks young women.  However, we cannot know this for sure since the EFDS records do not include any information regarding the age of its members.  The only members who were professional musicians were George Butterworth, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Walter Ford and Cecil Sharp.

Sharp's demonstration morris team

By 1912 Sharp had established a demonstration morris dance team which included Douglas Kennedy (who had been introduced to folk dancing by his sister Helen Kennedy), Perceval Lucas, George Wilkinson, James Paterson Arthur Claud Wright (known as Claud),
111 and George Butterworth.  Barlow wrote of Butterworth that he 'was an excellent dancer and exponent of intricate dance movements and he held a prominent position in the original men's morris side, ...'.112  Claude Wright and James Paterson were students at the Chelsea Polytechnic and they had impressed Sharp sufficiently to prompt him to recruit them to his team.  The other four were non-Chelsea students who had been drawn to folk music and dance through a network of dance friends and musicians who worked with Sharp.  A seventh member, R J E (Reginald John Elliot) Tiddy, who lectured in Classics at Oxford University, was later added to the team.

The original side of six morris dancers gave its first public performance on 27 February 1912 at the inaugural 'At Home' event organised by the newly formed EFDS.  From that time on they were frequently, often with the addition of R J E Tiddy, called upon by Sharp to provide practical demonstrations at his lectures.  However, in December 1912 they made their first appearance on a London stage at the Savoy Theatre.  The venue had been 'lent for a matinee performance by the actors Miss Lillah McCarthy and Mr Granville Barker'.  Lillah McCarthy was married to Harley Granville Barker and they jointly managed the Savoy Theatre at that time.  Granville Barker was presenting a series of Shakespeare's plays during 1912 at the Savoy.  It may be that Sharp's association with the Stratford festival prompted Granville Barker and his wife to offer the use of the Savoy for a display of morris dancing.  Presenting morris dancing at the theatre alongside Shakespeare's plays served to further reinforce the connection between the two.

Claude Wright and James Paterson were trained as physical education teachers and as such brought to the morris team a more energetic performance than the other four.  In due course, as the team became established this difference in approach started to cause a rift in the ranks.  James C Brickwedde quotes from an interview he had with Douglas Kennedy about the team and these differences, Kennedy told him that, 'We [Sharp, Kennedy, Butterworth, Wilkinson, et al.] were really more musicians than physical people ... Paterson and Wright ... stood out like sore teeth [sic] in our eyes because they were doing things from a physical point of view.'113  Nonetheless, in the early years Wright was a key dancer for Sharp and was often called upon to demonstrate solo morris jigs.  At the 1912 Stratford-Upon-Avon festival Sharp had appointed him as one of the instructors.

Sharp's attempt to sabotage Neal's trip to America in 1910 and his disapproval of Claude Wright's visit to America in 1912

It was at the 1912 festival that Wright was introduced to George P Baker, Professor of Dramatic Literature at Harvard University.  He had become interested in the use of traditional drama and dance in theatrical productions and his visit to Stratford was through his connections with the Memorial Theatre.114  Baker was one of a party of Americans visiting the festival, others in the group represented the developing and growing interest surrounding the Playground Association and the Girl Scout Movement.  They saw folk dancing as healthy exercise and their interest in morris dancing had been aroused by Mary Neal and Florence Warren who had lectured and taught on the subject during their visit to America in 1910/11.  The upshot of this meeting was to result in an invitation to Claud Wright to visit America and teach the dances.  Wright accepted the offer and Baker organised a teaching tour.

The invitation to Wright and his subsequent acceptance resulted in a definite cooling of Sharp's relationship with Wright.  In Sharp's view protocol had been breached since the invitation had been sent straight to Wright and not through Sharp who felt that, as Director of the dance school at the festival, any invitation to one of his instructors should be through him.  Wright accepted the invitation and went to America as a 'free agent' and not as a representative of Sharp's dance school.  However, upon his return he found that his place in the demonstration team had been filled and from then on he was effectively 'sidelined' from Society activities.

The invitation to Claude Wright to go to America to teach dance had resulted from the enthusiasm for morris dancing that had been engendered by Mary Neal and Florence Warren during their visit to America.  Neal's account of the visit highlights the growing antipathy between her and Sharp.  Neal had been approached by an American lady who had attended the concert that Neal and her dancers had given at Lord Ellesmere's Bridgewater House and she and Florence Warren were invited to go to America to lecture on and teach the dances.  Neal agreed to go and she recorded that:

In spite of this setback Neal was able to re-organise a series of engagements and make the trip worthwhile.  In a letter she wrote to Clive Carey from America she told him that; 'C# has done his best to poison people's minds here and is reported to have said that Stratford is a fake!  But we are here and he is not!'116 (my underlining, this was a reference to the 1910 dance school).  On her return to London she was interviewed by a journalist for The Musical Herald and it was reported that 'Miss Neal has returned to London after four months spent in American cities with Miss Florence Warren (see Fig.  6 below).  New York and Boston have taken up morris dancing.  ... A number of troupes have been started.'117

Signed Photograph of Miss Florence Warren, from the Espérance Club Book Part 1 118

The conclusion to be drawn from Sharp's attempt to sabotage Neal's American trip is that he wanted complete control of the dance movement and saw Neal as a threat to that.  In the case of Claude Wright it appears that he regarded his behaviour as insubordinate to his authority and did everything in his power to undermine his activities in America.  While Sharp maintained control of the EFDS affairs and members 'towed his line' then he was generous and magnanimous in his dealings with them but, as far as Sharp was concerned, Wright had crossed the rubicon.  Furthermore, Kennedy's account of the treatment Wright received from other members of the team suggests that Sharp's animosity towards Wright was taken up by them.

Brickwedde quotes from a letter Wright wrote to Baker after his trip to America in which he said 'I talked to Sharp of the trip and it was curious the way he took it.  Since then the old jealous attitude of the Wilkinsonites is very marked and I almost wonder if Sharp is very happy that I have been so successful.'119  In addition to this, in Fox Strangeways and Karpeles biography of Sharp both Wright and Peterson are only mentioned by name, no detail about them is provided as it is for the other members of the dance team and there is no mention of Wright's activities in America.  This is hardly surprising, Fox Strangways and Karpeles were both close friends of Sharp, greatly admired his work and accepted him as the leader of the folk-song and dance movement.

Sharp continued his involvement with the Stratford Festival and the Stratford-Upon-Avon Herald reported on the 1913 festival.  The dance school attracted 'nearly 450 students'.120 The report stated that:

The cartoon had appeared in the December 11 1912 edition of Punch magazine (see Fig.  7).  How Sharp reacted to this gift is not recorded but it must have reminded him of the Goupil Gallery incident.

Copy of cartoon by Claude Allin Shepperson that appeared in Punch magazine December 11 1912, p.  481, Vol 143.
The heading reads 'The Midgley-Tomlinsons, in order to be in the movement, hurriedly decide among their house-party
to introduce Morris dances at a ball at their little place in the country.' The captions for each illustration read
(from top left and working clockwise) "Processional", "Long Sword", "Leap Frog" and "Jenny Pluck-Pears".

Sharp's energy and commitment to all things folk was un-bounding.  This was in spite of his continual health problems, he was a chronic asthmatic and suffered from severe arthritis which affected his eyes (iritis) and gave him periodic acute headaches and temporary loss of sight.  As well as building up the English Folk Dance Society and collecting new dances he still found time to add another three hundred and fifty songs to his collection in the three year period 1912 to 1914.123


Both Mary Neal and Cecil Sharp shared the view that the popularisation of folk dance and song would have positive results in restoring national pride and social cohesion.  Initially they worked together harmoniously to pursue their shared aims.  However, as the folk dance movement got underway and gained momentum it is clear that Sharp realised that folk dance was destined to be a major part of the folk movement.  He had already established himself with the general public as an expert on folk song and the leading collector but he was unable to gain a leading role in the FSS.  indeed, he was in dispute with most of his fellow committee members.  Once it became clear that Mary Neal was 'taking centre- stage' in the dance movement Sharp decided to take action and started to refine his views on how things should proceed.  In particular he developed views on how dances should be taught that were diametrically opposed to those of Mary Neal and this led to a bitter and public dispute between them.  Sharp consequently severed his links with the Espérance dance movement and established his own society.  The establishment of the EFDS with Sharp as Honorary Director and a committee made up of people of his choosing enabled him to establish policy and direct the activities of the society in accordance with his ideas and beliefs.  He was clearly not a person who was prepared to compromise and because he had not been able to get his own way with the FSS he turned his attention to folk dance.  He was determined to be the leader of the dance movement.  He was a skilled propagandist and effectively out-manoeuvred Mary Neal in gaining key positions to achieve this.  In 1914 when war was declared Mary Neal ceased her involvement with dance activities and this left the field clear for Sharp.

Sharp's tactics were so effective that Mary Neal's contribution to the dance movement was for many years ignored or unknown to many people.  Margaret Dean-Smith clearly believed that information about her involvement had been deliberately excluded from the history of the movement.  In a letter to Clive Carey she wrote:

Within the EFDS Sharp gathered around him a group of loyal supporters who accepted his views and vision.  If by any chance, as in the case of Wright, he considered that they had 'stepped out of line' they were isolated and effectively prevented from exerting any influence.  The popularity and rapid growth in the membership of the EFDS and the loyalty of those closest to him is testament to Sharp's proselytising skill.  Under his leadership the EFDS would become the major force in the folk dance movement.

Arthur Knevett - 10.5.19


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