English Concertina in Molly Dancing

By Mary Humphreys

Molly Dancing is the indigenous traditional form of dancing in East Anglia. Cecil Sharp saw a team  dancing near Cambridge and immediately dismissed it as degenerate.

Nearly all the East Anglian teams were formed as part of the revival of traditional dancing in the area. Recorded versions of the dances extant in the 1930s were published in the 1933 edition of JEFDSS  by Joseph Needham and Arthur Peck along with the tunes associated with the dances. More information was published in EDS 1978 by Russell Wortley and Cyril Papworth.

Gog Magog Molly, based in Cambridge, were able to draw on the knowledge of Cyril Papworth of Comberton, but were heavily influenced by the militaristic style of the Kent team Seven Champions which they continue to this day. The dancers tend to wear boots, but not hobnails.

Other Molly teams have gone in different directions such as Peterborough’s Pig Dyke Molly which has little in the way of historical dance formations and dance in trainers or light shoes.

Still others, such as Rumburgh’s Old Glory retain a solemn and agriculturally-rooted dancing style in hobnailed boots, but utilise complex dance formations that come from the dancing members’ interest in Playford and historical dance.

The music for these teams is provided nearlyalways by a full band of instrumentalists often by free-reed instruments, sometimes by fiddles, brass or woodwind. Concertinas were always welcomed as they can always provide the tune while others provide accompaniment. Old Glory is unique in using one-row Hohner melodeons in the key of C for all its tunes. The English concertina is particularly suited to this key as it is the easiest to play.

Some links to the teams can be found here:

Old Glory dancing Nelson’s Revenge at Whittlesey.

Pig Dyke Molly dancing the Broom Dance

Mary Humphreys, June 2021

Mary lived for many years in Cambridgeshire and is a singer, musician and song researcher. Much of her research has been around the songs and tunes of Cambridgeshire. You can find out more about her research HERE.