Folk dancing was once common throughout Wales, with the ordinary people gathering for open-air events and festivals as the upper classes danced at grand balls. But it very nearly disappeared altogether in the 18th and 19th centuries thanks largely to the efforts of the Nonconformist sects to eradicate what it saw as a sinful custom. This, combined with the decline of rural communities that accompanied the Industrial Revolution, meant that by the 20th century, folk dancing was no longer a part of everyday life.
Realising that folk dances were about to disappear without trace, a handful of people started to record and publish details of traditional dances. Gradually, helped by amongst other things the introduction of folk dance into the National Eisteddfod and the establishment of the Welsh Folk Dancing Society in 1949, traditional forms of the discipline started to make a comeback.
In the 1960s and 70s, the introduction of local ‘twmpaths’ (barn dances or ceilidhs) took folk dancing to a younger audience and today there are more than twenty adult dance teams and hundreds of youth teams in schools across the country. The dance competitions at the Eisteddfod attracts thousands of participants and there are numerous other festivals as well as events around traditional celebrations.
One other dance tradition that merits a mention is step or clog dancing. Originally performed by farmers and slate quarry workers, it differs from other step dance traditions in that, alongside complicated step routines it also incorporates tricks, for example, snuffing out a candle flame with the dancer's feet.
Find out about other Celtic Dancing: