The History of the Manx Folk Dance Society

The Manx Folk Dance Society was formed on September 7th 1951 for the Festival of Mann celebrations and has been responsible for the preservation, guardianship and teaching of Manx Dancing since this time.

Over the years the Manx Folk Dance Society has demonstrated Manx dancing at many formal and informal gatherings, as well as teaching the skills and steps of the dances to those eager to learn. Its members also enjoy social dancing for their own pleasure.

During its history, the Society has represented the Isle of Man at many off-island festivals and gatherings. Their performances have included dancing at the Albert Hall in London, the Manchester Free Trade Hall, The Duke’s Playhouse in Lancaster, The Dome in Morecambe, Alnwick Castle, at the Limerick Treaty 300 Celebrations in Eire, at a Celtic Festival held in Barbados, as well as important venues in Sweden and Germany, including performing at the 1st World Folk Dance Festival, held in Munich, during which they danced for Prince Luitpold of Bavaria.

On the Island, the Manx Folk Dance Society danced at the opening concert for the 1979 Millenum Celebrations. Each year since 1951, they have performed (weather permitting) on the Front Green, St Johns before the July 5th Tynwald Ceremony, as well as in the Arboretum later in the day in more recent years. The latest innovation is a Grand Manx Dance with 2 other Manx Dance groups on the Front Green after the Tynwald Ceremony. Every year, they have performed (weather permitting) at Laxey Fair.

They have danced for the late King Olaf and King Harald & Queen Sonja of Norway, Princess Margarita of Sweden, Irish President, Mary Robinson, for Princess Anne, Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth II. They help Manx National Heritage with many of their seasonal celebrations, e.g. Old Christmas Day at the House of Manannan, Easter at Rushen Abbey, May Day and Harvest Celebrations at Cregneash, at the Grove Museum, as well as at their Open Days. They have danced for television – Treasure Hunt and Blind Date, as well as performing at every International Festival of Music and Dancing arranged by the late Harry or Alan Pickard. They have danced for the Department of Tourism at functions for visiting Travel Agents on the Isle of Man and for Travel Agents in the Liverpool and Birmingham areas, as well as at the NEC. They have danced for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegates when they were visiting the Island, as well as on visiting Cruise ships and for visiting holidaymakers ashore from Cruise ships. Local village, farming, church and fund raising groups invite them to dance at their Fayres, dinners, evening concerts etc.

The Manx Folk Dance Society also runs dance classes for children and adults. In the past the Society held their own Fund raising functions to raise money for charities, including the CT Scanner Appeal, Manx Lung Cancer Fund, Manx Branch of the Motor Neurone Association and the Salvation Army. They also danced for the late night Christmas shoppers, while offering different charities the opportunity to raise money with their collection boxes.

The Manx Folk Dance Society has produced Books of dance instructions with written music, Records and cassette tapes of dance music and a Video of Manx dancing. They are now working on a DVD of Manx dances including instruction as well as a book of Dance instructions for more modern Manx Dances.

The Manx Folk Dance Society has forged links with other groups, namely a Morris Men Team and Ladies’ Clog Dancing Team from the Wirral, a Folk dance group based in Birmingham, a Scottish Dance Group from Ireland, 3 Folk Dance Groups from Sweden, a Folk Dance Group from Germany and another from Norway. Exchange visits have taken place with the visiting dancers staying in the host dancers’ homes. Dance performances and sightseeing are arranged. Contact has been made with a young family group in America – the Clan of Mann, and very recently a couple more dance groups from the UK.