Cornish Dance


 Cornish dance has a series of interweaving threads which can be explored through the following headings


Photo of Furry dance at Newquay

Furry Dance Newquay 1950s Courtesy Charles Woolf Collection

Feast day and Furry Dances

Furry dances are essentially processional dances for couples travelling around the town or village to celebrate a feast day or special event. The Helston Furry is world famous but many parts of Cornwall have their own dance.

Serpent Dances and the Snail Creep are another feast day dance associated with the Tea Treat Traditions.

Photo of Carrie scoot dancing

Carrie: Street Entertainer 1900s

In the 19th century step dancers took full advantage of the satisfying sound of hard soled footwear needed for the mining and quarrying industries. This sound was enhanced further when metal plates were added to the toes and heels to increase the life span of the foot wear. In Cornish dialect these metal plates were called “scoots” and this term eventually transferred itself to the dance tradition itself so that the distinctive style of Cornish step dancing is called “scoot dancing”. Scoot dancing is a conversation between the dancer and the musician .Cornish Scoot (Step) Dances

photo of historic dancers

Penzance Guizers celebrating Penzance Charter Day

Historic Dance

Some historic dances like the Serpent and the Furry remain part of living tradition others like Tremadheves have left little more than a name. There are dances with a Cornish connection in the early dance manuals like Trip to Truro and Joan Sanderson and there are some records of dancing in the Country Houses like the Royal Cornwall Quadrilles and the notebook of John Old Dancing master of Par.

John Old's Dances  

Trip to Truro

Penguizers at Lowender Peran

Penguizers - Lowender Peran

There is a sense in which the Guize Dance is Cornwall’s equivalent to the English Morris; both have their roots in the pan European medieval melting pot of folk traditions, and both evolved to take on their own distinctive form in the nineteenth century. In Cornwall this medieval melting pot was represented by the Cornish Language Mystery Plays which contain many elements that later appear in Guize Dance tradition: beasts, dragons, hobby horses, wassails and dancing.
Geeze is a dialect term derived from the Cornish language word “Geys” meaning a jest and “Geysor” a jester or fool. >more

photo of dancers at ceilidh

Old Hand in Hand Dance

Social Dance

Social folk dance in Cornwall draws upon all the above together with new inspirations and influences.  Dances listed for the May Festivities at Looe in the late 19th century range from step dances to a Cornish version of the Triumph.  With the growing popularity of Cornish dancing for weddings and party time generally many new dances have been written inspired by both tradition and links to other Celtic nations.